“A load of unholy cobblers”
Why I disagree with Quentin Letts: Safeguarding training matters.
In a recent article for the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts vented his spleen on being ‘ordered’ to undergo safeguarding training when, much to his indignation, ‘there was no shortage of lawn-mowing to be done’. In this blog, I will respond to that article, and give five compelling reasons why safeguarding matters.
In the four hours that Mr Letts attended the training, he recalls key messages from the training and compares them to being “battered and splattered by gibberish. It was like standing in front of some muck spreader loaded with stinking bureaucrat-ese”. As someone who has seen the harm that abuse and neglect causes, my first reaction to this unnecessarily aggressive article was one of dismay.
I accept that no-one relishes the prospect of attending training, especially that which is likely to talk about children being harmed. But to prioritise it against gardening? What makes this even more concerning is that Mr Letts was ‘ordered’ to attend this event as a result of his role with his local church.
Mr Letts seems to be under the illusion that the Church has no role to play in safeguarding. I wonder if he has read any of the horrifying newspaper reports from the last few years involving abuse by the Church, or considered any of the findings and recommendations by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse? Or is that yet more ‘gibberish’ to him?
Mr Letts complains that the role imposed on him is ‘snooping’ and in this he likens the Church in compelling him to adopt safeguarding practice to the “Stasi secret police in communist East Germany”. Here’s a news flash for you Mr Letts. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and the church has a legal and moral duty to protect the most innocent and vulnerable in society. Report after report has detailed how, if staff and volunteers had been given the right knowledge and skills, abuse and even deaths could have been prevented. That is not about ‘snooping’ or being forced to ‘mug up’ on colleagues; it is about doing the right thing to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Safeguarding is best described as the action taken to identify and prevent harm to children and vulnerable adults. This includes being able to ensure that we keep the most vulnerable safe when we are working or having contact with them. It is about taking the best possible care and acknowledge the privilege and responsibility that comes with working with and caring for the vulnerable.
If an organisation is delivering services to or having contact with children or adults at risk, there is legislation and statutory guidance that means that it has a legal obligation to have structures and processes in place that address safeguarding. This includes
making sure that staff are skilled in recognising signs or abuse and know what to do about it. As someone who frequently delivers safeguarding training, I often find that those attending already have concerns and don’t know what to do about it. Safeguarding training is not about scaremongering, but about increasing confidence and competence in all of us to protect others from harm.
So, here’s my 5 reasons on why safeguarding matters:
1. Adopting safeguarding policies and procedures ensures that organisations make an important contribution in identifying and preventing abuse to children and adults at risk.
2. Demonstrating that your organisation follows safeguarding practices is not just about insurance, as Mr Letts assumes, but also about deterring those who may seek to create opportunities to abuse the vulnerable. Who actually wants an employee or volunteer whose only motive is abuse?
3. Letting those who access your organisation know that there is someone they can speak to if they have worries or concerns is no bad thing. The more places we make available to members of the public who are worried about a child or vulnerable adult, the more likely it is that risk will be identified.
4. Adopting safe working practices protects organisations (and staff) against any allegations of wrongdoing.
5. Above all, safeguarding is just good practice. It give individuals, organisations, and members of the public reassurance and may actually prevent harm.
Giving those who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults the skills that they need to prevent harm is not, as Mr Letts maintains a “waste our spare free time attending almost meaningless safeguarding courses, just to tick bureaucratic boxes.” Safeguarding matters. I do what I do because I care, and I want to help prevent the abuse in the country that blights far too many lives.
In his article, Mr Letts bemoans the fact that should he identify safeguarding issues, the advice of the trainer was not to make judgements himself, but to pass the information onto the relevant authorities. Thank the Lord for that.
Adele Gladman is an independent safeguarding consultant. Her company, Safeguarding Children Training and Consultancy Limited also runs free drop in advice clinics and training events for all organisations working with children and vulnerable adults. To find out more go to: https://www.protectingchildrennow.co.uk/