At the beginning of this extraordinary year, I would have been the last person advocating online safeguarding training. Technology has never been my strong suit, and I have always viewed it as a necessary evil rather than an opportunity.
And then Covid-19 hit.
From April I found myself as a trainer getting to grips with unfamiliar software that would enable me to carry on delivering training. Truth be told, I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, but I wanted to be able to fulfil a number of existing commitments to my clients and there seemed to be few other options. Initially my online safeguarding training sessions using Zoom were experimental affairs. Inevitably the dogs in my home would start barking as soon as I started talking, participants would struggle with connecting with the call, I would be fiddling about with various buttons – even removing myself from my own Zoom session at one point! But participants were enormously grateful with my efforts, so my work continued, and my confidence and skills in delivering training online grew steadily.
Now I find myself in the position of convincing settings that online training isn’t just a necessary inconvenience, but actually a fantastic resource that many settings may find a lot more effective than they may have considered.
In order to work best, every participant should ideally have their own device (laptop, iPad or phone) in order to access the training. A Zoom link is provided by me by email well in advance of the training and participants connect with the Zoom call well before the start (I allow up to 30 minutes for this). When they do connect, they enter a ‘Waiting Room. A minute before the start of the training, everyone is admitted from the Waiting Room and the training starts promptly. Any latecomers will be able to join the training directly after this time. At the start of the session I will explain how the training will work online and explain how I will manage the session. There is usually plenty of opportunity to share ideas and ask questions.
One setting recently sent the following feedback after experiencing some online safeguarding training:
‘I just wanted to say a big thank you for our training last night. I have had some really good feedback from our staff teams who all found it interesting and enjoyable. The three hours seemed to go by really quickly and we especially enjoyed the breakaway groups that gave us a chance to talk to various members of the team. Thank you for making the presentation interactive and relevant to our needs. British values is always one that seems to confuse people so it was good to have a reflection on it and inspire the staff to get on with making a display which I have been trying to do for some time! I hope you continue to stay safe and well and thanks again for a great course. I would be happy for you to pass on my email address if anyone wanted to discuss. The staff were very dubious about it but everyone was pleasantly surprised with some saying they preferred it – so well done you! Take care,
Karon Nichol, Manager, Sunshine Preschool’
To ensure that your safeguarding training is truly engaging to your team, I recommend thinking about making it bespoke to your setting. What issues have come up in your team? What skills and knowledge are a priority right now? My most popular course is Safeguarding Awareness which is a generic course that covers all the basics of safeguarding knowledge, skills and values, including laws, guidance, spotting the signs of abuse, disclosure, recording, reporting and referral. It’s a great refresher course for all practitioners. But there are many different ways to craft the training to focus on different aspects of safeguarding. These are some of the different areas that settings have asked me to focus their safeguarding refreshers in recent years:
- Prevent Agenda
- Managing disclosure (in depth)
- Child Sexual Exploitation
- Child Criminal Exploitation
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Cultural Abuse
- Domestic Violence and Abuse
- Serious Case Reviews
If you are interested in finding out more about the safeguarding training I offer, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As well as offering a range of inhouse safeguarding children training to settings, I deliver a number of scheduled open courses in partnership with Delegated Services. Check out my brochure for more information on all the training and other safeguarding services I offer as well as how my training meets the minimum training standards set by the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership.
In the meantime, as it is Christmas time and, as this is my final newsletter of 2020, I thought I would leave you with a number of safeguarding issues that relevant at the current time. Christmas often brings with it extra stresses on top of the considerable existing stresses of Covid -19 and increases in the risk of abuse. Action for Children recently released findings from an online survey of parents and children looking at their views about Christmas during the coronavirus pandemic. 17% of parents said they would cancel Christmas this year if they could, and 57% of UK children think their parents will be worried about making it a happy time for their family. The poll also looks at the mental health toll the crisis has taken on children and finds that 49% reported anxiety; 38% said they were scared of getting ill or dying and 33% felt lonely. Read the news story: Millions of parents say they’d cancel Christmas if they could, most children fear an unhappy family time
The Children’s Commission for England has published findings from focus groups which asked children what they thought about Christmas this year. The key concerns for children were: the potential impact on the number of cases of coronavirus and what that could mean for another lockdown; and the issue of perceived discrimination against those from other faiths and religions. Read the news story: Should Santa have to quarantine? What children think about Christmas
Worryingly this is a time where support services can be closed, or the strategies young people us to alleviate the family issues may be unavailable. For some of the most vulnerable or at risk your setting, it can be useful to discuss a plan with them for if things get really difficult. What helplines are available? What excuses can be made to leave the house for a little while? Does music help block out the shouting and arguments? Young Minds has a Crisis Messenger service which provides free, 24/7 crisis across the UK. Young people can access the text-message based service by texting YM to 85258.
The incidence of Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) in particular increased during the first lock-down and continue to alarm safeguarding service providers across the UK. The Office for National Statistics this week published a briefing paper sharing the data from a range of data sources to assess the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on domestic abuse in England and Wales.
DVA is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police and data can only provide a partial picture. Many cases will not enter the criminal justice process as they are not reported to the police. With the exception of controlling or coercive behaviour, domestic abuse is not a specific criminal offence. However, the police are required to flag when an offence is domestic abuse-related. From March to June 2020 the police recorded more than a quarter of a million domestic abuse-related offences, a 7% increase the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase from in 2018. The number of offences has been increasing in recent years, so it is not possible to determine exactly how the increase relates directly to the pandemic period. Provisional data show there were 64 domestic homicides recorded by police in England and Wales in the first six months of 2020, of which 30 occurred in the period April to June 2020. Services to help victims of DVA include the Women’s Aid Rail to Refuge scheme helps survivors with a confirmed refuge space can travel for free across England, Scotland and Wales. The cost of tickets is covered by the Rail Delivery Group and has been extended until the end of March 2021. For further information see https://www.womensaid.org.uk/rail-to-refuge/