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Definition of Safeguarding in Early Years Settings

The definition of safeguarding is to promote the welfare of children in the care of adults in a variety of settings, ensuring that they are protected from harm. This could be harm caused by abuse or maltreatment. It could also be when their health or development is impacted by those around them.

The main aim of safeguarding is to ensure that children grow up in a way that is safe and with effective care provided to them.

The Importance of Safeguarding Children in the UK

The main part of safeguarding is to ensure that children are kept safe and they are protected from harm, neglect and abuse. This is what safeguarding sets out to do and what all schools and educational settings should be focused on when they are creating principles and policies to protect the children in their care.

Children all around the UK rely on the adults in their lives to keep them safe and to ensure that they have all the things that they need to have a happy and healthy life. If the adults are not able to provide them with the things they need, or they do things that can harm the child, then they can feel this impact not only as they grow up, but into their adult years too.

Safeguarding teaches early years practitioners to not only recognise what harm can come to children but also how to spot it too. It then looks at what they need to do to ensure that the right steps are taken to protect the child and ensure that their needs are met.

If this doesn’t happen, then the children could be put at harm, and they could end up having an impact on their well-being, as well as their emotional, social and physical development too.

Understanding Safeguarding in Early Years Settings

Safeguarding is important in any setting that has children or vulnerable adults in their care. However, it becomes incredibly vital for those who are within an early years setting. This is because those children who are in the setting are usually going to be too young to be able to voice what is happening to them or to ask for help.

Picking up on possible abuse or neglect is going to be down to the adults around them, which is where the idea of safeguarding comes in.

Definition and Scope of Early Years Settings

Early years settings are those that provide care for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years. Several settings can be identified as early years. They vary in size and they can have a variety of different aged children, such as a nursery that is multi-room, or perhaps settings that have children of a similar age, such as pre-schools.

Early years settings are responsible for not only providing care for these children but ensuring that they have access to the learning and resources that will help them to develop. Not only intellectually, but also socially and emotionally too.

The Role of Early Years Practitioners in Safeguarding

Safeguarding is a key part of being in charge of the care of children, in early years you want to make sure that you are aware of what the main signs of abuse can be with children. This can prove to be incredibly important as the children are not usually going to be old enough to be able to tell their caregivers what the issues are and what is happening to them.

Safeguarding also looks at how the caregivers interact with the children in the setting too. Ensuring that they understand what it takes to protect themselves when they are working with the children around them and how to keep them safe in the setting too.

Key Principles of Effective Safeguarding Practises

To make sure that the safeguarding practices in an early years setting are followed and are as effective as possible, several key principles need to be followed.

The first is empowerment, which encourages people to feel that they can speak out when they feel that they have a safeguarding concern that needs to be focused on.

The next is prevention, which is when any safeguarding concerns are picked up at the earliest stage possible and that action is then taken to prevent further harm from happening, protecting the child.

We then have proportionality, which is when the least intrusive approach is taken (about the risk of course) to ensure that the child is protected.

The partnership is another key part of safeguarding, there are so many agencies that are responsible for the protection of children, which means that they all need to be able to work together to protect children.

Finally, we have accountability, which ensures that every person in the setting understands that they are responsible and accountable for protecting the children in the setting.

Legislation and Regulations for Safeguarding Children in the UK

To keep children protected whilst they are in school or an early years setting, or even in their everyday lives, there have been several pieces of legislation and regulations set out that will help to ensure that children are safeguarded.

The Children Act 1989

The first is The Children Act 1989. This is the framework that was created to cover a variety of aspects of both safeguarding and child protection too and covers all of England. It focuses on the importance of the welfare of children and what those who are in charge of the care of these children need to do to ensure that their needs are met and they are protected.

The Act’s Purpose and Provisions
Before the Act was introduced in 1989 there were lots of different pieces of the law that were aimed at protecting children and taking charge of their welfare. However, it was decided that, in 1989, there needed to be one concise act that outlined the key aspects of child protection. The Act covers 10 different key parts, however, it looks at the needs of the child as a whole and how to ensure that they are kept safe and treated as an individual. It also looks at how children can be kept safe, whilst still having a focus on keeping them with their families, where it is safe to do so.
Impact on Early Years Settings

The Act had an impact across a variety of educational settings, however, in early years it ensures that children are protected from abuse and neglect. It also puts responsibility and accountability on the adults that are in charge of their care whilst they are in the setting, to protect them and ensure that their needs are met as much as possible.

The Children Act 2004

The Children Act 1989 has made a huge impact on the way that children are protected in the UK, but it was decided that in 2004, things needed to have refresh. This is when the Children Act 2004 was created. This Act looked at the key aspects of the 1989 Act and then amended some of them, or expanded them to ensure that Britain was a safe place for children to grow and learn.

Introduction to the Act’s Objectives
The Children Act 2004 has six key objectives and values that are highlighted within the Act. These are that children are healthy, that they are happy and can enjoy life, that they are safe, that they are supported to succeed, that they can live in economic stability and that the adults around them make a positive contribution to the lives of children. All of these things focus on the well-being of children.

Role of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)
One key aspect of the 2004 reform of the Children Act is the creation of Local Safeguarding Children Boards. These came from the case of Victoria Climbie, whereby it was decided that major changes needed to happen when it came to protecting and safeguarding children from harm. These boards take the lead in ensuring that the local authorities work together so that the welfare of the children is met and that they can make sure that they come together to work effectively, as well as individual agencies too.

The Education Act 2002

The Education Act 2002 focuses on how schools must ensure that the pupils that are in their care are kept safe. The Act ensures that these schools, including early years settings, understand what their responsibilities are when it comes to safeguarding and that they create the right policies and procedures to ensure that the children in their school are well protected.

Safeguarding Responsibilities of Schools and Early Years Settings
A part of the Act sets out a requirement for early years settings to ensure that they take the right measures and arrangements to ensure that children are kept safe. They should be focused on the welfare of the children at all times and all adults within the setting should recognise their part to play in this process.

Importance of Safeguarding Policies and Procedures
It may seem like another thing to do when it comes to creating safeguarding policies and procedures, but it is a vital part of the process. When you take the time to create these policies and procedures you are going to be paying proper attention to what needs to happen when it comes to safeguarding the children in your setting. You will be able to look at the right types of approaches to take, think about possible risk factors and think about what you may do if something goes wrong. Not only this, but when you create a safeguarding policy or procedure, you are giving all staff members and visitors something that they can follow, therefore they can be no misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Safeguarding Procedures in Early Years Settings

To keep all the children in an early years setting safe there are lots of safeguarding procedures that you can follow to ensure that this happens. These will depend on the nature of the setting and the age of the children that they work with.

Identifying and Assessing Risks

The first thing that needs to happen when it comes to creating safeguarding procedures in the early years setting is making sure that the key risks are identified and assessed. Having these in mind will help to ensure that they can be avoided as much as possible.

Common Hazards in Early Years Settings
Lifting children and objects, working at low levels, slips, trips and falls, standing on chairs, communicable diseases, stress related to work and bullying. There can also be risks when it comes to internet use, online safety, safety when alone working, and working in ratio with children.

Risk Assessment Methods
The best way to assess risks is to move around and identify what the key hazards and risks are for the staff and for the children too. You need to be able to determine the risk and how they can be affected by the risk. You also want to think about how you can mitigate this risk and ensure that it has a low level of impact on the children and adults in the setting. You also then need to make sure that you regularly revisit and review the risks and your plans for them.

Recognising Signs of Abuse or Neglect

A key aspect of safeguarding, particularly in early years settings is that the adults in the setting are aware of what some of the key indicators of abuse or neglect are. Knowing these and being able to recognise them can help to make the difference between being able to act early enough to intervene and not. It is important to note that these signs can be different, not only depending on the nature of the abuse that the child is suffering but also on the child.
Physical Abuse- can be seen as burns, bruises and frequent injuries, the child may be fearful of being touched and may show signs of being depressed and isolated
Emotional Abuse- the child may struggle to control their emotions, they may find it hard to make friends, they may lack self-confidence and they may not feel that they can do anything right
Sexual Abuse- changes in behaviour, soreness in the genital area, preoccupation with sexual behaviour, inappropriate behaviour and use of language, dislike of being with certain people or being left alone
Neglect- poor appearance or hygiene, problems with physical development, health issues, housing issues, changes in behaviour, signs of being clingy or being isolated and alone

Reporting and Recording Procedures

If you believe that a child is at risk of harm or abuse, then you need to take action as soon as you can to ensure that they are protected and removed (if needed) from the situation. This needs to happen in a timely way and be an accurate representation of what has happened.

Who to Report to and When
You must know who to report any safeguarding concerns. This will usually be the Designated Safeguarding Lead in your setting, which will usually be a headteacher or manager within the setting. They will then be able to investigate the concern further and pass it on to the relevant agencies to ensure that the right procedures and processes are followed.

The Importance of Accurate Record-Keeping
Another key part of safeguarding is keeping up-to-date and accurate records of your concerns and what you did. If you do this then you are helping to make sure that the right responses are made and actions are taken to protect the child concerned. Record keeping will usually be on an online system as this means that the relevant information is passed on to the other agencies who may be involved in the safeguarding of the child.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

For children to feel able to learn and grow, they need to be in an environment that is safe and supportive. This applies to not only their home life but also their learning environments too. This becomes all the more important when it comes to early years settings when much of the learning that children do will be when they explore the world around them.

Designing a Child-Centred Setting

Early years settings need to be designed and set up in a child-centred way. This means that the children are always at the forefront of the activities that are set out and that their needs are assessed too.

Safe Facilities and Equipment
Children in early years settings must be in an environment that is safe for them to explore and use. This not only applies to the set-up of the space but also to the equipment and facilities that they can access too. Every item should be assessed to ensure that children will not come to any harm using it, as well as whether or not it gives them a good learning opportunity too.

Supervision and Child Ratios
Another aspect of working in the early years is ensuring that appropriate ratios and supervision of the children in the setting are met. This number of staff to children will depend on the age of the children and will also be impacted by any additional needs that particular children have in the setting, some may have a one-to-one rule applied to them to keep them safe. It is often recommended that adults do not work alone when they work in their early years as this can put them more at risk of accusations.

Training and Continuous Professional Development

One of the things to remember with safeguarding is that it is not just a one-time learning process staff in early years settings need to make sure that they are always aware of the main elements of safeguarding training and that their staff members can identify what their role is in safeguarding.

Educating Staff on Safeguarding Policies
You should always ensure that your staff are educated in the safeguarding policies and procedures that you have set out. That way they are going to be able to focus on what is needed of them and keep the children and themselves safe too. This should not only be a key part of their induction training but also their training ongoing with regular refreshers.

Keeping Up-to-Date with Best Practises
There are several ways to improve safeguarding in early years settings, one is to identify best practices and to change this as required. There may be incidents that you can learn from, as well as things going on in the wider world that can change things. Keeping everyone up to date with these best practices means that they are going to be able to better protect the children in the setting too.

Involving Parents and Guardians

Whilst much of the safeguarding policy will be focused on the setting and its interaction with the children in their care; it has to be said that the families and in particular the parents should also be included and involved in many of the key parts of the process. That way, they will not only be able to identify their responsibilities but advise on how best to approach the well-being of the children.

Building Strong Relationships with Families
Families must have a strong relationship with the early years setting, they will have trust in the setting and know that they are acting in a way that is best for the child but is also focused on the wider family too.

Encouraging Open Communication and Transparency
When a family feels that they are getting honest information, they will have more trust in the advice and guidance that they are being given. Open communication is vital in ensuring that children are safe and that their needs are met. This also will help the parents of the child to feel that they can share their experiences and what support they may need.
Working Together to Safeguard Children’s Well-being
The main focus of safeguarding is the children and their wellbeing. This means that everyone responsible for the care of the child or the children must work together to meet the needs of the child. This not only means that those in the setting need to be working in the same way, but also they need to work well with the parents and families of the child too. It also means that the multi-agency approach has to work too, any failure in the process can mean that the child is put at risk.

Challenges and Solutions in Safeguarding

Whilst most of the time safeguarding does what it is supposed to do and helps to keep children protected, there are times when there can be challenges and issues that come up in the process and along the way.

These challenges can be completely unexpected, and at times they can be upsetting and difficult to move through, but they can all be learnt from.

Dealing with Allegations and False Accusations

One possible challenge that can happen with safeguarding is allegations and false accusations. These can be aimed at parents or they can be aimed at staff within the setting. Any concern, even if it is thought to be false, must be investigated, just to make sure that there is no truth in what is being said.

They should be investigated with impartiality, with focus and in a timely way. This can make sure that the safety and well-being of the child are always the focus.

Balancing Child Protection with Privacy and Dignity

It is important that children are always protected and that the chance that they can end up being harmed or having their well-being reduced due to abuse. However, child protection must be balanced with the privacy and dignity of that child.

Investigations should be conducted in a way that is respectful of the child and their family. However, they should be thorough and they should cover all of the key aspects of safeguarding concerns.

Ensuring Compliance and Monitoring Practises

It is important that the early years setting looks at their practices and ensures that they are being followed. Not only this, but they should also ascertain whether or not some aspects of their practices could be weak and therefore need to be changed to ensure that the children are protected as much as possible.

Safeguarding of Children Training

  • Learn Q’s Safeguarding Children Level 1 is an introductory course that provides a basic understanding of safeguarding vulnerable children. It covers the concept of safeguarding, the importance of safeguarding, the legislation in place to protect vulnerable children, the signs of abuse and how to avoid them, and how to respond when a vulnerable child discloses they are being abused or neglected. This course is suitable for anyone who works with vulnerable children, including managers, supervisors, employees, and volunteers at all levels.
  • Learn Q’s Safeguarding Children Level 2 course, on the other hand, is a more advanced course that builds on the knowledge gained in Level 1. It provides a more in-depth understanding of safeguarding, including recognising abuse, the responsibilities of different safeguarding roles, effective communication, and how to handle concerns and incidents related to safeguarding. This course is designed for those with additional safeguarding responsibilities, such as those who work in hospitals, general practices, nursing homes, care homes, or domiciliary care, as well as in religious organisations and community organisations.

Overall, while both courses cover the essential knowledge and skills needed to safeguard vulnerable children, Safeguarding Children Level 2 provides a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of safeguarding, which is important for those who have additional safeguarding responsibilities.

These courses are ideal for those who work in hospitals, general practices, nursing homes, care homes, domiciliary care, as well as in religious and community organisations. By completing this course, you will be better equipped to handle safeguarding concerns and to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable adults.

At Learn Q, we are committed to providing high-quality training that meets the needs of professionals across a range of industries. Our Safeguarding Children courses are designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to excel in your role and make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children. Sign up today and take the next step in your career!

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