How Safeguarding Leads and Deputy Leads Respond To Safeguarding Concerns Protocol

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This protocol is under review, and has not been accepted.

We are currently gathering feedback and editing this protocol, and there may be errors or bad wording. Please only use this protocol with caution, and if other organisations have definitive protocol, use that instead.

Please see #protocols on Slack to discuss this protocol further.

This is the protocol for how safeguarding concerns relating to children and young people who work within QueerCare are responded to by the organisation.

The Safeguarding Leads (SLs) and Deputy Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) together form the Safeguarding Team.

Initial Communication

  1. The Safeguarding Team should be contacted in the following circumstances:
    • A young person who is working with QueerCare experiences harm from another person of any age who is working with QueerCare (either inside or outside of QueerCare).
    • A young person or an adult feels there is a structural issue in the organisation which is harmful or potentially harmful to young people.
    • A young person or an adult is aware that a young person who is working within QueerCare is experiencing or has experienced harm from another person of any age who is working with QueerCare (either inside or outside of QueerCare).
    • An adult who works within QueerCare has caused harm to young people outside of QueerCare.
  2. The person raising the concern can inform whichever lead they feel most comfortable talking to.
    • The Safeguarding Team can be contacted by DMing them on Slack or on Signal, or via email. Their contact information must be in a pinned message in the Slack channel #general-announcements.
    • Alternatively, the person raising the concern can fill in this form.
  3. If the harm has taken place while the young person and the other person were working in QueerCare, the SL/DSLs should follow the protocol as set out below. If it took place in a context outside of QueerCare, they should follow whichever steps are applicable.
  4. The SL/DSL who has been approached must take appropriate steps to contact the young person.
    • If a young person has raised a concern that relates to themselves, the SL/DSL should contact them.
    • If someone has raised a purely structural issue, the SL/DSL should contact them to ask if they would like to be involved in the process going forwards, making it clear that there is no expectation for them to do so.
    • If someone has raised a concern relating to another young person, the SL/DSL should contact the young person who the concern relates to, and the person who raised the concern if this is relevant or if more information is required.
    • If someone has raised a concern about an adult who works within QueerCare in a situation outside of QueerCare, the Safeguarding Team should meet and then contact the adult who the concern relates to, and the person who raised the concern if this is relevant or if more information is required
    • If someone has anonymously raised a concern and given no identifying details the Safeguarding Team should follow as much of the following process as they can with the information they have been given.
  5. The SL/DSL who has been approached should tell the young person that they would like to speak to the other SLs & DSLs.
    • They must check whether the young person agrees to this and whether they are happy for all three of the other leads to be involved.
    • If the SL/DSL is already aware of any conflicts of interest, they should proactively acknowledge this to the young person, and explain the ‘conflicts of interest’ process.
  6. The SLs and DSLs should meet to discuss the safeguarding concern raised and consider what next steps they should take.
  7. If the concern raised is purely structural, the Safeguarding Team should start a Slack thread and anonymous suggestions box in order to discuss this with the rest of the organisation.

Throughout the Process

  1. SLs/DSLs should ask for the young person’s preferred means of communication, how frequently they would like to be contacted about the concern, and whether they would like this to happen at pre-agreed times. (Eg. do they want to receive a message every time there is an update, or would they prefer to have a pre-scheduled weekly update?)
  2. Throughout the process, the SLs should ensure that there is good communication between them and the young person, and that the young person feels included in discussions and processes. However, if the young person does not want to be involved, they must respect this decision.

Conflicts of Interest

  1. Before any full meeting to discuss a concern, the SLs/DSLs who would attend should be given the names of the individuals concerned. This can take place in their private Signal chat, or in another temporary chat if the young person has already requested that one of the Safeguarding Team should not be involved.
  2. Each SL/DSL should acknowledge any conflicts of interest to the other SLs/DSLs.
  3. A SL/DSl with a conflict of interest should consider whether they are able to participate in the discussion.
    • An SL/DSL must remove themselves from participation if a concern has been raised about someone they are romantically involved with or someone they live with.
    • They should remove themselves from participation if this person is someone they are close friends with or work closely with in another setting (e.g. they both hold positions of power in another organisation).
    • They should also remove themselves from participation if they have a history of serious personal conflict with the person.
  4. In the latter situations, the SLs/DSLs should consider how the safeguarding process would function if the person removes themself.
    • How many people would be left on the team if those with conflicts of interest step aside?
    • What would be the ages of the people remaining - would under-20s still be represented?
    • Are there any safeguarding reserves’ available who have already undertaken the training and checks?
    • Does the situation involve any issues of systemic oppression where only one person on the team has relevant experience?
  5. They must feed the outcome of this discussion back to the young person, and ask for consent if there is any prospect of bringing in a reserve.
  6. If lack of organisational capacity would make it impossible for all the people with conflicts of interest to remove themselves (e.g. if 3 of the team have conflicts, and in the extreme case that there are no reserves):
    • This should be openly acknowledged to the young person so that they can make an informed choice about how to move forward.
    • The young person should be encouraged to raise concerns about how the case is being handled with anyone on the team who does not have a conflict of interest.
    • The young person should be reminded that they can choose to have another young person, or trusted adult, included in any correspondence and meetings

Safeguarding Meetings

Before Meetings

  1. The young person must be given a choice of whether or not they wish to attend safeguarding meetings, and it must be made clear that there is no expectation for them to attend.
  2. If the young person has expressed concerns about any of the Leads/Deputy Leads being involved, this person should not attend meetings.
  3. The young person must be given the option of having another young person (or a trusted adult) attending meetings or copied into communication.
  4. The agenda of each meeting should be shared with the young person a few days in advance of the meeting, so that they can decide whether or not they want to attend.

During Meetings

  1. The SLs/DSLs must ensure that the young person’s perspective is centred in any decision-making.
  2. In meetings about the situation, the SLs/DSLs must make sure to discuss the following issues:
    • How the situation relates to systemic issues - such as young people not having enough support, or power dynamics not being accounted for and mitigated.
      • Every safeguarding concern is illustrative of a systemic problem and must be dealt with as such, including and especially concerns for which the response involves re-evaluating the work a specific individual is doing (see below).
    • How the response will centre the needs and wishes of the young person.
    • Power dynamics operating in the situation:
      • How structural oppression affects perceptions of risk and safety. Eg. an adult who experiences transmisogyny may be perceived as inherently threatening to children, or a young person who experiences racism may be perceived as less vulnerable to harm.
      • How these biases may impact the SLs/DSLs’ responses and the responses of others.
      • That people who are frequently harmed by these oppressive dynamics may have valid concerns that the Safeguarding Team will replicate this harm, and how they will ensure they are not doing this.
  3. The SLs/DSLs should suggest options for next steps rather than expecting the young person to come up with a plan.
  4. If the concern relates to another individual/individuals, the SL/DSLs should establish whether the young person is willing for the Safeguarding Team to talk to the individual(s) about the fact that a concern has been raised.
      • If they are willing, communication with the individual must be carried out with the input of the young person. They should be given the option to attend a meeting or meetings with the person/people, and it must be made clear that there is no expectation for them to do so.
    • If they are not willing, the SLs and DSLs should instead focus solely on systemic changes and then follow step 5 (below) if necessary.
  5. If the SLs/DSLs believe that a step should be taken to prevent similar harm in future, but the young person does not want this to happen, the SLs/DSLs must
    • Try to clarify with the young person why they do not want this.
    • Suggest plans to address the young person’s concerns.
    • Explain their own concerns about future harm to the young person, and discuss whether there are any alternative ways to deal with these.
    • If the young person still disagrees with the proposed action, the SLs/DSLs should focus on implementing systemic changes to address their concerns.
  6. Each meeting must ensure clear notes are taken to reduce the chance of misunderstanding/misremembering things.

After Meetings

  1. If the young person does not attend safeguarding meetings, the SL/DSL who was initially contacted should speak with them again and agree suggested next steps before going ahead with any action.
  2. The SL/DSL who took notes should ensure that others who were present have the opportunity to make corrections or additions.
  3. Notes should be kept secure and SLs and DSLs should only share them with each other and the young person, unless the young person wants someone else to be copied in.
  4. If new SLs/DSLs are appointed while the situation is ongoing, the old SL/DSL should check whether the young person is happy for these notes to be shared with them.
  5. Once the situation is resolved, the notes should be destroyed if there is no likelihood that they will be relevant in future.

Systemic Changes

  1. Every safeguarding concern is indicative of a systemic problem and must be treated as such.
  2. If the concern has happened within QueerCare, the Safeguarding Team must assess what conditions within QueerCare enabled the harm to happen and what structural aspects of the organisation need to be changed in order to prevent it from recurring.
  3. They must consider what policies or protocols may need to be reviewed and raise their suggested changes on Slack or in a meeting.
  4. If the harm took place outside of QueerCare, the Safeguarding Team should try to establish whether any of the enabling conditions within that organisation also exist within QueerCare, and then work to mitigate these.

Individual Changes

  1. If the situation requires a person who caused concern to change their behaviour or way of working, they must be given the opportunity to be involved in agreeing the terms of this.
  2. The Safeguarding Team should assess what work this person is doing within QueerCare, the conditions in which they are doing it, the spaces they can access, and whether any of this should be changed to mitigate future risks.
    • The person should be given the opportunity to work with the Safeguarding Team and any other relevant people (e.g. care dispatchers) to discuss how this will be implemented.
    • This should be communicated on a need-to-know basis with anyone else within QueerCare as needed for risk mitigation (e.g. people doing dispatch for a certain kind of work)
  3. If the person does not agree to make any changes, the safeguarding team should instead focus on systemic changes to mitigate future risks.

Ongoing Support

  1. The safeguarding leads and deputy safeguarding leads must ensure the young person is aware of all the places they can access appropriate support - eg. care from other young people in QueerCare, therapy expensed to QueerCare and/or support from outside services
  2. A SL/DSL must check in with the young person even when the SLs/DSLs feel that things have been resolved. They should check in after two weeks, then after a month, and then after two months, and then can decide (with the young person) if it is best for them to continue to check in or if the situation is resolved.

Appendix: Check-List

On first contact with the YP

  • Does the YP want another YP (or someone else) to be copied into all future communication?
  • Communicate to the YP that other SL/ DSLs will be involved as standard practice. Check that they know the identities of the other SL/DSLs and ask if they have concerns about any of these individuals being involved.
  • Does the YP want to attend the meeting? If so, do they want another YP (or anyone else) to attend?

In meetings

  • Do any of the SL/DSLs have close personal relationships with the people concerned, or other conflicts of interest?
  • What power dynamics are present and how may these impact perceptions of risk and safety?
  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • If the concern involves a specific individual, does the young person agree to the SL/DSLs discussing it with them?
  • What conditions enabled the harm to happen?
  • What actions could be taken to mitigate the risk of harm in future?
  • Who else in QueerCare needs to be informed in order to implement these actions?
  • If the young person does not agree to an action which the SLs/DSLs support, why do they feel this way?
  • What support is in place for the young person?
  • Who will communicate with the young person in future and by what means?
  • How frequently does the young person want to receive any updates and do they want these to happen at pre-agreed times?
  • What policies or protocols may need to be reviewed in light of this?

After meetings

  • Review relevant policies / protocols.
  • Ensure the YP is aware of all the places they can access appropriate support.
  • Check in with the YP after two weeks, a month, and two months and then decide (with the YP) if the situation is resolved/ they still want to be checked-in with or not.