The Charity Commission issued updated guidance at the start of this month on how to protect those working in charities. This update was to ensure all links were appropriate and follows updates in November 2021 on managing safeguarding risks when operating online risks. The guidance has been available since December 2017 and is an important tool for trustees when understanding their risks.
Charity trustees should as a minimum annually or when activities change consider their risks and responses in these areas. To support that review we have summarised below the key areas of the guidance below so that Trustees and management can take stock. Trustees should seek to understand which risks, policies, checks and safeguards are fundamental to the operations of their charity and how management and the charity is responding. Significant risks around safeguarding should be identified and included on the risk register for regular assessment and review.
Considering the steps outlined below should either bring confidence in the charity’s actions and policies already in place, or if necessary, highlight gaps and drive change.
1. Manage the risks
A key trustee duty is to ensure reasonable steps have been taken to protect those who come into contact with your charity, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers.
Trustees will ultimately be held responsible if risks are not properly managed therefore it is important to promote an open and positive culture ensuring individuals are able to raise and report their concerns.
Charities should have:
- Appropriate policies in place
- An awareness of how to promptly spot, handle concerns and carry out investigations
- Systems in place to report concerns
- A Risk register which is periodically reviewed
- A balanced trustee board with all trustees contributing
- Sufficient resources, training and safeguarding to protect people
- Procedures to review how risks are managed periodically
2. Types of Risks and Harm
There are numerous risks the charity must be aware of including, but not limited to:
- A charity’s culture, which may allow poor behaviour and poor accountability
- People abusing a position of trust they hold within a charity
- Bullying or harassment
- Health and safety
- Commercial exploitation
- Cyber abuse
3. Policies, procedures, and practices
Anyone involved with a charity should be aware of the policies in place, where to access and how to apply them. It is important polices are compliant with relevant legislation, put into practice and reviewed regularly.
- Explain steps being taken to protect people from harm
- How to raise safeguarding concerns
- How to handle allegations and incidents
- Explain how the charity will respond to issues
4. Code of conduct
For all charities with staff or volunteers there must be a clear code of conduct which sets out:
- The charity’s culture and values
- How people in your charity should behave
5. Other key policies
Other key policies include:
- health and safety
- first aid, fire safety and digital safety policies
- welfare, discipline, bullying and whistleblowing policies
- a complaints process for users and others with concerns
- adequate insurance which covers the individuals and the activities involved
6. Checking policies, procedures, and practice
Once policies have been established, they must be checked and challenged to ensure they are fit for purpose. This will include ensuring policies are aligned with relevant statutory guidance and requirements and that the charity complies with the policies and procedures.
Trustees should have clear oversight of how safeguarding and protecting people from harm is managed and if there are changes to the way the charity works, policies should be reviewed in light of the changes.
To help check policies in place trustees can:
- Consider the key risks to the organization and ensure they are police to cover these areas
- Carry out on site checks and discussions
- Set training plans
- Include safeguarding as a standard item on meeting agendas
- Organize external reviews and inspections
Relevant checks should be carried out on trustees, staff and volunteers to ensure suitability to act in their positions. This may include criminal record checks (Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), references, health checks or checks to confirm individuals can work in the UK.
7. Safeguarding children or adults at risk
If your charity works with children or adults at risk, either online or in person, relevant legislation and guidance must be followed.
It is best to identify the local authority safeguarding children or adults’ partnership or board who will co-ordinate safeguarding, promote the welfare of those in the area and publish policies to be followed. It is important to make sure all staff and volunteers receive regular training on child protection or working with adults at risk and appoint a safeguarding lead to work with your local authority safeguarding partnerships.
Policies must incorporate details on managing concerns, complaints, whistleblowing and allegations relating to child protection or adults at risk effectively and have clear policies when DBS checks are required, how to assess the level of check needed and how to handle the information.
8. Operating online
Additional policies and practices will need to be considered for charities operating online.
This is because online activities carry specific safeguarding risks. The following should be incorporated into policies:
Content: does your charity have adequate control over its website and social media accounts? Who can post information and is all content suitable for your charity?
Contact: how do people talk to each other when using your online services and how do you keep users safe? Do people need passwords to access services?
Conduct: how do you monitor what people do, say and share when using your services?
9. Working Overseas
Policies and procedures may need to be adapted for charities overseas as risks may differ due to different cultures, practices, and legal systems.
10. Handling and reporting incidents and concerns
Charities must be familiar with how to handle and report incidents. Key considerations include:
- Handle and record it in a secure and responsible way
- Follow your protecting people and safeguarding policies and procedures
- Act quickly, ensuring you stop or minimise any further harm or damage
- Report it to all relevant agencies and regulators when required
- Plan what to say to those involved with your charity and the media if appropriate
- Be as open and transparent as possible
- Review what happened to understand how to stop it from happening again
Please contact us if you are unsure if you would like further information on any of the points raised above.