Child protection policy
A policy is a plan or course of action intended to influence and determine decisions and actions. A suitable child protection policy statement for a dental practice should affirm the practice’s commitment to protecting children from harm and should explain how this will be achieved. The date on which the policy is adopted should be stated, together with a date when it will be due for review.
Download a sample child protection policy statement
However, a policy alone is not enough. Safeguarding children is about changing the whole environment. You can do this by:
listening to children
providing information for children
providing a safe and child-friendly environment
having other relevant policies and procedures in place
‘Previously child protection for me was just about referring abuse, but now I realise that things have moved on and it’s also about creating an environment where children’s needs and rights are protected. I’ve been pleased and surprised to find that we already do much of what’s needed through our existing policies and procedures’
A dentist who manages a salaried primary dental care service
Listening to children
You should create an environment in which children know their concerns will be listened to and taken seriously. You can communicate this to children by:
asking for their views when discussing dental treatment options, seeking their consent to dental treatment (as appropriate to their age and understanding) in addition to parental consent32
involving them when you ask patients for feedback about your practice e.g. by providing a suggestion box or by carrying out a patient satisfaction survey
listening carefully and taking them seriously if they make a disclosure of abuse.
Information for children
To support children and families, you can provide information about:
local services providing advice or activities e.g. Sure Start services, parenting courses, toddler groups and youth groups
sources of help in times of crisis e.g. NSPCC Child Protection Helpline, NSPCC Kids Zone website, Childline, Samaritans, local support groups for children or parents
Finding your local contacts.
A safe and child-friendly environment
A safe and child-friendly environment can be provided by:
taking steps to ensure that areas where children are seen are welcoming and secure with facilities for play
considering whether young people would wish to be seen alone or accompanied by their parents
ensuring that staff never put themselves in vulnerable situations by seeing young people without a chaperone
ensuring that your practice has safe recruitment procedures in place.
Other relevant policies and procedures
Clinical governance policies that you already have in place will contribute to your practice being effective in safeguarding children. Some examples are:
complaints procedures so that children or parents attending your practice can raise any concerns about the actions of your staff that may put children at risk of harm
public interest disclosure policy (or ‘whistleblowing’ policy) so that staff can raise concerns if practice procedures or action of other staff members puts children at risk of harm
code of conduct for staff clarifying the conduct necessary for ethical practice, particularly related to maintaining appropriate boundaries in relationships with children and young people (e.g. including a statement that staff members will be chaperoned when attending to unaccompanied children)
guidelines on use of restraint (‘physical intervention’ or 'clinical holding') so that staff know how to intervene appropriately for children unable to comply with dental care33
consent policy and procedures as discussed above.
These are just a few examples. For a full checklist of further policies, procedures and good practice guidelines of relevance to child abuse, domestic violence and abuse of vulnerable adults see ‘The Management of Abuse: a resource manual for the dental team’34 and contemporary clinical governance guidance.