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Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

Specific safeguarding risks in communications and marketing

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Take care with case studies

Case studies are a great way of telling a charity’s story and bringing its work to life. But gathering and using them also comes with risks, which you need to manage.

When you’re dealing with the charity’s beneficiaries, users or their families, you should apply similar standards and caution as your frontline staff would. 

  • Consider where and when the case study collection will take place. Always follow your organisation’s procedures on risk assessment and code of conduct on lone working. Ensure that it is safe for a case study subject to travel to meet you. Make sure that people know who you are meeting and where.
  • Each case study is an individual. Ask your internal contact, or whoever referred the case study to you, about what the person involved is like to work with.
  • Treat their contact details with care, and only pass these on to others with their explicit consent. Think about how these details will be stored safely.
  • If an individual involved in a case study tells you something confidential, it must not be used in the study. If you have concerns about the wellbeing of the individual, share these with the person who referred them or with your designated safeguarding lead as appropriate.
  • Make sure you have appropriate consent from the individual to distribute the case study. Think about how you will keep a record of their consent.
  • You should also consider discussing the impact of being featured in media or publicised via social media on the individual’s life. There’s always a risk of trolling or negative feedback, or that they may be unwillingly identified online.
Big Action Group (BAG) is a charity running several volunteering opportunities for young people. A river clean-up programme includes several young people with learning disabilities. BAG’s comms officer wanted arranged to speak with two of those young people to do a case study for their website. The programme manager helped the comms officer to get in touch with them and explain what this would involve. A local newspaper did an article about them – the two young people and their parents were happy for them to give more quotes.

Take care with the public

Through your marketing and communications work, you might have contact with the public in several other ways. These might include:

  • conversations on social media
  • discussion groups or comment boxes on your website
  • conferences or events.

Just as with case studies, you should apply the same care and caution as your frontline staff would. 

Questions to consider.

  • What would you do if you saw or heard something that concerned you about a user’s wellbeing? How would you record this?
  • Do you know where to direct people or what to tell them if they ask you for advice?
  • What would you do if someone was critical of your safeguarding procedures?
  • Do staff who have access to your social media accounts have an idea of how to respond to particular messages?
  • Are there any plans to capture images or pictures at live events? If so, you should ensure consent is given for their recording and use.
Langworth Education Trust runs after-school clubs and other services. A child, who once attended an event, started posting repeated comments on social media accounts about feeling confused and sad. Another social media user, who appeared to be much older, started talking to her. These comments were recorded by staff and information was handed to a support worker who was able to investigate the issue.

Images matter

When you’re using video or still images to show your charity’s work, you’ll want to consider how you do so.

  • Is there anything in that representation that’s not best practice in safeguarding?
  • Does your website or other materials include lots of gloomy, cliched pictures of people with their head in their hands? If used in the context of safeguarding, these will emphasise danger and risk. This can make people less likely to engage with safeguarding.
  • Stock photos can be useful and convenient  – but remember that they can also appear cheesy or impersonal.

If you’re creating or using video or still images of young people, vulnerable people or a charity’s beneficiaries, you’ll need to ask yourself several questions.

  • Do I have express permission to do this?
  • Do I need to use certain angles, blur faces or distort voices to protect an individual’s identity?
  • What will happen to any raw (original) footage in which changes have not been made?
  • Could there be a negative impact on the person/people in the picture, by highlighting publicly that they’re using the service?
  • How will the photo or video be stored? You need to be certain that a colleague who finds them in the future will know what they may be used for.
  • Might it be easier, cheaper and just as effective to use stock photos?
Wild Kids is a nursery school and after-school club. During a website review, staff saw a picture of young children from several years ago, with a single member of staff. Nobody at Wild Kids could recall if the parents of the children had given permission for their image to be used. The child to staff ratio in the picture was below the recommended levels. A more modern set of images were created, with consent information kept on file with them.

Language matters

You have a responsibility to use language in a way that doesn’t put anyone in danger or create risks. It should encourage individuals to seek help when they need it.

In addition, you should avoid being excessively negative around the topic of safeguarding. Scare tactics can backfire, making individuals less likely to engage with safeguarding.

  • Do you know of any best practice guidelines for language to use in the area you work in?
  • How can you use language in a way that’s supportive and non-judgemental?
  • Journalists, bloggers and external stakeholders may not understand why using (or not using) certain terms is important. Try to anticipate these issues and explain them clearly.
  • Do you have any content on your website that might prove distressing to some audiences, or be inappropriate for children? Consider adding trigger warnings or age-gated areas on your website.

When you’re talking about one or more beneficiaries, think about:

  • how they want to be referred to
  • terms they might consider derogatory or disempowering
  • if they want to remain anonymous or have certain personal details (eg surname or age) left out. 
Gigsworth Wellbeing Society is a drugs and alcohol service that spends a lot of time going into local schools. Its marketing team was helping to create a website for school-age children to find out about the charity. It was aware that shock tactics and negative messages can make young people want to experiment with drugs, and that case studies of former addicts can also glamourise that behaviour. It made sure that the language was instead focused around positive messages.


Page last edited Oct 04, 2019

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