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Safeguarding is an increasingly high profile issue for charities. All trustees must ensure that their charity prioritises the safety of anyone it comes into contact with.

A charity should consider the following groups of people when reviewing safeguarding policies:

  • People who benefit from the charity’s work
  • Staff
  • Volunteers
  • Other people who come into contact with the charity through its work

Safeguarding has always been a fundamental part of operating as a charity for the public benefit and the Coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted this further.

As part of their responsibilities, trustees will be held to account by the Charity Commission if things go wrong. If the Charity Commission is required to get involved, it will check that its safeguarding guidance, as well as the law, has been followed. It will also require evidence that safeguarding policies are documented appropriately.

All Trustees have the responsibility to ensure the charity:

1. Has appropriate policies and procedures in place 

All trustees, volunteers and beneficiaries should be aware of safeguarding policies and procedures and should follow them.

2. Checks that staff and volunteers are suitable for their roles

This will include carrying out DBS checks for those in eligible positions or requiring trustees or senior management to complete confirmation that they are not disqualified from their roles 

3. Knows how to spot and handle concerns in a full and open manner 

Charities should promote a fair, open and positive culture to ensure that all involved feel able to report any safeguarding concerns they may have.

4. Has a clear referrals system 

A charity should have rigorous systems in place for immediately reporting any safeguarding concerns to relevant organisations. This may include reporting a matter as a serious incident to the Charity Commission if necessary.

5. Sets out safeguarding risks and how they will be managed in a risk register 

A charity’s risk register should be regularly updated with any potential safeguarding risks. This is especially important in the current climate as risks are regularly changing as guidance and restrictions are updated.

6. Is quick to respond to concerns 

A charity must be able to respond immediately to any safeguarding concerns that are raised and carry out appropriate investigations

7. Has a balanced trustee board 

It is crucial that the charity does not let any single trustee dominate the board. Trustees should work together as they all share the overall responsibility for the charity to ensure that they make the best decisions and implement the correct procedures for the charity.

8. Complies with legal requirements 

If you are a charity that works with children or at-risk adults, there are additional safeguarding legal requirements, which you must work within. 

9. Has a clear code of conduct

If you have staff or volunteers, you must have a clear code of conduct that sets out your charity’s culture and values along with how people in your organisation should behave around others, particularly children or adults who are deemed to be vulnerable.

10. Regularly reviews its safeguarding policies

Your policies should be responsive to change and reviewed as necessary. This means carrying out a review following a serious incident. A review is recommended at least once a year in ‘normal’ times but, because of changing Covid-19 guidance, you may need to review your safeguarding policies more frequently. 

Trustees can use a number of methods to assist their reviews:

• Put in place training plans for trustees, staff and volunteers on safeguarding and protecting people from harm

• Record potential conflicts of interest at any level

• Plan a standing agenda item on safeguarding at meetings

• Commission an external review or inspection of your charity

• Review a sample of past concerns to identify any lessons to be learned

Every charity is different so you will need to tailor your approach to safeguarding according to the way in which your individual charity deals with the risks. Whatever the nature of your charity, it is vital that trustees ensure it has rigorous safeguarding policies in place.

For further advice on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me or your local Thomas Westcott office.