Here are six key safeguarding messages to think about when shaping your organisation’s approach to safeguarding vulnerable beneficiaries, staff and your volunteers:
- Safeguarding isn’t just about putting in place a policy or carrying out DBS checks, it’s about creating a safeguarding culture within your organisation. The Charity Commission has made it clear that safeguarding goes beyond protecting vulnerable beneficiaries and also requires organisations to take steps to safeguard staff and volunteers. Policies and procedures are great but everyone involved, including volunteers, need to be able to apply them on the ground, understand that they are taken seriously, and be aware of possible signs of abuse and grooming.
- Consistency is important in getting your safeguarding message across. Your commitment to safeguarding should be made clear through all points of engagement, including on your website, at events and in your publications. It is also essential when recruiting staff and volunteers, for example by obtaining DBS checks for those in close contact with children or vulnerable adults, ensuring that you have a thorough induction process and ongoing training not just for staff but volunteers too.
Sending out a strong message about the rigours of your organisation’s safeguards could deter an individual with malicious intentions from targeting your charity. Poor practice can be a magnet for someone to find a way to become involved with your organisation when they shouldn’t. Don’t be complacent.
- Proportionality is key – you need to consider the risk inherent in the activities that your organisation is carrying out and formulate your safeguarding approach with this in mind.
- You need to know when you are legally entitled to obtain DBS checks and barred list checks. I often come across organisations who are not obtaining the appropriate level of check for staff and volunteers – either they are not obtaining the checks that they should be or they have carried out blanket checks on all volunteers or members of staff regardless of their role or contact with vulnerable groups. Do you know which checks your organisation should carry out on its staff and volunteers?
- Remember when you are dealing with volunteers, they are giving up their time to help your cause – they are not paid employees. Whilst you should never cut corners where safeguarding is concerned, an overly complicated process could be a barrier to volunteering. Ensure that inductions, policies and procedures are clear and that volunteers can understand what is required. A code of conduct is useful and ensures that well intentioned volunteers and staff know what is expected of them and what is considered appropriate in order to avoid finding themselves in tricky situations where their actions or intentions could be misconstrued. Ensure that appropriate support and supervision is in place for all your volunteers.
- Just because someone is a celebrity or well-known either locally or nationally does not mean that proper safeguarding measures are not applicable to them. If your organisation has a visit from a high profile individual, apply the same rules. Many organisations found themselves in the spotlight as the horrors of Jimmy Saville’s prolific abuse came to light because they had not followed appropriate procedures when he visited vulnerable people.