Published: 17 Nov 2021  |  Category: Group management  |  Stage: We are preparing for a family to arrive

Safeguarding briefing

As a Community Sponsorship group, you will have safeguarding responsibilities to protect everyone you work with from harm. Our guide aims to help you to navigate these.

Safeguarding is about protecting others as well as yourself from harm. 

As part of your application, the Home Office will expect you to submit a safeguarding policy. If you have another organisation acting as your Lead Sponsor, they can assist you with this, and may require you to follow their own safeguarding policy.  The Home Office have also produced a safeguarding policy template you can make use of.  You must give your Local Authority’s Safeguarding Team (or equivalent) an opportunity to comment on your Safeguarding policy. 

We strongly advise you to familiarise your group with your Local Authority’s safeguarding procedures, ultimately they are the statutory body responsible for dealing with any safeguarding issues that arise.

Legal context

The key legislation relating to the welfare of children is the Children Act 1989, particularly section 17 “Children in Need” and section 47 “Significant Harm”. These mainly relate to the Local Authorities in safeguarding children, but your safeguarding officers will need to be aware of them.

It may also be helpful for your group’s Designated Safeguarding Lead to be familiar with the document “Working together to Safeguard Children” and to know how organisations can work together effectively.  The key legislation relating to vulnerable adults is the Care Act 2014. You can find the text of the Act here.

Advice for Groups in Scotland 

Safeguarding in Scotland is managed at a national level.  Make sure you are aware of what is required in your nation.  A guide is available to download from this page, kindly produced by the Scottish Refugee Council.  

The role of the local authority in safeguarding

Although the statutory duty is the same across each Local Authority, their structures may vary and you will need to understand the process in your area.

Each Local Authority will have information on their website about their safeguarding policies and procedures, but it can take time to understand this, and to find out who you need to contact if you had a concern to report. 

Each Local Authority will have a Safeguarding Team (some may be in combination with other Local Authorities). Find the Safeguarding board in your area on the Ann Craft Trust website

In the event of a safeguarding concern being raised, the point of contact at the local authority may vary according to the type of issue, for example whether the issue concerns a child or a vulnerable adult. In many areas the Local Authority will have a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) which will be the first point of contact for any safeguarding issue and will then refer the matter on to the appropriate department. Some may deal only with issues involving children, others may also deal with issues concerning vulnerable adults. We advise you to research this when drafting your safeguarding policy.

Your role as sponsors

Your role as a sponsor group is not to take the place of the statutory authorities, such as the Local Authority, police or medical services.

Your role is to report whether there are concerns about the welfare of children or vulnerable adults and take action to address them where appropriate. This may involve reporting concerns to the relevant statutory services (ideally with the consent of the people concerned, where possible) and working with them to address the concern.

As a group, you will need to record your concerns, the actions you take, and the actions taken or advice given by other organisations. For example, if you are concerned about the welfare of a child, you would record the reasons for your concern, the fact that you referred the case to the Local Authority, the actions they took, and any advice or information they gave to the group.

You may encounter situations where you have a concern about someone’s welfare, but you are unsure whether it reaches the threshold to make a safeguarding referral. In these cases, group members should discuss the situation with their Safeguarding Lead and Lead Sponsor. The DSL can contact the relevant team at the Local Authority for advice, without disclosing confidential information, who can offer guidance on whether it is something that needs to be referred to them and how to proceed. 

In some situations, the Local Authority may ask you to work with them to manage the situation. For example, they may ask your group to introduce a social worker and be present at initial meetings with family members to help build trust. They may also set up regular meetings to discuss the situation and ask your group to be present at them.  If suggested, you should not expect to have to take or accept the role of managing a serious safeguarding concern. This can open your group up to significant risk and lead to incorrect support being provided. There may be some low-level issues which your Local Authority or Lead Sponsor can support you to address, but you should be prepared to push back if you feel they are asking your group to exceed your capabilities. There may also be other forms of support which your Local Authority may be able to refer lower level cases to, such as Family Support Services.

Safeguarding for group members

When it comes to safeguarding, the most important thing to remember is that you do not need to manage or resolve serious safeguarding issues yourself. In fact, you have a legal duty to disclose them to the relevant authorities, who will then manage the situation. Your role is to ensure that any safeguarding issues are noted and raised with the appropriate people.

  • It is your responsibility to understand your Safeguarding Policy 
  • If you have any concerns at all, discuss them with your Safeguarding Lead. Provide them with as much detail and context as you can, so that they understand the situation and decide how to proceed.
  • Take clear, concise notes of what you have observed, including who you reported the situation to and what advice you were given. Ensure these notes are stored in accordance with your group’s confidentiality policy.
  • In an emergency where someone is being harmed, or at immediate risk, contact the emergency services immediately. If you are present at the time, make yourself safe, make as many other people as you can safe and phone 999. Do not put yourself at risk. Do not cause delay by contacting your DSO first; you can contact them once the emergency services are dealing with the matter.
  • If someone informs you that they or others are at risk, you will need to disclose this to the relevant people. Do not promise to keep this information confidential. 
  • If someone is making a disclosure to you, do not promise to keep this confidential. This is particularly important if you are taking a disclosure from a child. The NSPCC has some excellent guidance on what to do if a child discloses abuse on their website.

Online Safeguarding

Many groups moved to virtual support when Coronavirus happened in the UK. Families started to access more support online, so it’s important to make sure you have systems in place to protect people from coming to harm online.  

It’s worth putting in place measures in line with your existing safeguarding policies and procedures.  It’s really important that any review of your safeguarding procedures are carried out in conjunction with your Lead Sponsor and any changes communicated to your Group. 

Some areas to think about:

  • Has your Local Authority Safeguarding Team launched any new updates, resources or assistance that might be helpful?
  • Does every member of the family know how to contact you for help and assistance?
  • Does every member of your Group know what to do should they have a safeguarding concern?

There has been an increase to the dangers surrounding child abuse, domestic violence and coercive control during isolation measures.  It can feel awkward to raise anything which may be a safeguarding concern, but we would recommend that you do so to flag that help and support is available should someone need this. 

You could do this by:

  • In your ordinary interactions with the family, you would usually have something to do with each member of the family; and naturally you will have different relationships with each individual – we may use the term family – but this is not a single unit.  Make sure you keep up contact with them individually.  Offer an option of ways to get in contact – could it be email and phone, as well as video calls if you can offer these.  If you have not had any recent interaction with a particular family member, ask to speak to them.
  • Reshare the Welcome to the UK booklet that the family will have been given. If the family don’t have a copy, you could download the sections from our training website and email them to the family- section 7 specifically outlines child protection and domestic violence and contains links and contact information for those needing help.
  • Create a file of useful contact information for the family – this could include reminders on how to contact your Group along with helpline and advice services and the emergency ‘make yourself heard’ details.  This is where you can call 999, and if in danger and cannot speak, you can press 55 and a connection will be established and help found.
  • Help adults in a family to set parental restrictions on devices – with a likely increase to the use of devices during isolation, ask the guardians of children if they need assistance in keeping children safe online.  The NSPCC has advice on preventing online grooming
  • Access the Home Office guide to safeguarding from harmful influences online
  • Unfortunately, there may be some who try to use the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to carry out fraud or scamming.  Remind the family you support that they should not disclose bank account, personal details or information online, by phone or in person unless they are very clear on why, and how this information is used.

If you are worried about the safety of any member of the family you are supporting, speak to your safeguarding lead immediately. 

Useful resources

The websites listed below contain a range of resources which may be useful when preparing your safeguarding policy and planning how to deal with issues that arise.

Downloads

Safeguarding for Groups in Scotland [77KB] Download .PDF