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Supporting groups to become safer organisations

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Your key responsibilities

Every infrastructure organisation has different levels of resources, so the ways in which they are able to offer support will vary. A large well resourced organisation may have its own training programme and enough capacity building officers to deliver one to one support to any local organisation that asks. A smaller organisation may need to provide the same support by urging people to use resources offered by national organisations. 

This is a list of things you must do, and a link to Knowhow safeguarding content that can be a starting point if you do not already have your own resources in each area.

  • Support your members to be able to recognise, respond to and report abuse. Our understanding the risks and recognise, respond and report pages provide starting points and links to more detail.
  • Highlight that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and help organisations to create a safeguarding culture across their organisation. Our what is safeguarding page is an introduction, our getting started with safeguarding page connects everything to Charity Commission expectations and our getting people involved page has a focus on creating the right culture.
  • Help members access and understand key safeguarding legislation, and understanding good governance. Use our law, rules and duties page as an introduction to legislation and Charity Governance Code as a tool to support good governance.
  • Challenge members if you have safeguarding concerns about their safeguarding practice. Report concerns about members to the relevant authorities if people are at risk. See our section on recognising the risks your members present and make sure you have thorough reporting procedures, using responding to safeguarding concerns from our designated safeguarding lead guide if you need support to review those procedures.
  • Be prepared for members choosing your staff or volunteers as the first place to report a safeguarding concern about someone their organisation is in contact with. Although members should report directly to the local authority, the trust that builds up between members and an infrastructure organisation often means people will speak to you first. See the section below on handling reports of concerns.
  • Work closely with local area safeguarding boards for children and adults to represent the voluntary community and social enterprise sector (VCSE). See the section working with local area boards and networks below.
  • Lead by example and model best practice. See the leading by example page. 
Bestguide CVS has their own resources. They have created a safeguarding healthcheck to assess their members compliance. It helps organisations to:
  • understand their role and how to improve safeguarding in their community
  • better understand the safeguarding environment they work in
  • create an action plan that will help them meet their safeguarding responsibilities
Bestguide sets up advice surgery sessions where organisations working on their action plans can speak to public sector experts from safeguarding and social care.

Working with area boards and networks

Each local authority in England must have multi-agency arrangements for keeping children and adults at risk safe. They may have different names but often called the Safeguarding Children Board or Partnership and the Safeguarding Adults Board. 

You should stay connected with your local area safeguarding board for adults and your local area safeguarding board or partnership for children. How much you can do will depend on your capacity. See how many of the items of the list you can achieve.

  • Make sure you have current contact details for your local area safeguarding board for adults and your local area safeguarding board or partnership for children including details of their website.
  • Make sure all your members have easy access to those details and that you tell them when they change.
  • Make sure someone in your organisation knows the procedures for making referrals for children and for adults at risk in your area, and understands additional information such as thresholds for complaint.
  • Advocate to the boards or partnerships to make sure they understand the needs of the VCSE and that they produce guidance appropriate to them as well as guidance for the education and social care sector.
  • Know what training they offer and how local organisations can access it.
  • Attend meetings of the boards regularly
  • Collect information from your members about how they find contact with the boards or partnerships and present that to the boards
  • Set up, manage, join or recruit members to join a local area VCSE sector network for safeguarding that can feed into the board or partnership and do additional work of its own.

Your members will have good insight into the key issues affecting people in your area. Through their activities they may become aware of how any changes made in statutory services are affecting local residents. They’ll be aware of any specific risks of harm to children or adults at risk that are surfacing in the area. They’ll also be able to share information about challenges in recruiting or supporting staff and volunteers. 

Infrastructure organisations can play a key role in gathering together all that information and use it to help strengthen and target safeguarding practice. You can use it to make decisions about what training and guidance to provide and you can share this valuable insight with the local safeguarding boards.

Cobersbay Council for Voluntary Services has members from across the voluntary sector in their local area. Their staff started to make connections about a growing concern about female genital mutilation (FGM) in their local area. The training officer has had a request from the local African diaspora community group had asked for tailored safeguarding training, including on FGM. The community development officer supporting refugee and asylum seeker groups were aware that many new arrivals in Cobersbay were from places with high prevalence of FGM. The women’s refuge had recently shared an example of providing support to a woman fleeing a violent home who had been abused and a local youth club had shared an example of how they had reported a concern of a girl to social services. Cobersbay CVS organised for a specialist women-led organisation to run a briefing event for its members on FMG and how to spot signs and symptoms. A member of the local safeguarding children partnership explained new legal powers to protect girls from FGM. The group agreed that a more joined up response was needed and a sub group started to prepare a fundraising proposal for further awareness raising.

A local area safeguarding network focused on voluntary sector organisations can be one of the best ways for an infrastructure organisation to bring the knowledge of their members together. This can help share information and bridge any gaps between service providers. The amount of attention that a local area safeguarding board or partnership is able to give to voluntary sector organisations who are not delivering regulated activity can vary by area. Hosting an effective network can make sure those boards can still learn from the useful insight of voluntary organisations. There are several key benefits.

  • Networks can equip people with shared knowledge, skills and contacts to recognise and even prevent abuse happening. It can highlight if there are specific trends or issues or patterns emerging in your area.
  • Networks can reduce barriers and isolation for safeguarding leads and trustees and can improve the appropriateness of safeguarding referrals. This can reduce the number of inappropriate referrals.
  • Networks can share experiences of local safeguarding thresholds and highlight concerns of their level, understanding or how they are being applied in practice.
  • Networks provide an opportunity to share good practice already happening in the VCSE sector, which is useful for developing future partnerships.
  • Networks can help to create a good safeguarding culture within the local VCSE sector. This can be particularly strong if it is backed up by support from the infrastructure organisation, coordinating the network or sharing information and resources. 
Greathelp CVS has established several different local forums for specific areas of voluntary sector work. All of them have safeguarding as a cross cutting theme. The local authority funds the time Greathelp spend running these forums supporting quarterly meetings and online newsletters. Greathelp persuade members of the forums to represent the sector on the local area safeguarding boards and partnerships and feedback the information they gather. 

Some tips for making network meetings successful

  • You need to convince your colleagues in the public sector to attend and show that they value the contribution of the network and its members
  • Meetings should be short and full of relevant, applicable content. The more useful the meeting, the more people you are likely to attract (and keep them coming back).
  • The more resources you can put into the meetings the more successful they will be. Consider paying for meeting space, time for a worker to coordinate, refreshments, childcare.  

Responding to members concerns 

This section is about when a member chooses you to report a safeguarding concern uncovered in or related to their own organisation. It is not the same as a member reporting a safeguarding concern about your organisation which should be covered under your main safeguarding reporting procedures.

Usually, this kind of sharing occurs because you have built up trust whilst supporting someone to develop their organisation, and they feel more comfortable speaking to you than the local authority, or they are unaware of where to turn for help. 

To reduce how often this happens you should:

  • put clear links to the correct local authority contacts referrals for children and for adults at risk of abuse, in a place on your website where members can find them easily
  • add the NSPCC Helpline (0808 800 5000) as they can also take safeguarding referrals that relate to children  

To prepare for it happening you should:

  • have a safeguarding lead for your organisation and a safeguarding trustee, with clear support mechanisms as it can be a challenging and isolated role.
  • have a clear policy on how you should respond if you receive a concern, be it from a member of the public unconnected with the organisation they are raising the concern about, a service user or beneficiary of the organisation, or a staff member or volunteer who is informally whistleblowing.

If it does happen:

  • Do stay calm, listen and provide appropriate guidance.
  • Do stay within the remit and the limitations of your role, your experience and skills.
  • Do encourage the person to make a referral to the local authority and if necessary do so yourself, following your reporting procedures.
  • Do be mindful of the role of the local authority, police and other safeguarding agencies, for example, social care teams.
  • Don’t begin to investigate or try to decide if a form of abuse has happened or not.
  • Don’t do nothing.
  • Don’t try to be an expert.

Additional ways to support your members 

  • Offer to review safeguarding and policy and procedures. In this process you should help them develop policies and procedures that meet the local safeguarding children board (LSCB) and local safeguarding adult board (SAB) requirements.
  • Provide or refer to guidance on policy and procedure writing. If you decide to provide sample policies be very careful to make clear that organisations will need to adapt them to fit the specific risks of their organisation.
  • Deliver or commission safeguarding training for your area. Planning your training has guidance on how. There is a growing need for training for leaders in how to encourage a safeguarding approach and creating a culture that keeps people safe.
  • Reuse good practice from other organsiations. For example, the healthcheck in the imagined example above is inspired by the Community Safeguarding Health Check (from Hackney CVS)

Sources of support

Use our local and national contacts page to find organisations to support you. 

Our checklists and frameworks page has three tools to help organisations review their safeguarding approach and learn how to improve.


Page last edited Oct 03, 2019

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