Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults
This post investigates current legislation around safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults, and demonstrates the application of this legislation to my own counselling work.
I am currently being trained to work with children and young adults of 13-24 years of age. A huge part of this training has involved going through the agency’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. This policy applies to clients up to the age of 18-years, who are classed as children in accordance with the Children Act 2004. The policy states that, “The welfare of children is paramount and overrides all other policies” and “All suspicions and allegations of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, neglect) will be taken seriously and responded to appropriately.” As part of my practice I am required to make a record of any suspicions or concerns, consult with my allocated mentor and then, if deemed necessary, report to the Clinical Supervisor. This has to be done within 24-hours. I am not expected to contact another service myself, but by alerting the Clinical Supervisor he can then adhere to the duties cited in ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (HM Government, 2006), including the duty to coordinate with other relevant agencies – be that the police or social services (Morley College, 2010).
While there is no legal requirement to report child abuse, ethically and morally there is an obligation to counsellors following the BACP Ethical Framework. I was surprised to learn that there isn’t a legal requirement and found it quite unsettling. Even if I was working independently rather than for an agency, I feel that any policies and procedures would need to be designed to support the reporting of child abuse or the abuse of vulnerable adults. My strong belief in this is based on personal experience of abuse and the fact no one picked up on my abuse despite a number of indicators that were ignored because they weren’t overt – weeks off school at a time, selective mutism, self-harm, etc. With this in mind, I wonder whether I might be over-sensitive to possible signs of abuse, whereas another counsellor might be more cautious about raising concerns. Both approaches could have a number of implications.