“A duty of care involves an obligation that a person in a specific role has to ensure that others are taken care of and not harmed during a particular task. This involves giving appropriate attention, watching out for potential hazards, preventing mistakes or accidents, and making wise choices about steps undertaken in a role. If a duty of care is not met in a role that requires it, then the responsible person can be held accountable for allowing negligence to occur” (Children and young people’s workforce, 2011, pg. 40) This connects with the work role of practitioners and is a requirement that practitioners must implement on a daily basis to ensure good, safe practice in the work environment. To provide a duty of care in children and young people’s settings, practitioners must adhere to legal documentation, such as the EYFS framework; which provides assurance to parents and carers that early years providers will keep their children safe and help them to thrive. The overall aims of the EYFS document is to help children achieve the five ‘Every child matters’ outcomes.
These are staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic wellbeing. (Children and young people’s workforce, 2011, pg. 40) In addition, there is also another detailed government document named ‘working together to safeguard children’ which sets out specific expectations on what must be done to ensure that all children and young people are safeguarded and that their welfare is promoted through assessment, advice, support and intervention, meeting the needs of all individuals. I apply these legal documents to my own work role and provide a good standard of duty of care in children and young people in my work setting by observing and interacting with all the children that are in my care on a regular basis. I ensure that I put out play activities that are both age appropriate for the children and I always check that all toys and resources are in good condition and not broken or damaged.
I aim to provide focused activities for all children and young people, regardless of their abilities or disabilities and I always make sure that anything I have planned has been fully thought through carefully and the relevant risk assessments have been made to ensure the safety and inclusive practice of all children and young people. For example, in a focused activity where scissors is to be used, I would firstly check that the table and chairs being used are height appropriate for the children and young people as well as check that there is enough space and room for all to move their arms freely in, without bumping into the person that they are sitting next to as this can cause unnecessary accidents, especially where scissors are involved. I would then ensure that there is enough room for any wheelchair users and that the table being used is not too high or too low for them and that they are able to reach the resources for the activity just fine. I always check the scissors as well to check for damage to them and ensure that they are suitable for the age range that I am conducting this activity with as well as ensure that I have both left and right handed scissors available for use.
This allows children whom are left handed the opportunity to use scissors that they feel more comfortable with and this in turn builds a child’s confidence and fine motor skills. In an activity where scissors are being used, children and young people are constantly observed by myself and other staff members and we always stay in the correct ratios for safety reasons. I constantly keep an eye out on the children and young people because there may be a child or young person who is not holding the scissors properly and will need help to show them how to do so, in order to prevent an injury occurring and for their personal developmental knowledge. I also keep a good watch over the children as sometimes, it is evitable that you will come across a child or young person who is misbehaving or not listening and this is where I will sit next to that individual and explain to him/ her why it is very important that they hold the scissors properly and not misbehave.
On a regular basis at work, in my own work role, I conduct regular health, hygiene and safety checks of which are bathroom checks, garden checks and resources checks. The garden checks are a list of things of which I must do before I allow children or young people to go and play outside. This includes ensuring that all equipment, i.e. the slides, climbing frames etc. has been wiped down, dry and free from leaves or rain water, all puddles are drained, garden is clean and free from falling leaves or animal faeces, the water fountain is clean and the garden is set up correctly with age appropriate resources for the class getting ready to come outside next. Garden checks includes also ensuring that a first aid box is brought out by a member of staff each time they come outside. Garden checks must always be ticked and signed off by the person who did the check and it must always state the correct date written on it. When I complete my bathroom checks of the room that I am in, of which is the toddler room usually, I ensure that the floor is clean and dry and there are no tissues laying on the floor.
I check to see that the toilets have all been flushed and that there is no mess left inside them as well as all potties have been emptied and cleaned as well as empty the nappy bins. I also replenish the stock in the toilets, such as the toilet tissue, the blue rolls and the soap dispensers, to name a few. I not only check to see that the bathroom is overall, clean as if it isn’t then I will do what is needed to leave the bathroom hygienically clean and safe for the children and young people to use. I would sign the bathroom checklist and date it. As a practitioner, it is my duty to make sure that the children and young people in my care have adequate resources and that they are in good, safe usable condition.
Hence this is why, during the children’s sleep times, I check the pencils, ensuring that they are all sharpened and ready for use, I check that there is enough variety of paper to use, I check to see whether the felt tips all have lids on them, I check to see if the crayons and chalks are placed in their correct places as well as the building blocks, the Lego’s, the animals, the puzzles and even the toy foods. If resources are not placed correctly where they belong, then I will put things where they go, still checking for any damaged items or sharp edges. If I have been in the same room for that week then usually, at the end of the week, I would wash the children’s toys so that germs can be prevented and individuals do not become ill as these resources have passed through many different hands during that week. On a regular basis, I thrive to provide a safe working environment for all by just checking that all the fire exits in the room I am working in are clear and that the fire exit labels are visible for all professionals, parents, carers and visitors to see and notice.
This is so that, if ever there was an emergency, people will be able to see and know where the nearest fire exits are for that room. It is the duty of all practitioners to make sure all the locks and bolts on the doors and cupboards are effective and that the rooms have sufficient lighting, heating as well as ventilation. It is also the duty of all practitioners to ensure that all wires are out of sight of children and young people and all cleaning equipment is out of sight too and kept in a place where the children and young people cannot reach. It is also important for the children and young people to have clean cups and drinking water within reach and available for them. This is important as it enhances their independence and confidence in wanting to do things independently and for themselves and good ventilation/ lighting in a room makes children feel comfortable, happy and it allows them to feel like they are a home away from home.
By ensuring that the cupboards and doors are bolted effectively, this prevents injury and children gaining access to things that they should not. I do these checks in my work role as I have a duty of care to children, young people and their families and it is my responsibility to keep children and young people safe, happy and healthy in my care. As a practitioner, I enjoy witnessing children and young people thrive and develop; it is a wonderful feeling knowing that I have helped them with their first early steps in life. I enjoy carrying out these checks because it shows that I am being professional and responsible. By carrying out these checks, I am providing a safe, clean environment for children and young people to develop in and I can also detect what equipment may become dangerous for these individuals to use and what stocks needs re-filling or fixing i.e., toilet tissue, soap, potties being emptied regularly, sinks leaking or overnight faeces left in garden.
If these checks are not made, then many young people and children’s health and safety will be at risk, as well as practitioners because children would get hurt on damaged equipment during garden time and infections/ germs will spread through good hygiene not being practiced and this could lead to the children and young people being seriously ill as well as reflect on the setting in a negative light. Practitioners would also be failing their duty of care if damaged toys and other resources have not been brought to the attention of the management so that they can be asked to be replaced as the children and young people will not have a sufficient, wide range amount of resources and toys to play with. For myself, as a practitioner, I have a duty of care to also ensure that children and young are not only kept safe but also reach their correct developmental stages. This is why, during play activities or focused activities, I also look to see what all individuals are good at and then find ways in which to aid and further develop those individual’s skills and interest.
For individuals whom I notice have certain areas of weakness, I would usually inform their key worker, who would then organise activities and one to one contact with the individual to improve upon the weaknesses. I always treat all young people and children fairly at all times and I always encourage all children to take part in activities, regardless of their culture, background, disability or race. I always communicate effectively with the parents and carers; keeping them updated on how their child’s day has been, what they did and any development concerns that I may have confidently. For example, a 3 year old not being able to count to ten competently. I would encourage the parents and carers to practice with the child at home and ask them if the child has a certain style of learning that works for them at home, so that maybe, it could used too whilst the child is at nursery. This is how I implement duty of care to children and young people in my own work role and this is how I explain what it means to have a duty of care in my own work role.