Oxfordshire Science Festival Safeguarding Vulnerable People Policy

The Festival will prevent and reduce harm to children and vulnerable adults when they are in contact with Festival staff, partners, volunteers or audience members with the aim to:

  • Promote and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults
  • Provide assurance to parents, carers and other parties that the Festival takes reasonable steps to manage risks and keep children and vulnerable adults safe
  • Ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in respect of safeguarding and are provided with the necessary information, training and support on safeguarding matters, including preventing interaction where appropriate
  • Ensure that appropriate action is taken in the event of any allegations or suspicions regarding harm to children or vulnerable adults arising from contact with Festival staff, partners, volunteers or audience members.

The Festival will do this by:

  • Completing a risk assessment process which involves identifying risks and means of reducing or eliminating these
  • Implementing the required actions identified by the risk assessment process, reviewing the effectiveness of these on a regular basis and highlighting this Children and Vulnerable Adults Safeguarding Policy to new Festival employees, volunteers and partners.

This policy requires that any suspicions and allegations involving harm to children and vulnerable adults be referred to the Director of the Festival who will enrol Trustees to determine what action, if any, must be taken. This will enable each situation to be investigated thoroughly, while treating the parties involved fairly and with sensitivity. Suitable steps will be taken as a result of any investigations, which may include contacting the police and fulfilling the legal duty to refer information to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) as required. The procedure for managing suspicions and allegations aims to strike a balance between the need to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse and the need to protect staff, partners and volunteers from false or unfounded accusations.

A child is any person under the age of 18. Adults have the potential to be vulnerable (either temporarily or permanently) for a variety of reasons and in different situations. An adult may be vulnerable if he/she has a learning or physical disability, has a reduction in physical or mental capacity, chronic or otherwise, including an addiction to alcohol or drugs or is unable, for any other reason, to protect himself/herself against significant harm or exploitation. It is recognised that it may be impossible to identify whether vulnerability exists in relation to an activity or event involving adults.

A person may abuse or neglect a child/vulnerable adult by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. According to the Department for Education and Skills, there are four main types of abuse,[1] with variation and crossover within these:

  • Physical abuse is physical harm to children and vulnerable adults or any other form of harm that causes illness in a child or vulnerable person.
  • Emotional abuse involves the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child or vulnerable adult such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on their emotional wellbeing and/or development.
  • Sexual abuse and exploitation is forcing or manipulating a child or vulnerable adult to take part in sexual activities.
  • Neglect involves the persistent failure to meet a child or vulnerable adult’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s or vulnerable adult’s health or development.

It is not always easy to recognise a situation where abuse may occur or has taken place, however, each person has a responsibility to act if they have any concerns about someone’s behaviour towards a child or vulnerable adult. It is important that the recipient of any complaint or accusation that a child or vulnerable adult has been or is being abused listens carefully without making or implying any judgment as to the truth of the complaint or accusation.

Anyone who is worried about sharing concerns about abuse are encouraged to speak with an appropriate agency for further advice (for example, Childline on 0800 1111 or the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000.)

A risk assessment should consider the nature, length and frequency of contact and if it would be supervised or unsupervised to highlight whether any children and adults may be at risk. It should identify any potential areas for harm, evaluate the risks and determine actions to prevent harm occurring, which might include consideration of alternative working practices, and prompting individuals to ensure that they are implemented. In addition to other points, a risk assessment might include:

  • safe methods of working/activities, the result of potential allergies or specific visible or non-visible mental or physical characteristics of the individual
  • the environment of the activity, eg. work in an open environment with children where they can be seen by others and avoiding unnecessary physical contact
  • the provision of First aid, or escorting anyone to the toilet or any other private location, to involve more than one adult
  • the potential for misinterpretation of emotional, suggestive or inappropriate remarks to or about a child or vulnerable adult, even in fun
  • the possibility that inappropriate behaviour can also occur over the telephone, email, social media or internet.

Where it is necessary for staff, students or volunteers to take photographs or video images of children or vulnerable adults, written consent must be obtained (from parents/guardians in the case of children) before these images are taken in order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. Personal details and photos, which clearly identify an individual, must only be published where he/she (or his/her parent/guardian) has given specific agreement. Subjects should be suitably dressed in photographs (e.g. when taking place in a sporting activity).

[1] Child abuse concerns: guide for practitioners, DFES, March 2015:  What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused: advice for practitioners