Everyone who participates in Dover Operatic Dramatic Society (DODS) is entitled to do so in an enjoyable and safe environment. DODS have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that, when given responsibility for children or young people to provide them with the highest possible standard of care and support.
DODS is committed to their responsibility to safeguard children from harm and abuse. This means to follow procedures to protect children and report any concerns about their welfare to appropriate authorities.
The aim of the policy is to promote good practice, provide children and young people with appropriate safety/protection whilst in the care of DODS and to allow adult member to make informed and confident responses to specific child protection issues.
A child/young person is defined as a person under the age of 18 (Children’s Act 1989)
1.2 Policy Statement
DODS is committed to the following:
the welfare of the child is paramount
all children, whatever their age, culture, ability, gender, language, racial origin, religious belief and/or sexual identity should be able to participate in amateur dramatics in a fun and safe environment
take all reasonable steps to protect children from harm, discrimination and degrading treatment and to respect their rights, wishes and feelings
all suspicions and allegations of poor practice or abuse will be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately
a responsible adult will be nominated to be available at rehearsals to be available for the children. The nominated adult will be “recruited” with regard to their suitability for that responsibility, and will be provided with guidance and/or training in good practice and child protection procedures
working in partnership with parents and children is essential for the protection of children
1.3 Monitor and review the policy and procedures
The implementation of procedures should be regularly monitored and reviewed. A nominated adult should regularly report progress, challenges, difficulties, achievements gaps and areas where changes are required to the management committee.
The policy should be reviewed every 3 years or whenever there is a major change in the organisation or in relevant legislation.
1 Promoting Good Practice
1.1 Good Practice
All DODS members should adhere to the following principles and action:
always work in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication with no secrets)
make the experience of rehearsal and production fun and enjoyable: promote fairness, confront and deal with bullying
treat all children and young people equally and with respect and dignity
always put the welfare of the children and young person’s first
avoid unnecessary physical contact with children and young people. Where any form of physical support is required it should be provided openly and with the consent of the child and young person. Physical contact can be appropriate so long as it is neither intrusive nor disturbing and the young person’s consent has been given
involve parents/cares wherever possible, e.g. where young people need to be supervised in changing rooms, encourage parents to take responsibility for their own child.
request written parental consent for children and young persons to be signed in for rehearsals by nominated adult if parents are unable to do so
be an excellent role model, this includes not smoking or drinking alcohol in the company of young people
always give enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism
secure written parental consent for DODS chaperones/nominated member to act in loco parentis, to give permission for the administration of emergency first aid or other medical treatment if the need arises
keep a written record of any injury that occurs, along with details of any treatment given
provide a nominated amount of registered chaperones in line with KCC guidance for technical, dress rehearsals and the actual performance
ensure all required documentation in line with KCC guidance relating to a young person is to be stored in line with data protection act
1.2 Poor Practice
The following are regarded as poor practice and should be avoided by all personnel:
Adults sharing changing rooms with young persons
engaging in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay
allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any form
allowing young people to use inappropriate language unchallenged
making sexually suggestive comments to a young person, even in fun
reducing a young person to tears as a form of control
allow allegations made by young persons to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon
do things of a personal nature that the young person can do for themselves
When a case arises where it is impractical/impossible to avoid certain situation e.g. transporting a young person in your car, the tasks should only be carried out with the full understanding and consent of the parent/care and the child or young person involved.
If during your care you accidentally hurt a young person, the young person seems distressed in any manner, appears to be sexually aroused by your actions and/or if the young person misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done, report any such incidents as soon as possible to another colleague and make a written note of it. Parents should also be informed of the incident.
2 Defining Child Abuse
Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm, it commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and is an abuse of power or a breach of trust. Abuse can happen to a young person regardless of their age, gender, race or ability.
There are four main types of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect. The abuser may be a family member, someone the young person encounters in residential care or in the community, including sports and leisure activities. Any individual may abuse or neglect a young person directly, or may be responsible for abuse because they fail to prevent another person harming the young person.
Abuse in all of its forms can affect a young person at any age. The effects can be so damaging that if not treated may follow the individual into adulthood
Young people with disabilities may be at increased risk of abuse through various factors such as stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, isolation and a powerlessness to protect themselves or adequately communicate that abuse had occurred.
2.2 Types of Abuse
Physical Abuse: This occurs when injuries are inflicted or the health/development of a person is severely impaired. Indicators of physical abuse include:
a) Bruises – often on areas of the body which are not visible (e.g. chest, back and abdomen), slap marks; kick marks, black eyes, bums, scalds.
Cuts/lacerations – in particular when the injuries are not compatible with the explanations offered.
b) Weight loss – due to malnutrition.
c) Dehydration – the individual becomes frail/underweight;
d) Drowsiness – due to too much medication/sleep deprivation
e) Neglect – Poor appearance (unwashed/unkempt), physical
These indicators are not exhaustive, and should be seen as suggestive of, not proof of abuse. Judgments will need to be made based on shared information of those regularly involved with a person or child, in order to determine the full circumstances of a situation.
This is defined as:
The involvement of children in sexual activities or relationships which they do not want and have not consented to; or they cannot understand. Such situations are essentially those where power and inequality are involved.
Sexual acts, which are considered to be abusive, include the following:
a) Non-contact abuse: for example, looking at pornography, indecent exposure, harassment, serious teasing or innuendo, having to be present when one or more person(s) are involved in a sexual act;
b) Contact abuse: for example, touching breasts, genitals, anus, and masturbation of either person. Penetration or attempted penetration of vagina, anus or mouth by a penis, fingers or other objects.
Abuse can involve acts performed by the abuser on the person being abused. It can also involve situations where the abuser forces or persuades the abused person to do things to them.
This includes the following:
a) Intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, excessive teasing, shouting, threatening behaviour, causing fear, lack of acknowledgement, harassment, name calling, giving negative feedback
b) Denial of basic rights e.g. choice, opinions, and privacy.
Neglect is notoriously difficult to define because child rearing practices differ greatly across cultures and because it has been difficult to define the absence of something such as love or attention
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs resulting in serious impairment of health and/or development.
Any action that has a detrimental effect, whether physical or verbal that is taken purely because the young person is not of the same race, colour, creed, religion, gender or sexual orientation as yourself.
2.3 Indicators of Abuse
Even for those experienced in working with child abuse, it is not always easy to recognise a situation where abuse may occur or has already taken place. Most people are not experts in such recognition, but indications that a child is being abused may include one or more of the following:
unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries
an injury for which an explanation seems inconsistent
the young person describes what appears to be an abusive act involving them
another young person or adult expresses concern about the welfare of a young person
unexplained changes in a young person’s behavior e.g. becoming very upset, quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper
inappropriate sexual awareness
engaging in sexually explicit behaviour
distrust of adult’s, particularly those whom a close relationship would normally be expected
difficulty in making friends
being prevented from socialising with others
displaying variations in eating patterns including over eating or loss of appetite
losing weight for no apparent reason
becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt
Signs of bullying include:
behavioural changes such as reduced concentration and/or becoming withdrawn, clingy, depressed, tearful, emotionally up and down, reluctance to go training or competitions
an unexplained drop off in performance
physical signs such as stomach aches, headaches, difficulty in sleeping, bed wetting, scratching and bruising, damaged clothes, bingeing e.g. on food, alcohol or cigarettes
a shortage of money or frequents loss of possessions
It must be recognised that the above list is not exhaustive, but also that the presence of one or more of the indications is not proof that abuse is taking place. It is NOT the responsibility of those in DODS to decide that child abuse is occurring. It IS their responsibility to act on any concerns.
2.4 Use of Photographic/Filming Equipment at Sporting Events
There is evidence that some people have used performance events as an opportunity to take inappropriate photographs or film footage of children and young people. All members should be vigilant and any concerns should be reported to President of the Society (Mike Brodie).
All parents and performers should be made aware that the society may use photography or videoing to promote the production.
3 Responding to Suspicions and Allegations
It is NOT the responsibility of anyone within DODS to decide whether or not child abuse has taken place. However there is a responsibility to act on any concerns through contact with the appropriate authorities so that they can then make inquiries and take necessary action to protect the young person. This applies BOTH to allegations/suspicions of abuse occurring within DODS and to allegations/suspicions that abuse is taking place elsewhere.
This section explains how to respond to allegations/suspicions
3.2 Receiving Evidence of Possible Abuse
We may become aware of possible abuse in various ways. We may see it happening, we may suspect it happening because of signs such as those listed in section 3 of this document, it may be reported to us by someone else or directly by the young person affected.
In the last of these cases, it is particularly important to respond appropriately. If a young person says or indicates that they are being abused, you should:
- stay calm so as not to frighten the young person
- reassure the child that they are not to blame and that it was right to tell
- listen to the child, showing that you are taking them seriously
- do not question the child there has to be a clear and accurate understanding of what has been said. The law is very strict and child abuse cases have been dismissed where it is felt that the child has been led or words and ideas have been suggested during questioning. Only ask questions to clarify
- inform the child that you have to inform other people about what they have told you. Tell the child this is to help stop the abuse continuing
- never make promises do not make promises to the child that you can make things better
- safety of the child is paramount. If the child needs urgent medical attention call an ambulance, inform the doctors of the concern and ensure they are made aware that this is a child protection issue
- record all information
- report the incident to the nominated adult responsible for the production
In all cases if you are not sure what to do you can gain help from: Dover 01304 204915 or alternatively KCC hotline available 24 hours a day, 08458 247100
3.3 Recording Information
To ensure that information is as helpful as possible, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern. In recording you should confine yourself to the facts and distinguish what is your personal knowledge and what others have told you. Do not include your own opinions.
Information should include the following:
- the child’s name, age and date of birth
- the child’s home address and telephone number
- whether or not the person making the report is expressing their concern or someone else’s
- the nature of the allegation, including dates, times and any other relevant information
- description of any visible bruising or injury, location, size etc. Also any indirect signs, such as behavioural changes
- details of witnesses to the incidents
- the child’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising/injuries occurred
- have the parents been contacted? If so what has been said?
- has anyone else been consulted? If so record details
- has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record detail
3.4 Reporting the Concern
All suspicions and allegations MUST be reported appropriately. It is recognised that strong emotions can be aroused particularly in cases where sexual abuse is suspected or where there is misplaced loyalty to a colleague. It is important to understand these feelings but not allow them to interfere with your judgement about any action to take.
DODS expects it’s members to discuss any concerns they may have about the welfare of a child immediately to the President or nominated member who will ensure that appropriate action has been taken.
If neither the President, or nominated member is not available you should take responsibility and seek advice from the NSPCC helpline, the duty officer at your local social services department or the police. Telephone numbers can be found on page 14
As mentioned previously in this document DODS are not child protection experts and it is not our responsibility to determine whether or not abuse has taken place. All suspicions and allegations must be shared with professional agencies that are responsible for child protection.
Social services have a legal responsibility under The Children Act 1989 to investigate all child protection referrals by talking to the child and family (where appropriate), gathering information from other people who know the child and making inquiries jointly with the police.
NB: If there is any doubt, you must report the incident: it may be just one of a series of other incidences which together cause concern
Any suspicion that a child has been abused by a member of DODS must be reported to the President who will take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the child in question and any other child who may be at risk. This will include the following:
- DODS will refer the matter to social services department
- the parent/carer of the child will be contacted as soon as possible following advice from the social services department
- the President of DODS should be notified to decide who will deal with any media inquiries
- if the President is the subject of the suspicion/allegation the report must be made to the Managing Director (Dave Smith) who will refer the matter to social services
Allegations of abuse are sometimes made sometime after the event. Where such allegation is made, you should follow the same procedures and have the matter reported to social services. This is because other children in the society or outside it may be at risk from the alleged abuser. Anyone who has a previous conviction for offences related to abuse against children is automatically excluded from working with children.
Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information should be handled and disseminated on a need to know basis only. This includes the following people:
- The President and nominated member
- The parents of the child
- The person making the allegation
- Social Services/police
- The alleged abuser (and parents if the alleged abuser is a child)
Seek social services advice on who should approach the alleged abuser.
All information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws.
In addition to pre-selection checks, the safeguarding process includes training to help member to:
Analyse their own practice against what is deemed good practice, and to ensure their practice is likely to protect them from false allegations
Recognise their responsibilities and report any concerns about suspected poor practice and/or abuse
Respond to concerns expressed by a child
Work safely and effectively with children