Learning nugget from the Whoops! Child Safety Project

February 2013

Carole Hewison, Project Director of the Whoops! Child Safety Project, shares what she’s learnt about creating training programmes and resources that successfully engage families, health professionals and community volunteers in child accident prevention.

The Whoops! Child Safety Project was set up in 2000 by The Children’s Foundation, a charity which supports the health and wellbeing of children and young people in the north east of England. The project’s training programmes and resources are designed to reduce the incidence and severity of injuries to children across the region. As an indicator of the impact that the project has had, between 2000 and 2013 the Gateshead area saw a 38% reduction in severe burns and scalds among under 5s.

Meeting the needs of different audiences

Whoops! engages with a wide range of audiences, including parents, grandparents and other carers, children and young people, volunteers and health professionals. Carole explains that each audience requires a different approach when it comes to training:

“The messages we want to get across in our sessions will often be the same, but we tailor our presentations to make sure that the information is put across to each audience in the most engaging and impactful way. With parents, for example, we use photographs of real-life injuries. And we’ve found that photographs and other visual resources are particularly helpful for people who have low literacy skills.”

The team runs short ‘lunchtime bites’ training sessions to meet the needs of professionals such as teachers and children’s centre employees, who can find it difficult to take time away from their workplace. The sessions last for 40 minutes and each one is tightly focused on a specific safety topic, for example staying safe in the home, or what symptoms to look out for following a head injury.

“The format is a really effective way of teaching safety knowledge and first aid skills to lots of people within an organisation,” comments Carole. “In an emergency situation like choking, it’s no good if only qualified first aiders know how to deal with the situation, as they might not be immediately available – everyone should be able to step in and take potentially life-saving action.”

Promoting behaviour change

Whoops! has developed a number of training products that health visitors, children’s centre employees and other frontline professionals can use with the families they work with. They include ‘Baby Burns Dolls’ which show how severe scalds from hot drinks and bath water can be, and heat sensitive mugs which change colour to reveal safety messages when hot water is added. “Our resources work because they’re highly visual and hard-hitting, so they have maximum impact on the audience,” explains Carole.

“Parents often tell us they don’t like seeing the realistic scalds on our Baby Burns Dolls, or the photographs of injuries we use in our training sessions, but they also tell us that they’ll be going home and making immediate changes to their homes and routines as a result of what they’ve seen.”

The team stocks a wide range of home safety equipment and information factsheets, so that parents can easily follow up on the advice they’ve been given. “We don’t want people to leave a training session feeling upset or worried about their child’s safety – we want them to act on what they’ve been told and feel able to make changes right away. We make sure that we’ve got something to address each of the safety issues we talk about and we sell everything at cost price.”

Opportunities for learning

One of the project’s aims is to equip ‘community ambassadors’ with skills that they can pass on to others. The team developed an accredited Child Safety for Volunteers course to give community volunteers, parents and other carers a chance to learn about child safety and gain a formally recognised qualification. The Child Safety Officer course is another accredited programme, with participants working towards accreditation for themselves and ‘centre of excellence’ status for their employer.

Carole says that for some parents and carers, a simple introductory training session on home safety can be a gateway to further learning. “Some of the people we work with have no prior experience of training or any educational qualifications. So we make sure there’s a clear pathway that anyone can follow if they want to progress their learning and build their skills. Some participants go on to take our accredited course for volunteers, or work towards qualifications in areas such as first aid.”

Further information

For more information about the Whoops! Child Safety Project, please contact Carole Hewison on carole@whoopschildsafety.co.uk

Updated October 2013