The National Opera Studio has a duty of care to children with whom we work, and is committed to the safety and protection of children in our care. We want to ensure children are respected, taken seriously, listened to, and prevent anything that contradicts the dignity and rights of a child. Parents, carers and guardians need to feel confident that, as an organisation, we have the safety of their children as our primary concern.

The National Opera Studio is equally committed to ensuring that its members of staff are kept informed, supported and protected from unfounded allegations of abuse. This policy demonstrates its commitment to the welfare of both children and employees, and has implemented effective procedures for recording and responding to incidents, complaints and alleged or suspected incidents of abuse.

The Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy forms part of all new staff induction packs, along with the NOS Safeguarding Code of Conduct.

  

Safeguarding Children and Young People Procedures

The National Opera Studio Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy has been drafted in line with the guidance document produced by Arts Council England entitled ‘Keeping Arts Safe; Guidance for Artists and Arts Organisations on Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults’ and with the London Safeguarding Children Board policy and procedures.

The Chief Executive is the designated person with primary responsibility for child protection for the National Opera Studio.

  

Legal and Funding Context

Legislative context

The Protection of Children Act 1999 established a coherent framework for identifying those adults considered to be unsuitable to work with children. The Act required childcare organisations to make use of the Disclosure service in their recruitment and reporting processes (and strongly urges other organisations involved with children and young adults to do so). The Protection of Children Act 1999 was superseded by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which is specifically about disclosures and child protection issues. Since 2002, there have been significant developments and incidents that bring protection issues to the forefront. These include:

  • The introduction of the Criminal Records Bureau Disclosure service in April 2002.
  • Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Children’s Act 2004.
  • High-profile cases of children and young people harmed by adults known to them.
  • The DFE requirements of increased vigilance regarding recruitment of staff and admittance of visitors to schools.
  • Growing public awareness of how the internet can be exploited for the purposes of child sexual abuse.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 is now the key statutory reference for the safeguarding of children and young people.

 

Definitions

For the purposes of this policy and procedure, the following definitions apply:

Member of staff: The term ‘Member of staff’ shall mean any permanent or fixed-term employee, casual worker freelancer or volunteer.

Child: For these purposes, a child is defined as any young person under the age of 18 (Section 105 of the Children Act 1989) who is participating in NOS performances, educational activities or on work experience.

Responsible adult: Any adult, not being a parent of the child, who, for the time being, has legitimate care, custody or control of that child.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is the abuse of relationships. It is a misuse of power and a betrayal of trust. The results of abuse have an immediate and harmful effect on the child and the effects may remain with the child throughout later life. The consequences of the pain of child abuse are frequently more harmful than most people realise and unresolved abuse issues may follow the child into adulthood.

Physical Abuse: Physical abuse means injury to a child that has been intentionally inflicted or knowingly not prevented.

Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse means a persistent lack of affection, continual rejection, isolation, exclusion, deliberate humiliation or threats. It may also refer to an absence of praise, encouragement and stimulation.

Neglect: Neglect means the failure to meet a child’s basic needs and includes failing adequately to provide such things as food, drink, warmth, adequate clothing, protection from danger or adequate supervision.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse means using children for sexual gratification or knowingly failing to protect them from sexual harm. Sexual abuse includes sexual harassment, touching the child in a sexual manner, encouraging the child to touch themselves or another person in a sexual manner, the use of inappropriate sexual language, exposing the child to sexual images, text or imagined situations or photographing children in indecent or sexual poses.

 

Code of Conduct

  1. No member of staff shall engage in sexual contact or in any relationship with a child other than a properly conducted staff-to-young person relationship. This condition applies regardless of the age of the child and also when the child is over the age of consent (It should be noted that a sexual relationship between an adult teacher and any student is in breach of professional teaching guidelines. In certain circumstances it may also constitute a criminal offence).

  

  1. No member of staff shall engage in conduct towards a child that is intended to be oppressive, threatening, and manipulative or in any way improper or with a view to causing the child physical or emotional harm or sexual harm.

 

  1. It is unrealistic and inappropriate for NOS to prohibit physical contact between its staff and children. Touch is an essential part of the creative and coaching process, can be used as a means of directing movement, encouraging performance and providing comfort and reassurance. Where physical contact is necessary the responsible adult should be able to explain the reason. However, staff must bear in mind that even innocent actions can be misconstrued. It is important for staff to be sensitive to a child’s reaction to physical contact and to act appropriately. No child should ever be touched on a part of his/her body in a way that is indecent. Touch must always be related to the needs of the child rather than to those of the member of staff.

  

  1. It is the primary duty of every member of staff to ensure the safety and well being of every child in their care. Each member of staff must ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to minimise risk of harm or injury to any child and must abide by the policies, procedures and guidelines set out in this document.

 

  1. Where there is any reason for believing that a child has been abused, is being abused or is at risk of being abused, in any way arising as a result of that child’s association with the NOS, it shall be the duty of any person member of staff to whom that information is made known to take action at once, according to the procedures laid down in the Incident Reporting Form, which is available from the Artistic Planning Manager.

  

  1. Any instance of inappropriate behaviour towards a child, by any person employed by NOS shall be the subject of an enquiry, which may involve external statutory authorities and/or experts appointed by the NOS. The NOS will always seek advice from the Local Authority Designated Authority (LADO). The report of any enquiry will be presented to the Management of NOS who will decide what further action is necessary and whether there are sufficient grounds to institute disciplinary proceedings. This will take place whether the Police choose to prosecute or not.

 

  1. A member of staff who finds him/herself alone with a child must exercise particular care. There should be no apprehensiveness in the mind of either person if such a situation arises, but physical contact should be avoided whenever possible and the presence of an additional person sought as soon as reasonably practicable.

  

  1. Children must at all times be treated with respect in attitude, language and behaviour. Sexual innuendo whether by word or gesture is prohibited.

  

  1. No person under the age of 18 years shall have the responsibility for supervising any other child.

  

  1. The arrangements contained herein will apply to vulnerable adults as appropriate.

  

  1. The National Opera Studio works with a wide variety of media to promote understanding and engagement with its work. Children should not be photographed or filmed without prior permission from their teacher, parent or guardian.

  

  1. In use of this material the following guidelines should be considered:
  • Photographs of children in performances and other activities must be retained and stored in an appropriate manner and only used for legitimate National Opera Studio purposes.
  • The use of both a child’s first and last name in photographs, captions and file names should be avoided.
  • Group pictures rather than individuals should be used wherever possible.
  • Only images of children in suitable dress should be used to reduce the risk of inappropriate use.

  

  1. Staff should not accept children below 18 years of age who they have met through their work with the National Opera Studio as ‘friends’ on social networking sites. Neither should they divulge private email addresses or telephone numbers to these children. Staff should not publish pictures on social networking sites of their work at the NOS that involves children.

  

  1. In working with children staff should be aware of the Good Practice guidelines below. Good practice creates a positive child protection climate and assists in protecting staff from false allegations of abuse.

  

Good practice:

  • Always working in and encouraging an open environment (e.g. no secrets);
  • Treating all young people equally, with respect and dignity;
  • Always putting the welfare of each young person first;
  • Maintaining a safe and appropriate distance except where it is an essential part of the process;
  • Building a balanced relationship based on mutual trust, which empowers children;
  • Ensuring that any form of manual assistance or physical support is provided openly. Children and parents, guardians or carers should be consulted and their agreement gained;
  • Involve parents, guardians, carers and chaperones wherever possible;
  • If groups have to be supervised do so in pairs where practicable;
  • Being an excellent role model, this includes not smoking or drinking alcohol in the company of young people;
  • Record any injuries sustained accurately in line with the National Opera Studio accident policy.

Practice to be avoided:

  • Avoid spending time alone with children away from others;
  • Avoid association (outside the work environment) with children you have met at work.

Practice never to be sanctioned:

  • Engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay;
  • Share a changing room alone with a child;
  • Allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching;
  • Allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged;
  • Allow adults to use inappropriate language in the presence of children unchallenged;
  • Make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun;
  • Reduce a child to tears as a form of control;
  • Allow allegations made by a child to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon;
  • Do things of a personal nature for children that they can do by themselves;
  • Invite or allow children to stay with you at your home unsupervised.

  

Incident Procedure

This section provides guidance on what procedures should be followed when a potential child protection incident arises. In the event of an accident or non-child protection related incident the standard Health and Safety reporting procedures should be followed. In regard to potential child protection incidents there are four main scenarios where the need to report is necessary.

If you have:

  1. Suspicion that a child/young person attending the National Opera Studio or its related projects is being abused but by somebody not connected to the National Opera Studio;
  2. Suspicion that a child/young person is being abused by a National Opera Studio member of staff;
  3. An allegation from a child/young person or adult that they are being abused by somebody not connected to the National Opera Studio;
  4. An allegation that somebody working at the National Opera Studio has abused a child/young person

You should contact the Chief Executive on 020 8874 8811. Calls will be returned as a matter of urgency. The Chief Executive may wish to contact the SAFE CIC support line (www.safecic.co.uk) on 01379 871 091 during office hours or on the Emergency telephone number: 07792 770 263. With regard to the action that should be taken when direct allegations are made, prior to the investigation, the Chief Executive may obtain specialist independent advice on whether the allegation is one where suspension is necessary. If the decision is made to suspend an individual, it is extremely important for all members of the organisation to understand fully that suspension is the normal course of action taken in these cases and no guilt should be attached to the fact that a person has been suspended. The NOS is aware that we have a responsibility both to the children and to the staff member who has been accused. To be accused of abuse or inappropriate behaviour is an extremely traumatic experience for all concerned. The Chief Executive can arrange for telephone support for staff members from an independent agency. If the allegation about a member of staff is made to another member of staff it is important that this information is reported to the Chief Executive as soon as possible. Because of the rules of evidence with regard to criminal investigation, it is important that staff do not seek to interview the child, influence the parents or seek to stop the child from informing the statutory agencies. Such action can also be seen as conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Failure to refer promptly may mean that vital evidence will be lost and result in more suffering to the child concerned, as well as potentially leaving other children at risk.

All staff should have appropriate attitudes and behaviour towards children and operate within the ‘Arena of Safety’. If all staff are aware of the ‘Arena of Safety’ and behave appropriately, it should reduce the likelihood of any staff having the need to express concern.

 

Understanding the ‘Arena of Safety’

The ‘Arena of Safety’ is a place of integrity and respect for others and yourself. It is a position where morale and confidence are enhanced and where both adults and children can feel safe. It is a place of appropriate attitudes, behaviour, lifestyle, regime and cultural practice.

A violation of the ‘Arena of Safety’

A violation of the ‘Arena of Safety’ concerns inappropriate attitudes and behaviour that confuses the relationship and makes the vulnerable feel unsafe. Such behaviour also gives more weight to any allegation that may be subsequently made. It is the exploitation of a trusted relationship to satisfy personal needs. Focus of concern is normally physical or sexual but it may also be emotional, financial, self-promoting etc. It usually involves the following:

Role reversal, dividing and ruling, ruling rather than serving, not listening and being above criticism, secret behaviour, extraneous commitments, separating out and giving special attention, bullying, manipulation, indulgence in personal privilege, unacceptable power and control issues, loyalty being used to maintain silence and control.

If the ‘Arena of Safety’ is not being employed by individuals in practice, or there is a suspicion that a member of staff is acting inappropriately and it is felt that it is not being taken account a ‘whistle-blowing’ protocol exists. Anyone in the National Opera Studio can give information on a confidential basis, outside of management structures, to the Chief Executive.

In certain circumstances it may not be appropriate for a member of National Opera Studio staff to investigate an alleged incident themselves, in which case investigations must be left to appropriate professionals. On occasion, the evidence needed to prosecute an alleged offender ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is of such a high standard of proof, that a prosecution will not take place and even if a prosecution goes ahead, that person may be acquitted. Employees need to be aware that regardless of whether a prosecution takes place, behaviour may still be in breach of our the NOS standards of conduct, and the allegations subject to an internal disciplinary process.

 

Confidentiality

The National Opera Studio has a responsibility to share relevant information about the protection of children. If a child confides in a member of staff and requests that the information is kept secret, it is important that the member of staff tells the child sensitively that he/she has a responsibility to refer cases of alleged abuse to the appropriate agencies for the child’s own sake. Within that context, the child should, however, be assured that the matter will be disclosed only to people who need to know about it. Members of staff who receive information about children and their families in the course of their work should share that information only within appropriate professional contexts.

 

Whistleblowing

The National Opera Studio encourages all members of staff to raise any concerns that they may have about the conduct of others in the organisation in relation to any suspected instances of fraud, misconduct or wrongdoing. The NOS Whistleblowing Policy and Procedures sets out the NOS’s position in these matters and lays out a procedure for individuals to raise any concerns and how those concerns will be dealt with.

  

Work Experience

The NOS endeavours to provide young people with work experience opportunities:

  • The Chief Executive is responsible for ensuring, prior to the placement commencing, that the parent, carer or guardian of the child has completed a permission form for attendance on the work experience, and has been provided with all documentation relevant to the placement.
  • The Chief Executive must ensure that the members of staff who are working with or supervising that young person are briefed on their responsibilities and are competent to undertake that role.
  • Staff supervising or working alongside young people on work experience would not normally be required to undertake a DBS check, however all staff must be aware of and must follow the code of conduct for dealing with children outlined above.
  • The Artistic Planning Manager must ensure that the young person receives a health and safety briefing at the beginning of the placement.
  • The Artistic Planning Manager must ensure that the young person is supervised at all times.

  

Background and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks

Which NOS staff need a DBS check?

Only NOS staff who work directly with unsupervised children/vulnerable adults for 4 or more days in a 30 day period will be required to hold a recent (within the last 3 years) Enhanced Disclosure Certificate.

Carrying out DBS checks

As a result of the confidential material involved in the disclosure process, an external professional agency, Safe CIC (or equivalent) will manage the checking procedure with the DBS. The Chief Executive will arrange for staff who require an Enhanced Disclosure Certificate to complete the Disclosure Application Form and will arrange for the application to be processed by Safe CIC. Safe CIC will notify the Chief Executive on the suitability or otherwise of an individual to work with children. All detailed information obtained through the disclosure process will be kept strictly confidential to Safe CIC. No information will be disclosed except where there is a legal duty to do so or where the persons designated are advised that disclosure ought to take place to ensure the protection of children.

The cost of obtaining an Enhanced Disclosure Certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will be borne by the National Opera Studio.

  

Updated February 2018