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    Sonia Howe, Head of Policy & External Affairs

  • ©Helplines Partnership 2015 Safeguarding & Helplines Published: November 2015


    This introductory guide on safeguarding is for helpline managers, heads of service,

    trustees and organisations that are considering creating or developing helpline

    services. It may also be useful for helplines in general.

    Helplines work across a range of settings, providing non-face-to-face support to

    children and adults, some of whom may be vulnerable. Safeguarding is important for

    all helplines to consider. Some helplines receive complex calls from children or

    adults who are in challenging situations or are at risk of harm. Helplines should

    consider the risks that their callers face, and ensure that this is reflected within their

    safeguarding policies.

    By having a robust approach to safeguarding, and understanding the challenges in

    ensuring that services are safe when delivered in non-face-to-face environments,

    helplines can be confident that they are offering safe and appropriate services to

    children and adults who may be vulnerable.


    Safeguarding is the approach that your helpline takes to ensuring that anyone using your services is safe. Safeguarding is used to describe work to protect children or vulnerable adults with particular focus on protecting vulnerable groups from the risk of abuse or harm.

    In Working Together to Protect Children the government defines children’s safeguarding in the following way:

    Whilst local authorities play a lead role, safeguarding children and protecting them from harm is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play. Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined ….as:

     protecting children from maltreatment

     preventing impairment of children's health or development

     ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care

     taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes


  • ©Helplines Partnership 2015 Safeguarding & Helplines Published: November 2015



    Helplines deliver services which are not in direct contact with the person who is

    using the service. This is an important distinction because most guidance on

    safeguarding is written for organisations that have face-to-face contact with service


    Helplines also need to consider how they keep people who use their services safe

    from harm. Key ways in which a helpline can do this is in having:

     Effective policies and procedures

     Good recruitment practices for staff, volunteers and trustees

     Effective staff training in safeguarding

    It is good practice for helplines to ensure that there are strong links between their

    safeguarding and confidentiality policies.

    Helplines can face particular safeguarding concerns when a child or vulnerable adult

    discloses that they might be:

     At risk from another person

     At risk of self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings

     At risk of harm in some other way, such as not having a safe place to stay

    Where a helpline is enacting their safeguarding policy, a disclosure may need to be

    made to the police, social services or an appropriate healthcare provider.

  • ©Helplines Partnership 2015 Safeguarding & Helplines Published: November 2015


    • Develop safeguarding and confidentiality policies which consider when information will be shared exterally to safeguard service users, and consider how your helpline will support service users who may be experiencing sucidal thoughts or feelings.


    • Ensure that your policies apply across all channels for which you provide support. This may include policies on follow up responses to emails or text messages that have given cause for concern.


    • All call handlers need to have adequate training to ensure they understand their helpline's policies and how to apply them.


    • Develop an internal process for safegarding. Who will make a decision to refer? Many helplines that work with children and young people have a specialist safegarding team comprising more senior staff. Call handlers need to be able to refer matters of concern quickly to staff who can then decide if action needs to be taken.


    • Decide in advance how you will share information in an emergency, and what types of information you can share, with thorough consideration given to the needs of the vulnerable person. Some helplines use caller line identification (CLI) which could provide a contact number for the service user. Other helplines hold indentifying information about callers such as their name or address.


    • When a disclosure needs to take place to protect a vulnerable child or adult then ensure that effective records are kept about what information has been shared, and with which particular agency.


  • ©Helplines Partnership 2015 Safeguarding & Helplines Published: November 2015

    Helplines need to be aware that their safeguarding policies should also encompass a

    number of key areas identifying and reducing risks of harm that children or

    vulnerable adults may have when accessing helpline services.

    Helplines should have effective internal systems for responding to safeguarding

    concerns. This should include ensuring that while there may be a lead person for

    safeguarding, decisions are not made in isolation and that there is effective

    management oversight. Keeping appropriate records of concerns and the actions

    that the helpline took in response is also important.

    Where a helpline is part of a wider organisation that delivers face-to-face or onsite

    services, it is important to ensure that vulnerable groups are adequately protected.

    The safeguarding policies of the organisation may be more complex as a result.

    Helplines typically provide indirect support to children or vulnerable adults however it

    is still important to have safe working practices that work effectively across the entire



    Safeguarding children has been defined in the following way by the government in Working together to safeguard children 2015:

     Protecting children from maltreatment  Preventing impairment of children’s health and development  Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of

    safe and effective care  Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

    Trustees of charities which work with vulnerable groups, including children, must always act in the best interests of any vulnerable service users and ensure they take all reasonable steps to prevent harm to them. Having safeguards in place within your organisation not only protects and promotes the welfare of children, and other vulnerable groups, it can enhance the confidence of staff, volunteers, parents/carers and the general public.

    Helplines must ensure that they are clear with service users about the

    personal information they hold, and under what circumstances it might be

    shared. Privacy and confidentiality policies should address these issues.


  • ©Helplines Partnership 2015 Safeguarding & Helplines Published: November 2015


    People being supported and encouraged to make their

    own decisions and informed consent


    It is better to take action before abuse occurs


    The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk



    Support and representation for those in greatest need


    Local solutions through services working with their communities. Communities

    have a part to play in preventing, detecting and

    reporting neglect and abuse


    Accountability and transparency in delivering


    These safeguards should include a child protection policy and procedures for dealing with issues of concern or abuse. For the purposes of child protection legislation the term ‘child’ refers to anyone up to the age of 18 years.


    A vulnerable adult has been defined as:

    “Any person aged 18 years or over who is, or may be, unable to take care

    of him or herself or who is unable to protect him or herself against significant

    harm or exploitation. This may be because he or she has a mental health

    problem, a disability, a sensory impairment, is old and frail, or


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