Working with children and young adults brings many benefits – as well as a duty to protect their wellbeing. Knowing how to behave around young people and what to do if something goes wrong is very important – so here are some key points to keep in mind if you're working with children, whether that be through a school event, writing workshop, Bookbug session or mentorship.
To help us make sure we are always working in the best interests of the young people involved, we have our own Child Protection Policy and guidance for staff, freelancers and volunteers.
What to do if you feel like something is wrong
We've covered safeguarding preparation, working with young people and raising concerns below.
That said, if you ever think a child is in immediate danger, don't delay – call the police on 999 or call NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, straight away.
Before working with children
Check the definition of child
At Scottish Book Trust, we count people under 18 as children. That's not the case for all organisations – some places may say under 16, so it's a good idea to check in with the space you're working in.
Find out who you should report to
Find out who the organisation's Designated Child Protection Officer is, or if there is anyone in particular you should share any concerns with. It may be that your point of contact is a teacher or manager. This is also a good time to check in about what their policies and procedures are.
Check how to record an incident, conversation or concern
The process of recording or reporting any concerns may be different from place to place. We have templates that can be used at Scottish Book Trust but which might also be useful if you need a guide. You'll find them at the bottom of this page.
Ask if you need a PVG check
PVG Membership is one way for organisations to check whether someone is a suitable choice for working with children. Safeguarding young people is about much more than a simple PVG check – policies, training, recruitment and planning are all essential parts of the mix – but it may be that membership of this particular scheme is required. You can find out more from Disclosure Scotland(this will open in a new window).
While working with children
Don't be scared of reporting things
If you have the feeling that something is going on in a young person's life that is concerning, even if they don’t try and disclose it directly with you, it’s fine to bring it up with your contact. Don’t be scared of causing offence. Most of the time, they’ll already be aware but your input can be valuable!
Trust your instincts
If you have a niggling feeling that something isn't right, it's best to say something to your contact. You’ll find some more information about the different kinds of abuse and the signs you might encounter in our Child Protection Policy. The NSPCC guide(this will open in a new window) is also good, but do also trust your instincts. It's always better to act on them than to keep quiet.
How to respond if a young person confides in you
Be as calm and comforting as you are able and don't panic, you're only human.
Just always remember that while it is amazing that they want to confide in you, you must never tell a child under 18 that you will keep the conversation secret. If they tell you about something where there is risk of harm to themselves or somebody else, you must share it with someone. So, if a child asks you if you can keep a secret, it's best to say something like 'it depends what the secret is'.
Find more detailed advice, including some other useful resources, in our Policy.