Keeping Helpline Users Safe
Safeguarding is a complex area. We were therefore delighted to launch our new guide to helplines and safeguarding at our 2015 annual conference. This will shortly be published on our website.
Safeguarding is a vital topic for helplines and is the approach that your helpline takes to ensuring that people using your services are safe. It is generally used to describe work to protect children, vulnerable adults and groups from the risk of abuse.
Helplines deliver services which are not in direct contact with the person who is using the service and this is an important distinction, because most guidance on safeguarding is written for organisations that have face-to-face contact with service users.
We will shortly be publishing a guide looking at how a helplines safeguarding policy needs to work alongside its confidentiality policy. Exploring how a helpline can keep people who use their services safe by having effective polices, processes and training for recruitment of staff, volunteers and trustees. It will also look at the use of Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks and where they may be appropriate
Helplines can face particular safeguarding concerns when a child or vulnerable adult discloses that they might be at risk from another person, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or something else 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 a healthcare provider.
In lively discussion workshops, helplines debated some of the themes of the paper. They highlighted a number of areas where practice needs to be adapted depending on the communication channel being used. They talked about the specific challenges of providing services for over 18 year olds where no proof of age is formally obtained.
DBS checks were discussed (as mentioned above), from the impact of delays, to the challenge of knowing whether a helpline service was eligible to request a check? Participants had mixed experiences when sharing safeguarding information with statutory authorities, however, we did hear some great practice where helplines had clear policies that aided them when needing to make challenging decisions.
Helplines deliver support to a number of groups of people and some helpline services may work with more complex safeguarding issues than others. Helpline safeguarding policies should be appropriate to the work that the helpline is delivering and the risks that service users face. There are also clear boundaries on acceptable methods for interacting with service users.