Child Safeguarding and the Importance of Time Away from Home

In our previous blog post, we briefly touched on the subject of child safeguarding and the vitally important work of the Pubic Health Nursing team and other agencies. If you haven’t already read that one, then it would definitely be worth checking it out before diving into this post as there will be some elements that build upon things mentioned there. Amongst a lot of important subjects related to mental health that were discussed, one that we promised to come back to was child safeguarding.

If you have ever worked in a caring profession such as education, healthcare, social work etc, then the term safeguarding is probably very familiar to you. But for the rest of us, it might sound like a bit of a buzz phrase; a modern term that lacks conciseness perhaps. But in actuality the term is very well defined, it just has a wide array of possible implications depending on whom it is being applied to.

We will be discussing child safeguarding in particular, and as such we’d like to share the definition from the NSPCC:

“Safeguarding is the action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.”

Safeguarding children and child protectionNSPCC Learning

Now More than Ever

As we discussed last time, there are some very worrying statistics coming to light in the wake of the first national lockdown relating to domestic violence. Whilst not every instance of domestic violence involves children, plenty do and even if a child is not directly involved, this is still cause for significant concern.

During the discussion with our friend from the Public Health Nursing team, we asked about child safeguarding from their perspective as they described the key aspect of their job to be to “raise awareness and safeguard every child”. The sad fact is that along with rises in domestic violence, there have also been equally significant rises in the number of children being referred to their team and child protective services. Whilst exact numbers are as evasive as ever, we were informed that there are currently over 400 children in the care system in Plymouth alone and since the pandemic took hold, the Public Health Nursing team has been seeing more than 20 new cases a week on average.

This is why it is so important, now more than ever, to be aware of children in our communities. Everyone is stressed and feeling vulnerable due to the current crisis, and when people are already feeling low, mental health issues can be significantly harder to deal with. This can result in children being more likely to be neglected, abused either mentally or physically, or quite simply not receiving the safe and effective care they should be. A lot of the time no one is directly at fault in these cases, after all not many people would actively seek to harm a child’s wellbeing, but that doesn’t change the detrimental outcome of the situations on the children involved.

The Importance of Away from Home Routines

To compound these issues, an essential part of the infrastructure that has always supported child safeguarding was removed by the lockdown. Schools, nurseries and other places of stability for children were closed, with some children having more than six months without being able to attend. Whereas for many this was a drastic shakeup to their lives, it was significantly worse for many children already suffering from difficult home lives.

Our friend in the Public Health Nursing team informed us just how shockingly common it was for a school meal to be the only hot or nutritional meal some children have in a day. For others, school or nursery etc may well represent the only calm environments they have access to as their home lives are tumultuous and chaotic, or worse. Thinking in these terms, it becomes easier to understand a how a largely unseen portion of children can depend on the structure of school to help maintain their mental health; and how having that removed could well prove disastrous for many.

Hopefully, you can start to appreciate how having access to schools and other activities outside of the home, something which many of us have always taken for granted, actually represent a real lifeline for vulnerable children. Besides the break they provide from whatever kind of home life awaits them, they also help to give other adults the chance to spot children that are having difficulties and enact safeguarding measures. This may be something as simple as a verbal intervention and providing support, or something as significant as getting child protective services involved. But regardless of the form it takes, this contact is vitally important.

This, above all else, is why we firmly hope that schools are not forced to shut again on mass during local lockdowns or worse another national one. The impact on children’s education and development is bad enough, but the implications for vulnerable children are far, far worse.

Clubs and Extra-Curricular Activities Play a Vital Role

Whilst schools and nurseries will always provide the majority of away from home time for children, clubs and extra-curricular activities are also vital when they can be accessed. Every one of us will show a different side of themselves depending on the situation, and of course the same is true of children. It is very possible, for example, that a child will act perfectly normally in a classroom environment, but then open up to a member of staff at a club they attend as they have a different dynamic with that adult. Clubs can represent a more relaxed environment than the classroom, and whilst this of course will vary drastically between schools and clubs, the general point is that they feel different to children attending them.

As a result of this, it is perfectly understandable that children attending these clubs may well develop a different and often more relaxed relationship with the adults running it. But this is why it is so important that all adults that work with children have training and awareness of child safeguarding. Simply put, the more chances there are to catch a problem and help a child, the more likely we are as a society to be able to prevent that child from harm.

In fact, such is the importance of attending clubs for the mental and physical wellbeing of vulnerable children, there are numerous charities and organisations working with the authorities to try and fund as many places as possible. Increasing the access vulnerable and disadvantaged children have to sports clubs and any other kind of extra-curricular activity provides a wealth of benefits alongside increased safeguarding opportunities. Our friend from the Public Health Nursing team told us about charities such as the Mothers Union, the Salvation Army, the Northcott Devon Foundation and Children in Need, who all work with social services to improve access to clubs for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

With so many entities striving to give children access to these services, the importance cannot be denied.

It Takes a Village…

There is some well-worn wisdom that tells us “it takes a village to raise a child”, and that is as true today as it ever has been. Listening to some of this harrowing information surrounding child safeguarding, both before and during the pandemic, clearly shows us that children need the widest range of opportunities that can be provided to them. The fact that charities are actively trying to get disadvantaged and vulnerable children into clubs and extra-curricular activities demonstrates this well; the more a child has access to good adult role models and trained professionals, the better their prospects become.

This is something we have always been proud of at Gym Bubbas. Our staff all strive to provide a safe and nurturing space for the children that visit us, and we have consistently been very proactive in our safeguarding training and policies. We want to ensure that as many children as possible have access to our gyms and if you would like your child to attend but are currently experiencing financial difficulties, then please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d hope to be able to direct you to any available help and support that is out there.

We’re as invested in helping your children grow and flourish as you are. But in these tough times, we need to help each other out and work together to provide what is best. This is where we can see the meaning behind it taking a village to raise each child; we’re all working together, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbours, schools, nurseries, clubs, social services, and plenty more. Each and every adult doing their best to help each child in whatever way they can. Or to quote from the NSPCC again:

“taking action to enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes”

Safeguarding children and child protectionNSPCC Learning

Where to Get Help

If you have been affected by any of the topics covered in this blog post or want to find out more including how to get help then please check out these resources: