Safeguarding for Women in Business
What is safeguarding?
We often think of safeguarding as something that only applies to children and vulnerable adults and in care settings, but actually it applies to all of us. Safeguarding is about the measures we can take to keep ourselves and others safe from abuse and harm.
Violence towards women and girls has been an important topic of conversation, never more so since the terrible murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021.
Women Who, Worcestershire invited Louise from the Worcestershire Safeguarding Team and Inspector Fergus Green from the Worcester Safer Neighbourhood Team at West Mercia Police to join us at our November networking meeting to talk about the things we can all do to keep ourselves as safe as possible.
policing in worcester
Inspector Green opened by talking about the Sarah Everard case and the impact that has had. He openly admitted that the police have some way to go to restore the trust in them that has been lost. Policing today is more than just prosecuting criminals, its about prevention of crime and protecting the community.
He talked to us about the central government funding as part of the safer streets initiative, including £500,000 for Worcester city centre which is being put to great use. There will be improvements made to street lighting, CCTV coverage and making public spaces brighter and safer. It isn’t just about putting more street lights in parks and alleyways, but also about making spaces more attractive. Parks in Worcester will be getting uplighting around trees which will look amazing as well as making the area more safe. They will also be using more remote CCTV, using cameras on street lights and moving them to different areas based on the intelligence around anti social or risky behaviours in particular locations.
We have lots of members who go out to visit clients alone in their homes, or who invite new clients into their own homes or business premises when they may be alone. Often we don’t consider the risks this could pose, as the majority of people we come into contact with will be genuine and lovely!
There are a number of things we can all do to protect ourselves and reduce that potential risk:
meeting a client
- Make sure somebody else knows where you are going and who you are meeting. You may want to let them know when you’ve arrived and when you’ve left.
- Use google to find out a bit more about the person you’re going to meet. If they have any convictions, that information will be in the public domain, so you’ll be able to find out if there’s something you should be concerned about.
- When you’re with them, pay attention to their behaviour and body language. If you feel uncomfortable make your excuses and leave.
- Use COVID as a reason to keep 2 metres away from them.
in your business premises
- Ensure you have clear signage to indicate areas customers should not enter, or lines they should not cross.
- Install CCTV and signs to tell customers that CCTV is in place.
- For businesses based in Worcester City Centre you could join the scheme which connects you to a team of security staff you can call in the event of a problem.
- Keep your phone in your pocket or close by so you can quickly call for help should you need support.
- Communicate clearly – if someone attempts to enter staff only areas, tell them that they need to return to the customer areas or leave the premises.
- If a customer fails to follow the instructions and you feel that you are in immediate danger or at risk, call 999.
- If the customer does eventually leave you can report the incident to the police via their online hub for information. This could be helpful should the customer return in the future and cause concern.
dealing with an aggressive person
There are a number of warning signs to look for when dealing with a potentially aggressive person. Notice how they are speaking – are they shouting or speaking in an aggressive or demeaning tone? Notice where their eyes are drawn to – are they looking at your arm with a view to grabbing you? Notice their stance – are they leaning forwards attempting to make themselves look bigger and intimidate you with their size?
In these circumstances its important to create as much space as you can between you and the aggressor. Change your own stance so that you are more stable and less likely to lose your balance. Try to remove yourself from the situation if you are able to leave.
You are entitled to defend yourself – if the aggressor moves towards you, push them away as hard as you can. You don’t have to wait to be hit to defend yourself. Use the Hollie Guard app.
the hollie guard app
The Hollie Guard app for your mobile phone is a great tool in the event of safety concern. Once you’ve set the app up, all you need to do is shake your phone and it will notify your chosen contacts of your exact location and will send video and audio recordings to them. They will then be able to quickly raise the alarm and get help to you. The app was highly recommended by our speakers, and you can find out more about it here.
Reports of domestic abuse in all its forms have increased since the pandemic began. It’s defined as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who have been intimate partners or family members. It can be physical, psychological, sexual, emotional and financial.
Women Who, Worcestershire have been working with The DAWN project throughout 2021 to help raise vital funds to support victims of domestic abuse regardless of whether they are still in the relationship or have been able to escape. Children are also able to access support through the service. You can find out more about the project on their website here.
Inspector Green explained that legislation on harassment applies when there have been two or more incidents where an offender has caused alarm or distress and should reasonably be expected to know their behaviour has done so. That’s one of the reasons why signage in your business premises is important – it means the customer knows what they’re doing is inappropriate.
Clare’s law is the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, and it gives us “the right to ask” and “the right to know.” The scheme is named after Clare Wood who was killed by her ex-partner who had a history of violence against women and aims to prevent this same situation from happening again.
If you have any concerns about a new partner that you, a friend or family member has, you have the right to contact the police to ask them if there is anything in that person’s history that suggests a risk to your safety or that of your children. The police will review the individuals previous offences (whether convicted or not) and any intelligence they hold, and make a decision on whether there could be a risk. If they believe there’s a risk to someone involved in the relationship they will contact the at risk person and tell them. If you’ve contacted the police on behalf of a friend or family member, they won’t tell you what they’ve found, or tell your friend/family member that it was you who raised the concern. Then, armed with the new knowledge, the person can decide for themselves whether they want to stay in that relationship or not.
Having your drink “spiked” on a night out is something that many women, especially young women, are afraid of. There are regular reports across social media that suggest this is something that happens in bars and nightclubs across the country. Inspector Green told us that there have been a number of reports locally in recent months, but at this stage there have been no prosecutions and investigations continue.
Spiking a drink involves someone adding a drug to another person’s drink without their awareness or consent. These drugs make people more vulnerable to assault or robbery, and their impacts can be more serious if someone has already consumed a lot of alcohol.
symptoms of spiking
Symptoms of drink spiking are varied but can include:
• Lowered inhibitions
• Loss of balance
• Feeling sleepy
• Visual problems
If you suspect you have had your drink spiked, or you are with someone you think may have been spiked it’s important to inform a member of staff and get them to a hospital. Often the drugs leave the system within a matter of hours, so the sooner blood and urine tests are taken, the more likely it is that the substance will still be detectable.
It was reassuring to hear that the bars and clubs in Worcester are working with the police to reduce the risk of this happening to their customers. Many are now offering toppers for glasses or reusable beakers which only allow space for a straw to be inserted, drastically lowering the likelihood of an offender being able to add anything to your drink. Inspector Green also reminded us of the importance of taking sensible precautions such as not leaving your drink unattended or accepting drinks from strangers.
a safeguarding programme for us
This was such an important conversation to have, and we’re incredibly grateful to Louise and Inspector Green for joining us at our meeting and taking the time to help us better understand the risks we face and how we can better safeguard against them.
We plan to continue this conversation at future meetings, in our Facebook group and through future workshops and classes. We’d like to arrange some self defence classes for our members and further advice sessions in how to deal with aggressive customers.
What else would you like to see us include in a safeguarding programme?
Do you run a business that may be able to help us deliver this programme?
Email us at email@example.com with any thoughts or suggestions you have.
Keep talking and keep safe,
Carrie & Lisa
Creating opportunities through networking, events and peer support for female business owners and company directors in Worcestershire.
Surround yourself with a positive, supportive and inspiring network.