As a professional Trainer and speaker working across and within many organisations, services and schools throughout the UK that serve children, young people and their families, I take safeguarding very seriously. However, in my experience, my safeguarding duties to the participants I am working with as an independent trainer, rarely come up for discussion.
I suspect there are a number of reasons for this. I would suggest one of the reasons is that the skills required to safeguard the participants of an event, are rarely made explicit and are also likely to be somewhat misunderstood. More than this, when performed well, these skills are almost invisible as they appear to happen with ease. Ensuring that the training event is a safe space is my number one concern. This can be challenging at times and in some settings, safety can be hard to detect. This has also been especially pertinent to consider and get right having spent the best part of a year predominately working online due to the pandemic. Now I’m not suggesting that I get everything right every time, because every group I work with is a new group, a new collection of humans interweaving our uniqueness with each other. I’m always learning, but there are core principles that I take into every single space that I work within which I will make explicit here.
- I have two main safeguarding concerns as a professional trainer and speaker; children, young people and adults at risk of harm AND the wellbeing of the participants attending my sessions. The subjects of trauma, adversity, the impact of relationships and talking about recovery are emotive and can raise unexpected thoughts and feelings. Being aware of the wellbeing of all those ‘in the room’ is vital.
- As an ‘outsider’ there is always the potential to ‘see’ that which cannot be seen from the inside. When we work in environments every day, what might be quite unhealthy or traumatised or neglected, can become to be seen as ‘normal’. Being ‘seen’ is incredibly powerful and affirming and can be the beginning of a new journey.
- I always arrive at an event ready to ‘work with the room’. What does that mean? It means that I have an idea about what we will be doing and I will arrive with slides on the topic discussed at the time of the booking. However, I will be led by the needs of the group that I am with and I will be guided by what shows up, fully prepared to abandon the original brief if that is necessary. In reality, that has rarely happened but if it needs to happen, it will be a space that is ‘held’.
- I will be person led should someone have an unexpected response/reaction to the areas that we are speaking about, respecting their right to privacy and their right to have support should they feel able to receive it.
- I will always refer participants back to their own organisation’s policies and procedures in the first instance.
- If I believe that there is a safeguarding issue that has not been reported, then I will report it myself in accordance with my own safeguarding policy.
- I take my own health and wellbeing VERY seriously. To this end, I have monthly supervision (which has been called upon in an ’emergency’ when required) and I cannot imagine removing this mechanism of accountability. I will also always make sure that I am ‘well’ and that I do not arrive to the training room hungry, tired or having not sought support prior to arrival if I have needed it as a bare minimum.
- Finally, safeguarding is everyone’s business.
In conclusion, I would say that I know that it can be frustrating when you’re really busy and you just want the content (what I call the ‘content drop’). But we simply do not know what has been brought into the room, what is going on in people’s lives or what will resonate so deeply that it takes someone by surprise. It is possible that the irritation about not having the content quickly is a good way to avoid the deeper work needed to learn more about the subjects in hand. Certainly something to ponder and reflect upon.
I will always hold the space safely, meet the room where it is and find ways to talk about the difficult areas that we need to in order to explore the content AND to have the reflections needed to understand it. Finally, I would also urge caution when booking someone to come and deliver training of this depth. It can be time consuming to find the right person to enter into your organisation, school or service. However, taking the time is essential. Your teams are depending on you and trust that you have considered carefully who they are going to spend time with on exploring difficult and challenging subjects. Working together to get this right is always the way forward.