Staying Safe

Membership of Woodcraft Folk is open to everyone who supports the organisation’s aims, from birth to adult. However, we are principally an organisation for children and young people, and every leader has a responsibility to put the needs of our young members first.
 
Volunteers have a legal responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of the young people they come into contact with. Staying safe is also an important part of ensuring our young people get the most out of their Woodcraft Folk experience.
 
Anything we do to ensure the safety of the people in our care can be considered safeguarding. It is important that we see safeguarding as something we do day to day, rather than a process that kicks in when something goes seriously wrong.
 
Up-to-date information on Woodcraft Folk’s safeguarding policy and procedures is available through the safeguarding portal at www.woodcraft.org.uk/safeguarding
 
Your group or district should also have its own Local Safeguarding Plan – all volunteers should be familiar with this document, which explains how the group will put our policies into practice on a day-to-day basis.
 
Elements of good practice
 
Woodcraft Folk has a range of policies and procedures that support group leaders to keep children and young people safe in our groups and during our activities. All volunteers should be familiar with the content of these policies and understand how they affect them in their role. The most important elements of our practice include:
 
Designated Safeguarding Officer should be identified for each district (and ideally each group) – this person should be your first port of call if you have a concern about a child or a volunteer in your group.
 
Member screening e.g. CRB checks, references are important to ensure that volunteers helping in our groups have not been found to be unsuitable to work with children and young people – but these just a part of keeping children safe in our groups.
 
Collection of health and consent forms from all children, young people and helpers ensures that you have the correct information about any medical needs, contact details for carers/next of kin and consent for young people to participate in your group’s activities. A standard form is available on the website. These should be kept up to date, and renewed each year.
 
Appropriate Volunteer: Children ratios should be met at every session – 1:3 for Woodchips, 1:5 for Elfins, 1:8 for Pioneers and 1:10 for Venturers.
 
Programme planning is important for safe sessions – ‘winging it’ is inherently more risky than delivering a session that has been planned in advance
 
Safeguarding training should be undertaken by as many volunteers as possible, either from Woodcraft Folk or locally through the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB). A session plan to run your own training session locally is available on the website. 
 
Competent & experienced members are important for running safe activities for children and young people – volunteers leading an activity they have no experience of could put their group at risk.
 
Risk assessments are vital to identify potential dangers, ensure everyone knows about them and what you are doing to control/reduce the risk.
 
Avoid 121 contact between adult volunteers and children/young people – and support other volunteers to do so. Specific guidance also exists about the safe use of online communications between volunteers and young people. If a 121 situation is unavoidable, it should happen only with the full knowledge and support of other leaders (agree who, where and for how long).
 
Keep parents informed about the group’s programme so they can raise any concerns prior to the activity.
 
Actively engage children and young people in order that their voices are heard and that relationships within the group are built on honesty and openness.
 
Safeguarding Policy & Procedure documents set out how Woodcraft safeguards children. All volunteers should read and sign the Safeguarding policy. It is a requirement for each district to have its own Local Safeguarding Plan (a template is available on the website).
 
Whistle-blowing Policy enables anyone to raise a concern directly with the central organisation if they are concerned about a safeguarding issue.
 
Assessing & managing risk
 
Many activities that are an important part of children’s experience of Woodcraft Folk have an element of risk, by their nature. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do them, but it is important that adults and children are aware of what the potential dangers are, and have agreed what to do to control these risks as much as possible.
 
You should consider the risks of any activity you’re going to do with your group – this is best done in conversation with other volunteers, and with the young people themselves.
 
Completing a simple risk assessment is the easiest way to record the risks that you identify, and what you have agreed to do about them. There is a template for a risk assessment on the Woodcraft website, together with lots of guidance about how to assess risk.
 
It’s fine to use a single risk assessment document to cover your normal group night activities in a single venue. If you meet in multiple locations, or move between indoor and outdoor sessions, you should have a separate risk assessment for each of your regular locations. A separate risk assessment should be carried out for any activity that involves risks over and above your normal group night activities, e.g. use of sharp tools, or firelighting. If you are working with specialists who have done their own risk assessment document, e.g. rock climbing instructors, then it will be sufficient for you to review this.
 
Dealing with concerns & incidents
 
All Woodcraft Folk volunteers and staff have a duty of care for all the children and young people who attend our activities. We are all in a unique position to build up trusting relationships with a wide range of children. Our role often enables us to observe children learning, developing and growing. This may enable us to identify signs of abuse or neglect, or changes in behaviour which may indicate a child or young person may be being abused or neglected.
 
As a Woodcraft leader, your most important role in keeping children and young people safe is to discuss any concerns you might have about a young person to the appropriate person. In most cases this will be your group leader or your group or district’s safeguarding co-ordinator.
 
To make sure you are able to do this, you need to:
 
 
These four actions underpin everything else we do as volunteers to keep children and young people safe. Whatever your role in Woodcraft Folk you should make sure that you are alert to the signs of abuse and neglect, that you question the behaviour of children and parents/carers. You should make sure you know where to turn to if you need to ask for help, and that you refer to your Local Safeguarding Officer, children’s social care or to the police. If a child is in immediate danger or is at risk of harm, you should refer to children’s social care and/or the police. Before doing so, you should try to establish the basic facts. However, it will be the role of social workers and the police to investigate cases and make a judgement on whether there should be a statutory intervention and/or a criminal investigation.
 
In the event of a serious incident, or if a child discloses abuse to you, recording as much as possible, as accurately as possible, is vital to ensure that it can be followed up effectively. Incident/disclosure forms are available through Woodcraft’s Safeguarding Portal – you should ensure that a hard copy is available at every group night, overnight residential or other activity in case it is needed.
 
 The graphic below summarises how you should respond to an issue, incident or concern: