Safeguarding children at licenced premises in Sheffield. A Community Care Award winner

A project in Sheffield which ensures the city’s public venues are aware of their child protection responsibilities has won a Community Care award. Anabel Unity Sale reports

Keeping children safe is the responsibility of the whole community, says Julie Hague. She is manager of Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board‘s licensing project, which won Community Care’s safeguarding children award.

Costing £40,000 to set up, the project started in February 2005 with a remit to ensure that all public licensed venues in Sheffield were aware of how to safeguard the children using them. The expression “licensed venue” conjures up images of places serving alcohol but in fact it applies to any business that requires a licence to operate. This includes sports venues, theatres, department stores, clubs, restaurants, pubs, festivals, off-licences, cinemas, shops and hot food takeaways, many of which children can walk into without an adult.

The project’s inspiration came from Trevor Owen, senior manager of Sheffield Council’s safeguarding children services and an adviser to the board. He saw it as a chance to promote the changes to licensing legislation that came in at the end of 2005. The Licensing Act 2003 includes a duty for all licensed premises to safeguard children and the project set out, with Hague at the helm, to inform businesses how to do this.

Raising awareness proved challenging at first. Hague says people were used to the dangers associated with the sale of alcohol to children, but not about other risks to them in licensed premises, such as:

● Sexual exploitation.
● Substance misuse.
● Witnessing or being victims of criminal perpetrators.
● Antisocial behaviour.

Hague’s first task was to assess how licensees could be helped to respond to the act’s statutory requirements. As a result of the assessment she developed working relationships with her colleagues in health protection, social services, South Yorkshire police, as well as with local licensees themselves and Licencewatch (a committee that brings together licensing parties to improve and disseminate good practice).

Through Licencewatch a taskgroup was created to publish good practice examples of how businesses have developed child safeguarding procedures. The project also offers advice to licensees. Hague says they often receive telephone calls from licensees reporting concerns about a child or family in their venue. In these cases Hague signposts them to agencies for more help.

She says: “Licensees are the eyes and ears of whole community. They have to be vigilant and take steps to achieve the cultural change envisaged by the Licensing Act.”

Hague says the project is deciding how to spend its £5,000 prize. The scheme wants to set up a training scheme for anyone working in the licensing community. An ambition the project still has to fulfil, if Sheffield Council renews its funding, is to establish a children’s safeguarder at each licensed premise. The idea is for the project to train an employee in a business to carry out a risk assessment of their venue, be an informed point of contact for colleagues and know how to respond in a child protection crisis. Given the scheme’s success so far, this ambition is likely to be achieved. 

● For more information e-mail Julie Hague

Keys to success

The licensing project offers licensees practical solutions to help them safeguard children. These include:

● A risk assessment to stimulate awareness of potential risks and suggest action to minimise risk.
● Vetting those working at licensed premises and events to ensure they do not pose a threat to children.
● Develop communication with licensees so they feel comfortable and able to report concerns.
● Assign a children’s safeguarder within the premises. This means at least one member of staff employed at the premises will ensure child safety remains a priority.

Contact the author
  Anabel Unity Sale

This article appeared in the 8 March issue under the headline “Guard squad”


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