Safer Working Practices

The Arena of Safety

The Arena of Safety provides a conceptual framework for safeguarding children and young people within childcare settings. The model places the child at the centre of a series of concentric circles representing protective mechanisms surrounding the young person.

Closest to the young person are protective adults, within and outside of the family, including professionals. Surrounding the protective adults are best professional practices, policies, procedures and guidance, ensuring clear professional boundaries and the effective processing and dealing of concerns when they arise. In the outer circle is legislation and national guidance.

The Arena of Safety ‘is a place of safety for not just for children but also for adults. It’s a place where the staff have appropriate attitudes and life style. Where the behaviours are appropriate and where the regime and cultural practices are safe’ (Wyre). The model ensures that the breaches of professional boundaries are identified, with the responsibility being on the person breaching the boundaries to justify their actions.

As important as policy and procedures undoubtedly are, children are ultimately safeguarded by the adults charged with their care. Over the past 30 years there has been an increase in awareness of child abuse and the importance of establishing professional boundaries. However, many of the ‘unfounded’ and ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations received, demonstrate the need to reinforce these boundaries, in order to more effectively safeguard children and, importantly, professionals.

To develop an effective arena of safety, the various elements are complementary, and are required to work together. Consequently, whilst it is important to have policies and procedures, they will be ineffective where there is no managerial commitment and are not ‘owned’ and understood by the workforce.

Codes of conduct are an often overlooked safeguarding tool for many childcare agencies, despite the commonly heard expressions of uncertainty about what is, and isn’t, acceptable conduct. Codes of conduct facilitate the establishing of professional boundaries and provide the workforce with guidance in respect of how to deal with situations, in a way that protects the child and the employee. Importantly, where breaches of the code occur the onus is placed on the employee to justify their actions, and in so doing, provides the employer with a mechanism for identifying and addressing unsafe practice.

Developing a child protection policy

It can be difficult to know where to start when you sit down to write a child protection / safeguarding policy. What should you put in (or leave out)? What's the difference between a policy and a procedure? What do you have to do if an allegation is made against a member of staff? The City of York Safeguarding Children Board (CYSCB) guide to writing a safeguarding policy will answer these questions and more. Although the guide is aimed at schools most of the advice is applicable to all agencies who work with children.

Responding to allegations and concerns

The allegation against childcare professionals policy applies to anyone who works with children and young people in a paid or voluntary capacity which includes foster carers and prospective adoptive parents.

Allegations may arise in a number of ways from a number of sources e.g. a concern, suspicion, complaint or report from a child, parent or other adult within or outside of the organisation; information arising from a disciplinary, criminal or a child protection investigation.

All allegations and concerns must be reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) within the same working day for details of the process which must be followed please consult the CYSCB's allegations against childcare professionals procedure.

If you are the subject of an allegation and would like advice on the process please consult the allegations against childcare professionals - advice.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. It replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

The DBS was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and started operating on 1 December 2012. It carries out the functions previously undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for England and Wales and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In June 2010, Ministers announced that the implementation of the vetting and barring scheme was to be halted, pending a review which was published in February 2011. The vetting and barring scheme remodelling review recommended merging the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority into a new non-departmental public body that could administer a central vetting service.

The new scheme would retain the features of the vetting and barring service, but does not require registration or monitoring, and would only cover those who have regular or close contact with vulnerable groups, defined as ‘regulated activity’ in legislation.

For further information please follow the links below:

DBS checks

Referring to the DBS