Child Protection Policy
MASK provides public services to children and young people. This policy addresses issues arising from the risk of abuse of children by others and provides guidance to help MASK staff and volunteers to deal safely with situations where:
- They are in contact with children not accompanied by an adult;
- They are required to deal with any situation involving children whether or not accompanied by another responsible person;
- They are required to deal with abuse, harassment or bullying of a child by another person or group of people.
This policy has been approved and endorsed by the Trustees and is reviewed regularly.
Child: Any person under the age of 18.
Staff: Includes any representative of MASK including members, employed workers, volunteers, consultants, contractors and their sub-consultants, sub-contractors.
1. MASK recognises:
1.1. The paramount importance of the welfare of children and their right to protection from all forms of abuse;
1.2. Its duty of care to children by anyone working on behalf of it.
2. MASK will:
2.1. Ensure that members of staff are carefully selected. Any member of staff employed to work directly with children will be subject to CRB checks;
2.2. Provide training for staff in protection of children;
2.3. Appoint a member of staff or other officer to have responsibility for policy, training and co-ordination of matters relating to protection of children;
2.4. Take all allegations of abusive behaviour/practice in all forms seriously and respond to such allegations quickly;
2.5. Provide a Code of Behaviour (see below) for all staff, identifying some basic dos and don’ts when dealing with children, guidance on management of some typical risk situations and procedures for dealing with events where abuse of children by others is observed or suspected.
Definition of abuse
1 Physical abuse: Actual or likely deliberate physical injury to a child, or wilful neglectful failure to prevent physical injury or suffering to a child.
2 Sexual abuse: Actual or likely sexual exploitation of a child. The involvement of children in sexual activities they do not truly comprehend, and to which they are unable to give informed consent or that violate the social taboos of family roles.
3 Emotional abuse: Actual or likely significant emotional ill treatment, including bullying, and harassment resulting in severe adverse effects on the emotional, physical and/or behavioural development of a child. All abuse involves some emotional ill treatment.
General code of behaviour
1 Trustees, people employed by or otherwise working with MASK should observe the following requirements where children are concerned:
Trustees, staff and volunteers should:
- Act as positive role models;
- Recognise a person’s developmental needs, whether a child or adult;
- Always put the welfare of a child first;
- Set and monitor appropriate boundaries and relationships when working with children, based on openness, honesty and respect for their personal space;
- Avoid being over-familiar in word or action;
- Create and maintain a safe and caring environment that enables children to raise concerns about attitudes or behaviour they do not like;
- So far as is possible, avoid situations in which you are alone with children or similarly vulnerable people. If necessary, move to a place where you can both be seen by other colleagues or other adults;
- Challenge activities which are abusive e.g. initiation ceremonies, bullying, including those from a child’s peers;
- Take action if you have concerns about a child’s welfare, or if you have concerns about the behaviour of an adult towards a child;
- Support a child making a complaint;
- If a child is hurt or distressed, do your best to comfort or reassure them without compromising their dignity;
- Try to avoid any physical contact or behaviour that could be unwelcome or misconstrued;
- Where physical contact is necessary, ensure it is in direct response to a person’s need. It may be appropriate to hold someone’s hand, to put a comforting arm around their shoulder or support/carry them if they have fallen;
- Any physical contact with children should respect their age and individual stage of development.
Trustees, staff and volunteers should not:
- Subject any child to any form of harm or abuse, including calling anyone by derogatory names;
- Attempt to control someone by slapping or hitting them;
- Shake a person or hold them in such a way that it causes pain;
- Physically restrain a person except to protect them from harming themselves or others;
- Take part in horseplay or rough games;
- Allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any kind;
- Do things of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves or an accompanying adult can do for them;
- Allow or engage in sexually suggestive behaviour within a child’s sight or hearing, or make suggestive remarks to or within earshot of a child;
- Give or show to a child anything which could be construed as pornographic;
- Dismiss an allegation of any sort of abuse relating to a child’s welfare;
- Delay the reporting of an allegation.
1. Protecting children from hazards or rash behaviour.
1.1 Staff must seek to prevent children (who may find it difficult to assess risk) from coming to harm through their own rash actions. Where an incident arises, judge carefully how to intervene and where possible guide them into a safe course of action;
1.2 If you have to tell them to stop what they’re doing, try to be clear and definite about it;
1.3. Try to avoid being officious or challenging;
1.4. If, despite your efforts, a child persists in jeopardising their own or other people’s safety, get help if you can;
1.5. If they are in serious danger and you cannot persuade them away from it, you should treat this as an emergency and contact the emergency services;
1.6 If you think it is necessary to restrain a child from doing something, start with non-physical approaches. If you do have to use physical restraint, it should be the minimum necessary for their safety. If they are in imminent danger, you might need to hold them by their clothing. Whatever the circumstances, physical restraint must be appropriate and reasonable.
2. If an accident happens
All accidents are to be reported. With children it may be hard to tell whether they have been injured or whether an injury is serious:
- Where there is any doubt contact a doctor and/or the emergency services.
- If you think an accident is not being treated seriously enough, get medical assistance on your own initiative if necessary.
3. First Aid to children
Generally the permission of the child’s parent or guardian must be obtained before administering First Aid to a child. A child cannot give consent. Where it is appropriate to administer First Aid:
- Treatment should only be given by a trained First Aider or Appointed Person;
- Provided this does not in itself put the child at risk, always try to administer First Aid in the presence of another adult or within sight and sound of other adults;
- Always tell the child exactly what you are doing and why;
- Unless it is irrelevant, ask the child if they use medication (e.g. for asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy) or have any allergies. Some children have allergic reactions to stings and sticking-plasters;
- If you have any doubts about helping someone to use their own medication, contact a doctor.
4. Comforting children:
If a child asks for comfort because of a minor accident or fright, it may be appropriate to hold their hand or put your arm around them. Just make sure:
- that you know about any injury and do nothing to make it worse;
- that physical contact is what the child wants, and the kind of contact between you is appropriate to their age and stage of development;
- Do your best to stay in sight of other adults.
5. Contact with unaccompanied children:
1 Try to avoid situations where you are alone with children, especially anywhere you are unlikely to be seen or heard. This is as much to protect yourself from suspicion as to protect the child.
2 If you can’t avoid being alone with a child, you should take prudent precautions:
2.1. Try to move with the child to a place where there are other people;
2.2. Comfort and re-assure them without compromising their dignity or privacy;
2.3. Avoid unnecessary physical contact. If you do have to touch the child, make sure to get their agreement beforehand, and try not to be over-familiar;
2.4. See also General Codes of Behaviour ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Should nots’ at point 4 above;
2.5. If an unaccompanied child needs to be taken to the toilet for any reason, try to make sure that a second adult comes with you and that at no time are you alone with the child.
6. Protecting children:
If you witness or suspect abusive behaviour towards a child, use the following guidelines. If you suspect a child is at risk:
- Record the facts, as you know them.
- Report to a senior manager.
- Do not make any investigations yourself.
If someone is being violent to a child:
- If you come across someone hitting, hurting, violently shouting at, or otherwise bullying a child, you should try to prevent the abuse, if you can do so without unreasonable risk to the child or yourself. Never use or threaten physical force as this could inflame the situation and result in further violence.
- Summoning help: If you are unable to stop the abuse, contact other colleagues and a senior manager for support.
- If you are worried about any incident, you should record the details and report it to the Chairman of the Trustees.
- The same principles apply if you see someone behaving suspiciously towards children.
If you receive an allegation of abuse:
- If you discover an incident of abuse or receive an allegation of abuse, report your suspicions or the detail of the allegation to the senior person responsible for the site on that day and act on their instructions.
- Do not make your own further investigations.
If a disclosure or allegation is being made to you:
- Stay calm, listen to what they say without prejudice and accept what they say without judgement.
- Tell them at the earliest opportunity that you cannot guarantee confidentiality. Explain what this means and ensure they understand this.
- Record what you are being told as the person tells it.
- Check your understanding of the situation as needed and use only open questions when it is necessary to ask a question – e.g. please tell me what happened?
- Alert a senior colleague at the earliest opportunity.
- Consider what steps might be necessary to ensure the individual's safety.
- Don’t let anxiety that you might have jumped to a wrong conclusion deter you from reporting any genuine worries that you have.
The decision whether or not to contact the appropriate outside agencies, will be taken by the senior manager:
If you suspect a colleague:
- You may be the first to recognise that something is wrong but may not feel able to express your concern out of a feeling that this would be disloyal to colleagues or you may fear harassment or victimisation.
- Such feelings, however must never result in a child continuing to be unnecessarily at risk. Remember it is often the most vulnerable children who are targeted. These people need someone like you to safeguard their welfare.
- Don’t think ‘what if I am wrong?’ – think ‘what if I am right?’
- You should voice your concerns, suspicions or uneasiness as soon as you feel you can. The earlier a concern is expressed the easier and sooner it is possible for action to be taken.
- Try to pinpoint what practice is concerning you and why, you will need to demonstrate sufficient grounds for the concern.
- Approach someone you trust and who you believe will respond.
- Make sure you get a satisfactory response – don’t let matters rest.
- Discuss your concerns with the senior manager or a Trustee.
If an allegation of abuse is made against you
- Advise a senior manager and the Chairman of Trustees, even if you think it is trivial.
- If we receive an allegation against you, we will inform you as soon as possible.
- As soon as you become aware of an allegation, make notes of all your actions/contacts with the child in question.
- Ensure you are no longer working with the person making the allegation.
- Any allegation will be thoroughly investigated, with due regard for confidentiality. All allegations of misconduct will be subject to standard disciplinary procedures.
- If your behaviour is found to contravene this policy and guidelines, it will be treated as gross misconduct.
- If you have concerns about how an allegation against yourself or anyone else is being dealt with, you should inform a colleague at the most senior level you think appropriate.
Any information about alleged or actual child abuse will only be disclosed where it is in best interests of the child to do so. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to protect the identity of anyone reporting suspected or actual abuse. No such disclosure will be made without careful consultation at senior management level.