Safeguarding First


Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 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 are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care / taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes. Child Protection is part of safeguarding and refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

Safeguarding First

The need for practitioners to adopt a ‘Safeguarding First’ approach to their practice has been a key theme for the partnership since the publication of its review into Chadrack Mbala-Mulo, and more recently Child Q.  This is not a particularly complicated message, but one that needs to be routinely reinforced, along with the CHSCP’s principles of children being seen, heard and helped.  Put simply, whatever your role or whatever policy or procedure you might be following, you should always be considering the safeguarding needs of a child.  Their safety and welfare should always be your first priorities and whilst ‘safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility’, that doesn’t mean you can rely on someone else to act.  You need to.

Applying this approach to practice is less about reading pages and pages of guidance, but more about the culture of how you and your agencies operate.  Developing a culture that places the safety of children at the heart of our system is the first step we all need to take.  It’s also something that our leaders need to promote rigorously.  If they aren’t talking about safeguarding as a priority, its doubtful those on the front-line will be either.  The next step is acknowledging that whilst safeguarding might be one priority amongst many for you, you need to make a concentrated effort to always base your decisions and actions on the best interests of the child.  Develop your skills and confidence, engage other practitioners and access the support from your supervisors.  Also, attend as much safeguarding training as you can.  Locally, all of the CHSCP’s training is free.


Context is key and understanding the context of a child’s life is essential for effective safeguarding. In terms of practice, this is about how the partnership works together to better understand the lived experience of children at home, in education and in health, alongside those aspects that are typically outside of the family environment; such as peer groups, places and spaces, and the virtual world that children occupy through their use of technology and social media.

Knowing about these contexts will help us determine whether they reflect pathways to harm or pathways to protection. However, it is usual that no one individual has oversight on the detail of everything. In this respect, a first and important step is to make sure that professionals are confident in sharing information and talking with each other. If you are worried about a child or young person, you are allowed to talk with other professionals without fearing you are doing something wrong. You aren’t. Talking to each other and sharing information when trying to protect people from actual or likely harm or to prevent a crime is lawful and in the substantial public interest.


Professional curiosity is the capacity and communication skill to explore and understand what is happening within a family rather than making assumptions or accepting things at face value. This has been described at the need for practitioners to practice ‘respectful uncertainty’ – applying critical evaluation to any information they receive and maintaining an open mind. In safeguarding the term ‘safe uncertainty’ is used to describe an approach which is focused on safety but that takes into account changing information, different perspectives and acknowledges that certainty may not be achievable. Professional curiosity can require practitioners to think ‘outside the box’, beyond their usual professional role, and consider families’ circumstances holistically. Professional curiosity and a real willingness to engage with children, adults and their families or carers are vital to promoting safety and stability for everyone.


Differences in professional opinion, concerns and issues can arise for practitioners at work and it is important they are resolved as effectively and swiftly as possible. Having different professional perspectives within safeguarding practice is a sign of a healthy and well-functioning partnership. These differences of opinion are usually resolved by discussion and negotiation between the practitioners concerned. It is essential that where differences of opinion arise, they do not adversely affect the outcomes for children, young people or adults and are resolved in a constructive and timely manner. Differences could arise in a number of areas of multi-agency working as well as within single agency working. Differences are most likely to arise in relation to the criteria for referrals, outcomes of assessments, roles and responsibilities of workers, service provision, timeliness of interventions, information sharing and communication.