National Safeguarding Unit (NSU) - Safe Activities For Everyone

Practical advice for parents and carers - safeguarding your children  

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Ask questions to protect your children from harm
What to do if you suspect your child has been abused
Further issues and help


Introduction: Safeguarding your children when being supervised by others

As parents and carers, you need to know that your children are safe, happy and able to thrive.  When your children are younger or in your care more of the time you can ensure this but there will be many times when you have to entrust them into the care of others -when they go to school, take part in activities or as they naturally spend time outside of the home.

Day care activities, such as pre-school playgroups, holiday play schemes and crèches, can register with their local authority, which means they have to meet certain standards. However, whether registered or not, you should expect the same standards from all organisations.
Once you’ve found a club, organisation or activity you want your child to be involved in, you’ll need to get a real feel for the place - always try visit before your child starts attending. If the children there are happy and smiling, it’s a good sign. Friendly staff who welcome questions are also essential.

Anyone involved with caring for other people’s children must be able to demonstrate that they can protect and safeguard them.

We all have a responsibility to protect children and prevent them from being harmed but as a parent or carers it is important to balance this with ensuring make sure that they have opportunities to enjoy and achieve in the activities they take part in.

Teenage girl smiling

always ask 


Questions to protect your children from harm

We know that the majority of children and young people take part in activities safely and that those who are running them, or responsible for the welfare of the children and young people, take it seriously.

Despite this, not everybody will have the knowledge or experience needed or may have more concerning motives to be working with children. One of the best things you can do as a parent or carer is check out the situation and ask some questions.

This sounds straightforward but we can often feel silly asking questions that may appear obvious. We may also be concerned about offending people but remember it’s important to ask questions as they can help make your decision easier or could save a lot of heartache further down the line.

Don’t be afraid to ask the people running your children’s group or activities about their safeguarding policies and procedures.  This might feel unnecessary but if they don’t have one then why not and what might it say about their commitment to keeping your child safe if they don’t?
Who is in charge of keeping children safe?
There should be a named individual who supervises staff and volunteers and is trained to act appropriately if there are concerns about a child.

Are the staff and volunteers suitable to work with children?
All staff and volunteers should go through a proper recruitment process, which includes interviews, references and necessary legal checks,
such as with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Do the staff and volunteers get any basic child protection training?
All those working with children should have basic child protection and health & safety training.

Does the organisation have a child protection policy and code of conduct?
All organisations should have a child protection policy and a written code of conduct, outlining good practice when working with children and a clear procedure for dealing with concerns about possible abuse. Organisations should be happy to show you these when you ask. Ideally, there should be a named person or club welfare officer who will answer any queries you might have. Unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying, shouting, racism, sexism and homphobia should not be tolerated. 
See our policies and procedures for further information.

Does the organisation/activity have a health and safety policy?
Find out if a trained first-aider is available at all times and find out what sort of policies and procedures they follow.

How does the organisation provide for intimate care needs?
In the case of very young or some disabled children, you should check out routines for toileting, feeding and administering medication.

What are the arrangements when children go on outings?
You should be informed of arrangements for all outings – including the transport there and back, worker-to-child ratios and emergency contact details. If the outings are a regular arrangement, then your consent should be obtained before the first outing and may not necessarily need to be obtained for every subsequent trip. For one-off outings, your consent should be obtained each time. 

Does the organisation have an internet safety policy?
If the organisation allows children to access the internet, find out what guidelines or filtering software they have in place for safe surfing.

How can you or your child (or a child you know) voice concerns?
If you are concerned you must take action. Speak to other parents or to the leader in charge of the activity. If, however, you are unhappy about the way your concern is dealt with and are still worried, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, or your local children’s social care department (known as social work services in Scotland) or the police.

Don’t be put off is people use language or words you’re unsure about.  Just ask them to explain it in another way or show you what they mean – for example, if they are talking about a policy.

what should you be wary of?

  • No parental presence - parents should be encouraged to stay and watch their children, and cheer them on. Be wary of clubs that say you can’t.
  • Inappropriate practices - activities encouraging rough play, sexual innuendo and humiliating punishments are completely unacceptable.
  • Lack of adequate preparation for activities
  • Unsafe or poorly maintained equipment
  • Inexperienced activities leaders
  • Individuals who take charge and organise activities themselves, without the knowledge of the organisation or independently of organisational guidelines.
  • Favouritism - no child at a club should be singled out for extra-special praise or favouritism – each and every child should be praised for their individual merits.
  • Unhappy children - if the children aren’t enjoying it or frequently drop out, it’s a sign that all is not well.
  • Lack of communication - make sure that the staff involve you and keep you up-to date with your child’s progress.
  • Invitations for children to spend time alone with staff or volunteers or even to visit their homes. 

A good club should always encourage parents to be part of their child’s activities.

What to do if you suspect your child has been abused

Take action if necessary, if children and young people are at risk report your concern.
If it is an emergency you should contact your local emergency service by dialing 999 and ask for the following:
if your seeking medical attention then ask for a ambulance service
if the child is in absolute immediate danger then the police have the power to intervene.

If you have any concerns about your own, or any other, child you can also call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, email or text 88858 to talk through or report your concerns about any child you may be worried about. 

Further issues and help

Domestic violence or abuse - is any violent or abusive behaviour used by one person to control or dominate another with whom they have or have had a relationship. This abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial. The violence can be actual or threatened.
Further help on domestic violence or abuse
Womens Aid
Men's Advice Line
Broken Rainbow

Drug and alcohol use - Young people can get involved in drug or alcohol use from a young age and this can be very worrying for parents and carers. Consider talking to your children about your hopes for them and your concerns around their using drugs and alcohol.  The best thing to do is try to do this openly but the thought of doing this can cause some anxiety.
Further support on drug and alcohol use

Internet safety - It’s important to remember that you have a responsibility to protect your children online when they are at home or their friends are visiting your home. 
Information on how to protect your children on line
Safe Network safety online

Bullying - If you are concerned about your child being bullied, particularly in relation to cyberbullying, Beatbullying has information for parents and carers available on their website. You will find top tips and really helpful guides in thinking through how to talk to your children about their experiences and how to support and protect them.

You can find additional information about bullying on these Safe Network pages and by accessing specialist advice on the following sites:
Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA)
Bullying UK

Sexual exploitation - This is something that has been in the media a lot recently and it is worth remembering that, as parents or carers, you need to be aware of the risks, warning signs and what to do if you have a concern.
You can find more information here –

Next Steps 

young boy against orange backgroundAwareness materials for parents
Advice for parents and carers on keeping your children safe.

Safeguarding resources for children to use
Child protection and safety resources for children and young people.

More from the web

Supports parents to help their children to succeed and achieve.
Family Lives

Parenting advice and fun ideas for families to enjoy together from the NSPCC.
Positive parenting tips

Useful advice on bringing up children.
BBC parenting

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