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Safeguarding Children, Young People & Vulnerable Adults Policy

1. Purpose of the Policy

1.1 This policy sets out Mermaids’ approach to the safeguarding and protection of all children, young people and vulnerable adults. The needs and equal protection of these individuals is always paramount. 

1.2 This policy applies to all aspects of our work including, but not limited to, the telephone helpline & email support service, the charity’s website and all the charity’s events. The policy applies to everyone working for Mermaids, including permanent/temporary employees and volunteers.

1.3 This policy has been drawn up on the basis of legislation, policy and guidance that seeks to protect children in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. A summary of the key legislation is available from nspcc.org.uk/learning 

2. Definitions

2.1 Mermaids uses definitions of the term ‘safeguarding’ from statutory guidance.

2.2 Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined in Working together to safeguard children as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

2.3 Safeguarding vulnerable adults is defined in the Care and support statutory guidance issued under the Care Act 2014 as:

  • protecting the rights of adults to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect
  • people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect
  • people and organisations making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is promoted including, where appropriate, taking fully into account their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action
  • recognising that adults sometimes have complex interpersonal relationships and may be ambivalent, unclear or unrealistic about their personal circumstances and therefore potential risks to their safety or well-being.

3. Mermaids’ Context

3.1 The welfare of children is paramount in all the work Mermaids does and in all the decisions we take all children, regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation have an equal right to protection from all types of harm or abuse 

3.2 We recognise the serious issue of the abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults and understand that this may take the form of physical, emotional, sexual, neglect and financial. 

3.3 We believe that children, young people and vulnerable adults should never experience abuse of any kind. We have a responsibility to promote the welfare of these individuals, to keep them safe and to practise in a way that protects them. 

3.4 We recognise that some children are additionally vulnerable because of the impact of previous experiences, their level of dependency, communication needs and gender identity.

3.5 We recognise that working in partnership with children, young people, their parents, carers and other agencies is essential in promoting young people’s welfare.

3.6 All concerns and allegations will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Mermaids recognises that whilst some incidents and allegations will require the support and/or intervention of external agencies, others may be supported through existing internal support mechanisms. 

4. Responsibility

4.1 Mermaids is aware that abuse does occur in our society and we are vigilant in identifying signs of abuse and reporting concerns. Our staff and volunteers have a duty to protect and promote the welfare of children. Due to the many hours of services we are providing, staff may sometimes be the first people to identify that there may be a problem. They may well be the first people in whom children confide information that may suggest abuse or to spot changes in a child’s behaviour which may indicate abuse.

4.2 Mermaids believes that the safeguarding responsibility is shared by everyone working and volunteering with us, but with clear leadership and accountability structure running through the organisation.

4.3 It is the overall responsibility of the CEO, Susie Green, on behalf of the Safeguarding Lead to ensure that all necessary measures are in place to safeguard children.

4.4 Mermaids has a Nominated Safeguarding Lead (SL) who has the principal objective of overseeing and ensuring that our safeguarding children, young people and adult’s policy is fully implemented. The SL can be contacted on 0808 801 0400. 

4.5 In the SL’s absence then the Deputy Lead is contactable on 0808 801 0400.  

4.6 The welfare of the child is paramount and will always be the priority of the SL.  

The SL’s role includes:

  • Promote safeguarding best practice within the organisation with the support of the CEO and Trustees. 
  • Referring a child to Children’s Social Care if there are any concerns about suspected abuse.
  • Liaising with other agencies and services as appropriate.
  • Talking to parents about concerns (where appropriate).
  • Providing support, advice and guidance to all staff and ensuring that they are aware of the Safeguarding policy. 
  • Seeking advice and support for staff from relevant agencies where appropriate.
  • Support and advice all staff and volunteers
  • Provide a point of reference to advise on safeguarding issues
  • Liaise with the safeguarding deputies 

4.7 It is not the responsibility of the staff to investigate welfare concerns or determine the truth of any disclosure or allegation. All staff, however, have a duty to recognize concerns and remain impartial.  All concerns regarding the welfare of children at Mermaids must be recorded and discussed with the SL prior to any discussion with parents.  

5. Mermaids’ Commitments

  1. We will have a commitment to safeguarding at all levels of the organisation 
  2. We will have robust and clearly communicated procedures for safeguarding children and young people
  3. We will have procedures for dealing with allegations against, and concerns about, staff & volunteers
  4. We will treat all children, young people and vulnerable adults with respect and dignity as we celebrate their individuality, diversity and achievements.
  5. We will respond without delay, and appropriately, to any allegation or cause for concern that a child, young person or vulnerable adult may have been harmed, whether at one of our activities or in another context. We also commit ourselves to challenging the abuse of power by anyone in a position of trust.
  6. We will promote a culture of listening to children, young people and vulnerable adults. 
  7. We will use safe recruitment practices for all staff and volunteers working with children & young people 
  8. We will carefully select and train all those with any responsibility within Mermaids, in life with Safer Recruitment principles, including the use of criminal record disclosures and registration with the relevant vetting and barring schemes.
  9. We will commit ourselves to the provision of support, advice and mandatory induction training for all workers, whether they are paid or voluntary, that will ensure that people are clear and confident about their roles and in so doing enable each person to fully understand their responsibilities and accountability. Each member of staff, paid or volunteer will receive regular supervision and reviews. 
  10. 5.10.We will ensure positive ways of safeguarding and promoting welfare of children, young people and adults who may be vulnerable.
  11. 5.11.We will always follow legislation, guidance and recognised good practice. 
  12. 5.12.We will adopt the recommendations of the SAFE CIC safeguarding toolkit.  

6. Rigorous Recruitment

6.1 We adhere to the Local Safeguarding Children Board (SCB) Key Standards for Recruitment and SAFE guidelines for recruiting all staff, paid or unpaid by obtaining full personal details and application forms with particular relevance to previous work with children and young people.   

6.2 We always take up two written or documented verbal references and insist that any appointment, where staff have direct and/or unsupervised access to children and young people, will only be confirmed subject to a satisfactory DBS check at the appropriate level.   

6.3 At interview we have sound procedures and recording to ensure we are satisfied, and can evidence that the applicant is appropriate and suitable. At least one person on each interview panel will have undertaken Safer Recruitment Training. 

7. Induction & Training 

7.1 In line with SAFE recommendations we have a clear induction and training strategy. All new staff with direct contact with children and young people will undertake SAFE child protection training before they are allowed to have direct contact with service users. 

8. Confidentiality 

8.1 We have a clear policy in line with SAFE recommendations about confidentiality and information sharing and these details will be made available to all adults, children, parents and carers through the charity’s website, through training and through a handbook available at activities. 

8.2 We fully endorse the principle that the welfare of children and young people override any obligations of confidence we may hold to others.  Individual cases will only be shared or discussed on a “need to know” basis.  Information pertaining to a child or young person’s gender identity of transgender status, will only be disclosed if directly relevant to the matter causing concern and only if it is essential to ensuring a child’s safety.    

9. Handling Disclosures of Abuse 

9.1 We ensure and emphasise that everyone in our organisation understand and know how to share any concerns immediately with the SL and Deputy.  

10. Responsibilities of the staff team

10.1 All staff will follow the procedures which are consistent with “Working together to safeguard children” and “What to do if you are worried a child is being abused”.

10.2 It is not the responsibility of the staff to investigate welfare concerns or determine the truth of any disclosure or allegation. All staff, however, have a duty to recognise concerns and remain impartial.  All concerns regarding the welfare of children at Mermaids will be recorded and discussed with the SL prior to any discussion with parents.