All you need to know about Good Reporting

15th March 2023 | From our team

The Clewer Initiative

Debbie McCormack is the Safeguarding Manager at Lambeth Palace. We talked to Debbie about the importance of Good Reporting.

Photo ID Debbie Mc Cormack

Debbie joined the team at Lambeth Palace in November 2021, following a 30-year career at the Metropolitan Police.

Her role at Lambeth Palace is to lead on the development and review of relevant policies and training and ensure proper records are maintained. She provides advice and support to staff and other members of the Palace communities on safeguarding related matters. She also takes on strategic oversight, together with day-to-day professional triage of correspondence, including assessment of risk, and co-ordination of response, referring to National Safeguarding Team caseworkers, Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors and statutory authorities as appropriate.

Why is Good Reporting so important?
Good reporting ensures that the right information is given to the right people in a timely manner. It enables safeguarding professionals to identify whether there is a concern and whether to take swift action to protect an individual. A report could make the difference between life and death. It could save an individual from further harm.

How can we become good at reporting?
Good reporting is all about the education and empowerment of individuals to ensure they recognise signs of trafficking or any safeguarding concern and that they are confident in knowing how to deal with a concern and who to report it to. People need to know what they are looking at and be able to recognise the issues. Once they have a good understanding and awareness of modern slavery and how to identify signs of abuse, then we need to move on to empowering people to take action. We need to encourage people to refer their concerns at the earliest opportunity to prevent risk or further harm to those at risk.

What does Good Reporting look like?
Good reporting is about providing the fullest information possible so that safeguarding officers can build up an accurate picture of what is going on. The detail provided might seem insignificant but for the professionals who look at safeguarding issues every day, it could be the missing part of the jigsaw.

There is no such thing as too much information. By providing all the detail you can remember, you are handing information over to a professional who will know what they are looking at and how to deal with the situation. They will be able to spot themes and discern whether there is a safeguarding issue.

How can individuals report well?
If possible, and if it is safe to do so, make a note of what you have seen and heard. If it is not possible to write things down at the time, make a mental note and record what you have seen at the earliest opportunity, once safe to do so.

Think about the words WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE.

Think about everything you’ve seen and heard – did a car drop someone off at the food bank? What did the car look like? What was the registration number? What did the driver of the car look like? How many other people were in the car? What did the person look like you are concerned about? What were they wearing? What did they say? Did they have an accent? What was their manner like?

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How much should you talk with someone you are worried about?

The number one priority is to make sure you are safe. You should never put yourself in a position of danger, nor put the person you are worried about in further danger by asking questions.

If the person you are worried about is alone and it is safe to do so, you could approach them and ask them if they are ok and instigate a conversation. But I would never advise anyone to approach someone without being 100% sure.

If someone is already opening up about their situation, listen and make a mental note of what they are saying. Make a record of what they said at the earliest opportunity afterwards and when safe to do so.

Don’t ask probing questions – leave that to the professionals. If you ask too many questions, you may inadvertently put the person at risk of further harm or trauma. You should leave this role to the trained specialists who are experienced at doing so.

Why don’t people report their concerns?

There can be many barriers to reporting. Sometimes it is a lack of understanding or awareness. For example, when someone behaves unusually, people might not realise it is a sign of modern slavery. Sometimes, people don’t want to interfere or don’t want to be seen to be making a fuss or are worried they may be wrong. They don’t want to waste anyone’s time or make false accusations or jump to conclusions.

On other occasions, people have a mistaken understanding about confidentiality and feel that they shouldn’t tell anyone about a disclosure. It is important to not promise confidentiality - you have a duty to report your concerns and confidentiality is always subordinate to a potential safeguarding issue.

Confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, particularly in the following circumstances:
• Where others are at risk of harm.
• Where the victim or survivor makes disclosures of intentions to hurt themselves.
• Where safeguarding information needs to be shared with statutory social care services and criminal justice professionals to assist in the prevention, detection or prosecution of a crime.

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Is there anything else you'd like to share?

We need to say loud and clear that there is no such thing as wasting a safeguarding officer’s time. People mustn’t fear they are getting an innocent person in trouble. Our job as responsible citizens is to report what we see and provide accurate information. This assists the safeguarding professionals to make an informed assessment.

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, so if you are unsure or unhappy with a particular situation, you should report it. It is better to report something you have seen that you are not sure about than miss an opportunity to safeguard or protect a vulnerable person. Safeguarding professionals would positively encourage this.

Safeguarding needs to be at the forefront of our minds at all times, on our way to work, at work, during our lunchbreaks, whilst we are out shopping or at church. Safeguarding is everyone’s business, and we need to work together to make these environments a safer place for all.

What are the reporting pathways?

  • If there is an emergency and you or someone are in immediate danger, you must call 999
  • If you are on church property, any safeguarding concerns should be reported to your Parish Safeguarding Officer. There is usually the photo and phone number of your Parish Safeguarding Officer in your church building. If you are unsure how to contact or identify your nearest diocesan safeguarding team, you can do so via the following link: Diocesan safeguarding contacts | The Church of England
  • If you are not on church property, you could report any non-emergency suspicious to the local police on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
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  • Speak to the person in private without anyone who accompanied them.
  • When speaking to the person, reassure them that it is safe for them to speak.
  • Do not make promises you cannot keep.
  • Allow the person time to tell you their experiences.
  • Do not let concerns you may have about challenging cultural beliefs stand in the way of making informed assessments about the safety of a child, young person or adult.
  • Speak to your local safeguarding lead for support and advice.

The Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is everyone’s responsibility.

Whenever a safeguarding concern presents itself, please remember the 4R’s:

Recognise – the abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual or neglect.

Record – make a record of what you have been told, when and by whom

Report – to the Parish Safeguarding officer or Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor

Refer – The safeguarding professional may then report to the police, National Referral Mechanism and/or any other relevant statutory or support agency.

The Clewer Initiative publishes a newsletter for Parish and Cathedral Safeguarding Officers every two months to equip them with tools and resources to respond to modern slavery. If you are involved in safeguarding within your parish or cathedral, please sign up below.

Parish Safeguarding Newsletter

The Clewer Initiative publishes a newsletter update every two months for Parish Safeguarding Officers. This provides information on our latest work, resources and training courses, equipping PSOs to recognise and respond to modern slavery in their local community.

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