Charities play a crucial role in society, working tirelessly to address various social issues and provide support to vulnerable individuals. As they engage with diverse communities, it becomes imperative for charities and their staff to prioritise safeguarding responsibilities.
What do you mean by ‘safeguarding’?
Safeguarding refers to the measures taken to protect individuals, particularly those at risk of harm, abuse, or neglect.
To effectively fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities, charities and their staff must have a comprehensive understanding of vulnerability. This involves recognising the factors that may make individuals more susceptible to harm or exploitation—such as age, disability, mental health conditions or social circumstances. By identifying vulnerable individuals within their service user base, charities can tailor their safeguarding efforts accordingly and provide appropriate support. Additionally, understanding the various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial, is essential for recognising and responding to potential safeguarding concerns.
Developing Policies and Procedures
Charities should establish robust safeguarding policies and procedures that outline the organisation's commitment to safeguarding and the steps to be taken in case of concerns or incidents. These policies should be easily accessible to all staff members and volunteers, promoting a culture of vigilance and accountability. By providing clear guidelines, charities empower their staff to identify potential safeguarding issues, to respond appropriately, and to report incidents promptly. Regular training sessions and workshops can enhance staff's understanding of safeguarding protocols and help them stay updated with the latest best practices.
Charities should ideally nominate a staff member (or a trustee if there are no formal staff members) to be the safeguarding lead for their organisation. This person should be the first port of call if an incident arises, and they will be tasked with accurately recording what’s happened and taking it to the trustees. They will need to decide if the seriousness of the incident warrants an immediate trustee meeting to be called, to decide the plan of action, or if it can be dealt with then subsequently raised at the next scheduled get-together the trustees/board has planned.
If there are concerns about the immediate welfare of individual(s) involved in an incident then referrals to third parties, such as medical help, the police, etc., should be a priority.
Safer Recruitment and Training
Charities have a responsibility to ensure that all staff and volunteers working with vulnerable individuals undergo appropriate vetting and screening processes. Background checks (otherwise known as DBS checks in the UK), references, and interviews are essential steps in assessing the suitability of candidates and identifying any potential risks. Adequate training must be provided to all staff, ensuring they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns. This includes understanding their role and responsibilities, maintaining professional boundaries, and knowing the correct procedures for reporting incidents or concerns.
Promoting a Culture of Safeguarding
Creating a culture of safeguarding is vital for charities to embed good practices throughout their operations. This involves fostering an environment where everyone feels confident and comfortable reporting concerns (whistleblowing) without fear of reprisal. Regular communication channels, such as staff meetings, newsletters, or intranet platforms, can be used to disseminate information, updates, and case studies related to safeguarding. Encouraging open dialogue, providing support to staff, and promoting a zero-tolerance approach to abuse or neglect, help to reinforce the importance of safeguarding within a charity.
Collaborating with External Agencies
Charities should establish strong partnerships and collaborations with external agencies, such as local authorities, police, or relevant support organisations. These partnerships can provide valuable guidance, resources, and expertise in safeguarding matters.
Charities must be aware of local and national safeguarding procedures and networks, ensuring that they are connected to appropriate channels for reporting and seeking advice. By working together, charitable organisations and external agencies can enhance their collective response to safeguarding concerns, promoting the well-being and protection of vulnerable individuals.
Safeguarding responsibilities should be treated as on ongoing concern rather than a one-off issue, as they are continually shaped by trends and behaviours, external pressures, politics, local incidents, and a multitude of other factors.