Chris Balmer, Norfolk Constabulary
When I was asked to write a guest blog entry for NSAB this month, I began with one of our shared goals, ‘Making Safeguarding Personal’, and then reversed it to think about what safeguarding means for me personally. More specifically, I thought about what it has meant, and now means, for three versions of me.
First, me nearly 20 years ago starting out as a frontline police officer. Safeguarding then meant that there was an additional reason to help someone, or that someone was ‘too complicated’ for generalist staff to deal with. The detail of what their needs were, how we might adjust our service, or how the individual might want to be treated were not ours to worry about because they were not ours to solve. Above all else, safeguarding meant that there was a form to fill out to make sure that someone with more expertise would do what was necessary. There was no real expectation that the frontline got involved in such specialist work.
Next, me if I were signing up afresh to join the frontline today. I would experience a very different and much more professional training regime, leading ultimately to the award of a degree apprenticeship or a graduate diploma in policing. I’d be learning about vulnerability, both as a technical legal term offering additional protection under the law and as a concept that gave meaning to who it is that requires safeguarding and what that means for them. I’d know that while there may be specialists available to help me there is a clear expectation that I use the skills and powers available to me to deliver core policing services in accordance with the needs of the individual.
Finally, me now, as the Head of Safeguarding and Investigations for Norfolk Constabulary and a member of NSAB. I now think of safeguarding either happening, or not happening, because of the systems we design, operate in and at the same time embody; there is no ‘safeguarding system’ that is separate to the people doing the work. If the men and women delivering services across our county ‘think safeguarding’ in line with their training and address concerns head on, vulnerable people will be protected and safeguarding will happen. If they don’t, then it won’t.
Reflecting on the changes I have seen over the course of two decades I could only conclude that now, more than ever before, I believe people will recognise and report safeguarding concerns when they see them. Thinking across Norfolk I believe that we do have a system in which the overwhelming majority of our people do recognise safeguarding as a part of their role - even if it isn’t the whole of it - and I have great hope that we will go from strength to further strength in the coming years.
As we approach the summer months and have the inevitable pre-holiday panic over how much remains to be done, I would invite you to take a moment to reflect instead on how much has already been achieved, and thereby have confidence that greater things lie ahead.