Safeguarding through the pandemic

Author: 

Alice Fallon

Additional guidance and information to keep children and adults safe through the C-19 pandemic

At Severn Rivers Trust, like many charities across the UK, and around the world, we have had to make significant changes to the way we work since the pandemic hit.

Our leadership team have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure we continue to keep children and adults safe from abuse. This has meant reviewing the safeguarding risks in our work, and updating some of the guidance, training and protocol so that staff feel supported and confident in how to spot and handle potential concerns.

Our Head of Community Engagement and Designated Safeguarding Officer, Alice Fallon, answers some of the tricky questions about safeguarding through the pandemic in the short blog below. You can read our full Safeguarding Policy and Toolkit here. You can read our Policy Addendum with updates relating to the C-19 pandemic here. This guidance continues to apply as the lockdown restrictions change – whether that is easing or becoming stricter.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is basically everything we put in place as a charity to protect people we come into contact with from abuse or maltreatment of any kind. Children and some groups of adults are particularly at risk of abuse, so we have extra measures in place to keep them safe.

There are lots of times when our teams come into contact with children and adults at risk of abuse within their work. Therefore it is really important for all Severn Rivers Trust staff to have a good understanding of safeguarding and the part they play in keeping people safe.

How has covid-19 impacted Severn Rivers Trust?

Like lots of organisations we have made changes to adapt our work during the pandemic. The main changes are:

- All staff are now home-based

- Additional measures are in place to limit the risk of contracting or spreading covid-19

- An increase in online communications – e.g. via video calls

- Continuing operations during a time of heightened stress and anxiety for the wider public

- Increased presence online – including more content for social media and the website, more email correspondence with participants, and offering ‘live’ activities online(e.g. virtual learning activities via Zoom)

- More measures in place for face-to-face activities to make sure they can run safely as lockdown restrictions ease, for example booking procedure, limits on group sizes, organizing and cleaning of equipment.

What has this meant for Safeguarding at Severn Rivers Trust?

We have had to adapt very quickly to new ways of working and engaging communities through different channels! Staff have taught themselves how to make use of amazing tools like social media and video conferencing. But we recognise that there are specific safeguarding risks that come with increasing our communications online, so we have done thorough risk assessments, and done more training to make sure we can do these things safely.

We have also been thinking about the strains people are under because of living in such turbulent times. Sometimes our work involves working in remote locations. We have good systems in place for keeping our staff safe, and we have used guidance from the NSPCC and other sources to remind staff what they should be looking out for, and how they should respond to safeguarding or welfare concerns when they are out and about.

How does lockdown easing, or getting stricter affect the changes?

It is great to see the lockdown restrictions easing, and we have been delighted to be able to do more face-to-face activities in 2021. However, we remain cautious, with lots of flexibility and ‘back-up plans’ as we are well aware that the situation will continue to change and lockdown measures could easily get stricter again. We are also very pleased with the increased reach that things like online communications and webinars have given us, so we will keep using these, even when we can do more in-person.

All of this means that the additional guidance remains relevant, even as we move into our ‘new normal’, whatever that may look like in the coming months and years.

If you have any comments or questions about our safeguarding policy, please contact us on admin@severnriverstrust.com.