Every day, approximately 275,000 children in England are cared for by 60,000 registered childminders.  Like teachers, childminders have daily contact with children, some of whom are very young and at their most vulnerable including disabled children, children with additional needs, babies, pre-school and school-age children.  In this role childminders are well placed to spot the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect and can play a key role in early intervention to safeguard children.

With recent high profile cases of abuse actually taking place on nursery premises, it is now more important than ever for good childminders to be vigilant and aware of what to look out for to protect the children in their care, and to know how and when to share important information.

“In 2007, a registered childminder who cared briefly for Baby P informed social services of injuries to him and was also in a position to notice some of the key signs of abuse and neglect – reporting that he was often unwashed, smelt of vomit, arrived with a dirty nappy and demonstrated aggressive behaviour (head butting, scratching and biting).”

NCMA “Supporting Childminders” March 2011

There are few people who don’t remember the sad case of Baby Peter Connelly.  Peter died following months of abuse and neglect.  Although he came into contact with many different services, not enough was done to highlight the danger he was in.  In the case of Baby Peter the childminder was informed enough to alert social services to her concerns about his welfare, but some childminders may not be familiar with local reporting pathways or who to tell if they are concerned that a child is being abused.

There is an abundance of statutory legislation and guidance that exists to protect children and childminders have to abide by this.  Under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 it is compulsory for all registered childminders in England to ensure that the children in their care are safe from harm, and safeguarding children is also a requirement of Ofsetd.  The statutory guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010” also places a statutory duty for key people in organisations that have contact with children to make arrangements to ensure that in discharging their functions, they have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Furthermore, for childminders in England, the Welfare Requirements contained within the Early Years Foundation Stage (currently under review) states what they must do to keep children in their charge safe.  Childminders have also to be committed to achieving the five outcomes in the Every Child Matters strategy to ensure children and young people’s well being, and as such must know what the outcomes are and how to incorporate them in their daily work with children.

Childminders often work at home and on their own.  They often do not work within a traditional organisational framework or work setting and this can make the business of safeguarding children and building a safe working culture difficult.  Anyone who works alone with children, whether it is a child minder, teacher or youth worker, can be particularly vulnerable to allegations of wrong doing or complaints.  Furthermore, it is not easy to make the decision to report a concern to social services, and even harder to do this alone with no peer or supervisory support.

It can be difficult to know where to look for appropriate safeguarding children training, and awkward to take time off to attend training sessions in working hours.  Some training can be hard to understand, even harder to retain and not specifically relevant to childminders in their day to day work with children.

Lord Laming identified education and early years providers are “vital partners in protecting children and they need to be willing and proactive in discharging their statutory duty to cooperate on child safeguarding.” (Lord Laming – The Protection of Children in England – A Progress Report (2009)). The role of childminders in safeguarding children has always been important.  However it is equally essential that childminders feel confident to take on this role, are supported in decisions to report concerns that a child is being abused, and receive relevant training to enable them to identify the signs and symptoms of child abuse and create a safer working environment for themselves and the children in their care.

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The Athena Programme is a team of experienced professionals specialising in safeguarding with care and creativity.  Our goal is to help people protect children, young people and vulnerable adults and to make organisations, staff and working environments safer by providing training and consultancy that is dynamic, inclusive and relevant.

Call us now on 01200 428769.

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