We are both legally obliged and committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of those who are under 18 years of age, or who are adults at risk, within our University community. These obligations extend to all who participate in our activities, services or facilities, whether they are staff, students or visitors and regardless of whether they take part in-situ or virtually through online communication systems.
Online services and activities include, but are not limited to, instant chat and messaging services, live videos and webinars, mentoring, one-to-one activities such as interviews, tutorial meetings and group discussions and may be delivered by any University department or service, including Outreach, Make Happen and Student Recruitment; Sports Development including CHUMS holiday camps; Lakeside and Clifftown theatres; and academic research projects.
Online activities should be delivered in line with our
It is important that we understand how to effectively and proactively safeguard those children who may be participating in these activities.
A risk assessment needs to be undertaken prior to any activity involving children, including an online activity. This is so that those responsible for an activity can assess risks that might occur during the activity, the likelihood of their occurrence and the steps that can be taken to manage and minimise the risk. It’s important that the risk assessment is signed off by the relevant manager and you should share this with all members of staff and volunteers involved in the activity so that they are aware of any risks. The risk assessment should include details of training and other information provided to staff and volunteers.
Our Outreach team have written a template risk assessment for all online activities (.docx - Essex login required). This is a great place to start and can be adapted for the online activity or service that you will be providing to children. Please contact the Health and Safety team for further information, training and support about risk assessments.
It is not always necessary for everyone involved in delivering an online activity to children to a have enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check carried out at the start of their appointment, however this is required for some activities. Your risk assessment will help you to determine the need for staff or volunteers to have a DBS check, and where necessary, the level of check required. Colleagues in People and Culture can provide advice and guidance on which roles require a DBS check.
You will need to consider data protection, including GDPR obligations, as part of your risk assessment, and this may vary depending on the type of activity that you will be providing. As you are providing activities for children you should consider:
There is a wealth of information on the data protection and GDPR webpages and the Information Assurance Manager can provide advice and guidance.
All online activity should only take place on University approved platforms and more information is available from ITS. Staff and volunteers should only use University of Essex user accounts for any service or activity (no personal accounts to be used).
It’s important that all staff and volunteers involved in the delivery of an activity are familiar with the platform being used, the security measures in place for the activity (e.g. use of password, waiting room functionality, automatic moderation) and the way in which participants will engage with this safely.
With the help of the Outreach team, we have put together a useful guide (.pdf) to the different types of online activities and the key things you’ll need to think about.
It’s important that everyone has a positive experience during your online activity. Your activity should be adequately staffed and supervised and it is generally good practice that there are always a minimum of two members of staff available. Not only is this a great way to ensure we are effectively safeguarding everyone who is participating in the activity, but it also helps with monitoring messages, questions and moderate the meeting. Adequate staffing levels will vary depending on the nature of the activity and the level of engagement from participants, and should be considered as part of the risk assessment process. For example, an activity with large numbers of participants, but very low level of engagement (e.g. a presentation) may require fewer staff than a small interactive group discussion session.
Prior to your event it’s a good idea to share your expectations and information about how the online activity will be delivered; or if this is not possible, then this should be shared at the beginning of the session. For example, this may include the format of the activity, whether the participants cameras should be on/off and how participants can display their name safely on the screen.
Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and so it’s important that all staff and volunteers know how to recognise and share a safeguarding concern or disclosure. The Safeguarding Team deliver ‘Safeguarding at the University’ training throughout the year and places can be booked through HR Organiser.