Safeguarding Children – on the same wavelength?….

We recently enjoyed a few days as a family in Copenhagen, Denmark between Christmas and New Year – a festive, Scandinavian city-break.

With work in mind as ever, I felt intrigued about Denmark’s safeguarding children provision. Arriving in the city centre, I watched a parent park a pram outside a shop on a busy street and go inside.  The pram still had a BABY in it!  The first 4-5 times we watched this happen (different parents and carers/different babies and toddlers), our family stood riveted to the spot, holding our breath.  I think even our own children were thinking to themselves “MASH referral…?”*  In Denmark though, it seemed to be common practice, and felt safe.  The babies/children were all adequately dressed for the weather, the prams were left safely with the brakes on and there seemed a sense of awareness of their presence on the busy streets among passersby.

Next morning, I chatted with a Danish police officer in the hotel lobby about Police approach to missing children, specifically young people who run away.  He said it is very rare, most of their ‘missing persons’ focus is searching for older adults with dementia.  He explained the “SSP” system – each local authority has a Schools, Social Care, Police partnership; senior leaders from each agency meet weekly to discuss any children who have presented as vulnerable.  He gave an example of a child who stole a car and that leaders would discuss support and possible interventions for the child at the meeting to help change his pathway, intent on helping him avoid a “life of crime.”

Looking for the learning, having swiftly realised trying to compare the two systems was unhelpful due to the cultural & socio-economic differences, shared themes emerged for Denmark and the UK. One commonality was both countries’ emphasis on valuing under 5s. The fact that in Copenhagen, babies/young children are valued in society to the point that adults felt able to leave them unattended in the city centre, perhaps matches our dedication to striving for better Early Years education, aware of the critical element of the first days/years of a child’s life.  As well, the acknowledgement that early intervention for children and families is much more effective and economical than waiting for early indicators of vulnerability to grow into larger problems – illustrated by the Danish stolen car  example and our Early Help mechanisms for children in families where there are early issues emerging.

While it can be useful knowing how other countries approach safeguarding and child protection, looking at the two examples above one thing seems completely clear; anywhere in the world, the best approach is always a child-centred approach.  Every new day is an opportunity to remind each other this is what we need to strive for.

Happy New Year!

*Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub