The University works to promote and encourage access by children and young people to a range of extra-curricular and development activities, such as participating in or spectating at a sports events, competition, tournament or an arts performance. This means that unaccompanied children (anyone under the age of 18 years old) may participate in, or watch, an event that is provided by the University, or a third-party on our campuses such as watching an Essex Blades Basketball Tournament at Essex Arena or a theatre production at our Clifftown or Lakeside theatres.
Whilst we want to ensure that we do not create unnecessary barriers which prevent children from engaging in extra-curricular activities on our campuses, we recognise that we all have a duty of care to safeguard the safety, welfare and wellbeing of all unaccompanied children who are visiting our campuses.
Setting a University-wide minimum age for children to attending an event unaccompanied may put unnecessary barriers in place, for example by preventing a child from watching a local youth theatre performance at the Lakeside Theatre. Instead, event organisers should take a risk-based approach when planning and providing such events, which is both necessary and appropriate to mitigating the possible risks to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of unaccompanied children. Risks and mitigating actions could be universal to the setting and therefore captured in the overarching operational risk assessment (i.e.: Essex Arena) as well as specific to each individual event taking place and captured accordingly (i.e.: Essex Rebels basketball match).
1. providing safeguarding training for all staff in the setting. For example, because children as well as vulnerable adults may use sports facilities and theatre venues, it would be appropriate for staff to undertake safeguarding training which is above and beyond the essential training, How We Work at Essex;
2. ensuring that all staff know how to escalate a safeguarding concern. Staff should be clear on the process for receiving and escalating a concern and understand that it is not their responsibility to manage a safeguarding concern, but to share this through the appropriate route, such as to their manager or Designated Safeguarding Officer. Staff should know who the Designated Safeguarding Officer(s) are in their setting and who to contact if a child is at immediate risk or harm to themselves or others;
3. that all staff are provided with advice in order to keep themselves safe from possible allegations and to promote a safe space for all. The University has produced guidance for adults visiting, volunteering or working at the University of Essex which can be shared with staff. The guidance includes useful information on appropriate behaviour and ensuring that staff keep it professional, not personal;
4. that the operational risk assessment process for the setting and each event consider all possible risks to safeguarding the safety, welfare and wellbeing of unaccompanied children, which may include:
4.1 is the event age-appropriate;
4.2 would it be appropriate and necessary to apply an age restriction to this event, or a requirement that children must be accompanied by a person over the age of 18;
4.3 what are the restrictions for licensed areas, such as where alcohol is being served;
4.4 is there a ‘place of safety’ for a child who is upset or distressed, and if so, who is responsible for accompanying the child;
4.5 what procedures are in place if a child injures themselves;
4.6 what information has been shared with staff on the procedures for managing an incident involving a lone child.