Safeguarding Children and Young People and Referring Safeguarding Concerns

Standards and Regulations

The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011:

Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards

Scope of this Chapter

This chapter explains the procedure to be followed where there are concerns that a child placed with you has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

You should have been made aware of these procedures for responding to concerns about the safety of a child, and these procedures must be followed in all cases. You should have up to date training in place around how to prevent, recognise and respond to allegation of abuse and neglect.

When a child is placed with you, you will be provided with all relevant contact details, including for the Designated Safeguarding Lead, your Supervising Social Worker, the child’s social worker and who to contact outside of standard office hours. Contact information can also be found in the Local Resources section of this Handbook.

Also see: What happens if an allegation is made against me or my family?

1. Introduction

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and, in particular protecting them from abuse and harm, is everyone's responsibility and depends on effective joint working between foster carers, and relevant agencies and practitioners.

The Fostering Service is committed to safeguarding and promoting the well-being of children who are placed in our care, so that they can experience a healthy and happy childhood free from abuse and neglect.

The local authority has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children, and to investigate and take action as necessary to protect children when there are concerns that they have been abused or neglected.

You have a responsibility to report any concerns of abuse or neglect and to take all allegations seriously, and report them to the local Safeguarding team and follow the advice given.

If it is an emergency situation then the police will need to be called.

If it is out of hours then the out of hours service will need to be called.

The procedures in this chapter are mandatory and any failure to comply with them will be addressed through appropriate procedures.

The Fostering Service will ensure that arrangements are made for you and children placed by the Fostering Service to be provided with contact details for the area authority, and Ofsted, for the purposes of referring any concern about child welfare or safety to them. Ofsted can also be contacted on 0300 123 1231.

2. Proactive Safeguarding Practice

Children should feel and be safe, understand how to protect themselves and be protected from significant harm, including (but not limited to) neglect, abuse, sexual and criminal exploitation, accidents, bullying, self-harm, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, homophobic behaviour, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, and radicalisation. Any discriminatory behaviours must be challenged and help and support given to children about how to treat others with respect.

When children raise concerns, it is essential that you listen to them, take their concerns seriously and respond and report appropriately. 

Care and placement planning ensures that any risks associated with children such as offending, misusing drugs or alcohol, self-harming, going missing, being affiliated with gangs, being subject to sexual or criminal exploitation, extremism or radicalism are known and understood by you.

Children's safety and welfare is promoted in all fostering placements and you will actively safeguard and promote the welfare of foster children. You must make positive relationships with children, generate a culture of openness and trust and be aware of and alert to any signs or symptoms that might indicate a child is at risk of harm. You will be trained in appropriate safer-care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children. See also: Children with a Disability and those Children who May Need Special Medical Help.

Children must be helped to understand how to keep themselves safe, including when outside of the household or when using the internet or social media see Internet, Photographs and Mobile Phones Procedure and Extremism and Radicalisation Procedure.

Proactive and creative safeguarding practice means that all children, including the most vulnerable, have a strong sense of safety and well-being and they are unlikely to be missing from care on a regular basis. Children who do go missing will experience well-coordinated responses that reduce the harm or risk of harm to them, risks are well understood and minimised, there is a clear plan of urgent action in place to protect them and to reduce further harm or risk of harm. See Missing Children Procedure.

As a foster carer, you are prepared and supported to manage situations and behaviour, and clear and consistent boundaries contribute to a feeling of well-being and security for children. Children are involved in creating ways to de-escalate situations and finding creative alternative strategies that are effective. See Positive Relationships and Behaviour Management Procedure.

Children must be supported to take age-appropriate risks, as a normal part of growing up, that are considered with you, placing social workers (as appropriate) and the children themselves. The Fostering Service implements a proportionate approach to risk assessments to ensure that these work in practice, are fit for purpose and provide enough information to all relevant people so that they can care for the children safely and appropriately. Individual up-to-date risk assessments must address any known vulnerabilities for each child effectively and set out what action should be taken to address and minimise the risks, and reduce harm or the risk of harm (see Risk Assessment and Planning).

You and the Fostering Service work effectively in partnership with other agencies concerned with child protection and have good links with these agencies, e.g. the responsible authority, schools, hospitals, general practitioners, etc., and do not work in isolation from them.

Allegations or suspicion of harm must be shared with the appropriate agencies and be handled fairly, quickly and in accordance with statutory guidance. Children must be supported and protected. Support must be given both to the person making the allegation and the person who is the subject of the allegation. The Fostering Service makes sensitive and carefully assessed decisions if children need to be removed from carers if a carer is subject to an allegation (see What happens if an allegation is made against me or my family?).

3. Reporting Concerns or Allegations

3.1 Reporting Concerns/Allegations

Any child protection concerns must immediately be shared with the placing and/or host local authority as required and a record of that referral be retained.

Outside office hours, the Children's Social Care Out of Hours Service should be contacted.

Allegations that another child, a visitor, a person in the community, teacher, social worker, parent or any other person has harmed the child in placement should also be reported to the child's allocated social worker, your Supervising Social Worker or Out of Hours Service.

Where a concern or allegation about historical or non recent abuse is made this must still also be shared with the child's allocated social worker and your Supervising Social Worker - there should not be an assumption that the concern has been dealt with.

All actions should be recorded in full by you.

3.2 Emergency Action

Where there is an immediate risk to a child, you must take the immediate necessary steps to protect the child, which may include calling the Emergency Services e.g. the Police or Ambulance Service.

If the child is taken to hospital or the Police are called, you must inform them of any concerns in relation to possible abuse or neglect.

Wherever possible, the child's allocated social worker and the carer's Supervising Social Worker should be contacted as soon as you become aware of the child's need for emergency attention. However you should not delay taking action in order to do so. If the child's allocated social worker and your Supervising Social Worker is not contacted before the Emergency Services are called, they should be notified as soon as practicable afterwards. The Designated Manager for Safeguarding within the Fostering Service should also be notified.

All actions should be recorded in full by you.