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Solving the puzzle

So hands up who thought that this week’s piece would perhaps have a football focus? Or perhaps a reference to heat? Well with a passing reference to both, I was delivering an Advanced Level course in a rather warm church in south west London on Saturday last , as Harry Maguire headed home, and we had a sense of victory from the neighbourhood roar which swept through the open doors and windows, as Alli scored the second goal.

No. This week is about completing cryptic crosswords. (I actually won a prize last week at the umpteenth time of sending in the Guardian Saturday prize crossword – it’s a book of mathematical puzzles so a bit lost on me but entering and winning was the important thing!)

Cryptic crosswords are often about deciphering word play – when a word has two distinct meanings and you have to think which meaning is being invoked in the clue. So on Saturday one clue included the word ‘divine’ – did this refer to the adjective god-like or heavenly, or to the verb meaning to guess or surmise? Or ‘stalk’ – the part of a plant that stands upright or the act of following someone for potentially harmful purposes?

We place a lot of emphasis in safeguarding practice on good recording and making sure we use the right words to describe what we have seen or heard or learnt about. Are we speaking the same language when we describe an event and is there any scope for ambivalence? A casually written word can minimise or exaggerate, or require further qualification to define the true meaning of what is being conveyed. The continuum from being described as being close to someone, to having a close relationship for example is one with a set of deeper meanings that in safeguarding practice needs to be nailed down.

Even more complex is when we try to define risk. Taking a risk can be defined as adventurous, taking a chance with a significant payoff if successful. Our church risk assessment processes are however about managing and deterring people who may be harmful to others. We want to limit their capacity and opportunity to embark on their own adventure at the expense of children or vulnerable adults.

Clarity in our use of words, reading the clues with care to get the right meaning, solving the puzzle to reach the correct solution are all part of the crossword solvers lexicon. It’s a solid approach to analysing and assessing safeguarding situations as they occur.

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