Safeguarding children is everyone’s business

Often the terms ‘safeguarding’ and ‘child protection’ are used interchangeably, but in fact they are quite distinct. While safeguarding refers to all children, child protection refers distinctly to protecting individual children identified as suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect.
Child Protection Companion

To explore further, the term safeguarding is used to define actions taken to protect vulnerable groups from harm. This harm might come from adults or other children and, as someone working closely with potential vulnerable groups, it is important you - as child health professionals - understand what safeguarding is and why it is important.

The 2018 Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance defines safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

On the flip side, while there is no legal definition of child protection. Working Together to Safeguard Children cites the definition of child protection as “a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare, which refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect children who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm.”

Children may be vulnerable to neglect and abuse or exploitation from within their family and from individuals they come across in their day-to-day lives. These threats can take a variety of different forms, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse; neglect; exploitation by criminal gangs / organised crime groups; trafficking; online abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.

As child health professionals, we aim to identify those children who are at risk of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. Safeguarding plays a role in everything we do.

We all need to work together to safeguard children, and this is where the RCPCH Child Protection Companion (CPC) comes into play.

Available to RCPCH members or on subscription, the CPC is your go-to resource on child protection and safeguarding. Covering all forms of abuse and the spectrum of medical and social involvement, it focuses on all aspects from examination, to identification, to referral, to court.

After originally publishing in 2006, the second edition produced in 2013 built on the original version, bringing it up to date and expanding the scope. The CPC then migrated from paper-back to an online resource in 2016. In moving to an online format, the CPC became a living/dynamic document, facilitating continual editing and updating on a chapter-by-chapter basis by the RCPCH Child Protection Standing Committee and Research & Publications Sub-Committee in light of the changing scientific evidence base and national strategy, policy, legislation and guidance.

Safeguarding children is everyone's business, and as doctors and other healthcare professionals working in paediatrics and child health in the community we strive to improve outcomes for children and young people.

We believe that all doctors and healthcare professionals working with children and young people should have access to the CPC, and that all healthcare professionals should act in accordance with statutory and non-statutory guidance and legislation, and know when and how to seek advice from others. Any one of our workforce may encounter a child protection case and it is critical they are:

  • Able to recognise, assess, investigate and manage cases of suspected child maltreatment
  • Aware of, and understand, their role in the multiagency safeguarding children process
  • Made aware of the latest research, guidance, publications and standards surrounding child protection and safeguarding.

With content across 20 chapters, the CPC describes the essential context and the pathway of child protection cases, beginning with the medical assessment, a discrete chapter on each form of maltreatment, and continuing through to court and training.

This news item was originally published on the RCPCH Child Protection Portal on 27 May 2020