Only a small minority of children should be attending childcare settings. These should be the children of critical workers and vulnerable children. Due to crucial social distancing requirements, this will mean spreading the provision over a large number of settings.
The arrangements differ in every local authority but every provision in schools or a college setting should continue to operate safeguarding procedures and follow the statutory guidance.
Help and support
Safeguarding children is a critical area for Social Services and Children’s Services. Emergency and Duty teams will remain in operation to receive calls about children at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.
The contact information for local authority Social Services are available via the Safeguarding Board websites:
Keeping learners safe statutory guidance
The 'Keeping learners safe' guidance continues to apply to school or college settings. Whilst acknowledging the pressure that settings are under, they must continue to be safe places for children.
The way settings are currently operating in response to coronavirus is different, but many important principles remain the same:
- the best interests of children must always continue to come first
- if anyone in a school or college has a safeguarding concern about any child they should continue to act immediately
- a designated safeguarding person (DSP) should be available and easily identified
- unsuitable people must not enter the children’s workforce and/or gain access to children
- children should continue to be protected when they are online
- schools and colleges should, as far as possible, take a whole setting approach to safeguarding. This will ensure that any new policies and processes in response to coronavirus are not weakening their approach to safeguarding or undermining their child protection policy.
Child protection policy
School and college settings will have a child protection policy in place. It is likely that the policy will not reflect new arrangements in response to COVID-19. Schools and colleges led by a DSP should review and revise their child protection policy as circumstances continue to evolve. An annex that summarises any key COVID-19 related changes will suffice.
Amongst other things, the revised child protection policy should reflect:
- any updated advice received from local authorities about children with care and support or support plans
- the local authority designated safeguarding officer
- children’s services reporting mechanisms and referral thresholds
- what staff and volunteers should do if they have any concerns about a child
- the importance of all staff and volunteers acting immediately on any safeguarding concerns
- DSP (and deputy) arrangements
- the importance for staff to work with and support children’s social workers
- peer on peer abuse and harmful sexual behaviour. A revised process may be required for managing any report of such abuse and supporting victims. Further advice is available in the Wales practice guides
- what staff and volunteers should do if they have concerns about a staff member or volunteer who may pose a safeguarding risk to children. All reports should be made to the DSP and further information can be accessed via the Wales safeguarding procedures website, including the process for reporting
- any arrangements to support children the school or college setting are concerned about who do not meet the ‘vulnerable’ definition
- arrangements to keep children not physically attending the school or college setting safe, especially online and how concerns about these children should be progressed
It is important that all staff and volunteers are aware of the new policy and are kept up to date as it is revised. The revised policy should continue to be available publicly.
Designated safeguarding person (DSP)
The optimal scenario for any school or college setting providing care for children is to have a trained DSP available on site. It is recognised this may not be possible, and where this is the case there are 2 options to consider:
- a trained DSP or deputy from the school or college can be available to contact via phone or online video
- sharing trained DSPs with other schools or colleges (who should be available to be contacted via phone or online video)
Where a trained DSP or deputy is not on site, in addition to one of the above options, we recommend a senior leader takes responsibility for co-ordinating safeguarding.
It is important that all staff and volunteers have access to a trained DSP and know on any given day who that person is and how to speak to them.
Every school and college will face unique challenges at this time. The DSP (or deputy) should consider these in a safeguarding context and reflect them in the child protection policy as appropriate.