Webinar: Safeguarding through Covid-19 and beyond
- In partnership with NCVO, we explore safeguarding issues that charities face
- The webinar discussed four groups or emerging risks that everyone needs to consider
- We consider some of the new challenges faced by staff and volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic
Marie Williams, Safeguarding Risk Consultant at Zurich shared her insights in a webinar in partnership with NCVO. The webinar was set up to help charities understand safeguarding issues they may now be facing in the new ‘business as (un)usual’ situation. Here’s a summary of what was covered, or you can watch the full recording below.
Marie said: “The impact of what we have had to endure during the Covid crisis is becoming more apparent as the economic and health implications of lockdown are emerging. We are now moving into ‘business as (un)usual’ but with many unknowns to deal with. It is a difficult time for us all and lines between home and work are blurred. This brings new challenges for you, your staff and your volunteers. This is likely to be the same case for some time to come, so it is a good idea to understand and review the associated new risks”.
Marie explained that safeguarding is the practise of protecting vulnerable people from abuse. Vulnerable people are defined as children (anyone under 18, or anyone under 16 in Scotland) and adults at risk (anyone 18 or over who is in need of care or support and, because of those needs, are unable to protect themselves against abuse or neglect).
She went on to explain four groups of emerging risks everyone needs to consider in terms of the safety and wellbeing of staff and their families, especially as working from home is now common for many.
Schools provide a vital service for safeguarding with teachers following guidelines and monitoring the welfare of children. Teachers are often the ones to spot signs of abuse or neglect. During lockdown this changed as most children were not attending school and were not being ‘seen’. Now, faced with an increase in the number of children who have been adversely affected by lockdown, schools may be struggling. School Leaders are also facing their own challenges such as ‘change fatigue’ and burn out, as they have had to implement so many new rules and systems so quickly.
The effect of ‘lockdown syndrome’ on teachers is a new safeguarding risk:
- How will the ‘in / out’ system of schooling effect the parents in your teams or the young people you work with?
- Are your own safeguarding arrangements able to spot warning signs of distress, neglect or abuse in the young people you work with?
- Do you have processes to respond to these?
With so many people now working from home rather than in the office, the lines between personal and professional lives are blurred. We have seen rises in cases where people have faced workplace harassment for perceived increased risk of transmitting Covid-19 because of their ethnicity or lifestyle. We are seeing more parents exposing their children to the workspace.
- Do you have policies and procedures to deal with these scenarios?
- How do you respond to parents who have other demands on their time, which they must prioritise at the moment?
The balance of work with childcare and home schooling has been hard for many throughout lockdown. There has been a rise in the number of cases of domestic abuse and child-to-parent violence, as well as a huge impact on mental health,
- How can you best support your staff and those you work with in these circumstances?
- If you are asking your staff to work from home, you have a responsibility to ensure their continued safety and wellbeing. Are they able to keep themselves safe?
Digital technology and online safety
Throughout lockdown many of us have increased our use of screens whether for grocery shopping, news, work, to keep in touch with friends and family or to switch off through films or games. This has continued post lockdown and brings increased risks for safeguarding. This can relate to online bullying, screentime fatigue, and addictions to games or gambling.
Livestreaming in particular is a risk for anyone using video calls, live social media broadcasts or games. There have been a number of incidents of Zoom-bombing for example where people have been exposed to disturbing images. It can be a highly traumatic experience.
Everyone should also know about how to stay safe online, including how to protect their personal details and identity.
- Do your staff know about how to protect themselves and others online?
- Are your home-working IT systems and settings secure?
- Talk to your young people about the apps they are using and help them to learn about online safety. See Our Safety Centre for more details.