Risk assessments for activities with children and young people

Published: Friday May 19, 2023

Girl smiling in a treeBecca Faal, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, and Barrie Voyce, Senior Youth Connector, discuss the benefit that safeguarding risk assessments bring to planning and running activities with children and young people.

Barrie says, “We tend to groan about doing risk assessments, most of us doing anything with children and young people want to just get on and do that rather than do ‘admin’, but it’s so important.”

Barrie explains how running safe events and activities with young people is about integrating a risk assessment as early as possible into the planning stage.

“If you’re going to do something new or you’re reviewing what you’re doing, then risk assessing it early helps you scope the activity. Sometimes your risk assessment will flag up that part of your plan is too risky or that the way you shape what you’re doing means that the activity turns into something slightly different, and better. If you’re thinking ‘risk’ all the way through, once you start to do that it becomes second nature.”

Becca says, “It’s important that activities are risk assessed on an annual basis, as well as for one-off events.”

Barrie agrees, “Definitely, things in the group can change – the skills you’ve got, the leads, aspects about the venue. If you haven’t captured all of that in writing then the risk assessment you did originally starts to drift away from the activity.”

Barrie gives an example of where a risk assessment review recently helped him plan an outdoor activity with the youth group that he runs.

“With the better weather, we are starting to take the group outside again, so it’s good to review last year’s risk assessment and think about what those risks are now. The group of young people we’ve got is also different and although risk assessments are generic, you do have to think about the individuals you’ve got and if you have anyone with specific needs, particularly in terms of behaviour. Some children might be bolder than others, so might want to explore further and climb trees for example in the outside space. That’s something we haven’t had to think about before, so we need to think about it differently in terms of how we manage that space and how we use our team to supervise the children.”

Becca says, “It’s really thinking about what could go wrong and putting reasonable restrictions on certain activities, such as, they can climb a tree but only to a certain level (e.g. no higher than them). And it’s about communicating these boundaries with the children as well as the adults.”

Barrie adds, “The key thing with youth work is helping people manage their own risks. We’ll set out our boundaries at the beginning of a session, particularly when working with older youth who are pretty good at self-managing, and they all then become part of the risk management process.

“Safeguarding is so crucial. If we are outside and in a churchyard, for example, we have to think about safeguarding the young people in that public space. Risk assessments get you to think through what’s the worst possible thing that could happen with this particular group or activity, which can be a bit scary, but it is important for the smooth, safe running of the activity.”

There are two forms available to download from the Safeguarding pages of this website, which can be uses as a template, or speak to one of the Safeguarding team for advice Safeguarding 

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