Fortnightly Safeguarding Briefing

23rd March 2020

Safeguarding Network - Confidence in safeguarding

Welcome to your latest briefing

School sites have closed or are in partial operation across the country. Teachers, pastoral staff and others across education settings are pulling together to provide care to children of key workers and some of the most vulnerable children. Many others are at home with their families.

Last week we provided guidance to support schools to plan for such a change. This week we are offering DSLs and deputies in our member schools the chance to come together, share experiences, ask questions and develop strategies to support them, their staff teams and most importantly the children they support.

We will be holding an online, DSL forum each Wednesday at 4:30-5:30pm for member schools through this period, including over the Easter break. Each Monday we will produce an agenda, but also make space for matters arising and circulate the minutes across the wider Safeguarding Network membership. We will make our expertise available, but more importantly draw on the experience and skills of safeguarding leads across the country to support one another and ensure we work together to keep children safe.

To attend the session visit safeguarding.network/live and log in - you'll find a link to the meeting on the page. We are keeping this a members only session so that we have the capacity to fully support you, but if you’re not a member you can join Safeguarding Network with immediate effect – we will sort out invoicing at a later date.

On the agenda this week:

  • Where are things up to for you... shared experiences
  • Measures taken by your settings - what's been effective?
  • Risk assessment for children at home
  • Safeguarding Network's free webinar series

Preview the page, check your equipment and join us on the day by visiting safeguarding.network/live. We're looking forward to talking to you.

In this briefing:

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people
  • What works in education for children who have social workers
  • Racial disparities in mental health: Literature and evidence review

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people

Published yesterday, this government guidance sets out who the government define as vulnerable children (including "those who have a social worker and those children and young people aged up to 25 with education, health or care plans").  Of note is that eligibility for free school meals is not considered to be a determining factor.

The guidance is "also asking local authorities and schools to maintain provision for children in alternative provision (AP) settings wherever possible, since many of these settings have a high proportion of children who have a social worker and EHC plans."

re is still an allowance for leeway with the guidance stating "Leaders of educational settings and designated safeguarding leads know who their most vulnerable children are and will have the flexibility to offer a place to those on the edges of receiving children’s social care support."  At Safeguarding Network it is this group that we have had most discussions about - those children who are on the periphery of services where schools are the main and often only agency involved.  The additional strain on families of the current situation may significantly increase the child's needs, and it is important that they do not fall through the net.

This guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people

There is also guidance for schools about temporarily closing: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures/guidance-for-schools-about-temporarily-closing

For residential schools, additional guidance has been published: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings

While the current focus is undoubtedly on identifying vulnerable children and making sure they are safe, we also feel it is important to continue identifying research and news that allows the valuable safeguarding services that we all provide to continue during this current climate and when things start to return to some normality.  The following section therefore moves away from focusing on COVID-19.

Triennial SCR analysis

What works in education for children who have social workers

Previous research published by the DfE has identified that children with social workers are less likely to be in education, training or employment when they finish mandatory education.  This summary document looks at 63 different educational interventions and the impact that they had on the attainment of children in this cohort.  

The research does not go as far as saying that one or two approaches are better than the others, however it does identify 10 projects that show 'signs of potential' through considering progress as measured against peers who do not have a social worker and cost.  Of these ten, six interventions are "those that can be, or routinely are, targeted at individual students or at small groups within a school, making it plausible that virtual schools, local authorities or school leaders could provide these interventions for children and young people who can benefit from them."

Racial disparities in mental health: Literature and evidence review

Over the past couple of years there has been an increasing focus on child mental health and the services that are, or are not, being provided.  This literature and evidence review identifies that "black and minority ethnic communities are at comparatively higher risk of mental ill health" and that they are also "disproportionately impacted by social detriments associated with mental illness."  They are less likely to access mental health support through traditional routes (e.g. GP) and for individuals who have additional barriers in place (e.g. disability, those with no immigration status, etc.) access is severely curtailed.  Even where services are accessed, the research finds that physical health issues are more likely to be addressed than mental health, and where mental ill health is identified this is more likely to result in medication than talking therapies.

What does this mean for children and young people? The report identifies research that shows that on top of these broad issues, children have a poor awareness of mental health services. They lack trust in school based services and wider societal stigmas impact significantly on their view of approaching / using services (one report talks about the 'fear of gossip').  The report also identifies that children and young people may see faith as a protective factor and seek out support of 'traditional healers'.

It is therefore important that we consider these factors when thinking about how to support children and young people from black and ethnic minority communities.  As we have spoken about before, this is where a culture of openness in school is important - an environment where children feel able to talk about what is going on for them reduces the stigma of it being a specific "service" and can allow for a building of knowledge and understanding about support that is available.  Safeguarding Network have a resource package for members to support staff updates in relation to child mental health which considers how to build this culture.

Who are we?

Safeguarding Network recognise that the demands on organisations are increasing from every aspect. Safeguarding is no exception. Using our front-line safeguarding experience and knowledge we develop resources to help organisations meet their safeguarding requirements with the aim of helping lighten the load.

Visit https://safeguarding.network/subscribe for more information.

Like what you see?

Sign up to receive your own copy direct to your inbox here, or visit our archive page to see previous briefings.