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What is 'Safeguarding?'

What is meant by Safeguarding?

Image depicting what-is-safeguarding

As we are all responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children it is important to have an understanding of what it means.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:

  • Protecting children from abuse and neglect
  • Preventing impairment of their health or development and
  • Ensuring that they receive safe and effective care...

...so as to enable them to have optimum life chances.

Child Abuse and Neglect

Abuse or neglect of a child happens when somebody inflicts harm or fails to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused or neglected by someone who knows them or more rarely by a stranger. It can happen in a family, or in an institutional or community setting, for example a school or youth club.

What is Abuse?

Physical abuse Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or caregiver fabricates or induces illness in a child whom they are looking after.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child's emotional development. It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, for example by witnessing domestic abuse within the home or being bullied, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact or non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

What is Neglect?

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development. It may involve a parent or caregiver failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs. In addition, neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse.

What is significant harm?

You may hear the term significant harm being used in relation to safeguarding. Ihe concept was introduced in the Children Act 1989 and is the threshold used to justify compulsory intervention in order to protect children. Significant harm is defined in legislation as 'Ill treatment or the impairment of health and development'. Alone or in combination abuse - physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect can all constitute significant harm.

Under the Children Act 1989 Local Authorities must make enquiries or call for enquiries to be made where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives or is found in their area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.

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