What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding is a term that is used to define actions that are taken to protect people who are at risk of (significant) harm.

Harm can come from adults or children. Those who work closely with vulnerable groups of people should understand what safeguarding is, and what their responsibilities are.

Vulnerable groups include:

  • Young Children,
  • Children and Young People Under 18,
  • People with additional needs,

This list is not exhaustive, but it gives guidance as to who is and can be at risk.

Safeguarding Children

In England and Wales* Working Together to Safeguard Children is Statutory Guidance which defines safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment.
  • Preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development.
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care.
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes (We explored these outcomes in our June 2016 article – Safeguarding Children in the UK)

Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare within Working Together. Child protection is the action that is taken to protect specific children who are suffering or are likely to suffer from harm. Those working with children must understand their procedures for child protection in their workplace setting.

Safeguarding children involves measures to prevent child abuse, exploitation, and neglect. It includes promoting safe family environments, raising awareness of child protection issues, and providing support to children who have been the victim of abuse.

Remember: all children are covered by child protection and safeguarding legislation and guidance.

Safeguarding Adults

Until the Care Act 2014, the term ‘Vulnerable Adult’ was used throughout safeguarding policies, procedures, and training. Once the Care Act came into force this term was replaced as it was seen as disempowering. The term has been replaced with:

  • Adults at risk of harm.
  • Adults at risk.
  • Adults with care and support needs.
  • Adults in need.

It is important to remember that these definitions do not only apply to adults who lack capacity but also to those adults who have full capacity ad can still be considered to be at risk of (significant) harm, especially if they are unable to protect themselves.

Remember: Safeguarding adults refers to those who are aged 18 years and above with care and support needs, and the actions that are taken in order to keep them safe from abuse or neglect.

The purpose of adult safeguarding is to ensure that all adults:

  • Are involved in making decisions about their lives.
  • Have a good quality of life.
  • Have their needs and interests respected.
  • Have their human rights respected and upheld.
  • Are responded to appropriately if they have any concerns.
  • Have their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs taken into account.

Safeguarding aims to prevent mistreatment, financial exploitation, neglect, and abuse, offering them the dignity and respect they deserve.

Why is Safeguarding Important?

Everyone has a right to live their lives free from fear, abuse, and neglect. If you work with or are around groups who might be at risk of harm, you have a responsibility to promote their welfare and to safeguard them.

Missing potential warning signs could have serious consequences and leave individuals open to abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

There are many reasons why Safeguarding is important.

Treating People as you would Want to be

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Those of us who work with children, Young People and Adults at Risk of Harm have a duty to ensure that those in our care receive that. Most of us would have been brought up to treat others as they would wish to be treated, and good sound safeguarding practices back this up. Invariably people who work with vulnerable groups of people do so, as they want to ensure the safety of these people, their practices are important to follow this through.

Protecting Vulnerable People from Harm

The primary reason for safeguarding procedures and policies is to protect vulnerable individuals from harm. Safeguarding policies and procedures ensure that these groups receive the necessary protection, support, and care to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, providing they are put into practice.

Preventing Crime and Exploitation

Safeguarding significantly contributes to the prevention of crime and exploitation. Good safeguarding practices do so by identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, therefore reducing opportunities for criminals to take advantage of those in need. This should therefore protect individuals and contribute to everyone’s overall safety by preventing crime.

Promoting Equal Opportunities

In England and Wales*, safeguarding measures aim to eliminate discrimination and ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and services, this is vital in promoting equal opportunities for all members of society.

Promoting equal opportunities creates an environment where everyone has the chance to thrive regardless of their age, abilities, or circumstances.

Building Trust and Confidence

Safeguarding measures build trust and confidence within a working environment. This can be further re-enforced when policies and procedures are followed through and seen to be followed through.

If people know that their safety and well-being are a priority, they are more likely to seek help when needed and also tell someone if they see something that may not be right.

In the UK, various agencies and organisations play a critical role in safeguarding. These organisations include:

  • Social Services,
  • Education services, e.g. Schools, nurseries, Pre-schools etc,
  • Health services, e.g. Hospitals, Doctors Surgeries Health Visitors etc,
  • Police,
  • N.S.P.C.C (only Voluntary entity stated in law who can act independently) and
  • Others, such as Housing Associations, Family members etc.

If these organisations work together effectively it not only strengthens the community’s trust in their ability to address issues but ensures that those at risk are protected and receives the support needed as and when necessary.

Legal Obligations

Finally, safeguarding is essential in meeting legal obligations. England and Wales* have enacted laws, regulations and Guidance that mandate the safeguarding measures that those working with vulnerable people should follow.

We all have a legal duty to report suspicions of abuse or neglect, and failure to do so can result in criminal charges.

*Scotland and Northern Ireland have different Legislation, Regulations and Statutory guidance.


Safeguarding children and protecting them from harm
is everyone’s responsibility.

 Everyone who comes into contact
with children and families
has a role to play.

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