Raising awareness about online safety and certifying the Fostering sector to Cyber Essentials

Nov 29, 2022 | Case Study, Cyber Essentials

Guardian Saints is a not-for-profit, cyber security, data protection and compliance consultancy. It almost exclusively specialises in working with organisations and individuals responsible for safeguarding young people in care.   Founders, Cam and Chris Keogh-Ly and David Sankey came together, united by a deep concern about the dangers to children presented by the increasingly connected online world. David has been a foster carer for over 15 years and he immediately recognised that cyber security services were particularly relevant to the fostering sector.

Cam and Chris tell us a little bit about the Guardian Saints story and help shine a light on this often forgotten sector where cyber security certification such as Cyber Essentials can satisfy contractual requirements and help to improve standards of safeguarding.

When Guardian Saints was founded in 2014, Cam and Chris had been working within banking, information security and the financial sector, “We became quite concerned about social media, the internet and the effects it has with our own children”, Cam tells me, “we needed to do something around protecting our children in our own homes because in our day to day job, we are protecting banks and companies and we did nothing to protect our own children in our home environment.”

Today, their mission is to use their skills to support organisations in order to protect  young people from hidden harm through unmanaged access to the internet.  Chris explains, “Since the GDPR laws in 2018, we were seeing that fostering agencies were more clued up around security and data protection however, they were often still unaware about cyber security and the potential risks.”

Chris continues, “When we talk to fostering agencies, we emphasise that data protection and cyber security are an important element of safeguarding. Keeping data about the young people safe and securing their privacy online forms part of their responsibility to protect them. Unplanned contact from family members or people from their past can really impact the young person’s wellbeing and safety. We want data protection and cyber security to be considered an integral and normal part of safeguarding within the industry”.

Guardian Saints keep watch over the ever-changing landscape of threats to children’s safety and privacy online and make sure the organisations they work with are aware and equipped to protect against them. Their consultants specialise in offering niche advice and support to Independent Fostering Agencies throughout the UK. As licensed IASME Certification Bodies, Guardian Saints provide a range of solutions for fostering service providers and foster carers around online safety and data protection and cyber security. They aim to bring the agencies up to a level where they are -assured they will have capability to apply for and pass Cyber Essentials.

One of the services that Guardian Saints offer are seminars which they host all around the UK on subjects from online safety awareness,cyber security, data protection and policy development and implementation.  Chris shares an insight from a seminar with the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, “a lot of these agencies, especially the smaller to medium sized ones, tend to try to manage things in house. Their primary focus is placing young people in good homes. Talking about cyber can be a challenge because it’s very difficult for them to prioritise this stuff when they are, for example, dealing with a child that’s just run away from a foster home or filing an Ofsted report“

Guardian Saints work with approximately 15 fostering agencies providing support and education, to help them take control of their cyber security. Chris describes how far many of them have come since before GDPR when they used fax machines, posted records to people’s home addresses and were almost entirely paper based. “We help agencies update all of their processes and tell them which bits of equipment they need to replace, and once we have got them into a stable position, they become dedicated to maintaining their compliance and really value their Cyber Essentials badge”.

Chris describes another benefit of certification. “The interesting thing here is that when a fostering agency takes placements from the local authority, they have to go through a contract tender process every year, which includes questions relating to data protection and cybersecurity. The agencies that we work with know that when they give their Cyber Essentials certification number, it breaks down a barrier for their tender process and answers many of those questions.”

There are around 200 independent foster agencies in the UK, many of whom have not engaged with cyber security. Chris says, “our focus is to try to help the whole of the fostering sector and raise awareness.”  Chris advises agencies to take a look through the Cyber Essentials self-assessment questions as it will provide food for thought and help a business gauge what Cyber Essentials involves. He adds, “Don’t prioritise the certification, prioritise the journey, it is really an educational process”

Guardian Saints and NAFP are co-hosting their next Cyber Security seminar on 10th May 2023, full details will be available early January 2023. If you would like more details of the seminar event please register your interest here.

The Cyber Essentials self-assessment questions can be downloaded for free.

The Cyber Essentials Readiness Tool is a free online tool to help businesses get started in their journey towards certifying to Cyber Essentials. The process of working through the question set will inform an organisation about their own level of understanding and what aspects they need to focus on.