The Chartered Institute of Public Relations Local Public Services Group, in conjunction with the Local Government Association, is compiling a report and best practice guide aimed at supporting communication professionals in handling safeguarding issues.

Looking not only at handling high-profile cases, but also exploring proactive campaigns designed to raise public awareness generally and even help avoid exploitation situations in the first place, the guide will draw together existing best practice, learning and advice from across the UK.  It will also look at practical measures to help organisations ‘move on’ after a high profile case, such as successful campaigns run when the reputation of an organisation has made it otherwise difficult to recruit or retain key professionals, like social workers.  A fuller description of the project is available here.

Aimed mainly at communication professionals, the research behind this publication would also like to hear from subject matter experts and those in leadership roles in local authorities, NHS trusts, emergency services, probation, housing associations, charities and support groups.  We’d also welcome the insight of journalists & editors, survivors and the families & friends of victims of abuse.

Aiming for a report to be published in the summer of 2020, we have now opened our ‘call for evidence’ from January to March 2020.  Evidence and case studies will be published alongside/in the report (anonymised as necessary), so as to help communication professionals learn from previous best practice, as well as from things that didn’t go so well.

Effective communications around a safeguarding issue when something has gone badly wrong – whether affecting children and young people, or vulnerable adults – is not about sweeping anything under the carpet, or spinning away an issue.  It is about understanding a legitimate public interest in a case, and striking the right balance, within often tight legal constraints, and being as open and as sensitive as possible in telling the truth.  This narrow and focused piece of research, and its subsequent report and support materials, is aimed specifically at helping organisations communicate effectively around safeguarding issues – it is not aiming to address the underlying safeguarding issues themselves, which are subject of appropriate professional consideration elsewhere.

Helping communication professionals learn from others’ experience is we think a small but positive contribution we can make not only to our profession, but also to the general public, to the media, to the public service organisations we work for, and to the survivors and families of friends of victims.

If you have come across (or even yourself run) a proactive campaign, aimed at raising the public awareness of safeguarding issues, or showing how even small steps can help avoid bigger problems, please email us the details at

If you have experience of how a high profile safeguarding situation story unfolded in the media, and have any positive learning we can share ahead of future cases, please email us the details at

If you know of any effective communication work to help rebuild reputations damaged by a high profile case (such as a recruitment/retention campaign for key professionals like social workers), please email us the details at

As well as taking evidence in writing, we will be holding a series of round-table evidence-taking sessions in person, as well as private interviews, all around the UK, mainly in January, February and March 2020.  If you would like details of how to meet the project lead, Peter Holt, face to face to tell your story, or if you would potentially like to host such an event, please email us at  Our travel plans for face to face evidence sessions provisionally include: London, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford, Dorset, Plymouth, Truro, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, and possibly Guernsey/Jersey.

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