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December 2023

Recharging the battery

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 30 seconds

I was putting things back in the shed after it had some structural repairs. I was nearly finished, but it was starting to get dark (after 3.30pm the light goes quickly at this time of year). So that I didn’t drop something heavy on my foot or impale myself on the gardening tools, I thought it would be a good idea to put on a headtorch to finish off the task.

Finding the headtorch in the ‘random stuff’ drawer in the kitchen, its rechargeable batteries were flat. Annoying!

After replacing the batteries, I was pottering around in the shed, and the idea of ‘rechargeable’ started me thinking: what keeps us going when working in adult safeguarding? There is enormous pressure on our services and all of us get depleted at times.

Whether safeguarding is a central part of your job or something you do alongside other roles and responsibilities (remember safeguarding is everyday business for everyone), it is challenging work. It might be figuring out whether to raise a concern or working through a complex situation with more twists and turns than a crime novel.

The often distressing nature of safeguarding takes a psychological and emotional toll. Added to that is the to-do list that never gets any shorter and the days when you move from meeting to meeting (or visit to visit), which makes you feel ready to collapse. This sustained mental, physical or emotional stress all contribute to feeling drained. And no wonder; during times of stress, high cortisol levels can interfere with the function of your whole body.

Maintaining our resilience, keeping our ‘safeguarding’ rechargeable batteries topped up, is vital - this is a marathon, not a sprint. Resilience is that magical force that helps us bounce back from challenging situations. It's the ability to adapt, learn, and grow in the face of difficulties.

Indeed, the theme of the Ann Craft Trust (ACT) safeguarding adults week this year was how you can prioritise the welfare and wellbeing of yourself and others.

No single recharge works for everyone, and your solutions may vary from day to day. Here are a few things that help to recharge my safeguarding batteries and power me through the toughest of days.

Rechargeable batteries 101: self-care

There is lots written about self-care in the workplace and rightly so. It's not just a buzzword; it's a lifeline. And while I confess I am not the best at this myself, taking a moment to breathe is all important.

1. Time out
Indulge in that pleasure (guilty or otherwise) - a TV show (my team keep me updated on Strictly and Bake off).
Get up during a busy day to walk about (see Why we should sit less – NHS) or treat yourself to a cosy cup of tea.
Whether it's a short power nap (my friends Lisa & Paddy have always advocated this) or a weekend getaway, self-care is the key to ensuring our batteries are charged up and ready.

2. The power of connection
In the world of adult safeguarding, we're part of a dynamic team. Our colleagues are not just co workers, they're critical support. As a very experienced colleague taught me when I first started working in adult safeguarding:

‘if you are doing this on your own then you are doing it wrong’

The power of connection is unparalleled when it comes to recharging our batteries. Share the load, explore your frustrations and celebrate your victories together. It's not just about professional collaboration; it's about building a support network that keeps our spirits high, even in the toughest of times.

While working online has given us lots of benefits, for me you can’t beat getting into a room and doing the work with people. It gives me a lift and there is a certain energy about working in this way which helps tackle an important piece of work.

Recently all five of Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board’s  Locality Safeguarding Adults Partnerships (LSAPs) came together for a meeting. I really got a boost from talking safeguarding with colleagues (a shout out to the central LSAP whose table discussion I was part of).

Another example was a learning event we held for the Safeguarding Adults Review for adult ‘X’. I don’t think we would have generated the richness of learning in the same way online. I left both events with a real buzz, and renewed energy.

3. Training and development: supercharge your skills
A software update can make your smartphone feel brand new, and the same principle applies to us for our safeguarding roles and responsibilities. Continuous training and development helps keep our skills sharp and our motivation alive.

Attend workshops, webinars, and conferences. Stay updated on the latest news, research and best practices (the best way to do this is to sign up for Safeguarding Matters – NSAB’s monthly newsletter. From the homepage just scroll down to put your details in). Not only does it boost your professional competence, but it also injects a fresh dose of enthusiasm into your daily routine.

4. The power of perspective: celebrate the wins, however small
In adult safeguarding, wins can sometimes feel few and far between. But it is important to celebrate the wins, no matter how small. The safeguarding concern shared with the local authority?  A win. That successfully closed case?  A win. That constructive feedback from a service user?  Another win. Recognising and acknowledging these moments is like giving your rechargeable batteries a burst of high-speed charging. It keeps us motivated and reminds us of our impact.

Conclusion: keep on charging
You will have your own ideas for recharging your safeguarding batteries. Please remember, our job is tough, but we are part of a network to support each other. Self-care, team spirit, continuous learning, and celebrating victories – these are the charging stations that keep our batteries topped up. Take a moment to appreciate your impact and the real difference you make in the lives of vulnerable adults.

Do get in touch and let me know what re-energises your safeguarding battery.

Thank you.

Walter Lloyd-Smith
NSAB Board Manager

Email: [email protected]