Safeguarding Children over the Christmas and New Year period

Thoughtful child at Christmas time

Safeguarding Children over the Christmas and New Year period

This time of year provides additional challenges for schools and education providers, when it comes to monitoring the wellbeing of children in our care. December always sees a spike in safeguarding issues and every year the NSPCC report increasing numbers of children calling them for help, with a large number exposed to domestic and substance abuse. The festive period is also a common time for children to be abused by a relative, other children or close family friends who visit during over Christmas and New Year.

Safeguarding children over the festive period can pose particular challenges for several reasons. 

Here are some of the key issues faced:

Increased stress or family tensions

Christmas can bring added financial strain, family pressures, or emotional stress. This may exacerbate existing family tensions, leading to situations where children might be at risk of neglect, abuse, or harm.

Disruption of routine and isolation

School holidays can disrupt children’s regular routine, leaving them with more unstructured or unsupervised time. This could lead to situations where they spend more time in potentially unsafe environments, including online, or with individuals who may pose a risk to their safety.

Children can also feel cut off from their usual support network of trusted adults and friends. Neglected or abused children can experience extreme loneliness, anxiety, or depression.

Increased vulnerability

Some families might face difficulties during the holidays due to various factors such as financial and emotional strain, mental health issues, or substance abuse including excess alcohol. Children in these families might be more vulnerable to neglect or abuse during this time.

Reduced access to support services

During the holidays, some support services, including schools or community organisations, might be closed or operating at reduced capacity. This can limit the resources available to children who may need help or intervention.

Cultural or religious factors

Different cultures or religious practices might impact how families celebrate the holidays, potentially influencing the ways in which children are cared for or supervised.


Christmas places families under enormous pressure to spend money. Sadly, in the current cost of living crisis, many will be unable to absorb the financial commitments without going into debt.

We know schools try hard to poverty-proof and, whilst we cannot control what happens outside the school gate, we can make changes to support families throughout the year.

What can schools do?

Promote awareness: Educate parents and carers about the signs of abuse or neglect. Encourage open discussions about safeguarding children and provide information on available support services.

Encourage safe celebrations: Promote safe and responsible celebration practices. Offer guidance on child supervision, responsible alcohol consumption, and safe handling of fireworks or other potentially hazardous items.

Strengthen family support network: Encourage families to reach out to support networks such as relatives, neighbours, or community organisations for assistance if needed. Foster a sense of community support and collaboration.

Encourage reporting: Continue to promote a culture of reporting concerns about child safety.

Promote online safety: Encourage parents and carers to set up parental and safety settings on new devices, monitor online activity and be vigilant about children’s online activities, especially during the holidays when they may have more unsupervised time. Remind children about online safety and potential risks. The Safer Internet Centre has some excellent advice in their Parents’ Guide to Technology and includes device-specific settings for different models.

Poverty-proof: It’s important to have an awareness that the school experience can be a costly one for some families. The Child Poverty Action Group published the UK Cost of the School Day (CoSD) final evaluation October 2023 has includes some great ideas for changes that could be implemented in schools.

Signpost to support agencies: Share information about support services and helplines that are accessible for families and children who may need assistance.

By implementing these strategies and fostering a collective commitment to safeguarding children, communities can work together to create a safer environment for children during the festive period.

Lifelines and Support Networks

  • The NSPCC are here to help 24/7 and children can call their Childline number on 0800 1111
  • ThinkUKnow – links to various sites
  • Safer Internet Centre
  • Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. Text 85258
  • Anna Freud Crisis Messenger – If you need support, you can text AFC to 85258. A free, confidential, 24/7 text message support service for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or is struggling to cope.
  • Safer Internet Centre
  • Educateagainsthate provides practical advice and support on protecting children from extremism and radicalisation
  • Internet Matters provide age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls, and practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world
  • Talking to your child about online sexual harassment: A guide for parents – This is the Children’s Commissioner’s parental guide on talking to their children about online sexual harassment.
  • Anti-Bullying Alliance – Detailed information for anyone being bullied, along with advice for parents and schools. Signposts to various helplines and websites for further support.
  • Local children social care: If you think a child or young person is at risk or being abused or neglected, contact the children’s social care team at their local council. If you do not know where they live, contact your local council’s team, the NSPCC or the Police for advice.
  • Find a food bank
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can be of any assistance with your Safeguarding needs.  
Call 01274 752299 or email
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Rachel Priestley

Rach has a background in Business Development and Administration, gaining much of her knowledge and experience through her 19 year career with the NHS working within the executive office, community services and public health. 

Before moving on from the NHS, Rach supported the Chief Executive, the Chairman and the Trust Board of a local NHS Care Trust, which managed Children’s Services. Her responsibilities spanned across HR, Finance, Governance, Compliance, Risk, systems and processes, and internal training. Rach also supported the Children’s Safeguarding Lead with safeguarding investigations.

In 2017, she left the NHS to pursue a successful self-employed career supporting business to grow, with flexible business development and administration support, which she continues to do on a part-time basis.

Rach is in house trained, and is passionate about delivering outstanding services and enjoys working as part of the safeguarding team to achieve a common goal.

In her own time, she loves spending time outside, and long walks with the two family dogs. 

Shelley Armstrong

Shelley joined Safeguarding Support in 2020 as an experienced AET-qualified freelance trainer, and now enjoys working across the business, keeping clients as up to date as possible with the ever changing challenges facing safeguarding children in education.

Whilst we aim to simplify safeguarding, Shelley’s passion is to ensure engagement, pride and confidence through training and support. Shelley enjoys applying the competencies gained in different industries and environments to researching, designing, and developing materials for those with the responsibility to safeguard children, and in return has enormous respect for their commitment.

Her experience across the private business sector brings commercial skills to training and her background in psychology and counselling ensure courses are designed and delivered with the learner in mind.

Shelley lives in Yorkshire and enjoys walking her springer spaniels – come rain or shine!

Abigail Havon

Abigail is an experienced AET qualified trainer who began her safeguarding career in the charity sector.  There she was a regional manager and part of the safeguarding leadership team.  She was involved in writing policies and procedures, developing, and delivering training and supporting staff and volunteers to work 121 with children struggling with their literacy. 

She has worked in a variety of business environments gaining experience in different sectors. She has always chosen roles that call for collaboration and communication to bring the best out in people and projects to completion.  Abigail passionately believes that empowering educators to work together as part of a safeguarding team will lead to better outcomes for children and young people. 

As part of the SSL training team her role focuses mainly on delivering virtual training. 

Abigail lives near the Jurassic Coast and enjoys long walks and caring for her jungle of houseplants.  

Carol Stephenson

Carol has spent her entire career teaching in Bradford primary schools. Most recently she was Head Teacher of a large, outstanding, multi-academy trust, inner-city
school where she gained Local Leaders of Education (LLE) status.

Carol is a highly experienced Designated Safeguarding Lead and safeguarding Governor, with an extensive range of expertise, skills and knowledge. It was through this depth of experience that she became a dedicated representative of Bradford Children’s Safeguarding Board. In June 2019, Carol was awarded a Bradford Safeguarding Champions lifetime achievement award 2019 for her continued work in safeguarding the children of Bradford.

Carol is in-house trained and is NSPCC certified to deliver Child Protection and Safeguarding training.

In her spare time, Carol enjoys working on her allotment.