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Safeguarding for trustees

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This page is for trustees of all charities, who already understand the basic idea of safeguarding. It is designed to help you check that your charity is doing safeguarding well, and whether it is meeting the Charity Commission’s expectations. Remember: all charities have safeguarding responsibilities, no matter who you work with.

  • If you need an introduction to safeguarding, start with our what is safeguarding page.
  • The Charity Governance Code is a practical continuous improvement tool to help charities and their trustees develop high standards of governance. Revised in 2020, its principle around ‘Integrity’ includes details of how trustees ensure the right to be safe across the organisation.
  • If your charity works with children on a regular basis then you can use Everyone's Business: Safeguarding for trustees a more detailed guide that covers your additional responsibilities. (from Children England). 
  • If your charity works with children, you can learn more about safeguarding measures for trustees (on NSPCC Learn).

Each section covers the expectations the Charity Commission set and the questions you can ask yourself to make sure you have fulfilled your responsibility as a trustee.

Six areas of activity

The Charity Commission reference 10 principles, and gives additional descriptions of what they expect to see. We have summarised these as six main areas of activity.

Understanding and managing the risks
You must understand, manage, record and review the safeguarding risks in your organisation, thinking about everyone you come into contact with.
  • Do you know the types of harm, abuse and neglect that are most likely to affect people your organisation comes into contact with?
  • Do you know which people you come into contact with are most at risk?
  • Do you understand the term ‘adults at risk’?
  • Are safeguarding risks recorded in your risk register?
  • How often does the board review whether procedures in place to reduce risk are working well? 


Policies and procedures
You must have the right policies and procedures for safeguarding in your organisation. You need to make them public, make sure they are used and you must review them regularly.
  • Do you know what your safeguarding policy and procedures say? Are you confident they provide for both adults at risk and children (often in separate documents)? 
  • Do you know how the public can find your policy and procedures? Are they online?
  • Does the board review the policy once a year?
  • Do you feel confident that all staff, volunteers and people you work with understand your safeguarding policy and procedures?
  • The policies and procedures page has information about the policies and procedures you need and links to writing guides. 
Making safeguarding a priority
You need to make sure that safeguarding is a key priority for your organisation as part of good governance. This includes having the right roles in place and adopting the right practices.
  • Do you know who the designated safeguarding lead for the organisation is?
  • Do you have a lead trustee for safeguarding? Do you make sure they are not left to deal with safeguarding on their own? Do you feel confident you understand enough to challenge or support their advice?
  • Do you receive regular safeguarding reports as a board?
  • Do you make safeguarding decisions collectively as a board?
  • Do you have a code of conduct? Does everyone know where to find it?
  • Do you follow the code of conduct, and model the behaviour it sets out for others?
  • Our roles and responsibilities page explains how all your trustees should be involved and the role that can be taken by a designated safeguarding lead or a named person.
  • Our code of conduct section explains how to set expectations and standards, and provides links to writing guides.
  • The Charity Governance Code website is useful to help you see how safeguarding sits alongside the rest of governance.
Supporting your staff and volunteers
You must understand when it is appropriate and legal to carry out background checks on your staff and volunteers. Where it is not appropriate to take these checks, you must put other measures in place to ensure they carry out their roles safely. You must also make sure staff and volunteers have appropriate training and you should regularly review the training you offer.
  • Are you confident that someone in your organisation understands the law relating to taking Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on staff and volunteers?
  • Are you confident the organisation has good procedures in place to recruit staff and volunteers more safely, and then to support them as they start their roles?
  • Does the board review the safeguarding training you offer to your staff and volunteers at least once a year?
Handling and reporting concerns
Everyone involved in your organisation should understand how to recognise, respond to, record and report a safeguarding concern. 
  • Do you know your organisation’s safeguarding reporting procedures?
  • Are the reporting procedures well known among staff, volunteers and others in contact with the charity? 
  • Are you confident that they are in line with expectations of your local authority adult safeguarding board and children’s safeguarding board or partnership?
  • Our recognise, respond and report page is a starting point for small organisations. It also has links to more detailed and specialist information.
  • Our what to do if you are worried page is where you can find guidance for situations where you don’t have your own policies and procedures in place yet.

The Charity Commission requires any registered charity to report ‘serious incidents’. The responsibility for reporting serious incidents rests with the charity’s trustees so you must understand it, even if it is delegated to someone else, such as an employee or the charity’s professional advisers.

  • Does your organisations reporting procedures include reporting an incident to the Charity Commission? 
  • Do you have clear procedures for delegated authority for reporting to the Charity Commission? 
  • Does your organisation’s reporting procedures cover situations where you need to report an incident to other regulators such as the Disclosure and Barring Service?
  • The responding to concerns section of our designated safeguarding lead's handbook has more information on serious incident reporting, and links to the Charity Commission's own guidance.
Your culture and values


You must make sure all trustees, staff, volunteers and people you work with understand safeguarding and their right to be safe. Everyone should know how to speak up and feel comfortable raising concerns. You must review whether you have got this right, and make changes if not.

  • Do you get safeguarding concerns raised? If you never have any, this can be an indication that your policies may not be strong enough for people to speak up.
  • Do you have posters, cards, web pages or other ways of making sure everyone knows about their right to be safe?
  • Do you seek feedback from staff and volunteers and the people you work with on whether your safeguarding policies work? 
  • Making sure everyone is aware of what safeguarding is and why it’s important is a first step. Our what is safeguarding? page explains this and has elements that can be shared with your staff, volunteers, trustees, and the people you work with.
  • Our getting people involved page and our safeguarding day to day page contains examples of best practice that you can use.

Next steps for trustees

As well as following the links in the table above that help you meet Charity Commission expectations, you may also want to use additional safeguarding resources.

  • Are you a lead trustee or want to know more? See lead trustee for safeguarding which explains the role and how they work alongside the chair.
  • Want more detail on how to stay on top of safeguarding as a board? See about safeguarding reports which has a list of suggestions for what you might expect to cover and information about annual reports.
  • Want to see the Charity Commission’s recommendations in their words? View the Charity Commission checklist. (pdf from GOV.UK).
  • Want more information on creating a safer organisation? Read this report on creating a safer organisational culture (from Acevo)
  • Want to understand how different parts of your organisation work together? Use working with the CEO. This covers how to build a professional relationship which supports safeguarding across the organisation and how to spot if your CEO is not taking safeguarding seriously.
  • For examples of templates, tools and information for a well-run trustee board use our board basics pages 
  • Want more information on standards for charity governance? Use the Charity Governance Code to consider your governance arrangements, including how keep people safe. 

The pages reports to trustees about safeguarding, working with the CEO and lead trustee for safeguarding were produced based on content provided by The Athena Programme.


Page last edited Jun 18, 2021

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