Keeping children safe
Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families or carers has a role to play in safeguarding children.
In order to fulfil this responsibility effectively, all professionals should make sure their approach is child-centred. This means that they should always consider what's in the best interest of the child.
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:
- protecting children from maltreatment
- preventing impairment of children’s health or development
- ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
- taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
The Ofsted guidance inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills expands on this by including meeting the needs of children who have special educational needs or disabilities, providing first aid, educational visits, online safety and more.
Safeguarding audit for Early Years settings
We've developed an annual safeguarding audit for the Early Years sector which takes into account the Barnsley Safeguarding Children Partnership's safeguarding audit, as well as the documents released by Ofsted and other relevant organisations. The audit guides childcare providers in their duties to make sure that children are safeguarded. It includes child protection as well as the wider areas also covered within safeguarding.
You can download a copy of our safeguarding audit for sole childminders or group settings from the useful documents section.
Topics included in the safeguarding audit
|Policies, procedures and promoting the welfare of children||
|Line of accountability for safeguarding||
|Local Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures, and dealing with allegations of abuse||
|Effective inter-agency working and information sharing|
|Staff and children’s behaviour with regards to the EYFS safeguarding and welfare requirements||
Safeguarding issues to be aware of
Breast ironing / breast flattening
Breast ironing (sometimes called flattening) is the pounding and massaging of a young girl’s breasts to prevent and stunt breast growth. It is usually carried out by pressing, massaging or pounding the breasts using hard or heated objects.
Why does breast ironing occur?
Breast ironing is a traditional practice in some parts of West Africa, usually arranged or performed by a girl’s mother to make her less attractive to males by delaying the signs that the girl is maturing into a young woman. It usually starts when a girl begins to develop breasts, generally between 8 and 12 years of age.
Reasons for it include protecting the girl from sexual harassment and discouraging pre-marital sex, unwanted pregnancy and early marriage. One of the drivers is often that the mother wants her daughter to avoid pregnancy so she can receive an education.
As breast ironing is a hidden practice, it's difficult to know how common it is. The UN estimate that nearly 4 million girls are affected. There are no official police or government figures for it in the UK, but it is widely acknowledged that it is practised in this country.
How breast ironing is carried out
Different methods are used to flatten the breast, often determined by the region where it takes place. A pestle or grinding stone are most commonly used. The object is heated in a fire or boiling water until very hot, then applied to the breast. The object will then be pressed, pounded and massaged into the breast for several minutes. Afterwards, the breasts are often tightly bandaged. The pounding or pressing can continue for several months until the breasts have dropped or not developed.
Apart from the severe pain, breast ironing causes:
- burning and scarring
- long term malformation or disappearance of the breasts
- life threatening infections
- tissue damage
- interference with breastfeeding
- psychological problems such as anxiety, fear, depression and PTSD
It may also lead to the development of cysts, skin and breast cancer.
Signs that a girl could be at risk of breast ironing
- She's embarrassed about her body.
- Her mother or a close relative has undergone breast ironing.
- She talks about breast flattening in conversation, and may tell other children about it.
- She asks a teacher or another adult for help if she thinks she's at risk.
- She's withdrawn from PSHE or sex and relationship education, as her parents try to keep her uninformed about her rights.
- Her parents or family consider breast ironing integral to their cultural identity.
- Herself or her family have a limited level of integration within the community.
Signs that a girl is undergoing breast ironing
- She talks about pains in her chest area, even though she might not say exactly why due to embarrassment or fear.
- She may tell a social worker, GP or another medical professional.
- She may be reluctant to undergo a medical examination.
- She may be nervous about changing clothes for physical activities due to scars or the risk of bandages being seen.
Honour-based violence against women and girls
There is no specific offence of honour-based violence, but the Crown Prosecution Service describes it as an incident or crime which has, or may have, been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family or community. Honour can be the motivation, excuse or justification behind a range of violent acts against women and girls.
Forms of honour-based violence
Honour-based violence includes:
- forced marriage
- domestic violence (physical, sexual, emotional or financial)
- sexual harassment
- threats to kill
- denial of access to services such as phones or internet
- isolation from family and friends
Identifying honour-based violence
People could be a victim of honour-based violence if they feel threatened or abused should they:
- separate from their partner, or divorce
- start a new relationship
- talk to, or interact with, men
- become pregnant or give birth outside of marriage
- have an interfaith relationship, or marry outside a specified religion
- have sex before marriage
- marry a person of their own choice
- try to access higher education without approval of their family
What to do
Victims of honour-based violence or forced marriage should contact:
Safeguarding incidents can be associated with, and occur between, children outside of school. All staff, especially the designated safeguarding lead and their deputies, need to consider the context within which such incidents occur. This is known as contextual safeguarding; assessments of children must consider if wider environmental factors present in a child’s life are a threat to their safety or welfare.
Children’s social care assessments should consider these factors, so it's important that schools provide as much information as possible as part of their referral. This allows any assessment to consider all the available evidence and the full context of any abuse.
Prevent duty and the Early Years
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (2015) has placed a duty on early years providers to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism (the Prevent duty) in addition to keeping children safe and to promote their welfare.
You can complete an online course on GOV.UK to increase your knowledge in relation to your duties and responsibilities.
What providers need to do to fulfil the Prevent duty
To fulfil the Prevent duty, providers must make sure:
- they focus on children’s personal, social and emotional development, making sure children learn right from wrong, mix and share with other children, value other’s views, know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes.
- staff are alert to harmful behaviours by influential adults in the child’s life. This may include discriminatory and/or extremist discussions between parents, family and/or staff members.
- they take action when they observe behaviour of concern.
- staff are able to identify children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, and know what to do when they are identified.
- they assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism, and work in partnership with local partners such as the police, Prevent Co-ordinators, Channel police practitioners and the Safeguarding Children Partnership to take account of local risks and respond appropriately.
- they make referrals to local Channel Panels, Channel police practitioners or the Safeguarding Children Partnership, if there are concerns that an individual may be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism or extremism.
- they assess their training needs in the light of their assessment of the risk.
Prevent and British values
The Early Years sector is required to demonstrate Prevent through the British values. Ofsted require early years settings to demonstrate how they support children with British values including learning right from wrong, learning to take turns and share, and challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes.
The fundamental British values
- Democracy - making decisions together
- Rule of law - understanding rules matter
- Individual liberty - freedom for all
- Mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs - treating others as you want to be treated
These principles are embedded in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Promoting the British values
To promote the British values within your setting you'll need to think about how you:
- actively promote tolerance of other faiths, cultures and races
- challenge gender stereotypes
- support children to understand the wider community
- challenge behaviours of staff, children and parents that are not in line with the British values
- demonstrate your practice to Ofsted
- as adults, can support children to understand and know their view counts
- support children to know right from wrong
- develop children’s positive sense of themselves
- can create a culture of inclusivity and tolerance in the setting
To help you do this you can use our activity ideas.
County lines, cuckooing and child criminal exploitation
County lines are the organised criminal distribution of drugs from the big cities into smaller towns and rural areas using children and vulnerable people. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines are the main focus of county lines, although cannabis is also sometimes linked to this as well.
Where county lines operate
The main county line gangs operate from London and Liverpool, but other groups work out of other large cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Reading. The gangs are able to operate more easily in quieter areas where they might not be known to police.
The influence of county lines is nationwide; Metropolitan Police found gang members from Islington in 14 different police areas.
Young people, typically 15 or 16 but sometimes younger, travel by public transport into rural or coastal areas carrying the drugs and a disposable phone.
For the gang’s security, each runner along the delivery chain only knows one other phone number.
If a drug runner needs a place to stay, the gang will take over the home of a vulnerable person, often after following them home. This is known as cuckooing.
Once in the property drugs and weapons can be stored there, as well as using it as a venue for dealing drugs and the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.
Female genital mutilation (FGM)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines female genital mutilation as all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Health consequences of FGM
The consequences of FGM can include:
- severe pain and shock
- broken limbs from being held down
- injury to adjacent tissues
- urine retention
- increased risk of HIV and AIDS
- uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
- cysts and neuromas
- increased risk of fistula
- complications in childbirth
- depression and post-natal depression
- psychosexual problems
- pregnancy and childbirth
- sexual dysfunction
- difficulties in menstruation
- trauma and flashbacks
Why do people practice FGM?
Many affected communities believe that FGM is a necessary custom to ensure that a girl is accepted within the community and eligible for marriage. Families who practice FGM usually see it as a way of safeguarding a girl's future.
Other reasons include:
- perceived health benefits
- preservation of the girl’s virginity
- rite of passage into woman-hood
- status in the community
- protection of family honour
- perceived religious justifications
There are no religions that advocate for FGM.
What are the signs that a girl could be at risk of FGM?
- Her mother has undergone FGM, or one of their close relatives has.
- Mother requested re-infibulation following childbirth.
- Her parents or other family members regard FGM as integral to their culture or religious identity.
- Herself, or her family, has only a limited level of integration within the community.
- She is withdrawn from PSHE or sex and relationship education, perhaps due to her parents wanting to keep her uninformed about her body, FGM and her rights.
- She makes references to FGM in conversation, eg telling other children about it.
- She may say she's having a ‘special procedure’ or attending a special occasion to ‘become a woman’.
- She might ask for help from a teacher or other adult if she thinks she might be at risk of FGM.
- Her parents state their child will be out of the country for a long time and are reluctant to say why.
- She's taken to a country with high prevalence of FGM, especially during the summer holidays which is known as the ‘cutting season’.
What are the signs that FGM has occurred?
- Prolonged absence from school.
- Frequent need to go to the toilet.
- Changes in behaviour.
- Mentioning something has happened to them that they're not allowed to talk about.
- Difficulty in sitting down comfortably.
- Complaining about pain between their legs.
- Change of dress from tight to loose fitting clothing.
- Urinary tract infections.
- Menstrual problems.
What to do if you're worried a girl is at risk of, or has undergone, FGM
If you're concerned that a girl is at risk of FGM a referral must be made to the Safeguarding Child Assessment Team.
If you're concerned that the girl is in immediate danger, contact the police by calling 999.
Childcare and internet safety
Ofcom’s Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report found that:
- 1% of 3-4-year olds have their own smartphone and 19% have their own tablet
- 52% of 3-4-year olds go online for an average of nearly 9 hours a week
- 45% of 3-4-year olds use YouTube
It’s important that Early Years settings make sure children are learning about the world around them and how to keep themselves safe online.
Find out more about why online safety matters to early years practitioners and the online risks children in early years settings might experience in the GOV.UK guidance: Safeguarding children and protecting professionals in early years settings: online safety guidance for practitioners.
Guidance for managers can be found in the safeguarding children and protecting professionals in early years settings: online safety considerations for managers.