I have worked operationally and strategically in the safeguarding field for a few decades now. At last, I can correctly and proudly say as I mature into a young middle age I have been there and done it, the ‘T’ shirt is within my grasp. Despite all this ‘experience’ the essential competencies according to the levels of safeguarding training remain as much as a mystery to me as the Bermuda Triangle’.

Let me explain. In 2010, for the first time, Working Together to Safeguard Children gave us all, providers and commissioners, clear guidance about the essential content of courses according to role. In fact, an entire chapter (Chapter 4, pages 113 – 126) was devoted to this area. It left no one in doubt about what was needed according to level. All was going well until the 15th April 2013 when the next Working Together was published, the training section was conspicuous by its absence and was replaced with generic statements such as; ‘Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) should maintain a local learning and improvement framework which is shared across local organisations who work with children and families. This framework should enable organisations to be clear about their responsibilities, to learn from experience and improve services as a result (p.65 Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013)’  

The 2015 document did nothing to improve the lack of guidance and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 put the final nail in the common-sense coffin on page fifty-seven by quoting; ‘Appropriate supervision and support for staff, including undertaking safeguarding training. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an environment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role’.

So, where has that left us? But before I go on to explore the conundrum further let me add a glimmer of hope and sensibility to the debate, enter Health, namely the Intercollegiate Document (the latest published this year). It seems clear those at the helm of this huge organisation have chosen to shine a light into the tunnel and can now see the end.  This very comprehensive document leaves no one in doubt about what is required according to role, a clearly defined safeguarding journey. Significantly it uses the numerical levels to describe content and competency.

However, for the rest of us, providers should not be using numerical levels to describe our courses.  We should all be using terminology such Awareness, Basic, Foundation, Advanced and so on. The result of this is we are now in a situation where course content, and yes, I appreciate there are some obvious competencies, is open to personal interpretation. There are many providers in this arena and a quick google search (other platforms are of course available) quickly demonstrates the diverse content contained in safeguarding courses.

So, what is the solution? At SAFE, unless the course is for health, we tend to title courses with awareness, advanced and so on, but also write the numerical level at which this course would be at based on in brackets alongside the title. We also use the very useful Intercollegiate Document (in its entirety for Health) to guide us. Is it time the Safeguarding Children Partnerships applied some pressure for some central guidance to resolve this ridiculous situation? The London Safeguarding Children Board Document Competency Still Matters (2014) also seems sensible, clearly the agencies in the Capital feel the same as me and felt it essential to publish guidance based on competency levels for each defined group.