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Last October, after a lengthy period of consultation, the government published its guidance on safeguarding in Out-of-School Settings (OOSS). Here Bill Stone, Safeguarding Advisor at Thirtyone:eight, discusses the document and its uses.

This document, to give it its full title, is called “Keeping Children Safe during Community Activities, After School Clubs and Tuition” and the title is further elaborated as ‘Non statutory guidance for providers running out-of-school settings.’ The guidance is accompanied by a parallel document with the subtitle: ‘Questions to help parents and carers choose out-of-school settings’. Both documents are carefully designed to be easy to read with line drawings and user-friendly formats.

Child safeguarding policies and processes are now relatively established in formal school settings and statutory guidance from the government’s Department for Education- ‘Working Together’ (2018) and ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (Updated September 2020)- has become familiar to those working with children in the statutory sector.

However, if we want, as a society, to keep children safe, not just when they are at school but wherever they are and whatever they are doing, then we all have a responsibility to do our part. The role played by the multitude of voluntary, faith-based or other type of organisation or individual, working with children and young people in the community, is critical too, as is illustrated by community responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"If we want, as a society, to keep children safe, not just when they are at school but wherever they are and whatever they are doing, then we all have a responsibility to do our part."

This sector is extremely diverse and comprises many organisations (large and small, as well as sole providers) that engage with and provide services to children and young people in community settings.  As a sort of catch-all category which attempts to sweep up all those working with children when they are not in school, the phrase ‘out of school settings’ began to be used some years ago. This inelegant phrase with its accompanying acronym, OOSS, has now entered common parlance.

In the guidance for parents, out-of-school settings are simply described as follows: an out-of-school setting can mean many things, from places like community and youth centres, sports clubs, and places of worship to individuals offering tuition in their own home, or providing one-to-one coaching at a playing field or local park. Fees may or may not be charged. Some settings may be run as businesses. 

For Thirtyone:eight members the most relevant out-of-school settings would include:

  • Open access youth provision.
  • Sunday schools and any other context where faith is taught (not including faith schools which are covered by statutory guidance).
  • Uniformed organisations like Scouts, Girl Guides, Boys Brigade etc.

In recognition of the diversity of out-of-school settings and in response to feedback from the consultation, the guidance divides settings into three categories: large providers (five or more employees or volunteers), small providers (four or less workers) and ‘lone providers’ (an individual providing a service like tuition or youth mentoring). The guidance is differentiated in that there are more requirements for larger organisations than for smaller organisations or lone providers.

There are four major chapters in the guidance, corresponding to four basic areas where children need to be kept safe, and examples from across the range of settings and providers are given in each chapter:

  • Health and safety
  • Safeguarding and child protection
  • Suitability of staff and volunteers
  • Governance

"The guidance on health and safety is likely to be familiar to most people working in these settings- although they may not traditionally have included health and safety within the safeguarding remit."

The guidance on health and safety is likely to be familiar to most people working in these settings- although they may not traditionally have included health and safety within the safeguarding remit.

The safeguarding and child protection guidance is a useful summary and is consistent with Thirtyone:eight’s safeguarding policy and advice. The guidance suggests that each provider should have a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), a role that is virtually identical to the Safeguarding Coordinator role that we have been recommending for over 20 years. One issue that is highlighted (perhaps reflecting the origins of this consultation in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham) is that of extremism and radicalization and providers are encouraged to report any concerns to the Local Authority’s ‘Prevent’ lead.

The chapter on Suitability of staff and volunteers is about safer recruitment and essentially duplicates guidance that Thirtyone:eight is already giving. Eligibility for different levels of background checks for volunteers and workers is a complex matter and we would advise our members to contact our Disclosure Service for specific advice.

In the section on governance, it is recommended that providers should have a complaints policy and for large providers a whistleblowing policy. Once again, these are not new and further information about governance can be found in our safeguarding manual and our guidance for trustees. For organisations that are charities, the Charity Commission has its own safeguarding guidance which goes into greater detail on the responsibilities of trustees for safeguarding.

"The safeguarding and child protection guidance is a useful summary and is consistent with Thirtyone:eight’s safeguarding policy and advice."

There is very little in the guidance that is new or that is not covered in other guidance from the Department of Education, the Health and Safety Executive or the Charity Commission. What is notable about the guidance is the way in which different areas of guidance are brought together into an integrated whole. For example, healthy and safety guidance is given along with safeguarding and child protection (including safer recruitment) and governance.

All these areas are seen as being interlocking and essential safeguarding requirements that apply to all providers, whether large or small organisations or even individuals. Safeguarding is seen as an essentially preventative activity, not just protecting children from harm and the risk of harm, but also working towards the elimination or reduction of those potential harms in the first place. A further achievement in the guidance is its clear, logical structure, engaging presentation and user-friendly tone.

 

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