The Charity Commission’s recently refreshed safeguarding strategy should focus trustees’ minds sharply on whether they and their charity are putting in place appropriate safeguarding measures to protect the vulnerable with whom the charity interacts.
There are some charities, for example, independent schools and care homes, where the degree of interaction with vulnerable groups means that the charity can be very clear about what measures it should put in place. For example, the Department for Education guidance on safeguarding for schools is contained in its publication ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ and it sets out clearly the obligations on schools regarding safeguarding and generally determining the appropriate level of DBS eligibility for employees and volunteers is a fairly straightforward matter.
For many charities that I have advised, the requirements are trickier to navigate. The interaction that they may have with vulnerable groups may be limited or intermittent and they often feel unsure as to what measures might be deemed appropriate and are worried about the consequences for the charity and its employees/volunteers if they get it wrong.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to safeguarding. There needs to be a sense of proportionality about an individual charity’s approach and it should be tailored to the activities of the charity following a suitable risk assessment exercise. If a charity comes into contact with children, for example, irregularly there is no need for a 30 page child protection policy that might be appropriate in a care home or school.
I am a big fan of putting in place a Code of Behaviour for all those working with children or vulnerable adults within an organisation whether employees, volunteers or trustees. The Code of Behaviour tends to be a very practical, short document setting out the dos and don’ts and clearly states what is expected of individuals working with vulnerable groups. The main aim is, of course, to keep the vulnerable safe from harm but the charity also has a duty to ensure that well-intentioned individuals do not find that their actions are misconstrued thus putting him or her in a difficult position by not having a good understanding of what might be considered inappropriate.
DBS checks are often a headache for charities. An individual has to be legally eligible for a DBS check in order for an organisation to apply for one. There can be no blanket policy for DBS checks. Instead, the nature and level of contact with vulnerable groups needs to be assessed on an individual basis to ascertain eligibility. The Commission recommends that where an individual is eligible for a check, that the charity should carry one out.
Charities also need to consider safer recruitment practices, inductions and training. Finally, we should remember that for all the paperwork and bureaucracy, putting in place these measures help protect children and vulnerable adults ensuring that the fantastic work that you and your charities do can have a lasting, positive influence on beneficiaries and others with whom the charity engages. It goes further than putting in place a set of policies and procedures, it is about creating a safeguarding culture where poor practice is identified and weeded out, thus ensuring the safety of your beneficiaries. Sending a message through your website and the way you recruit and work might just put off a would-be perpetrator from targeting your charity to work in or volunteer with.