When you are choosing activities for your children you want to be confident that they are safe. Whether you are leaving them to play football, at the youth group or pre-school you need to be confident that the people caring for them are suitable and that they have a good understanding of safety issues.
Some groups such as pre-schools, nurseries and some out of school clubs have to be registered by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) and checks are made as part of the registration process (though even in these circumstances it is also important that you remain alert to your child's safety). Other groups are not required to register and are not regulated in any way. There is no outside organisation or person checking their suitability - except you!
If you stay at a group with your child - a parent and toddler group for instance then you are present to see that all is well - and you probably have responsibility for your child while you are both at the group.
If you are leaving your child, what should you be looking for to know that your children are safe?
The following guidance is adapted from a leaflet produced by the NSPCC.
Have Fun and Be Safe - a guide to help parents and carers choose children's activities.
There are so many activities to choose from in local communities and parents and carers want to encourage children and young people to participate. But how do you know if they’re safe?
What should you check out?
A good organisation will welcome questions about their activities and the safety of their environment. All organisations should have a child protection policy; including a statement on, and guidelines about, keeping children safe.
Are the staff and volunteers suitable to work with children? All staff and volunteers should go through a proper recruitment process which includes interviews, references and police checks.
Is there a written code of behaviour? All organisations should have a written code of behaviour, which outlines good practice when working with children. An environment which allows oppressive behaviour such as bullying, shouting, racism and sexism is not acceptable.
How does the organisation manage staff and volunteers? There should be someone in charge who supervises staff and volunteers and is able to act appropriately if there are concerns about a child.
Do they offer regular training to staff and volunteers? Apart from skills training, all workers should have training in child protection and health and safety.
How can children and their parents or carers voice their concerns? Organisations should tell you where to go and what to do if you or your child have any worries. If you are unhappy about the way your concern is dealt with, contact any of the organisations listed overleaf.
How does the organisation provide for intimate care needs? In the case of very young children, or those with a disability, you should check out routines for toiletting, feeding and administering medication.
Does the organisation have a health and safety policy? Find out if there is a leader qualified in first aid; that there is a first aid box; and that the premises have passed fire regulations.
What are the arrangements when children go on outings? You should be informed of arrangements – including transport to and from – for every outing no matter how long or short, and your consent should be requested.
Does the organisation have an internet safety policy? If the organisation allows children to access the internet, find out what guidelines or filtering software they have in place for safe surfing.
What should you be wary of?
- Activities where parents are discouraged from staying to watch or become involved.
- Behaviour or activities that encourage rough play,sexual innuendo or humiliating punishments.
- Individuals who take charge and operate independently of organisational guidelines.
- Individuals who show favouritism or personally reward specific children.
- Encouragement of inappropriate physical contact.
- Poor communication and lack of parental involvement, leaving you feeling uneasy.
- Children who drop out or stop going for no apparent reason.
- Invitations for children to spend time alone with staff or volunteers (or even to visit their home).
REMEMBER listen to your children and ask questions about the activities they take part in.
Organisations have a responsibility to be open and welcoming and to share information about themselves and their activities
Daycare activities, such as pre-school playgroups and crèches, are required to register with their local authority. But are you aware that not all organisations providing supervised activities – such as uniformed organisations, sports clubs and youth groups - are required to register? Yet they still have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for your child.
Many activities are supported by volunteers who generously give their time to provide regular activities for your child. However, whether or not workers are paid, you should expect the same standards from all organisations.
How should you share your concerns?
You may feel reluctant to voice your concerns in case you are wrong or worried about the impact on your child, but if you are concerned you must take action:
- Speak to other parents.
- Speak to the leader in charge.
- If you are not confident that they are the appropriate person, speak to someone in a higher position of authority.
- If you are unhappy about the response you receive, please contact one of the organisations below.
- If you have a serious concern about a child at risk of abuse, please contact Redbridge Child Protection and Assessment Team (CPAT) or the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline.