Safeguarding In Production

Our associate safeguarding and child protection expert, Caroline Brant, former Head of Safeguarding at the BBC, explains why safeguarding is so important and what measures productions need to take to fulfil their duties in this important area.

Safeguarding children and vulnerable people who are taking part in a production, contributing to content or attending an event can be a complex process but is nonetheless vital. This was never felt more so than in October 2011 when Jimmy Savile was identified as a prolific child sexual abuser. Prior to this, and despite rumours of his inappropriate behaviour towards children as early as 1990, he was generally seen as a high profile, if somewhat eccentric, celebrity who hosted Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It and was a great advocate for various charities. He was lauded by politicians, the NHS and the BBC and given privileges that were far above his position or abilities. The reality was that he used these privileges to opportunistically sexually abuse and exploit children. It is believed that he was actively abusing children throughout his 50 year career, damaging the lives of at least 300 children although this number is likely to be more. In response to the allegations and police investigations, the BBC commissioned Dame Janet Smith, a barrister and former High Court Judge and President of the Council of The Inns of Court to independently examine the activities of Savile while at the BBC. The review report was delayed a number of times due to a police investigation into the activities of Stuart Hall who was also associated with the BBC. In 2013 and 2014 he pleaded guilty to charges of child sexual abuse against children aged between 9 and 17 years over a twenty year period and given two prison terms of 30 months. Sadly, it is not possible to say that Savile and Hall were alone in using their status to abuse children because further celebrities have since been convicted including Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris

The outcome of the review, which took nearly four years to complete and totalled more than 700 pages, found Savile had sexually abused 72 people (children and adults) and had raped eight people (children and adults) including an eight-year-old child at "virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked. The recommendations required a complete overhaul of child protection policies, practices and processes at the BBC.

While the impact of Savile’s behaviour was felt by the organisations in terms of reputation and legal action the biggest impact by far was on the people he had abused and it is therefore important that those working with children and vulnerable people in the performing arts take every available step to ensure this never happens again. Whether you are a large or small production company that works with children a lot or rarely, the responsibility and duty of care remains the same.

Safeguarding children requires a comprehensive understanding and adherence to legislation as well as knowing, for example, how to gain informed consent, how many hours a child can work under license, who can chaperone a child and other practical steps that can be taken to reduce risk such as crew child protection briefings and criminal background checks, where applicable. If all this sounds a little overwhelming 1st Option Safety can help you work your way through the processes that will ensure that children and vulnerable people will remember their time with you for all the right reasons.

The services we offer range from policy development, pre-production briefings, advice on safe recruitment, production support around issues such as consent, licensing, chaperones, pre and post-production duty of care, and site visits. All the above will help you to ensure that your organisational risks are understood, managed and that safeguarding is embedded within your culture.

Our full guidance on safeguarding and child protection in productions is available to clients here

----------------------------------------------------------------------------Caroline Brant - started her career in the NHS and for over 25 years developed her love of safeguarding children as a registered nurse, midwife and health visitor. In 2002 gaining a Master degree at Keele University in Child Care Law launched her career further to including chairing multi-Agency child protection committees and serious child protection case reviews. She spent the next 10 years in senior leadership roles for the NHS including heading up childrens safeguarding services for a number of counties and acting as independent consultant advising on strategy, policy, procedures and operational delivery.From April 2013 Caroline spent over 5 years as the Head of Child Protection & Safeguarding (CP&S), at the British Broadcasting Corporation where her skills took the organisation from the troubled status post Jimmy Savile and the Dame Janet Smith Review to being regarded as an exemplar for the media sector. She comes with a wealth of experience and knowledge around all aspects of production.