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August 2023

How the fridge helps us think about the essential safeguarding skills

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds

A member of the NSAB team recently had a refrigerator emergency. It just stopped working. You can hear the cry of ‘Nooooo!’. After some frantic activity a replacement was found and has now been delivered. It is only when an essential modern life appliance stops working that we appreciate how ‘essential’ they are.

My own fridge was also bought in a rush when the old one broke down during a heatwave, but it is not quite big enough for what we need. As a result it is subject to frequent grumbling, especially after the weekly shop. ‘Oh, this fridge really gets on my wick!’ I can hear my wife mutter, as she engages in yet another game of fridge Tetris.

The fridge is such an essential component of modern life that it’s hard to imagine what the world was like without it. It just sits there doing its thing, without us really noticing.

People have been trying to keep food fresh by storing it at lower temperatures for thousands of years. The Chinese harvested ice from rivers and lakes as early as 1000 BC. But refrigerators as we know them are a relatively modern invention, from the work of numerous inventors in the 1800s to the first patented inventions of the 1850s. By the 1940s refrigerators became even more widespread in private homes. The Science Museum in London has a number of fridges in its collection and there is even an International Journal of Refrigeration. This is important stuff!

An often talked about notion is that safeguarding is an ‘essential’ role for all, across all services and sectors, whether you are in a paid role or volunteering.

Safeguarding is central to everything we do - an idea reflected in the phrase about safeguarding being ‘everyday business for everybody’.

But what might be on a list to support / reinforce safeguarding as an essential skill for the workforce? There are lots of things. For me these include:

  • Having ‘good’ radar. If something doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts. From my experience working in safeguarding adults, I have found two good questions to ask oneself are:

 ‘If this was happening to a friend or a family member, would I be concerned? and

‘What would I want someone seeing or hearing this to do? I would want them to do something, not ignore it

  • Starting a safeguarding conversation. This is something I wrote about in the July blog. There’s a good reason for asking about abuse as part and parcel of working with someone. In a 2021 systematic review of domestic abuse disclosure to health professionals, what supported a victim disclosing abuse was health professionals who engaged in direct questioning and maintained a supportive and safe environment. Remember: abuse thrives on secrecy, so not asking the question may enable it to continue.

  • Positive communication. This includes communicating with flexibility, reliability and patience, and a readiness to believe the unbelievable. However, these qualities alone will not suffice. We must all have a strong understanding of safeguarding principles, issues, policies and procedures.

  • Safeguarding principles, policies and procedures. When was the last time you or your team did a quick ‘check in’ with the NSAB multi-agency policy? Do you know the procedures for raising a safeguarding concern and sharing information? This is not about knowing it chapter and verse (although that would be good too), but to get a quick overview. Why not take five minutes to have a look and brief your colleagues on the key points at the next team meeting? You can find the policy here.

    This is also wider than just a policy. It is about knowing how to apply the principles of Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP), and having a confident understanding of the six principles of safeguarding - see my June blog. It is also about understanding dignity and respect when working with individuals and demonstrating support for the following:

-   that every person has right to protection – not to live their life in fear

-   a multi-agency approach is the most effective

-   choices and empowerment can involve risk

-   risks should be understood, recognised and reduced wherever possible

However, most important of all the essential features of safeguarding practice is taking action. It’s about asking a question if something is bothering you and does not look right, doing something rather than nothing at all. As Albert Einstein said:

‘The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm. It’s dangerous because of those who watch and do nothing.’

By using all of the above we won’t put our safeguarding practice ‘on ice’ (sorry for the bad pun).

Thank you.

Walter Lloyd-Smith

NSAB Board Manager

Email: [email protected]