Child Protection Policy and Procedures

Updated 29th October 2018.

On this page:
Our Child Protection Policy
Our Child Protection Procedures
Our Good Practice Guidelines

The Playing Space Child Protection Policy

Safeguarding children is the responsibility of everyone.

The Playing Space recognizes its responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within the legal framework of the Children Acts 1989 and 2004.

We are aware that many children and young people are the victims of different kinds of abuse and that they can be subjected to social factors that have an adverse impact upon their lives – including domestic violence, substance misuse, bullying, child prostitution and ritualistic abuse. We aim to create a safe environment within which children and young people can thrive and adults can work with the security of clear guidance.

Under the terms of the Children Act 2004 anyone under the age of 18 is considered to be a child/young person.

These guidelines are for the use of all paid staff, volunteers and visitors. We will make them available to the parents and carers of the children and young people to whom we offer a service. Through them, we will endeavour to ensure that:

  • children and young people are listened to, valued and respected;
  • staff are aware of the need to be alert to the signs of abuse and know what to do with their concerns;
  • all paid and unpaid staff are subject to rigorous recruitment procedures;
  • all paid and unpaid staff are given appropriate support and training.

All child protection concerns should be acted upon immediately. If you are concerned that a child might be at risk or is actually suffering abuse, you should tell the designated child protection officer within your organization.

Your designated officer is: Gabrielle Maddocks 07817 420392

If the designated officer is not available and you are faced with an emergency situation, contact Enfield Single Point of Entry on 020 8379 5555 (or call 999).

The Playing Space Child Protection Procedures

1. Recognising Signs of Abuse

It can often be difficult to recognize abuse. The signs listed in these guidelines are only indicators and many can have reasonable explanations. Children may behave strangely or seem unhappy for many reasons, as they move through the stages of childhood or their family’s experience changes. It is nevertheless important to know what could indicate that abuse is taking place and to be alert to the need to consult further.

Someone can abuse a child by actively inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent harm. Abuse can take place within a family, in an institutional or community setting, by telephone or on the Internet. Abuse can be carried out by someone known to a child or by a complete stranger.

If you are worried about a child it is important that you keep a written record of any physical or behavioural signs and symptoms. In this way you can monitor whether or not a pattern emerges and provide evidence to any investigation if required.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, and suffocating. It can also result when a parent or carer deliberately causes the ill health of a child in order to seek attention; this is called fabricated illness, or Munchhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. Symptoms that indicate physical abuse include:

  • bruising in or around the mouth, on the back, buttocks or rectal area;
  • finger mark bruising or grasp marks on the limbs or chest of a small child;
  • bites;
  • burn and scald marks; small round burns that could be caused by a cigarette;
  • fractures to arms, legs or ribs in a small child;
  • large numbers of scars of different sizes or ages.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse happens when a child’s need for love, security, praise and recognition is not met. It usually co-exists with other forms of abuse. Emotionally abusive behaviour occurs if a parent, carer or authority figure is consistently hostile, rejecting, threatening or undermining. It can also result when children are prevented from social contact with others, or if developmentally inappropriate expectations are imposed upon them. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of someone else. Symptoms that indicate emotional abuse include:

  • excessively clingy or attention-seeking behaviour;
  • very low self esteem or excessive self-criticism;
  • excessively withdrawn behaviour or fearfulness; a ‘frozen watchfulness’;
  • despondency;
  • lack of appropriate boundaries with strangers; too eager to please;
  • eating disorders.

Neglect

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, causing damage to their health and development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter or clothing, failing to protect a child from harm or danger, or failing to access appropriate medical care and treatment when necessary. It can exist in isolation or in combination with other forms of abuse. Symptoms of physical and emotional neglect can include:

  • inadequate supervision; being left alone for long periods of time;
  • lack of stimulation, social contact or education;
  • inadequate nutrition, leading to ill-health;
  • constant hunger; stealing or gorging food;
  • failure to seek or to follow medical advice such that a child’s life or development is endangered;
  • inappropriate clothing for conditions.

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. This may include physical contact, both penetrative and non-penetrative, or involve no contact, such as watching sexual activities or looking at pornographic material. Encouraging children to act in sexually inappropriate ways is also abusive. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, any sexual activity – contact or non-contact – with a child under the age of 13, is a crime. Symptoms of sexual abuse include:

  • allegations or disclosure;
  • genital soreness, injuries or discomfort;
  • sexually transmitted diseases; urinary infections;
  • excessive preoccupation with sexual matters; inappropriately sexualized play, words or drawing;
  • a child who is sexually provocative or seductive with adults;
  • repeated sleep disturbances through nightmares and/or wetting.

Older children and young people may additionally exhibit:

  • depression;
  • drug and/or alcohol abuse;
  • eating disorders; obsessive behaviours;
  • self mutilation; suicide attempts;
  • school/peer/relationship problems.

2. What to Do With Your Concerns

In the event that a child makes an allegation or disclosure of abuse against an adult or another child or young person, it is important that you:

  • listen to them and/or closely observe their presentation and behaviour;
  • let them know that you take what they are saying seriously;
  • do not attempt to question or interview them yourself;
  • let them know that you will need to tell someone else in order to help them;
  • do not promise to keep what they tell you secret;
  • inform your designated child protection officer as soon as possible;
  • make a written record of the incident or events.

Sometimes you may just feel concerned about a child but do not know whether to share your concerns or not. In this situation you should always raise your concerns with your designated child protection officer, who will help you to decide what to do. The responsibility for investigating allegations of abuse, whether they result from the disclosure of a child or the concerns of an adult, lies with social workers (Enfield Children’s Service) and the Police Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT). It is normally the responsibility of the designated child protection officer to make a referral to these agencies, but if you judge the situation to be an emergency and/or you require urgent advice in the absence of the designated officer, you must report your concerns directly, using the contacts listed at the beginning guidelines. The Children’s Service also employs Child Protection Advisors (CPAs), whom you can contact in office hours for further specialist guidance.

The Duty social worker or CPA will advise you when or whether to inform the child’s parents or carers about any concerns. If they decide to pursue a child protection investigation, you should:

  • work closely and collaboratively with all professionals involved in the investigation, in order to keep the child safe;
  • attend a child protection conference if you are invited. You will be asked to provide information about your involvement with the child, which is why it is important to keep records of your concerns;
  • attend any subsequent child protection review conferences.

3. Allegations Made Against Staff or Volunteers

Organisations that work or come into contact with children and young people need to be aware of the possibility that allegations of abuse will be made against members of their staff. Allegations will usually be that some kind of abuse has taken place. They can be made by children and young people and they can be made by other concerned adults. Allegations can be made for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common are:

  • abuse has actually taken place;
  • something happens to a child that reminds them of an event that happened in the past – the child is unable to recognise that the situation and the people are different;
  • children can misinterpret your language or your actions because they are reminded of something else;
  • some children know how powerful an allegation can be; if they are angry with you about something they can make an allegation as a way of hitting out;
  • an allegation can be a way of seeking attention.

All allegations should be brought to the notice of the designated child protection officer immediately. In cases where the allegation is made against this person, the complainant should approach a more senior official or take the following action him or herself:

  • make sure that the child in question is safe and away from the alleged abuser;
  • contact the Children’s Service Referral & Assessment Team relevant to where the child lives;
  • contact the parents or carers of the child if advised to do so by the social worker/officer in charge of allegations;
  • irrespective of any investigation by social workers or the police, you should follow the appropriate disciplinary procedure; common practice is for the alleged abuser to be suspended from work until the outcome of any investigation is clear;
  • consider whether the person has access to children anywhere else and whether those organisations or groups need to be informed;
  • act upon the decisions made in any strategy meeting.

All incidents should be investigated internally after any external investigation has finished, to review organisational practice and put in place any additional measures to prevent a similar thing happening again.

The Playing Space Child Protection: Good Practice Guidelines

All personnel should be encouraged to demonstrate exemplary behaviour in order to protect themselves from false allegations. The following are common sense examples of how to create a positive culture and climate.

Good practice means:

  • always working in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication with no secrets);
  • treating all young people with respect and dignity;
  • building relationships based on mutual trust, which empowers children to share in the decision-making process;
  • making activities fun, enjoyable and promoting fair play, without prejudice.
  • ensuring that if any form of manual/physical support is required, it should be provided openly and appropriately. Care is needed, as it is difficult to position hands appropriately in certain circumstances. Young people should ideally be consulted and their agreement gained where possible. Some parents are becoming increasingly sensitive about manual support and their views should always be carefully considered.
  • giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism;
  • securing parental consent in writing for the child’s participation, if the need arises to administer emergency first aid and/or other medical treatment;
  • keeping a written record of any incident or accident that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given.

Practices to be Avoided

The following should be avoided except in emergencies. If cases arise where these situations are unavoidable it should be with the full knowledge and consent of the Course Facilitator or the child’s parents. For example, a child sustains an injury and needs to go to hospital, or a parent fails to arrive to pick a child up at the end of a session:

  • Avoid spending excessive amounts of time alone with children away from others.
  • Avoid taking a child in a private vehicle.

Practices Never to be Sanctioned

The following should never be sanctioned. You should never:

  • engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay;
  • allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching;
  • allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged;
  • make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun;
  • reduce a child to tears as a form of control;
  • allow allegations made by a child to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon;
  • do things of a personal nature for children, which they can do for themselves.

N.B. It may sometimes be necessary for staff or volunteers to do things of a personal nature for children, particularly if they are very young. There is a need to be responsive to a person’s reactions. If a person is fully dependent on you, talk with him/her about what you are doing and give choices where possible. This is particularly so if you are involved in any dressing or undressing of outer clothing, or where there is physical contact, lifting or assisting a child to carry out particular activities.

Incidents that must be reported/recorded

If any of the following occur you should report this immediately to the Designated Child Protection Officer or to another colleague and record the incident. It may also be appropriate to ensure the parents of the child are informed:

  • you accidentally hurt a child;
  • a child seems distressed in any manner;
  • a child misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done;
  • you are concerned that a child is responding inappropriately to something you’ve done.

Special Policy for Advanced Drama Classes

As these classes have a maximum of four students, and not all groups are full, it is possible that on occasion only one student will attend. As some of our Advanced classes are in areas away from other people (in particular The Studio, at the bottom of the garden of 19 Greenacre Walk N14 7DB) we recognize that students may feel vulnerable especially if they are in a lesson with a teacher with whom they are less familiar e.g. a new or cover teacher.

If we are aware in advance that there will be only one student present then we will contact their parent in advance of the class to explain the situation and ask if they would like to go ahead, or cancel the session.

However sometimes students are absent without informing us and it may not become apparent that there is only one student attending until the class begins. In these circumstances the teacher (even if a regular teacher) will offer the student the opportunity to cancel the class. The teacher will also attempt to contact the parent to explain the situation and say that their child is either happy to continue the lesson OR would like to be collected/make their own way home early. If the class is cancelled the parent will be offered a refund or a catch-up class.

All staff have regular DBS checks and work for The Playing Space following our Safer Recruitment Policy, and this policy is in place to protect our teachers and also to avoid placing our students in what they might feel is a vulnerable situation.