A key responsibility of the early years practitioner when it comes to safeguarding

A key responsibility of the early years practitioner when it comes to safeguarding, protection and welfare of children is to identify the needs of the child and the family. This can be difficult as an early years practitioner may not be able to gain a full picture of the child’s situation during the time at which the child spends at the nursery. However, if a child’s social development seems to be a lot lower than expected for their age, for example a three year old child being unable to play with or alongside other children and repeating the same action of ‘play’, an early years practitioner may become concerned for the child’s welfare. In such a situation, an early years practitioner could arrange for a meeting with the parents and the child’s health visitor. The aim of such a meeting would be to identify if the child is healthy, safe, undergoing sufficient learning and development, and able to form strong relationships with others. In such a scenario, the presence of the health visitor will work to either calm the early years practitioner’s concerns, should they have no concerns about the child’s health and wellbeing from their checks, or further substantiate them. For example, the health visitor may have noticed that the three year old is more prone to infections that the average child their age, even if the child’s development may have appeared fine to the health visitor. For this reason, it is a crucial part of an early years practitioner’s role to arrange such meetings should they be concerned. Different agencies who work with a child are able to identify different concerns in different areas of a child’s health, wellbeing, learning and development. Calling such a meeting if concerned also ensures that early years practitioners are meeting their responsibility to ensure that all children are safeguarded and protected.

The meeting described above is called a Team Around the Child meeting. Before calling such a meeting, it is the responsibility of an early years practitioner to gain informed consent from parents, this means ensuring that the parents of aware of exactly what the meeting entails before deciding whether to give their consent of not. Team Around the Child meetings are voluntary, meaning it is ultimately the decision of the parents. It is illegal to force parents to agree to a Team Around the Child meeting or to enforce a Common Assessment Framework upon a family. Such forms of safeguarding and protecting a child are only effective if the family are willing to admit that they need additional support and are willing to respond positively to the advice and support that they receive as a result. A Team Around the Child meeting can be extremely beneficial to the child and the child’s family. Upon compiling all information on the child from an early years practitioner, health visitor and the child’s parents, an accurate assessment can be made regarding the child’s needs to ensure their development. As a result of such a meeting, the child’s family could face the benefits of additional support from a local Children’s Centre or voluntary group. The child’s needs will continue to be assessed regularly until it is deemed that the support put in place has been effective in ensuring that the child’s development is appropriate for their age. In arranging such a meeting, and following the Common Assessment Framework, all agencies and individuals involved, including the early years practitioner, would have met their responsibility to ensure that all children are safeguarded and their welfare protected.

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A key responsibility that an early years practitioner holds when it comes to safeguarding, protection and welfare of children is to follow the legislation, policies and procedures in place to ensure that children are safeguarded. The majority of safeguarding legislation, including the Children’s Act 2004, clearly states that the interests of the child must be put first when it comes to safeguarding. This means that, regardless of the working relationship that an early years practitioner may have with a child’s family, if they are concerned that a child’s welfare and safety might be in danger, it is their responsibility to report their concerns. The child’s safety, protection and welfare must come before the working relationship that an early years practitioner holds with the child’s parents.

Finally, it is also the responsibility of an early years practitioner to follow the early years setting’s policy on mobile phones and cameras in order to ensure that children are properly and effectively safeguarded and protected. The mobile phone and camera policy of the majority of early years settings prohibit the use of staff member’s personal phones and cameras within the setting as taking images of vulnerable children off the setting puts the child’s welfare and safety at risk. The majority of settings require that personal phones remain in the office during work hours. Instead, the setting will provide early years practitioners with their own cameras or phones which should permanently remain on the setting, unless taken on an outing, and should not be taken home with any of the staff members. It is the responsibility of the early years practitioner to ensure that all visitors and volunteers are aware of such policies within the early years setting and to ensure that they report anyone who appears to not be adhering to the setting’s policy regarding mobile phones and cameras.