Why an open culture is the key to good safeguarding

National safeguarding week

Creating a safe environment is the single most important responsibility we have as social care providers. We achieve this by fostering an open, transparent culture. Our head of safeguarding, Steve Kiekopf, explains more about our strategy.  

At Sense, everyone belongs. We value our differences, and we work to ensure that no one is left out of life.  

In all of our services — from our residential care to Virtual Buddying — we take time to understand each other, no matter the differences in how we communicate or experience the world.  

We need to ensure the people we support are able to live the life they choose and that they have a safe and supportive environment. Here are some of the ways that we make sure we’re getting safeguarding right at Sense.  

Building an open and transparent culture 

People with complex disabilities can be particularly vulnerable and may find it hard to tell others about abuse. Sense has comprehensive guidance, policies and procedures in place to protect the people we support. Everyone who works at Sense knows these policies inside out and believes in them.  

On top of that, we believe that our success in safeguarding comes down to our culture as an organisation. We work hard to maintain an open and honest work environment, where everyone feels safe to challenge inappropriate attitudes and behaviours.  

There are a few key ways we do this. 

  • We cultivate a person-centred approach to safeguarding. Our goal is to support people to grow in confidence and skills, and to make their own choices.  
  • We train our staff to identify peer-to-peer incidents. We ensure that they understand how to support and protect both parties. 
  • We make sure everyone at Sense understands that people across our services have different ways of communicating, so that they can recognise a safeguarding concern raised by someone with non-formal communication. 
  • We involve people in their own safeguarding. For adults with complex disabilities, safeguarding is also about being independent and making their own choices. We follow the basic principle: no decision about me, without me

These ideas inform our approach to how we deliver our services.  

For example, where some organisations avoid risk at all costs, we believe in managing risk and including people in their own decision-making. At Sense, we support people to try new things and take informed risks. 

Why hiring the right people matters 

We believe that it’s crucial to hire people who’ll uphold our standards. That’s why we use a values-based approach to recruitment, focusing on the attitudes, values and behaviours of our applicants. 

We look for people who: 

  • Respect people’s diversity and protect their right to dignity. 
  • Focus on people’s abilities and not their disabilities.  
  • Work inclusively and collaboratively.  
  • Adapt their communication to suit each person’s individual needs. 

This way, we know that people at Sense share the same set of values as the organisation. We can be confident in their commitment, and that they understand the benefits of spending productive and meaningful time with people, rather than simply performing necessary functions. 

We monitor, review and always keep learning 

Good safeguarding practice is in our bones. We were the first charity to set up an internal safeguarding board and, in the years since, we developed robust monitoring systems for all our services.  

However, no organisation can rest on its laurels. As the independent Chair of our Safeguarding Board, Bridget Warr, explained in a recent review of Sense:   

It is tempting to assume that a well run, quality focussed organisation, such as Sense, would never develop closed cultures. But experience shows that no organisation, management team or Trustee body should be complacent. 

We live by that philosophy. We’re proud of our record of keeping people safe, but we’re focused on the future. We continue to develop and train staff, to update our resources and to keep abreast of best practice.  

Throughout this week, we’ll be sharing more information on safeguarding. Our director of trading talks to us about what Sense do to ensure safeguarding in our shops, and we’ll be posting on social media about what we’re doing to engage staff and ensure we remain best-in-class when it comes to safeguarding.