This week, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) marks Family Safety Week 2018, a national campaign to help raise awareness about the “simple things you can do to stop your child becoming an accident statistic”. With a theme of Brighter Beginnings, Family Safety Week is an opportunity to look at how many children and young people die from accidents every year, how those accidents occur and what we can work together to prevent them. There are some good habits we can all adopt which can help our own families and then ripple out to the wider community.
Over 2 million children under the age of 15 have accidents in and around the home which take them to A&E every year, a statistic which should be more widely acknowledged. That’s 2 million children in a developed country like the UK, who are at risk in their homes; not from some malicious intent, but from simple accidents. Surely in such a sophisticated society we could be doing more to help our children, those who will shape and define our futures, from preventable injuries or death.
Removing the emotional aspects of this topic, on a practical level, looking at improving safety around the house for families could be a way to save our society notable amounts of money. “Accidents cost A&E units about £1bn a year” however many of the situations are preventable. Children eat Lego pieces, they fall down stairs, young people don’t understand how to use kitchen appliances properly… so many instances where an increased level of teaching could save a family a trip to A&E and a whole lot of worrying!
Understanding family safety as a social worker is incredibly important, as the cause for a home visit may not directly relate to the physical safety of children within the household but being able to identify everyday risk factors could save a life. Apparently home is where the most accidents will happen, therefore, discouraging risky behaviour in children or making sure the house is secure can have a massive impact on society.
Accidents around the home are caused by a few key factors – inexperience, bravado, stress or inadequate supervision – so the changes to prevent them are not extraordinary acts. Showing your support for Family Safety Week and the cause it campaigns for could be by making sure dangerous objects are kept away from young toddlers who don’t have the knowledge to recognise the risk, or helping young children experiencing stress deal with their emotions in a safe way.
Despite the stereotypes, social work does not always mean there’s a major crisis within the family, there could just be a physical disability or mental health issue which affects dynamics and requires some extra support. They respond to classroom crises and counsel schoolchildren; which means working within an education structure is all part of the job. Perhaps what we need as a nation is a stronger accident-risk awareness structure within school aged children, so that parents of more than one child can focus on unaware babies and toddlers.
The RoSPA offer the following table as a guideline for child development and advice on how to help avoid preventable accidents.
Practitioners are around to help facilitate change, so let’s focus on changing the situations that lead to A&E level accidents or worse for such young children.