Safeguarding Every Child – Let’s Start With The Adults   Leave a comment

Please note, this blog, like all my blogs is my personal recall, and my personal opinion. Other people will have different reflections, and different opinions. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.


On Friday 3rd November 2017, I attended the second national Early Years Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child conference.

Details of the conference including speaker details can be found by clicking on the link

Normally I would provide quite a comprehensive recall of any training or conferences without giving too much of the content away (because I don’t feel it is fair to give away other people’s work, as that is how they earn their living)

On this occasion I am going to say less than usual – you will still be able to read the pre-amble about my experiences leading up to the actual event, and my opinion about the event and the speakers, but only the briefest overview of the content.

This is because Laura Henry is going to make the content of the conference available via the live recordings made on the day, plus various links and further information.

You will be able to pay to view; or get for free as part of your membership of Laura’s Early Years Club. If you are not a member of the Early Years Club if you follow the link below, you will find out everything you need to know, including the price.

If you are already a member of Laura’s Early Years Club, you should have been sent detail’s about how to access to recordings, links and other information.

Those who attended will have been sent all the information already, I do hope that like me people will not share this content freely, as the speakers and Laura all need to earn an income, and if we give away information that is not ours to give, there will be consequence ; for example the price of future conferences may increase; or people like Laura will stop ‘going the extra mile’ and stop providing free resources to attendees.

The Pre-amble                                                                                                         Readers may wish to skip reading this bit, maybe because not interested in my experience pre attendance at the conference; maybe because do not have much time, but as I reflected on this trip to enable adults to safeguard and protect every child, we must safeguard ourselves first , otherwise we will be battling with our own trauma, possible conflict of interests and poor well-being, and therefore be unable to safeguard the children, in the widest sense of the word.

And by ‘widest sense of the word’, I mean everything –all areas that may impact on a child’s well-being – including curriculum, your observations, response and reactions which should all be carried out professionally to protect the child holistically. So yes, by ‘widest sense of the word’ for safeguarding children covers everything.

My pre –amble starts much earlier in the year. Laura Henry has a wide network of close friends and colleagues whom she discusses things with, takes advice from / gives advice to, and shares with. I am honoured to be one of those she trusts. At last year’s conference I lead a workshop on the needs of foster children and others who have experienced trauma, but this year due to serious ill health which at one point left me unable to walk or control my body functions, I was unable to give a commitment to help in any way, or indeed confirm if I would be able to attend. Laura very kindly reserved a place for me with no strings attached and would not listen to my concerns about her doing this. She said you may be well enough and if you are, the place is yours, I would like to do this for you’ And so it was, the place was reserved and even though I did not confirm that it was possible I could attend until a few weeks before the conference, Laura kept her word, and gave reassurance that it would be fine if I had to pull out at the last minute.

The week before the conference was a testing time of mixed emotions; on one hand I was feeling very ill as I had reduced some of the morphine based pain killers, and had suffered a setback pain management wise, but I had to follow through because the level of zomorph that I was on, was above the acceptable level for long term use; and on the other hand I was trying to put in measures to ensure my well-being while travelling to London, and attending the conference. I wonder how many of us turn up to work with young children while not 100% well and without ensuring measures are put in place for our well-being. I also wonder if many of us consider the many ‘what if?’ questions around the impact on the children, if we start to feel worse, or can’t do all the tasks we would normally do, to the best of our ability?

Are we actually safeguarding the children if we work with them, when our own knowledge about ourselves is that we are ‘not right’?

To safeguard myself on my trip, I sent in details about my dietary needs, arranged to travel first class so had more room (luckily managed to get the tickets at a bargain price), arranged for support walking between hotel and conference venue – as well as making sure train station, hotel and conference venue were all very close by. I also made arrangements to meet with friends / colleagues outside of the conference so I was not alone for any extended period of time. My family were supportive, but also worried that I was pushing myself too hard . To be honest I was worried that it would all be too much for me, but I wanted to try, to test the water so to speak if I was ready to pick up the pieces of my early years work.

So on Thursday lunchtime, I was ready with my large solid body suitcase, which has 4 wheels and was chosen so that it could double as a walking aid, alongside the one crutch that I was taking with me. Garry (my husband) came out of work in his lunch break to pick me up and take me to our local train station, to catch the train to Birmingham. We hugged and kissed, and I promised to send a text as I reached each stage of my journey – another part of my plan to ensure my well-being. I’m not sure who was more nervous as we parted – myself or Garry.

I was actually very pleased with myself how I managed the first stage of my journey. I got on and off the train, found the lift and made my way out of Snowshill station, I text Garry, and headed off, on the walk that I have done many times before, between Snowshill and New Street stations. However, although I had expected the walk to be difficult and to take longer than usual, I had totally underestimated both aspects.

I had to stop twice to rest, and arrived at New Street with only a few minutes to get down to the platform. I admit that at this point I felt like crying and going home, but I didn’t, instead I asked the first member of station staff that I saw for help. At first he directed me to the travel assistance desk, but when I explained I did not have time, he personally helped me on to the train, carrying my luggage and contacting train staff to say I was on my way. The train staff checked my booking record and directed the helpful man to the carriage in which my seat was booked, where he put my suitcase in baggage place and my backpack on my seat. He also phoned ahead to Euston to ensure one of his colleagues would be there to help me off the train and out of the station. I wish I had taken his name so that I could send in a compliment, but I didn’t as I was exhausted at this point.

During the journey I reflected on my experience and how in safeguarding terms this related to our work with the children and ensuring the best outcomes for their well-being.

These are my conclusions;

  • If as an adult you over stretch yourself you cannot really look after the children to the best of your ability?
  • Do not assume you can do it all on your own, seek support when needed. I knew about travel assist but I did not pre book it – what I wonder would have happened if I had not come across that man or he had not been so helpful?

Lots to reflect on for me, and hopefully by telling you my story, for you the reader as well. Ok, missing a train is not a life or death situation, but being so exhausted and maybe going into a hypo (I am diabetic) could have had serious impact on my well-being. I can think of many scenarios where not pre booking help or assistance or not seeking support of colleagues could have a negative impact on adults and children.

The rest of my journey to London went smoothly, being in First Class I had ample refreshments served to my table. I could get used to it. However despite there being toilets close by I did not use them because I was not sure me and my crutch would cope with a moving train.

Once at Euston a man was indeed waiting for me, he came on the train and got my suitcase and backpack, he helped me off the train and onto his passenger support truck thing and gave me a ride to the lift that takes you to the First Class lounge – in fact he took me and my bags in the lift and into the lounge, explained to the lady on the desk that I was First Class so that I did not need to find my ticket or sign in. Which was as well because by then I was desperate to use the bathroom facilities (and yes bathroom is the right word as you can shower there if you want to)

More reflections about importance of being able to use the toilets not only in terms of accessibility but also in terms of how frequently you need to ensure you can access them (vital when working with children)

After a rather nice piece of fruit cake and some lemonade – and of course texting Garry that I was safe in London – I headed off to find my hotel. I knew it was very close by but I headed in the wrong direction and came across some steps, however a helpful fellow traveller helped me down the steps, and I soon found the hotel.

I checked in and was very grateful that I was given a ground floor room, and even more grateful when I saw the walk in shower in that room.

I did not do much in the evening, I text a few people, checked arrangements for the next couple of days, took all my tablets and insulin, made a hot water bottle (brought with me as helps with the pain), and completely out of character for me, put the TV on to watch in bed.

I slept on and off, remade the hot water bottle, and made a hot lemon drink as fighting off a cold., slept on and off a bit more until time to get up, shower, breakfast and be in reception ready for when Kim was to arrive to escort me to the venue.

Kim was there on time beaming a warm welcoming smile, we chatted about my health, her settings and of course the conference we were attending on the walk to the venue. It was not far, but took a while due to my very slow pace. I found the changing surfaces under my feet difficult to cope with and was glad I was holding onto Kim’s arm.

The Conference                                                                                                                                     From the minute we entered the conference venue I was made to feel very welcome by everyone, I spoke to people I know well but had not seen in person for a year or more, including Alice Lewis, Wendy Baker, Jane Evans, Tracy Seed, Juliette Davies and others, and of course Laura. I spoke to people that I had communicated with via social media but not in person before. One such person was Joana Smith who like me had been awarded a BEM in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours. I saw many other people that I recognised in the room, but by now I had been guided to my seat and provided with refreshments, which I was grateful for because once again I was shattered.

You could feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation in the room which grew as Laura took to the stage to start the conference.

As I have already mentioned you are able to gain access to all the presentations, video links and further information, and I strongly recommend that you do so, to aid your own CPD. If at all possible I would also recommend that you look at the materials with colleagues in staff teams or networks as there is so much to discuss and reflect on.

I am not going to dwell on the content very much, or even focus on each speaker in turn, but I will bullet point my reflections and ‘wow’ moments.

  • Leroy Logan is an ex Met Police Officer with what I consider to be a very realistic view on modern day policing and the impact on those whose crime is impacted on by the trauma they have experienced. Leroy is not one for making excuses for negative behaviour but he is convinced that people, especially young people are not supported effectively to turn things around and to thus stop the cycle of behaviour they are caught up in. He also believes that social media can cause a lot of young people to be targeted by those who will use peer pressure to get them to break the law, and then end up in prison. I personally think he is right, we need to look more at the root causes and stop the cycle before it starts. Being a young person is hard for many, but some do not have a supportive network , and have experienced early and often on going trauma, making the whole teenage period every more difficult.
  • Mine Conkbayir is someone I have connected with fairly recently on Facebook and I have been impressed with what she has to say. Due to this connection I was familiar with some of the experiences she shared at the conference. However this did not lessen the impact of what she was saying, in fact the emotion invested and displayed by Mine made it very powerful indeed. One of the things Mine said stuck with me (and I tweeted it from the conference room). “The welfare of every child is my business, your business, everyone’s business’. In my opinion we all need to take this message on much more fully because children are still slipping through the net and we are still having Serious Case Review (SCR) far too often, and far too often lack of getting involved, lack of sharing information still continues within all professions and all communities.

As an aside to this, after the conference Laura asked me if she should change the name of her safeguarding facebook group and the title of her safeguarding conferences. She later posted her suggestion, my suggestion and a suggestion from Rachel who is one of the facebook groups admins (and an expert on safeguarding issues / training) in her facebook group for members to vote on.

My suggestion was ‘Safeguarding and protecting every child, everywhere’ I felt the words early years should be dropped because people were lulled into thinking their only responsibility was with early years children, when in fact every child no matter what their age should be our concern and our responsibility. I also wanted the word ‘everywhere’ included because there is still a lack of understanding that we must make every child our concern, no matter where we come into contact with a child – it is not just the children who attend our settings and who we are paid to look after. However, it is not my place to say what Laura should do regarding the name of her group and the conferences, but it was a honour to have been asked to make a suggestion.

Dr. Stuart Shanker.   I have followed the work of Dr. Shanker for a few years now having come to know his work through my involvement with Save Childhood Movement, so I was familiar with his work on self regulation. I found myself nodding in agreement to the answers he was giving to the questions put to him in the recorded question and answer session. One thing I thought was worth tweeting and mentioning here was his phrase’ How can we know this, and not do anything about it?’ In my opinion this applies to so many things to do with children and young people, we do have a lot of knowledge and experiences and yet we are still not getting people with the power to change things, to listen. We know it will cost a lot of money to implement all the changes needed, but in the long run it will save huge amounts of money year on year. Some things are not expensive they are free / low cost – such as outside play And in any case what gives governments the right to decide that projects x, y and z are more important than the well- being of children and young people?

Hibo Wardere was someone new to me, I had not heard about her work or heard her speak before. Hibo talked about FGM –something she had experienced as a six year old. She told her story with honesty and a passion to change things. I was so wrapped up in what she was saying that I forgot to tweet about the first part of her presentation, I even forgot to make notes. FGM is not something I tend to talk about, but I should, we all should. One thing that really struck home with me was that those carrying out FGM or supporting those that do, all believe that they are doing so in the best interests of the children (the victims are usually young girls, rather than older girls ), as they believe the girls will have a better future. In fact they don’t even think there is any child abuse in Somalia (where Hibo was born), so there is a huge amount of work to be done. Hibo spoke about her campaigning work in this country and oversea, she is without a doubt a very strong lady and inspirational.

Tracy Seed provided an ‘extra’ that was not on the agenda. Some music was played and the delegates were encourage to move around the room – I could not take a full part (my risk assessment said I would be a risk to myself and to others) but I did stand and sort of swayed in time to the music, and at different times, different delegates stood and swayed with me, so I did feel included –another thing early years are good at.

Jane Evans I have heard Jane speak a number of times, including at last years conference, and I love her work. However it was not her presentation that had me tweeting from the conference, it was the stir that had been caused on The Vine show when Jane had popped out of the conference to do an interview about touching children through tickling them. Jane had been accused as a spoil sport, as someone wanting to stop innocent fun. I can assure readers this is not the case at all, Jane fully understands the importance of sharing fun moments between adults and children. However she also understands that for some children tickling is not a good idea and that permission should always be sought before this type of physical contact –the same as a child should never be made to hug or kiss anyone. In my opinion it is all about safeguarding, children must understand it is their body and no one has the right to touch it without the child’s permission. Even with my grandchildren I always ask if they would like to give or receive a hug – or be tickled.

I know I have not told you about Jane’s presentation, but hopefully you will be able to access the recording made at the conference

Panel Members – Ann Marie Christian, Jemma Mortlock, Sarah Goff These 3 ladies all spoke about themselves and their work, but by this stage I was beginning to falter and I did not make notes. Now that I have come to write this blog my memory has let me down. Sorry Ann Marie, Jemma and Sarah this is not a reflection on you or your stories, it is a reflection on me and how ill I have been / still am. I knew it was a big ask of myself to attend the conference, but to be honest I managed better than I thought I would. I will listen to the recordings and I am sure my readers will too.

Of course there were other highlights to the conference, namely the networking, the comfort breaks and lunch – all were excellent, though there was a hiccup with my lunch! Juliette had done as she had promised and had ordered me a plain ham salad with no dressing, and a plain fruit salad. However, the venue had not communicated with staff and so despite me asking 3 different members of staff no one knew anything about the ‘special’ lunch order. It took Laura to speak to someone, who spoke to someone else who finally after consulting her phone and emails from Juliette, said ‘oh yes, we did have a special order’ disappeared and a couple of minutes came back with my lunch which had clearly been prepared but left in the kitchen. Lessons for all of us about the importance of communication and ensuring everyone that needs the information is aware who the person with these requirements is – and even more so when involves a child or young person. For me, it all come back to safeguarding – safeguarding well-being, and needing to be more proactive to ensure needs are met – in this case all the preparation and information sharing had happened but it nearly did not fall into place because of one small, vital bit of information that was not shared, as in who it was who had the requirement.

Throughout the conference colleagues were supportive of me, ensuring doors were held open, obstacles were removed, drinks served and so on. It reaffirmed by belief that early years people are in general very empathic and helpful.

The conference came to an end, farewells were said as delegates left. I hung around whiles others helped pack up. Then all of those who had made presentations / helped in anyway were invited to join Laura for drinks. My small part had been to be a table leader. Wendy Baker very kindly helped to make the short walk to the bar. The bar was crowded and I found it difficult to join in the conversation (made more difficult as Laura’s group were seat at a high table and I was provided with a low chair as I could not get up on the stools). I stayed for a short while until snacks arrived, mainly because I was tired but also because I was meeting with Sally and Mick to go out for a light dinner. Kim saw me back to hotel and we parted with hugs, it had certainly been a fantastic day for me, made possible by Laura, Kim and all colleagues who had supported me.

Mick and Sally have been friends of mine for many years now, and Sally (who is an ex nurse) keeps a close eye on my well-being whenever I am in London or we are at the same event. They travelled into London, to spend time with me, have something to eat and check I was ok. We chatted easily over pizza (which I did not eat much of due to the gluten in it) and then they walked me back to my hotel. I took all my meds and retired to bed tired but happy that I had made the effort to go to London and attend the conference.

As usual I did not sleep well but had lots to reflect on, including the key points for me from the conference. For me all the presentations seemed to boil down to the need to ensure our own well-being as adults so that we can in turn ensure the well–being of the children and young people.

In the morning before heading home I had arranged to meet some early years people that I had never met before. Joining me for breakfast in the hotel , was Rob, we chatted about Rob’s role in early years and his views on early years for about an hour and could have easily chatted for much longer. Rob helped me with my baggage and walked me from my hotel to a café where I was to meet Sid and his partner J. Sid was waiting for us, he greeted us, and after I had thanked Rob and hugged him, Rob went on his way.

Sid took me through the café to where J was waiting. Sid works in early years but J is involved in the music industry. We chatted easily about our lives and experiences and like with Rob, I could have chatted for much longer. However, I had a train to catch and to do that I had to make my way to the Travel Assist desk, as I had pre booked support for the journey home. With the help of Sid and J, who carried my bags and gave me an arm to hold, I made in the nick of time. I was taken by the truck, and helped to get myself and my baggage onto the train.

Between London and Birmingham, the train was delayed and we arrived at New Street around 20 mins late. I was worried that support would not be available, but I did not need to worry, I was helped off the train and although there was not a truck, my bags were carried and I was helped all the way to the Metro stop. The metro took me part way, and did save two of the steepest parts of my journey, however there was still a fair distance for me to walk and by the time I reached Snowshill, I was once again exhausted and felt like crying. I was so tired, I failed to get my suitcase through the ticket barrier and had to be freed from the barriers grip. This had a blessing though as I was able to explain my situation and my delay to the man who rescued me from the ticket barrier. He sent me to platform one to wait , but no waiting was required as the man was there waiting for me. I was helped onto the train, and when I arrived in Kidderminster there was another man there to help me, and shortly after getting off the train Garry arrived to drive me home.

This trip to London for the second national early years safeguarding and protecting every child has highlighted several issues to me.

  • Travelling to London, is a bit too much for me at the moment, I need to recover a bit more before venturing on such a trip in the future.
  • I am still part of the early years community despite being ill for so long
  • My gut feelings are still in line with the leading thinkers.
  • I have a future connected to early years – it is just a case of working out my direction of travel

But more than that to protect every child – everywhere, we need to start with the adults and ensure their well-being and to safeguard them in every sense of the word.

Far too often I have seen parents,, foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professional and childcare practitioners taking on too much, having very little choice but to carry on because they care about the children. Their stress levels are huge and some are already at breaking point.

  • As Mine said, and I truly believe ‘The welfare of every child is my business, your business, everyone’s business’
  • As Stuart said “ How can we know this and do nothing about it?

Far too often I have seen parents,, foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professional and childcare practitioners taking on too much, having very little choice but to carry on because they care about the children. Their stress levels are huge and some are already at breaking point.

I have also seen professional who have not dealt with their own trauma, who still have ongoing traumatic experiences, struggling to hold everything together for the sake of the children, but sadly being unable to overcome these barriers.

It is not right to expect so much for so little, from so many. If we are to safeguard every child, we need to safeguard the adults first

Posted November 14, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

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