For those involved with children’s and youth activities there is a whole area of compliance to quite rightly consider in order to ensure the safety of both children and adults. If activities are for a more educational purpose then they may involve Ofsted, and there should be a general Safeguarding or Child Protection Policy to clarify exactly what procedures are in place.
For those involved with property interests, it’s important to have an idea of the kinds of factors that need to be considered for any areas being used for this purpose. This is particularly important for properties that aren’t primarily designed for such uses, so in a recent example there was on office block where a charity was holding children’s activities. Some of these issues are more obvious property changes, whereas others are more subtle measures and procedures that need to be considered.
Therefore here is a list of 12 issues to think through. These are not exhaustive, but rather general aspects to consider when ensuring property interests are suitable for children’s activities:
1. Things Need Cleaning
Of course this is needed anyway, and whatever cleaning carried out during times when the children’s activities are not happening.
Two things need to be remembered though, firstly that there may be additional mess generated anyway, for example split biscuits and drinks and messy craft activities.
Secondly, the people running the activity will need the option to carry out some degree of temporary or emergency cleaning themselves, and therefore have access to suitable equipment, places to leave rubbish and have washing facilities, and understanding of requirements under, say, COSHH and Riddor.
2. First Aid May be Required
Availability of First Aid boxes and trained people is required, and knowing exactly what can and can’t be accomplished.
Reporting of these is also important, as well as access to an Accident Book, and emergency services to the property being able to pass any security controls.
3. Security is Key
Areas where children are located have to be safe and secure, with low risk of both children wandering off and strangers coming near them. A popular way is through various locks and secured areas, although it is necessary to still ensure that access is possible in the event of a fire evacuation procedure or parents and others needing to attend.
You also need to consider any access routes and congregation points leading to the main areas, so any communal reception area being sufficiently checked for other non-connected persons.
Another form of security is under Data Protection and safe control of personal information and paperwork, including lockable cabinets, files, and rooms for essential documentation.
4. Correct Toilet Trip
Toilet facilities are particularly important for children as they tend to go more often, have an urgency to do so, and may require additional measures such as nappy changing facilities and steps for them to reach any sink to wash their hands.
The ideal scenario is that this happens at set times, say, before a session or within a break, and the golden rule is that adults may need to supervise and first check toilet areas but not necessarily remain in the toilet areas whilst the child is using the facilities. Issues like security and circulation of people, and temporary arrangements for others using toilets may also require consideration.
5. Lone Worker Considerations
This is more for the adults operating the session, but also in other scenarios where, say, a parent is collecting children later on. Although it is less prominent day to day as often there are multiple people around, you need to watch for other times like coming to the property early to prepare an activity, and ensuring measures such as emergency contacts and phone calls, being with other people, sufficient lighting and warning alarms.
6. Checking the Leaders
The arrangement for having leaders of the activity need to be clear and any consequences to the property known. This ranges from initial vetting and DBC checks, to having assistants rather than fully-fledged authorised leaders and teachers, to having the correct number and ratio of leaders to children throughout the activity
There may be logistical issues to therefore consider, for example while one leader takes children to the toilets, others still ensuring sufficient cover.
7. The Fire Evacuation Procedure
This should of course be known by everyone anyway, but with children it’s important for leaders and adults to be fully aware of their responsibility to guide children out, and to include within any procedures and fire drills. They will need to ensure the kids do not panic in such scenarios and run off or use inaccessible areas like lifts, and be able to account for them to the nominated Fire Marshall.
8. Remembering Times Outside the Activity
So if the children are part of another wider activity and gathering, then although this is outside the usual remit of compliance for the separate children’s activity and usual parent control, there can be still issues to consider. In actual fact these can be more challenging issues because they are monitored less, for example children running around inside and outside areas, and bumping into different people.
9. Décor and Fixtures May Have to Change
Often, brightly-painted walls and almost childish signs may need to be agreed, including any temporary ones just for the activity’s time.
There are also the more bulky items like extra shelves for items, storage areas, and pictures on the wall – all maybe needing space, permission, and correct (and safe) installation.
10. Risk Assessments
This should be the nuts and bolts of what’s needed and what procedures need implementation. Both the general property one, but also the specific children’s activity one should work together and identify areas for improvement.
An example of a specific risk with older more commercial properties like offices with stairs is having to install additional banister rails to close up any larger gaps that smaller children could potentially fall through.
These will also include non-property issues like the safe use of glue and stationery, although these can have a knock on effect with property by making sure no damage is caused.
11. Detect & Resolve Dangerous Parts
These should come up through the risk assessment, and tend to focus on parts of the property being safe for children. Examples include no sharp edges on shelves, no doors or windows slamming onto fingers, no carpet trip hazards, and no loose electrical sockets or wires.
Floor surfaces in particular need to be considered, and whether, say,
a comfortable carpet is applied rather than a more easier-to-clean hard surface.
12. Getting the Right Temperature
This is important anyway, but particularly so with children and ensuring the right heat in winter, and coolness in summer is achieved, with back-up plans when things go wrong.
In addition there are other considerations such as making sure there is a policy in place to deal with trip and slip hazards outside with ice and snow during the winter period.
Making it Childs Play
A property interest plays an important part helping with children’s activities; not just offering practical space, but ensuring there are no hindrances for safe and happy activities, and to create a good visual impression on children as well.
These above twelve points therefore provide a flavour of the kinds of issues for any property owner, occupier, or manager to be thinking about as they make their property work for these purposes.