What is meant by “Safeguarding Children”?

On the previous page you will have come across the term "safeguarding children" you may not know what this means, so here is the definition provided by the government.

The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.’

As you can see the definition covers lots of aspects of the care and welfare of children. Within this course you will become familiar with many of the ideas covered by this definition. Notice there are two distinct components:

Protecting from abuse or neglect and preventing impairment
Ensuring they are growing up well

  • Protecting and preventing are about stopping damage or wrongdoing or neglect
  • Ensuring is about positively putting things in place for good to happen. Both require us to be thinking ahead not just reacting if there is a problem.

Abuse: What do we mean by this word?

When most people think of safeguarding children they will normally think of the harm done to children deliberately by adults. This type of harm has been called child abuse and it is this that you will start to think about now. This section deals with the main ways that children are harmed by adults and other children and attempts to show just how common this may be.

First, attempt these questions and see if you can tell the differences between some of the myths and reality surrounding child abuse. Don't worry if you do not get all of the right answers. The answers are provided on the second page.

  Child Abuse: true or false? 

How common is the abuse of children and young people?

Some people may think that the abuse of children is a rare event. It may be thought that such things only happen in families that have developed serious problems. We may be tempted to think that such things only happen to a few children in exceptional circumstances. But is this true?

  • If you were asked to guess how many children in England might have been harmed by adults last year, what would your guess be?
  • Do you think that number is bigger or smaller that the year before?

Read the following that provides just a few simple statistics to show that the abuse of children is an all to common event within England today.

How common is child abuse in England today?

To be honest, no one really knows the answer. The nature of the act means that we will never be 100% sure just how many children and young people are affected.

We do know that every year some 32,000 children are recorded as being at risk of or having suffered significant harm by local social service departments in England.

According to the NSPCC Approximately 46,700 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse right now.

One in four young adults (25.3%) tell us that they were severely maltreated during childhood.

In March 2010 there were 46,705 children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans in the UK.

As of March 2011 there were 65,520 looked after children. This is an increase of 2 per cent from 2010 and an increase of 9 per cent since 2007. These are children being looked after by local authorities as a result of their families being unable to provide a safe environment for them to grow up in.

For the purpose of this programme a child is defined as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. When the term child/children is used in this text it includes child and young person.

If you would like to see further data including figures from research studies visit the NSPCC website.  

What is child abuse and who is affected?

Abuse occurs when a child’s physical or emotional health is damaged, or when their intellectual, spiritual or social development is adversely affected by other people.

Someone may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or a community setting, by those known to them, or, more rarely, by a stranger. They may be abused by an adult or adults, or by another child or children. While some abuse is caused by strangers most abuse occurs in the home.

Child abuse affects girls and boys, babies and young people of all ages up to 18, including children with any form of disability and from all kinds of family background. It occurs in all cultures, religions and classes.

The effects of child abuse will be profound and last throughout a person’s lifetime. The effects will vary from child to child, being dependent on the type of abuse experienced and on the duration of that abuse.

For those who experience abuse within the church it may also mean that their faith in God and/or the church is damaged irrevocably.

Types of child abuse

Having very broadly tried to say what abuse is, we now turn to the different types of abuse that you may encounter.

Think of the different types of child abuse you may already know about and make a list of them. Once you have done this read the following text page which outlines the main types of abuse. The information also identifies how each type of abuse may present itself.

Types of child abuse

Further Reading

Now read the following extracts from "Protecting All God’s Children" This will help you retain the information and develop your understanding. 

Section 1.24 (pages 5–7)
Chapter 3 (pages 11–16)

Questions you must answer to complete your training

Please answer the following questions by putting a ring round the correct answer on the answer sheet given to you by your child protection officer. When you have completed all 10 questions return the answer sheet to the officer for marking.

Question 1

When there are concerns about the welfare of a child, what is the most important thing to keep in mind?

a. It is important to protect the image of the church and the people who attend it
b. You could be wrong, so always proceed carefully
c. The welfare of the child is the most important consideration
d. Be careful not to upset anyone, so things must be handled carefully

Question 2

A child is defined as anyone up to the age of:

a. 18
b. 16
c. 12 

Now go on to the next section, What are our responsibilities?