My Ten Most Common Safeguarding Mistakes…

My Ten Most Common Safeguarding Mistakes…

I have been delivering safeguarding training since 2006, and in that time have seen the range of settings I provide support for work extremely hard to satisfy their statutory safeguarding responsibilities, making the welfare of children they work with their paramount concern. Despite the great efforts of a great many professionals though, I see the same mistakes cropping up time and time again. I thought it might be useful to address these.

So here, without further ado, are the most common safeguarding mistakes I encounter in my work – how many can you relate to?


  1. Routinely DBS checking staff.

I think most of the settings I come across are still carrying out routine DBS checks on their existing staff, sometimes annually. But statutory guidance says that as long as there has been no break in service greater than 3 months and the person is in the same workforce category, there is no requirement to do a new DBS after the original pre-appointment DBS check – unless there is good reason to do so:

If a school or college has concerns about an existing staff member’s suitability to work with children, the school or college should carry out all relevant checks as if the person were a new member of staff. Similarly, if a person working at the school or college moves from a post that was not regulated activity into work which is considered to be regulated activity, the relevant checks for that regulated activity must be carried out…Apart from these circumstances, the school or college is not required to request a DBS check or barred list check’. (KCSIE 2018)

Settings who choose to carry on with their routine checks ‘just in case’ are now to be brought into line by Ofsted who will be coming down hard on what is regarded as poor practice:

 ‘Inspectors should be very clear as to the standards that schools are required to maintain and should not expect to see evidence of schools taking actions beyond these standards, such as routinely checking the DBS status of existing staff. More detail of what inspectors should look at is in our own guidance ‘Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings’.
Ofsted School inspection update November 2018 Issue: 16


  1. Continuing to record Disqualification by Association for any school staff from December 2018.

If this has passed you by until now, you are forgiven as guidance really has been terribly unclear in my opinion. Anyway, we can now be super clear and state that under new 2018 Childcare Disqualification by Association legislation, schools are no longer required to establish whether a member of staff providing, or employed to work in childcare (for under 5s, or under 8s in wraparound care), are disqualified by association. Disqualification by association is only relevant where childcare is provided in domestic settings (for example, where childminding is provided in the home) or under registration on domestic premises, including where an assistant works on non-domestic premises up to 50% of the time under a domestic registration. Accordingly, schools are not entitled to ask their staff questions about cautions or convictions of someone living or working in their household. Schools should review their staffing policies and safer recruitment procedures, and make changes accordingly. They should destroy any information gathered previously on staff for this former requirement. For more information visit here.


  1. Using ‘Safeguarding’ interchangeably with ‘Child Protection’.

Statutory guidance has for many years clearly defined Safeguarding and Child Protection as distinct concepts. It still seems though that mixing them up is fair game for many people, some of whom may be very experienced or responsible in their role. So let’s be clear. Child Protection is the focused, concrete action we take to protect specific children from abuse:

‘…the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm. ’
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

Safeguarding on the other hand is anything we do as professionals to care for the welfare of children in the widest sense – including protecting those most at risk from abuse:

‘Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of this guidance as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

Child Protection is part of Safeguarding; Safeguarding includes Child Protection, Early Help, prevention and anything we do to help children achieve their potential.


  1. Believing the referral agency is keeping a ‘running record’ of all referrals.

No referral agency is keeping a running record of each and every child they receive concerns about. Many years ago there was a national safeguarding database where information on every child could be stored and they called it ContactPoint. The database would allow different professionals to build up a holistic picture of a child across different agencies and possibly trigger an intervention. Unfortunately, ContactPoint was scrapped in 2010, regarded by some as an invasion of privacy. Now professionals making referrals have to ensure the information they supply to their local referral agency is as complete as they can make it – the referral agency will not be able to piece together the information around that chid, unless they are already known to them and receiving services.


  1. Griping instead of challenging.

We can all complain about the work of all the different safeguarding agencies we must work with, but if you are disappointed with the safeguarding actions of other professionals, the advice is to not give up and gripe, but to take appropriate and positive action to ensure safeguarding practice improves for all. In Bristol, building a culture of professional challenge and escalation is a key aspect of the Strategic plan:

‘the partnership are committed to challenging each other appropriately and effectively to ensure that outcomes for children and families are the best possible. This will be demonstrated by our senior leaders who will hold courageous conversations transparently and will respond to escalation and disagreement in a constructive way.’


  1. Not having a safeguarding Code of Conduct for staff.

Does your setting have a safeguarding Code of Conduct for staff? This should set out clearly the expectations you have of them to work safely with children in a variety of different contexts, safeguarding those children of course, but also reducing allegations of abuse. It’s surprising the number of settings who do not have a Code of Conduct in place, but it is essential as statutory guidance states:

‘A staff behaviour policy (sometimes called the code of conduct) which should, amongst other things, include – acceptable use of technologies, staff/pupil relationships and communications including the use of social media.’
Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018

The basis for your Code of Conduct should be the invaluable document: Guidance for safer working practice for those working with children and young people in education settings 2015:


  1. Having a generic Safeguarding and Child Protection policy.

I often come across schools who have policies which are so generic they are rendered meaningless. For instance, the policy will talk of the ‘Designated Safeguarding Lead’ without actually mentioning at any point who that person is. Sometimes it will talk of ‘local referral pathways’ without explaining what they are. Statutory guidance now stipulates that policies must be specific to the setting.


  1. Thinking ‘fundamental British values’ are all about ‘traditional’ British culture.

Yes, fundamental British values portrayed as the Royal family, roast beef, the Union Jack, maypole dancing etc is showing a complete misunderstanding of what they actually are. Ofsted will not be impressed. Fundamental British values are of course: ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’.


  1. Thinking GDPR affects sharing safeguarding information.

So many people have been confused by the recent onslaught of information about GDPR. But any new law on data will have no effect on the sharing of information to protect children from abuse. As statutory guidance says clearly:

‘The Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR do not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.’
Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018


  1. Having a Child Protection Policy that states there are only x4 types of abuse: ‘Physical, Sexual, Emotional and Neglect’.

The four main categories of abuse provide us with a way of understanding how different types of abuse can harm children and how they can be broadly identified. But ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ is very clear that there are other complex types of abuse or welfare concerns that all professionals need to be aware of. In fact, Designated Safeguarding Leads might consider whether the Safeguarding and Child Protection policies make reference to the definition, signs and referral pathways for the following issues:

  • Breast Ironing
  • Bullying
  • Children appearing in Court
  • Children with family in prison
  • Contextual Safeguarding
  • Criminal exploitation/County lines
  • Cyberbullying
  • Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse
  • Drugs
  • Fabricated and Induced Illness Syndrome
  • Faith Abuse
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Forced Marriage
  • Gangs and gang culture
  • Generational abuse
  • Gender-based violence/violence against women and girls (VAWG)
  • Grooming
  • Harassment
  • Hidden Harm
  • Historical Abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Honour Based Violence
  • Injuries in non-mobile babies
  • Institutional abuse
  • Invisible children
  • Mental Health
  • Missing Education
  • Non-mobile babies
  • Peer Abuse (including sexual abuse and harassment)
  • Private Fostering
  • Radicalisation
  • Sexting
  • Teenage Relationship Abuse
  • Trafficking