How to safeguard children in village halls

Show notes (summary)

“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” For this episode we’re joined by NSPCC senior consultant Shirley Maginley who explains responsibilities around child protection and safeguarding, including DBS checks and other aspects of good practice. Tune in and discover more about how to provide a safe place for children in and around your community building.

Transcript: Season 1 / Episode 11

Johnny Thomson 00:01
Hello and welcome to The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK’s largest specialised provider of village hall insurance and the home of VillageGuard. Now we all know that being involved in the running of a village, church or community hall can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. But, at the same time, it’s not without its challenges, and community buildings are just like any other subject to very important regulations around things like employment, health and safety, data protection, disability, and so on. These regulations and their related good practices exist for very good reasons and perhaps there are none more important than those that seek to protect children. However, this can also seem complicated and a little overwhelming at times, in fact we were recently contacted by a trustee of a village hall, who asked us about DBS checks around third parties using the hall and so on. And so, rather than try and answer those sort of questions ourselves, we thought we’d invite an expert onto the show to take us through some of the key points. So I’m delighted to welcome as our guest today, Shirley Maginley, who is a senior consultant at the UK’s is leading children’s charity NSPCC. Hi, Shirley, thank you very much for joining me today.

Shirley Maginley 01:23
Oh hello Johnny, it’s really great to be with you today, particularly as NSPCC, 90% of our charity actually comes from voluntary donations. So much of that money has been raised by wonderful fundraisers who use your listener’s venues for their countless events like you know, plant sales or dinner dances or coffee mornings, for example. So it’s really wonderful to be here with you.

Johnny Thomson 01:51
Well, that’s wonderful Shirley and great, that’s great to know that you know that you’re receiving a lot of support from all of the communities out there as well with your important work. Let’s begin with with you let me know a little bit about your role at the NSPCC Shirley and how you help those who run or use Village Halls yourself?

Shirley Maginley 02:10
Yeah, well, as you said in an intro, I’m a senior consultant working for the NSPCC. And I mainly work for, with rather faith based organisations and minority ethnic communities, but people who do a lot of work within the communities and provide services. So what I try to do is to support them in their safeguarding work with children and young people. And this means to ensure that they have the knowledge and the skills and the confidence to be able to provide a safe space for children and young people. And this may entail helping them to develop policies and procedures, or providing training or even developing resources to meet the specific needs. So at the NSPCC, we really want to ensure that everyone who works with children or engages with them are aware of their responsibilities to keep children safe.

Johnny Thomson 03:04
Now, I guess for all kinds of reasons, not least some of the high profile media stories around abuse and so on in recent years, there’s been several changes hasn’t there around work to safeguard children from harm over the past few years, hasn’t there?

Shirley Maginley 03:20
Oh, yes, there has and anyone who, you know, reads a newspaper, looks at television will be aware of the concerns that we have nowadays. And you could say thank God for these medium which bring things to life. But yes, the world has changed and the way we look at protection of children has also been heightened and I think become more knowledgeable and more responsible in recent years. Let’s face it, you know, children nowadays live in a different world from you and I and I don’t know how old you are Johnny, but certainly a different world from what I grew up in. And so that means they are more knowledgeable about the world around them and some of the harms and things that can happen. But they’re also exposed to greater risks thanks to technology for instance and there’s a lot of focus in recent years on being safe online. Because for a young person, there’s no distinction between an offline world and an online world, it’s just their world. But with these wonderful devices, like mobile phones and computers and tablets, also comes with some risk, because there will be people who will be looking to contact and engage with children to do harm.

Johnny Thomson 04:29
Yeah, and what about the pandemic as well? How have you seen that impacting on things?

Shirley Maginley 04:36
Well, the pandemic has changed everyone’s world and definitely children and young people. We know from what has been raised in public and even through our NSPCC helpline and Childline services, that the risk for children in terms of harm and abuse has increased. You know, due to the lockdown and keeping indoors. We’ve received a lot of calls from children and young people to our Childline services, which NSPCC runs. We’ve received a lot of calls from adults because they have been concerned around children, again being in homes being locked down and been more exposed to abusive behaviours. So we’ve been at the NSPCC really, really busy in the last year trying to support and give advice and guidance to children and young people across the board.

Johnny Thomson 05:30
Fantastic. Now, as I mentioned in my intro, people are often confused aren’t they, about things like DBS checks. And so so what processes should people be following, for example, to get things like this done?

Shirley Maginley 05:43
Well, DBS check, let’s break that down. That’s Disclosure and Barring Service and it’s an acronym we use all the time really. It’s a criminal record check with the addition of a barring list. So by law, statutory guidance, anyone who works with children and young people are required to have safeguarding arrangements in place. And DBS checks are part of what we call safer recruitment practice, which is a set of practice to help make sure that your volunteers are suitable to be working with children. So the DBS check, really, sometimes it can be a bit complicated to understand, but there’s lots of information to help people work that through. So anyone who does any work with children and young people, let’s say three days within a thirty day period, can be eligible for a check. Some people go ahead and do it anyway because it’s a good practice and sometimes even parents ask, you know, have you been DBS checked, because they want to know. So, checks are available for anyone who works with children and young people. And if you have particular activities involving teaching and training or instructing children, you can also have a Criminal Records Check and be eligible to see against the barred list. That means a list that government holds, a list of people who are really not suitable to be working with children, so your name will be run against that list. So, while it sounds complicated as a DBS, there’s lots of information out there to help you to see, you know, if you’re eligible, and what level check you will need for your work. There’s, in fact, there’s a tool, there’s a tool online that can help you just give a list of questions and you can go through, and they can give you an assessment of what level check that you will need.

Johnny Thomson 07:37
Okay, so let me give you a quick example, if there’s an adult who was, let’s say, visiting or using the village hall to run a children’s activity for a few hours, every now and then, do they need to have a DBS check?

Shirley Maginley 07:50
I would say absolutely. If your role involves working with children and young people, then most certainly you will be eligible for a DBS check and it’s good practice. It’s relatively cheap, about £23 really. But anyone can apply for a basic level check and it will only reveal a certain amount of information, but if your role requires a higher level check, you will need to make sure that you check this out to make sure you got the proper level of check that you need. And it’ll be your responsibility to ensure that you have this level check. So absolutely, most likely, if someone comes to a village hall, and they’re running an activity for children, it probably wouldn’t be the first time, it’s probably something they do maybe frequently, or from every now and then but they will have experienced in it and it’s always good idea to make sure that they know what their responsibilities are to have these checks, to know what safe practice entails, to ensure that they work safely with children and to know as well, if any concerns that they become aware of, or told, that they know who to speak to, just to have a chat about it, and to refer it upwards.

Johnny Thomson 09:01
Because of course, and I mean this is everyone’s nightmare situation isn’t it, but what what should you do if you discover that someone who could pose a risk is actually working with children?

Shirley Maginley 09:12
Yes. And sometimes, you know, we don’t I mean, I should say most of people who work with children, the far majority want to do their best to ensure that children are safe, and they are responsible. What we do know is there are individuals who will seek out ways to harm children in some sort of way. So if anyone becomes, you know, aware of an individual who they think may have harmed a child, or behaved in a way that may not be suitable for them to be working with children, they should certainly raise that. You know, that concern. Hopefully village halls will have policies, safeguarding policies and procedures in place and a named person to go to, to discuss these concerns. And anyone using, any group using a village hall should be aware of this. They should be aware of what the safeguarding policy is for that village hall or community hall. So if you do have concerns about anyone in it, again, you don’t have to have all the facts because, you know, it would not be possible sometimes to have that. But if you have a nagging concern or something doesn’t sit quietly with you, you have, please do share your concern with someone who can take it forward. This will be someone who is aware of what safeguarding is, and know what the right protocols are to take it forward. And anyone anyone could call the NSPCC helpline to refer a concern or just to seek advice, really. And I’ll give you that number at the end of our conversation. Or certainly within the local area there’ll be a local authority Children’s Services, which they can also call just discuss this concern. It doesn’t mean you’re reporting anyone with just to say, I have a concern, but I’m not sure it’s a concern, can I just tell you about it, and that professional will be able to advise in a better way?

Johnny Thomson 11:06
You mentioned there as well, the various ways that this albeit very small minority of people might seek to harm children. What are the kinds of risks that exist for children, especially those who participate in typical activities in and around community buildings Shirley?

Shirley Maginley 11:22
Well children nowadays, or I mean children period are exposed to all types of risk Johnny, it could be anything from dealing with health and safety issues, or could be risk of abuse and harms from adults or even other children. You know, sexual abuse, of course, has caught the media headlines so many times. But there are other types of abuse as well. For instance, physical abuse, you know, emotional abuse, a child could be called names or belittled, you know, could be discriminated against. Of course, the online abuse is there as well, because children do have their devices they use, and the bullying behaviour can continue even after they leave that village hall. So there’s a whole host of types of risks that children can be exposed to.It’ll be difficult to identify all the risks, because there’s so many different kinds of risk. But it’s really on the onus of the the adults around children to be aware of what issues and concerns might look like. So when they spot something they will be able to follow it up and not ignore it. It’s so important that if you are aware of any types of harms, or even the risk of harm, that you don’t ignore it, that you’ll be able to, you know, share that concern with someone who can help. But our responsibility as adults is really to ensure a safe space for children in any hall or venue that they use.

Johnny Thomson 12:49
Yeah. And you mentioned that things can carry out away from the hall and so on. I think that’s where some people have a little bit of difficulty as well in understanding what their actual responsibilities are when they manage or administer a village hall. So, is there any way you can clarify that with regard to you know, what they should, what they have to do if you like when it comes to providing a safe place for children?

Shirley Maginley 13:14
Absolutely. You know, one, one mantra we have in the child protection world, especially when we do training, we say safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. You know, you don’t have to wear the hat as a manager or a designated safeguarding lead, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep our children safe. You know, it takes a whole village to raise a child per se. So we know during the lockdown, for instance, you know, children were exposed to higher levels of abuse at home. And now that they are back to school, these harms can be exposed, you know, in schools or in village halls or other types of activities. So the adults around them, if they notice a change in the child’s behaviour, to say, hmm, that’s something different, there’s something not quite right, you know, maybe have a conversation with the child just to check it out. I’m not saying they have to become the experts on spotting abuse. But really, as adults, if you are aware of something or you just feel something isn’t right, with that child, you go and just just check it out or share your concern with others. We also, you know, say to people who run activities and venues that they should have proper training available, so they will be able to know when a concern is a concern? And that’s a big question people always ask, you know, how do I know if my concern is a real one or you know, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Well, you don’t really have to worry about that so much, in sharing a concern, because if you do share a concern, the person who takes that information with you, if they are trained, should be able to know how to take that and share it appropriately. Yes? And they will have the training to know when to do that in a relatively safe and expedient way. So don’t ignore concern, share it with someone. And if you do have a role in children’s work, by all means please, you know, do get some training. There’s lots of training available, the NSPCC certainly provides training. We even have e-learning courses now which you can access 24 hours a day at your own, you know, flexibility. And it’s relatively inexpensive. But, so there’s lots of opportunities there to be knowledgeable around the risk to children, what abuse is, what harm is and how to spot it. And most importantly, Johnny how to respond appropriately when a child shares a concern with you or even another adult, because that is a real trigger point.

Johnny Thomson 15:41
Brilliant. You mentioned training there, which is kind of one part of that. I guess NSPCC must also offer things like guidance, which you can access online. You mentioned a phone number there before as well. So, give me a brief breakdown of the resources that people can tap into through you.,

Shirley Maginley 15:58
Well, we have, oh my goodness, our resources are so wide spanned. But absolutely, we have lots of resources to help voluntary groups to get their policies and procedures in place. And it’s free, and it’s accessible from our NSPCC helpline. It is, you just have to google and put community groups or community settings and you’ll find a range of resources there to help you put those policies and procedures in place. But if that is a bit too difficult, and sometimes it can be really complicated for some groups, there’s also hands on help, you know, for my team, which is our consultancy team that can work with organisations and groups to even develop it with them. Those policies and procedures. So those those kinds of help is available. We also have a whole range of other information on different types of harm that children might be experiencing. We have information for parents, and how to understand and to, you know, be able to better to support their children through a whole range of issues and concerns. I mentioned already our NSPCC helpline, which is available for adults to phone just to ask a question or to raise a concern with us. And that’s available. And I’ll give the number at the end. We also have our timeline services, which is available for children and young people to speak in a free and you know, confidential space with a counsellor. And this has been really used, particularly in the last year during this pandemic, the number of counselling sessions we’ve had, has really increased. And we were so pleased to be able to still be there for children even during the lockdown, because let’s face it, some of these children didn’t have anyone to turn to. And they were basically just locked in their houses, you know, sometimes with abusers. So it’s important that we get, you know, access to this sort of support. So then as we say, you know, we are the largest, as you said, the largest children’s charity in the UK, working to keep children safe. And there’s lots of information available from our website. We have a website for professionals and managers, people who run village halls and other community groups. And it’s all the information is all there to keep you updated. Even with legislation and best practice. There’s such a whole range of information there that you can just check out.

Johnny Thomson 18:24
Excellent. Well, as we always do with all of the episodes that we’ve put out, we’ll we’ll put some links on on our website as well Shirley to make sure that there’s various things that people can can tap into straight away. And I guess the key thing or the real kind of simple message here isn’t is that never close your eyes to this this issue. That’s when things can really go badly wrong. So if you feel something isn’t right, do something about it.

Shirley Maginley 18:51
That’s right. That’s right. Just do something about it. Exactly. And that way, you know, more children will be saved from harm and abuse because nobody wants to see children hurt.

Johnny Thomson 18:59
Okay, and I think we’ve reached that point where you can give that helpline number as well Shirley.

Shirley Maginley 19:04
Okay. So the NSPCC helpline number is 0808 800 5000. Okay, I’m gonna say that again 0808 800 5000 okay? 800 5000. And we also can be reached by our email, which is quite simple as well. It’s, that’s And I will also give out the Childline number as well, which is really simple. It’s 0800 11 11. That’s 0800 11 11. And there’s also lots of information on our Childline website, just google and you’ll find it there.

Johnny Thomson 20:00
That’s brilliant Shirely, fantastic. Well, you know, thanks very much, not not just for coming on a day and explaining so much about safeguarding and so on, but also for all of the incredible work that you and the NSPCC do in protecting children from harm and supporting community and other organisations with all of that.

Shirley Maginley 20:20
Thank you. And thank you very much for our listeners who continue to support our work and continue to support children in their community.

Johnny Thomson 20:30
Yeah, thanks very much Shirley. And well, that’s all for this episode. Don’t forget about our Wonderful Villages Photo Competition, which we launched a few weeks ago and could result in you winning £1000 for your village hall and £500 for yourself. You can find a special episode and page about this on our website. Other than that, thanks as always to our headline sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible, and who services you can discover more about at And also online booking system provider Hallmaster who are offering a £10 discount for our listeners for any orders placed at until the end of June. You can find a discount code on the sponsors page of our website. You’ve been listening to The Village Halls Podcast, a unique listening community for Britain’s village church and community halls, and anyone interested in the vital community services they provide. We’ll be back again in two weeks time with another episode. So if you haven’t already, please visit to subscribe, sign up for updates, link through to our social media pages and to find out more. Until the next time. Goodbye for now.