1. Introduction
  2. What is safeguarding?
  3. How does safeguarding apply to the arts?
  4. What is child abuse?
  5. What are the signs of abuse?
  6. What is grooming?
  7. How can we safeguard children and young people?
  8. What is a safeguarding policy and why do we need one? 
  9. How do we create a safeguarding policy?
  10. How can we ensure that the people within our organisation are suitable?
  11. What is a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check?
  12. How long does it take to get a DBS check?
  13. Where can I get a DBS Check?
  14. How long does a DBS check last?
  15. What do I do if a child tells me they are being abused?
  16. How do I report my concerns about a child?
  17. How do I deal with bullying?
  18. How can I protect children online?
  19. Child performance licensing and registered chaperones
  20. What else can we do? 



1.  Introduction

Safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility. Much of the legislation about safeguarding has been developed to address issues relating to children in care, or to regulate and assist social care professionals. It can sometimes be hard to recognise how this legislation applies to the arts. 

This page sets out to address some of the most common questions about safeguarding in the arts. It provides basic advice and signposting to further information and resources. It is intended to help you to understand and fulfil your requirement to safeguard children and young people who access your services. What you do can make a difference.

All arts organisations and individual artists who work directly with children and young people, or who are involved in providing services for them, have a duty to safeguard and promote their welfare. While the advice on this page is primarily addressed to arts organisations, much of it also applies to individual artists, who are sole-traders.

Where the terms 'staff', 'employee(s)' or 'worker(s)' are used, this includes volunteers and unpaid people.

The definition of a child used throughout is the definition used in the Safeguarding Children Act (1989) and (2004), and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006)

"A child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ therefore means ‘children and young people’ throughout. The fact that a child has reached 16 years of age, is living independently or is in further education, is a member of the armed forces, is in hospital or in custody in the secure estate for children and young people, does not change his or her status or entitlement to services or protection"

In England, the law states that people who work with children have to keep them safe. This safeguarding legislation is set out in The Children Act (1989) and (2004), and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006) It also features in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the UK is a signatory.

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2.  What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding legislation and government guidance says that safeguarding means:

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care

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3.  How does safeguarding apply to the arts?

Safeguarding children and young people participating in arts events and activities involves the following things:

  • Making sure that the people within your organisation who work directly with children and young people are suitable to do so
  • Making sure that the services or activities your organisation provides do not expose children and young people to the risk of harm, abuse or grooming

You will find more detailed information about how to address these issues in the answers to the questions below.

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4.  What is child abuse?

The World Health Organisation provides the following general definition:

"Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power".

According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

  • each week, at least one child dies from cruelty
  • seven children under the age of 16 are murdered by strangers each year 
  • deaf and disabled children are more than three times more likely to be abused or neglected than non-disabled children

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5.  What are the signs of abuse?

It is vital that everyone who works with children and young people can recognise and report the signs of abuse at the earliest opportunity so that harm can be stopped.

The NSPCC website provides useful information about how to recognise the signs of abuse. Visit the NSPCC web page.

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6.  What is grooming?

The term grooming refers to the deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child with the intent of later having sexual contact.

The act of grooming a child sexually may include activities that are legal and might be considered harmless in and of themselves, but that later lead to sexual contact. This is done to gain the child's trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child's well-being. Children are less likely to report a crime if it involves someone that the child knows, trusts, and cares about.

Grooming also refers to the practice of establishing a relationship of credibility and trust with the adults who are responsible for a child's well-being. This is done to ensure that these same adults will be less likely to believe any potential accusations.

Unfortunately, almost any activity in which adults build relationships of trust with young people, including arts activities, can be exploited as opportunities for grooming. However, the advice on this page will assist you to take practical steps that help to minimise the risk.

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7.  How can we safeguard children and young people?

The most effective way to safeguard children and young people who access your services is to make sure that your organisation has appropriate procedures and robust policies in place.

You should have written codes of good practice and appropriate behaviour that you expect from your staff and you should explain how you will ensure that these codes are being followed.

You should create a safeguarding policy for your group or organisation. It should set out the things your organisation will do to protect children while they are in your care. You can find out more about what a safeguarding policy should contain and how to create one in the answers to the questions below.

You can also join a local child protection scheme, such as the Avon & Somerset Police Child-safe initiative. Child-safe provides free training and resources to help your group or organisation develop and maintain a culture that is open, welcoming and safe for children. For more information, visit the Child-safe website.

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8.  What is a safeguarding policy and why do we need one?

A safeguarding policy must be more than a statement of intent. It must contain details of all the practical things your organisation does to safeguard children and young people.

It should include details of such things as:

  • how you will ensure that your workers are suitable to work with children and young people
  • the codes of practice and behaviour that you expect your staff to follow when working with children and young people
  • the codes of practice and behaviour you expect from children and young people towards your staff
  • the steps you will take to ensure that these codes of practice are being followed

It should name the person responsible for seeing that these things are carried out.

Some people think that writing a safeguarding policy is unnecessary and bureaucratic, because what it contains is simply common sense. However, this is not so.

Writing a policy ensures the following things:

  • Common sense and good practice can be shared more easily
  • People outside your organisation, including parents, can see that you are doing your best to safeguard children and young people
  • Everyone knows what is expected of them and understands how to respond if something should happen
  • If your staff change or leave, the quality and consistency of your organisation's safeguarding practice is continued with your new staff.

Even an unfounded allegation of child abuse can have very serious consequences for your organisation, such as:

  • loss of trust of parents
  • negative publicity
  • lasting damage to your organisation's professional reputation
  • loss of sponsors and funders

The most serious consequence of not having an adequate safeguarding policy is that children and young people may come to harm.

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9.  How do we create a safeguarding policy?

The NSPCC publish guidelines to help groups and organisations that work with children create effective safeguarding policies. Visit the NSPCC website here for more information.

You may find it useful to look at other organisations' safeguarding policies to see the sort of things that you will need to think about. However, it is not a good idea to copy someone else’s policy as it will address a completely different set of circumstances and different risks to those of your own organisation.

It is important that your policy is based upon the real needs of your organisation, and that it addresses the actual risks that your activity involves. If you copy someone else's policy, you may end up wasting your time, energy and resources on the wrong things and exposing children and young people to unnecessary risk.

Once you have created your safeguarding policy, you should make it widely available. All staff and workers should have a copy. It should be available to parents and carers. If you have a website, your safeguarding policy should be available there to read and download.

Your safeguarding policy should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is still appropriate, that it covers any new things that have happened or any new activities you plan to undertake in the near future. It should be read and endorsed by your Board or Management Committee.

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10.  How can we ensure that the people within our organisation are suitable?

Whatever activities your organisation provides for children and young people, you will want to make sure that you have the best people for the job. Selecting an unsuitable person can have grave consequences for the children themselves, and for your group and its reputation. 

Organisations who work with children and/or vulnerable adults may need to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for any staff, including volunteers, before employing them to work with children.

This should include all your staff and volunteers, and may including your board and trustees.

You cannot take someone's word that they have a current DBS check: you must ask to see their current Disclosure Certificate. If they require a new CRB check then you cannot allow them to start work – even supervised – before you know the outcome of the check.

More detailed information about DBS checks is provided in the answers to the questions below.

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11.  What is a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. It replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

A DBS check is carried out by an employer in order to ensure that anyone seeking work with children and young people and/or vulnerable adults is suitable to do so. A DBS check is required whether the work is paid or voluntary. You will be required to provide proof of your identity. In many cases you will not be allowed to work directly with children and young people without having a DBS check.

To find out more about who needs to be subject to a DBS check, you can use the toolkit on the Disclosure and Barring Service Website here

The DBS check searches your details against criminal records and other sources, including the Police National Computer.  You, and your employer, will see the results of your search. Following a check you will be issued with a document called a Disclosure Certificate. The Disclosure Certificate may contain details of your convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings.

Your employer will then decide whether or not they can employ you. You cannot start work - even supervised - before the outcome of the check is known.

You may wish to visit the DBS website to read the full and legal definitions of what a DBS check involves and how it may be used.

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12.  How long does it take to get a DBS check?

It is generally accepted that 4 - 6 weeks is the average time taken to process a DBS check.  Once a DBS check has been applied for, the person being given a DBS check - ‘the applicant’ - can check on the progress of their application using the DBS tracking service.  The applicant, employer and organisation that applied for the search will see the results of the check.

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13.  Where can I get a DBS check?

Often, an employer will be able arrange a DBS check on your behalf, and may cover the cost of the check if funds allow. 

If you are applying for the check yourself you will need to contact an 'umbrella body' - an organisation registered with the Disclosure and Barring Service that is authorised to process applications for checking. It is necessary to apply through an 'umbrella body' so that your identity can be independently verified. To find an umbrella body, visit the search facility on the DBS website

The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath, is an umbrella body providing access to DBS checking services in Bath and North East Somerset.
Tel: 01225 823475  Email:

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14.  How long does a DBS check last?

A DBS certificate only contains information from a DBS check on a certain date and for a particular purpose. It can be accepted at a later date, but the employer will have to decide if it’s recent enough or suitable for the current purpose. It is also up to the employer to check that the applicant’s identity matches the details on the certificate. Because of the reasons stated above, it is not enough to rely upon DBS checking as the cornerstone of your safeguarding policy.

From 17th June 2013, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will launch an update service  This is designed to deliver greater portability of DBS checks. Volunteers can subscribe to the Update Service for free. An annual fee of £13 applies for other members of the workforce.

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15.  What do I do if a child tells me they are being abused?

It can take a great deal of courage for a child to talk to an adult about what is happening to them and it can sometimes be hard for an adult to listen or recognise what is going on.

It is important that workers and volunteers know how to respond in an appropriate way. You should:

  • Take the child seriously
    Accept what the child tells you despite how difficult it may be to accept the identity of the abuser or that abuse occurred. Victims often believe they are responsible for the abuse they receive and may be hesitant to discuss the abuse. This is especially true of sexual abuse where a child feels he/she is breaking a "trust", "telling a secret" or has been threatened. Understand that disclosing abuse can be difficult for a child, and that your relationship has allowed the child to open up to you.
  • Listen openly and calmly
    It is important to put your own feelings of anger, frustration or pain aside. Be attentive to the emotions and words of the child. Give the child your full attention and nod understandingly. If possible, take the child aside to a quiet place. Allow the child to tell what happened in his/her words. Do not press for details and do not "interview" the child or ask leading questions.
  • Reassure the child
    Discussing abuse can be very difficult for a child. Be supportive of the child; let him/her know you will do something to help. Let the child know that what has happened is not his/her fault and they are doing the correct thing by telling you. Do not make any promises to the child about what may happen. You may not be able to keep these promises. You can tell the child you will do your best to help him/her

You must always report any allegation of abuse immediately.

  • In the first instance, allegations should be reported to the person named in your safeguarding policy as taking the lead on safeguarding issues.
  • If the named person is not available, or if the allegation is about them, you should contact the Local Safeguarding Children Board or the NSPCC Helpline. You can find details of how to contact these in the answer to the question below
  • If you think that a child is in immediate and serious danger then you should contact the Police

Once you have reported your concerns, it is a good idea to make a note of everything the child told you using their words. You should also record their emotional state and their behaviour. You should record all the actions you took as a result of what you were told. You should do this in the same calm manner in which you listened to the child, setting your own feelings and emotions aside. You should also record the date and time of events as best as you are able.

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16.  How do I report my concerns about a child?

It can be difficult for people who have concerns about the safety and well being of a child to speak up. However, a timely intervention may be what stops abuse and saves a life.

You can find out how to report your concerns about a child via the following links:

Concerned About a Child?
This page provides local contact details and advice about what to do if you have concerns about the safety of a child.

B&NES Council Child Protection Page 
This page provides information about how to report concerns about children you believe are having difficulties or are at risk of harm

NSPCC Helpline
The NSPCC Helpline provides advice and support to adults who are concerned about the safety or welfare of a child.

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17.  How do I deal with with bullying?

The Bullying UK website provides detailed advice and guidance about addressing many forms of bullying.  Visit the Bullying UK website

Childline also produce a range of comprehensive advice and support to help deal with different kinds of bullying and its consequences. Visit the Childline web page here

Kidscape provide advice on preventing and tackling cyber-bullying via their website.
Visit the Kidscape Cyber-bullying web page

The Cybersmile Foundation offer advice and support to anyone being affected by cyberbullying issues.
Visit the Cybersmile Foundation website

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18. How can I protect children online?

Ensuring that children are safe when they are online is becoming more and more important. Keeping children safe online involves managing four main areas of risk.

  • Commercial exploitation, including
    - tracking
    - harvesting personal information
  • Agressive behaviour, including
    - bullying
    - harassment
    - stalking
  • Sexual risk, including
    - meeting strangers
    - being groomed
  • Inappropriate values and influences, including
    - unwelcome persuasion
    - encouragement to self-harm

The UK Safer Internet Centre provides a range of free advice and support to help you to protect children online, Visit the UK Safer Internet website for more details. 

The South West Grid for Learning Online Compass is a free,  internet safety self-assessment toolkit. You can use it to assess and manage the risks posed by your activity to children online.

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19.  Child Performance Licensing

Child performance licences exist to make sure that the education, health and safety of a child does not suffer if they spend significant amounts of time taking part in performances, such as theatre, filming, sport or modelling.

Children involved in a performance must also be accompanied by a registered chaperone at times when their parent or full-time carer is not present. This applies whether it is a local pantomime or a long running broadcast performance, and no matter how many days the performance runs for.

Further information about Child performance licenses and registered chaperones can be found on the Children Missing Education Webpage.

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18.  What else can we do?


  • Promote, publicise and share your safeguarding policy
  • If you belong to a child protection scheme, such as Child-safe, display their logo prominently wherever your activities take place

There is evidence that people seeking to groom young people for abuse tend to avoid groups and organisations who actively promote and uphold their child protection procedures.

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