School re-openings are in all of our minds at present. While for each school this is likely to be slightly different, the requirement to have effective safeguarding measures in place remains a constant. We recognise the enormous challenge this will bring to staff, children and their families in the coming months.
In recent weeks, we have established systems and practice to support our most vulnerable children and families. Clearly as schools start to welcome back learners, we are mindful that this is likely to result in a number of disclosures that require our immediate action and potentially that of external services.
We have therefore again written this newsletter to offer information and a further three podcasts on topics that will support DSLs in their role, as well as how they offer updates to staff and governors.
Finally, as a team, we continue to be available to you for support. Please don't hesitate to get in touch for advice, guidance, and signposting to others or just for some reassurance during these unprecedented times.
Message from MASH
Adolescent Safety Framework
Pupil safeguarding files
Dealing with a disclosure
Governor monitoring during CV19
New Safeguarding podcasts
New and revised One Minute Guides
Message of thanks from Sue and Kathrin in the MASH
We would like to give a big SHOUT OUT to all the Devon schools during the Covid 19 lockdown. Everyone we have spoken to has gone above and beyond (in our humble opinion) to give support and help to all families in their areas, not just the more vulnerable ones. We've spoken to head teachers doing food hamper drop off runs, teachers delivering food parcels and homework to families front doors (social distancing applied of course), class teachers phoning home to students regularly to check everyone is ok and staff giving up school holidays to keep key workers children and vulnerable children safe in the school environment. We think you are all amazing and we take our hats off to you all. We would also like to thank you for answering your phones to MASH, even in the holiday period, and, as usual, giving us good, pertinent information on the children we have enquired about, this information is vital and sometimes makes all the difference to the direction an enquiry takes in MASH. If we had enough gold stars for every school, you would all get one. Thank you!
Devon & Cornwall Police ViST and CARA:
Following feedback from a number of schools we thought it would be helpful to clarify some of the different ways you will receive police information about children who attend your education setting. We have worked with our Devon & Cornwall Police colleagues to produce a new OMG (Link) which has further information on ViST's , CARA's, Operation Encompass and what to do with the information received.
If you haven't received any police information and you believe that you should have (you are aware of an incident) please ensure that your contact details are up to date by contacting:
Please be mindful that schools are not alerted to all incidents.
For full information please refer to the OMG on our website.
Local Safeguarding news
Contextual Safeguarding and ASF:
With the eventual relaxation of some lockdown rules, our children and young people are going to start socialising with their peers in their local community again and this will increase risks in relation to contextual risk in the community. Due to these risks and the increase in concerns regarding online exploitation, it is vital that staff across education are aware of what contextual safeguarding is and how we can put support in place for our children and their families.
Devon launched the ASF (Adolescent Safety Framework) in November 2019, however due to the Covid 19 outbreak a large number of the training sessions were postponed and have not yet taken place. Babcock have been working with a number of our colleagues across Devon and we have launched a new OMG on the ASF from an educational perspective which can be found on our website along with the supporting Podcast.
The OMG has clear guidance on the referral process into the ASF and the different types of meetings that can be held under the ASF, including individual meetings, school context conferences, neighbourhood context conferences and peer context conferences.
We will endeavour to run some ASF training sessions in the future, so please keep an eye out for dates in future newsletters.
For further information on Devon & Cornwall Police ViST/CARA, Contextual Safeguarding and ASF or Early Help and seeking support please contact Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01392 880771
Pupil Safeguarding Files
Safeguarding files, records and their upkeep are always important but it goes without saying that this is even more so during these unprecedented times. The information and knowledge we have about our pupils was put to the test when completing the vulnerable pupil spreadsheet and the need for us, in schools to RAG rate our concerns. It was a time consuming exercise but one, (judging from your feedback) that identified how well you knew your pupils and the concerns you had for them. We know from emerging statistics that Covid 19 is impacting on family life, we are seeing an increase nationally in the incidents of DV&A, indications for Europe suggest that children are being 'groomed now' to be 'met later' and that the number children being enticed into exploitative situations is beginning to increase. When schools slowly start to 'reopen' the potential for further disclosures or concerns to arise could increase. So now would be a great time to review your safeguarding files and record keeping! Take the time to 'dip' sample a number of safeguarding files, choose pupils that are attending your setting currently and those that are not as well as (if you can), a cross section of need e.g. CiC, Early Help, CiN and CP. Whether you are running a paper based system or electronic the principles are the same. Consider the following
Is there a 'front' sheet (details of child/family, the contact details and names of the professionals working with the family)
Is it clear from the files what your concerns are/were
Have you evidenced the actions you have taken because of concerns and their impact
Can you quickly identify when you made a MASH enquiry/consultation/Early Help referral/JACAT/SARC etc
Has the outcome of any referral been included and if necessary any challenge to decision making as well as actions
Is there evidence of regular reviews of case/concerns and escalation if required
Do you have copies of all the relevant plans/minutes/correspondence (including notes of phone calls)Is there evidence of regular communication with parents and well as other agency professionals
Are the entries factual (if opinion of hearsay is that made clear?)Could you redact appropriately if a subject information request was made
Would you be able to gather necessary information very quickly for say a strategy meeting
Has the information been cross referenced with other general files or with siblings files
Poor record keeping can place a child and their families at risk of significant harm however, lengthy entries in a safeguarding file does not necessarily make it an effective file. Fit for purpose chronologies are key. A chronology should list specific and significant incidents, events and actions taken in relation to the child and where appropriate their family, with a brief explanation, or cross-reference to the relevant record within/attached to your system; do not clutter up a chronology by copying and pasting reams of information or entering other documents into it.
It is always good to 'dip sample' as if you are working on the case for the first time. What would you want to know about the concerns, can you get to the information quickly and once you have found it is it relevant and of help.
The NSPCC reminds us "It can be very hard for children and young people to speak out about abuse. Often they fear there may be negative consequences if they tell anyone what's happening to them. Some may delay telling someone about abuse for a long time, while others never tell anyone, even if they want to. It's vital that children and young people are able to speak out and that whoever they tell takes them seriously and acts on what they've been told. Even if a child doesn't tell someone verbally about what's happened to them, there may be other indicators that something is wrong. People who work with children need to be able to recognise the signs and know how to respond appropriately."
As we prepare for greater numbers of children to return to school, it is likely that there will be a greater number of disclosures. We must therefore ensure that our staff are prepared and able to hear the stories children share, even if this is not verbalised. We therefore recommend that as part of staff returning to school, they are clear on the following messages
Listen Make sure that staff are vigilant to what children are saying and are curious to ask questions if they feel a child might be trying to share how they have possibly been abused or neglected
Adults are confident that they can ask questions of children, but should always avoid leading questions. It might be useful to clarify the difference between leading and non-leading questions
Reassure children that they have done the right thing by sharing their story
Record what they (the adult) have heard/seen/read from the child in as much detail and accuracy and share this with the DSL immediately
As DSL, it is crucial that action is taken immediately with this information. This could require an enquiry to MASH or even the need to contact the police. What's vital is that we remember that a child's disclosure is likely to be an event in time when as adults we can make decisions that will help a child to gain the support and safety they have the right to receive.
Governor monitoring including during Covid-19
This section is written in line with a new One Minute Guide and accompanying Podcast that refer to more generic monitoring of safeguarding by governors. Both have been developed for the use of school leaders and governors. In successive versions of Keeping Children Safe in Education, the role of governing boards is clarified how they ensure that leaders maintain effective policies and practice to ensure that children are safe is evident. "Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure there are appropriate policies and procedures in place in order for appropriate action to be taken in a timely manner to safeguard and promote children's welfare." Para 56, KCSiE 2019.
During the current situation, governors have continued to meet virtually as a whole board and with key staff from school receiving information about how those vulnerable children have been RAG rated and the systems that have been established to ensure children's welfare and safety remains our priority. It remains a crucial part of any reporting to governors that this should in no way share the details of individual circumstances or details that would identify the child or their family. The phrase 'eyes on, hands off' should be the case now, and as we start to plan for schools reopening.
Therefore, we recommend the following points are clarified with the safeguarding governor and shared accordingly with the wider governing board for scrutiny and monitoring:
That the safeguarding policy annex shared with schools by DCC in early April has been personalised to the school, ratified, shared with all staff and is being adhered to and understood
That the risk assessment process is being reviewed at least weekly by those in a DSL role and school leaders providing a summary of anonymous actions that have taken place including how contact is being maintained with those children who are deemed vulnerable but remain at home
An overview of the measures by which contact with children and families not at school has been risk assessed to ensure that children and staff are safe
Should concerns have been escalated to Early Help or Children's Social Care, what has been the response of these agencies
How have staff been kept informed and updated as to their safeguarding knowledge through the period while school has been closed
This is not an exhaustive list, but offers governors and safeguarding leads some guidance.
Remember to keep up to date with our latest information, including our podcasts don't forget to find us on social media.
All other Safeguarding Podcasts can be found on our website.
New and revised One Minute Guides
Listed below are a few of our guides which are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up to date with current information and legislation, these can all be found with many others of our website:
No 6 Transfer of CP files
No 7 Governor Monitoring of Safeguarding
No12 Child Protection Pathway
No 20 Contextual Safeguarding
No 24 Section 128 checks
No 42 ViST CARA notifications
No 43 Adolescent Safety Framework
Message from DCC
As we move into the next phase of coronavirus (COVID-19), we wanted to give colleagues a clear overview of the current situation and our plan moving forward. Please click here for an update from Jo Olsson, Devon County Council's Chief Officer for Children's Services and Chair of the DCFP Executive Group.
National Safeguarding news & resources
Action for Children
Are offering free online parenting support for families with children aged 0-19 years. Visit the website for more information. Website
Community Links Telephone support for people struggling with their mental health, domestic abuse, challenging 'behaviour' from SEN children, or struggling with wellbeing. Based in West Devon. Visit the website for more information. Website
Think U Know Have launched a new activity packs for to support parents and carers keep their children safe while online. The packs are designed for different age groups and have lots of helpful guides, tips and tricks to support parents. Visit the website for more information and to download the packs. Website
SPACE Are offering a new service called 'Call Back' for young people who are struggling with isolation. The service offers the young person to have a chat to a youth worker and see what additional support may be helpful. Visit the website for more information.
Click here for NSPCC parents, professionals and children guidance and support summary. Click here for NSPCC resources for schools.