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Charity Commission publishes new safeguarding strategy and says safeguarding goes beyond protecting at risk groups

The Charity Commission’s new safeguarding strategy says that safeguarding is a key governance priority for all charities, not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk.

Trustees should proactively safeguard and promote the welfare of their charity’s beneficiaries. They must take reasonable steps to ensure that their beneficiaries or others who come into contact with their charity do not, as a result, come to harm. This should be a key governance priority for trustees. Prevention is primarily the responsibility of trustees, and the Charity Commission expects all trustees and in particular those who provide services for or come into contact with children or adults at risk to have the expertise, knowledge and skills to do so effectively and responsibly.

The strategy explains that trustees should ensure their charity provides a safe environment for staff, volunteers, and anyone who comes into contact with it.

It also makes clear that safeguarding goes beyond preventing physical abuse, and includes protecting people from harm generally, including neglect, emotional abuse, exploitation, radicalisation, and the consequences of the misuse of personal data.

Safeguarding is one of the three areas of risk facing charities that the Commission priorities in its work, alongside fraud and financial abuse and mismanagement and the extremist and terrorist abuse of charities. It says trustees always remain responsible for safeguarding, even if some aspects of it are delegated to staff.

It’s therefore essential that trustees:

  • know their responsibilities
  • have adequate measures in place to assess and address safeguarding risks
  • have adequate safeguarding policies and procedures appropriate for their charity’s particular circumstances and which reflect both the law and best practice
  • make sure that these policies and procedures are effectively implemented and regularly reviewed These steps are vital, given that charities are accountable to the public and must operate for the public benefit.
  • take steps to ensure no one who comes into contact with their charity suffers distress or harm, as well as safeguarding children and adults at risk, says regulator of charities
  • should… make public their clear commitment to safeguarding by publishing the charity’s safeguarding policy and stating that failure to follow it will be dealt with as a very serious matter.
    In all cases the Commission expects that, as a minimum, policies are agreed by trustees; are regularly updated; reflect statutory guidance and national and local practice; and are supported by an implementation plan. The policy should be publically available, to provide reassurance and to enable constructive feedback from beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
  • comply with their legal duties, trustees must react responsibly to reports of safeguarding risks and incidents of abuse and take steps to make sure they and the people working in the charity know how to deal with these

The Commission recommends that charities always obtain a DBS Check when the role is eligible as it’s an important tool in ensuring that a person is suitable to act. Charities should also make other checks – for example references and checking any work history gaps – as part of a robust recruitment process.

This (safeguarding) is a key governance priority. Any failure by trustees to manage safeguarding risks adequately would be of serious regulatory concern to the Commission. They may consider this to be misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and it may also be a breach of trustee duty.

In the context of safeguarding concerns, The Commission considers the regulatory priority risk issues to be:

  • concerns about serious harm to, and the abuse of, children or adults in connection with a charity
  • the failure by a charity that works with or has regular contact with children or adults at risk to have adequate and effective safeguarding policies and procedures in place

In practice, the Commission is likely to become involved in one-to-one engagement with charities:

  • if there is a concern that someone who is currently acting as a trustee, employee or is otherwise involved in the charity, is unsuitable to hold that position
  • when there are concerns or allegations that a child or adult at risk has been abused or mistreated, and this is in connection with the activities of a charity or someone closely involved in a charity
  • when there is serious cause for concern because policies and procedures are not in place, or are inadequate, to protect children or adults at risk who may come into contact with the charity
  • where there are serious concerns that a charity’s safeguarding policies are not being complied with or its practices are placing children or adults at risk of harm

Michelle Russell, Director of Investigations, Monitoring and Enforcement at the Commission, says what trustees need to do in practice will depend on their charity’s circumstances:

The public rightly expect all charities to be safe environments. All trustees should think about the people that come into contact with their charity and consider the steps they can take to prevent them from coming to harm.

Recent accusations of harassment in the work place, including against some charities, demonstrate how vital it is that trustees are alive to the need to protect and safeguard all those involved in or affected by their work. The Commission recently found that some veterans’ charities were not taking adequate steps to protect their beneficiaries; the Commission says this was, in part, because the trustees did not consider certain veterans as being vulnerable.

The new strategy sets out the Commission’s approach to safeguarding, and explains what trustees’ charity law duties mean in the context of safeguarding. It replaces a previous strategy. Click here to read the full document

Ways in which CAS can support you

Read Charity Commission press release: Safeguarding is a key governance priority for all charities, says charity regulator