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Better Safeguarding Practice in the Workplace

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) has recently carried out an informative schedule of external research in relation to safeguarding in the workplace and is keen to share their findings with their customers.

Key decisions about who should and shouldn’t work with children and vulnerable adults are responsibilities borne by the ISA.  They have dealt with thousands of employer referrals concerned with delicate, abusive and unsafe behaviours in the workplace.

The research, based on a study of 200 cases referred by employers and concluded by the ISA in 2011, was carried out in partnership with Ecorys UK Limited.  The cases were chosen wisely to represent the vast range of incidents of abuse which are referred to by the ISA (100 child-related and 100 vulnerable-adult related).

The research particularly looks at:

  • Behaviours - demonstrated by the referred individuals that lead to their referral;
  • Circumstances - in terms of culture, policy and relationships within which the abuse occurred and was reported; and
  • Actions - taken by the employer to those behaviours leading up and in response to.

Adrian McAllister, ISA Chief Executive said “The aim of the research was to identify the lessons that could be learnt from cases referred to the ISA. It is hoped that these findings can be used to support employers in their employment decisions and ongoing safeguarding practice.”

Following the research in relation to children, one of the key findings was that it was employers who are most likely to deal with behaviour across a number of abuse types involving a pattern of repeated or multiple incidents.  71% of children’s cases involved multiple or repeated incidents of which 35% of these cases more than one type of abuse was explicitly alleged. 


Typical examples include physical abuse where ‘verbal/emotional abuse’ in from threats or abusive language preceded the instance of  violence, and sexual abuse where grooming behaviour was commonly evident involving a degree of ‘emotional manipulation’.

Chair of the ISA, Sir Roger Singleton, said “For an employer, recognising developing risk can be extremely difficult especially if the pattern of abusive behaviour develops both in and out of the workplace including, for example, the inappropriate use of social networking.  Through our research, we’ve identified some common warning signs and indicators of risk that relate to the referred individuals and the culture in which they work. These will have clear implications for how employers go about creating a safe environment, raising awareness and encouraging vigilance.”

The full research report is now available to view on the ISA’s website www.isa.homeoffice.gov.uk.

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