As those who are less scrupulous find more and more opportunities to scam, finding ways to keep ourselves and others safe simply can’t be dismissed.. Keeping people safe, or rather educating people on how to be safe, is imperative. This week is Safeguarding Adults Week and there are several things that we can all do to help each other feel safe in the world.
The first element to safeguarding is empowerment. What we should be doing is raising the volume of conversations about the dangers, particularly with the increased focus on online communities. Of course, social media and online forums can be great and increase awareness about all kinds of things, but they can be powerful influencing tools that have both positive and negative effect. I myself am part of several communities linked to neurodiversity, as well as Eczema support groups for example. This are well managed and monitored and I have something of an understanding of who I trust, which communities I feel are moderated by people who can filter out individuals who appear to be promoting dangerous material or communicating in a way which is inappropriate.
Safeguarding those we serve has become a huge part of the role Enrych support workers play. One of the most important things we can do is find materials, whether they are from the police or cyber security organisations and spend time with our clients to help them who understand and implement safety measures. Many of our clients progress significantly through their support works sessions, but we will never be able to protect some of them entirely from scamming, just as it becomes more and more difficult for us to protect ourselves. I am also wary of the dangers those who are most vulnerable to being exploited online will fall into the trap of connecting with people they really shouldn’t be- particularly if the person has never met with them face to face or most likely will never do so. When someone is feeling lonely and isolated, any offer of friendship will often be taken at face value.
These days, there are a variety of restrictive measures parents can put onto a games console for example where they can restrict access to certain things and also put into place a process where someone has to request to be a part of a chat rather than it just being automatically open to anyone and everyone (up to 16 people on most online chat rooms).
Of course, fighting fire with fire only makes the inferno rage on. It is important to find the way for people to enjoy the best of these environments online and in the wider community rather than creating a belief that becomes some things can be unsafe, everything should be avoided. Some things are more dangerous. Some things don’t pose the same threat. It is important to find the line between those things and achieve, wherever possible, a happy medium via raising awareness of the most common threats to a person’s wellbeing online.
Encouraging those most vulnerable to access support in terms of what to do in the event of abuse and bullying is the next strand of the safeguarding process. People should feel comfortable to take part in their own safeguarding and decide what level of communication they feel respects their own boundaries. They also need to go where to go for support and advice if they feel unsure or unsafe. Support and representation for those who are most vulnerable to particularly online exploitation is paramount to building a successful safeguarding model.
It goes without saying that the emergency services also play a crucial role in safeguarding. At a networking event for Enrych a few months ago, I spoke to a couple of police officers within different roles all about safeguarding and cyber security. They were both happy with the questions I asked, which were mainly about the popular mobile app WHAT 3 WORDS. This can be used for delivery people to find your address- but as with every online platform, I wanted to ask the question to the people it would most concern about ways they can counteract any form of suspicious behaviour that happens. You may not believe it could happen, but cyber criminals are incredibly clever and can find many ways to exploit different online apps, including most recently what appear to be genuine messages from the NHS and Royal Mail but were in fact scammers who had found an opportunity to use trusted brands to try and exploit people. Emergency services, particularly the police, are a great connection for Enrych to have so that we can put together some sessions that can help our clients stay well informed when it comes to staying safe online.
Finally, safeguarding becomes complete once there is full accountability and an individual completely understands the role of everyone in their life if they were in a situation they felt unsafe, or if their boundaries of trust were abused in any way. At Enrych we work hard to build trust and create a culture of open-ness and transparency in order that those we serve and those who deliver our services feel able to discuss anything about which they may have a concern so that we can alleviate these or simply put things right if we haven’t quite hit the mark with our support. Overall, the importance of safeguarding and honesty should be high in our messaging so we build a culture of vigilance whilst being able to live fully independent lives!