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Insights // 22 November 2021

Does Your Charity Meet Its Safeguarding Obligations?

Emma Ford, in our Charities & Education team, explains the key action points in relation to charities' safeguarding obligations that have been raised in the Charity Commission’s updated guidance.

The safeguarding obligations of charities have been highlighted by the Charity Commission, as being of vital importance to the protection of a range of individuals, from the staff and volunteers of a charity, to its beneficiaries and all those who come into contact with the organisation.

It is expected that all charities will endeavour to prioritise the implementation of protection measures, however those that are associated with children or adults deemed to be at risk, should take additional steps.

The trustees of a charity assume the overall responsibility of ensuring that its safeguarding obligations are fulfilled. It is they who will be held to account if an issue of this nature arises. Therefore, it is advised that the following 5-stage approach is taken, to instil strong safeguarding values and a system that works to protect against harm:

1. Identification of Risk

Charities should be alert to the nature of risk that they may be exposed to, depending on the activities that are carried out. The type of risk can range broadly, from discrimination, domestic abuse and harassment, to data breaches or commercial exploitation.

It is recommended that charities set out all applicable risks and how they may be suitably managed, in a risk register. This should be reviewed on a regular basis.

2. Policies and Practices

Charities should implement safeguarding policies and procedures which are fit for purpose and which should be adhered to by all trustees, volunteers and beneficiaries. These policies should the ways in which the charity will protect people from harm, how safeguarding concerns may be raised and how the charity will deal with these. Expert or professional advice may be required to ensure that these considerations are adequately reflected.

A charity’s safeguarding policies and procedures should be reviewed at least once a year, with the possibility of amendment where necessary.

3. Verification

Trustees should carry out appropriate checks of all trustees, volunteers and staff, to ensure their suitability for the role that they carry out within the charity. These may include criminal records checks and health checks. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) can provide further information on the types of verification that a charity may need to consider. This is of particular importance if your charity works with children or adults at risk, either online or in person.

4. Protection of Volunteers and Staff

Charities should ensure that they implement policies for the protection of their volunteers and staff, such as whistleblowing, as well as ensuring that they have suitable insurance for the activities involved.

5. Handling and Reporting of Incidents

Charities should put into place suitable policies to handle incidents or allegations of abuse. Such matters should be dealt with promptly and securely and reported to relevant agencies where appropriate. A robust policy will ensure that individuals will feel able to approach the charity with confidence and to report concerns in a safe and trusted environment.

It is important that charities demonstrate that they will approach any incidents or allegations honestly and with integrity.

Operating Online

In addition to the points outlined above, it is worth considering the safeguarding risks that can arise from a charity’s online presence, as well as ensuring that these are included within its policies:

  • The use of privacy settings, password protection or age restrictions may be necessary to ensure the safety of users.
  • Adherence to data protection and GDPR legislation should be reviewed and managed appropriately.
  • The control of the charity over its website and social media accounts should be managed to ensure that content is regulated.
  • Users should be aware of how they can communicate any concerns to the charity.

Our specialist Charities & Education team can advise on safeguarding and other matters relating to charities.

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Emma Ford

Emma Ford

Trainee Solicitor

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