Safeguarding has hit the headlines recently with allegations of abuse by oversea aid workers and the emergence of the #MeToo movement. However, this is not just about children and vulnerable adults (though they remain an important consideration), recent guidance stresses that this is an issue that should be treated as pervasive, it can affect all those that an organisation comes into contact with, internally and externally. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (“NCVO”) recommends thinking about how to safeguard everyone and considering a wide definition of possible threats from inappropriate behaviour or abuse to financial harm. This is likely to encompass recruitment, supervision and support in every area.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (“OSCR”) has produced safeguarding guidance recently that, similarly, stresses the importance of developing “an organisational culture that has safeguarding at its core.” They stress the issue of reputation as well, pointing out that “Public trust and confidence … can be harmed if safeguarding concerns are not responded to appropriately”. OSCR recommends making sure that your staff and board are appropriately trained and that policies and procedures are not just put in place but are properly implemented and followed up with regular refresher courses.
Embedding the principal themes of safeguarding in the culture of your organisation should encourage a safe environment, one where anyone who has a concern feels able to report it, it is recommended that procedures show clear:
• Lines of accountability
• Systems of reporting
• Actions to be taken
Your Board should always be made aware of safeguarding concerns and the Charity Commission of England and Wales says that charity trustees should always report to them:
• Where beneficiaries of the charity (adults or children) have been, or alleged to have been, abused or mistreated while under the care of the charity, or by someone connected with the charity, for example a trustee, staff member or volunteer
• Where there has been an incident where someone has been abused or mistreated (alleged or actual) and this is connected with the activities of the charity
• Where there has been a breach of procedures or policies at the charity which has put beneficiaries at risk, including failure to carry out checks that would have identified that a person was disqualified in law, under safeguarding legislation, from working with children or adults.
Whilst the charity regulators (the Charity Commissions of England & Wales and of Northern Ireland and OSCR) do not deal directly with incidents they can refer these on to ‘lead agencies’, such as the police, local authorities and the Disclosure and Barring Service/Disclosure Scotland/AccessNI. The regulators’ main role is to ensure that charity trustees are handling incidents responsibly and, where necessary, putting in place improved governance and internal controls to protect the charity and its beneficiaries from further harm. Since August 2018 charity trustees and senior management will be automatically disqualified circumstances with safeguarding implications, such as being on the sex offenders register.
If you believe that an individual may have harmed a child or vulnerable adult or put them at risk of harm this should be reported to the DBS/Disclosure Scotland/ AccessNI as a barring referral unless it relates to family or personal arrangements. If a parent or member of the public has a safeguarding concern, they should contact the police or social services.
Relevant conduct in relation to children (a person under 18 years of age) is conduct that:
• Endangers a child or is likely to endanger a child
• If repeated against or in relation to a child would endanger the child or be likely to endanger the child
• Involves sexual material relating to children (including possession of such material)
• Is of a sexual nature involving a child
A person’s conduct endangers a child if they:
• Harm a child
• Cause a child to be harmed
• Put a child at risk of harm
• Attempt to harm a child
• Incite another to harm a child
Relevant conduct in relation to vulnerable adults, (a person aged 18 years or over who is being provided with, or getting a service or assistance which is classed as regulated activity for adults).
Relevant conduct is conduct that:
• Endangers a vulnerable adult or is likely to endanger a vulnerable adult
• If repeated against or in relation to a vulnerable adult would endanger the vulnerable adult or be likely to endanger the vulnerable adult
• Involves sexually explicit images depicting violence against human beings (including possession of such images)
• Is of a sexual nature involving a vulnerable adult
A person’s conduct endangers a vulnerable adult if they:
• Harm a vulnerable adult
• Cause a vulnerable adult to be harmed
• Put a vulnerable adult at risk of harm
• Attempt to harm a vulnerable adult
• Incite another to harm a vulnerable adult
Harm may include:
• Sexual harm
• Physical harm
• Financial harm
• Emotional harm
• Psychological harm
• Verbal harm