Educational, institutional and community settings working with children and young people should establish and maintain a safe environment at all times. In fact, the importance of protecting and promoting the welfare of children, vulnerable and young people should be a priority in all settings, but in particular in the educational settings where children and adolescents spend much of their time. It is also important to highlight that children with a specific mental or a physical disability are five times more likely to experience some sort of abuse and/or neglect, and it is up to carers and practitioners to recognise the signs and symptoms of maltreatment to protect all children.
Through protection policies and procedures for safeguarding children and adolescents, every setting working with vulnerable people have indeed an important role in the detection and prevention of abuse and neglect. In fact, according to the Children Act 1989, it is carers’ and practitioners’ responsibility to put the welfare of children in their care first.
Safeguarding children and young people is crucial because without this protection, their health, development and future could be negatively affected. In fact, they could withdraw from their families and peers and this could ultimately affect them emotionally and developmentally. Children and young people are unable to protect themselves alone and are more vulnerable to abuse and neglects than adults are. Consequently, it is practitioners’ duty to protect them from physical, emotional, sexual and verbal abuse as well as from neglect. All children need to feel safe and secure and should be mentored by adults they can trust. For this reason, it is extremely important that the correct people, whether they are full time or part time employees and volunteers are given DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) and police checks. Safeguarding children and young people should also be a priority for all agencies involved with children and young people. All agencies, including health, social services, education and housing, should work together, to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children and their families living in their area. These agencies should take practical measures to make sure that the risk of harm to children/young people’s wellbeing is minimised. If there are concerns about a child or a young person’s welfare, all agencies must take appropriate action to deal with these concerns, following and applying the agreed local policies and procedures for safeguarding children and keeping records of all reports made about the children and professionals involved.
Within the community and among professionals, agencies must promote the awareness of children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (in particular the Article 19, Protection from all forms of violence).
Article 19 states: “Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. … “any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child’s level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration.” (https://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Rights_overview.pdf)
Obviously, no one deserves to be maltreated or abused and no child or young adult deserves to be neglected. In fact, every child deserves to live without the fear of harm or abuse: this is the reason why early years practitioners and primary carers have the responsibility and duty to protect them from harm. This responsibility includes settings providing services for adults who are parents and carers.
This is all crucial as the care children receive through their childhood will contribute to the success of their ability to reach their full potential into adulthood. Safeguarding children and young people is a key for all professionals who work in all settings where they have contact with children.