Safeguarding is a problem

Safeguarding covers more than abuse and the global pandemic has highlighted how our processes are lacking. We need to protect the vulnerable

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Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Safeguarding the vulnerable is a key problem across the world and not just in education. With the current global pandemic, the light has been shone on every corner of life, including that of safeguarding and how you can do so behind closed doors.

The initial lockdown was the worst, with everyone guessing at what to do and many children and adults losing their lives throughout this time. Some of those were trapped in troubled households unable to gain access to the usual types of release that they would be permitted.

It was an awful time and whilst professionals could phone and neighbours could hear, it wasn’t enough. Aspects such as intimidation and control ran rampant and therefore, with the second lockdown nearly over, we are thankful that it has been shorter and less strict.

Out of Mind

Children were still thought of but at a time of global crisis and panic, many other concerns rose to the surface. The first and foremost was shielding the vulnerable.

Food and critical supply shortages, economic redundancies and a world screaming out for answers overshadowed children. Professionals were still aware of the situation, but the sad fact is that the pandemic caught the world off guard. The resources were not available, and some children slipped out of sight.

Out of Sight

The classroom is a very public forum in which children cannot hide.

Class sizes do continue to increase but every teacher will see every child at least once during the day. Some more than others, but all children within that environment are seen, their behaviour noticed, with any abnormalities noted.

With the closing of the schools and world crashing around some families, mental health suffered, which led to an increase in harm.

“Iryna Pona, policy manager at The Children’s Society, said: “During the first lockdown when schools were closed, vulnerable children were out of sight of teachers, social workers and other professionals who would often be the ones to spot the signs a child may be at risk.”
Abused children in Yorkshire ‘invisible’ amid drop in care referrals during first lockdown,

It is with this in mind and with high levels professionals stating what we know, is it not time that we recognised teachers? They are key workers in every sense of the world. They impart knowledge and keep children safe.

The first lockdown brought out the worst in some and without teachers and other professionals being on the scene, it resulted in tragedy for some.

It’s Too Late for Some

It was not merely children that suffered through this time.

Babies were harmed at an alarming rate. This is something that is deplorable and something that needs to be taken seriously. If abuse begins from such a young age, then what is to prevent I from continuing into that child’s adolescence?

“There was an alarming 20% rise in babies being killed or harmed during the first lockdown, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman has revealed.

Sixty four babies were deliberately harmed in England — eight of whom died. Some 40% of the 300 incidents reported involved infants, up a fifth on 2019.”
‘Toxic lockdown’ sees huge rise in babies harmed or killed. BBC News

Calls to domestic abuse charities doubled during the lockdown also.

“…calls to a national domestic abuse helpline have also risen by 49 per cent since the restrictions were put in place.

Just days after the lockdown was introduced on March 23, a mum and daughter were knifed to death before the body of a dad was found in a house fire in Hemel Hempstead.”
Domestic abuse killings double during lockdown as 14 women and two children lose lives. The Sun

Rarely would I quote from the Sun and so the only reason to add here is to illustrate that there was no spin available. This period in our history was a tragic one, with many needless deaths occurring and the need for effective safeguarding being made clear to all.

It’s Not Just Abuse

As every teacher out there knows, safeguarding does not just cover abuse. It is interested in the overall wellbeing of a vulnerable individual. From their mental state to their physical and beyond. If they are eating well or if they are suffering from trauma at home. It is a complex subject and one in which is more important than anything else.

‘Safeguarding is a term used in the United Kingdom and Ireland to denote measures to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals, which allow people — especially children, young people and vulnerable adults — to live free from abuse, harm and neglect.’
Safeguarding, Wikipedia

Beyond direct, physical harm can be the consequences of a parent, or both parents losing their jobs. Even before lockdown and the arrival of a global pandemic it was not uncommon to hear about teachers providing breakfast and lunch for vulnerable children.

“More often than not I see children go without lunch as they don’t have enough money in their account. I do provide them with money to tide them over.”

Teaching staff also noted that they were struggling to pay their own bills because of the amount they were giving to pupils.
Teachers in Wales are having to lend ‘desperate’ children money to pay for lunch.

With all of this in mind, it is easy to become despondent but there is hope. There are those who are trying to make a difference at the top levels.

A Campaign That Hits the Back of the Net

Marcus Rashford’s campaign to provide free school meals to vulnerable children hit the headlines this year.

‘Rashford, the activist, was unleashed to devastating effect. His campaigning on child food poverty has forced two government U-turns. While the 23-year-old has captured the zeitgeist, No 10 has been exposed as out-of-touch and seemingly floundering.

His fundraising for FareShare, a charity collecting surplus food, quickly raised more than £20m for children’s school meals, including a “significant” donation from himself. Then followed his ultimately successful campaign to extend food vouchers to children during school holidays.’
‘It is never about him’: how Marcus Rashford became such a devastating activist. The Guardian

He has taken his star power and used it for good. He is not the only one to do so but he is most likely the highest-profile to do so during the pandemic.

You can question him and that is your right to do so, but given his background, I would believe in the sincerity of his campaign. With more people like this, we can ensure that children have a better future and safeguarding is considered a top priority, as it is.

A Final Thought

Safeguarding is a problem for everyone, and we all have a part to play, from teachers to healthcare professionals. From the neighbours to the pedestrians. We need to keep our eyes open and ensure that those who are vulnerable receive the care and attention they deserve.

Safeguarding does not just cover abuse. It is a wide-ranging topic and one that has consequences every day of our lives. It affects us all and we cannot simply leave it to teachers and other professionals to pick up.

The global pandemic ripped open the gaping holes in society for all to see and it is up to us to listen. We need to adapt and ensure that the vulnerable are protected.

We are in this together.

The Primary Thought: Together we can ensure that children have a better future and safeguarding is considered a top priority, as it is.

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A writer of many things, all of which make him think or smile.

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