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What is safeguarding?

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Creating a safe and welcoming environment, where everyone is respected and valued, is at the heart of safeguarding. It’s about making sure your organisation is run in a way that actively prevents harm, harassment, bullying, abuse and neglect. It’s also about being ready to respond safely and well if there is a problem. Everyone in the organisation has a role to play in safeguarding. It should become part of your day to day activities.

Every organisation that delivers charitable activities has a duty to safeguard volunteers, staff members, participants and donors.

Five reasons to do safeguarding well
  • Abuse, harassment and harm can happen to anyone – people we work with, staff or volunteers. It’s not always visible and often not spoken about
  • Abuse, harm and neglect are wrong. We have a duty to do something about it.
  • When everyone understands safeguarding and their right to be safe, people who have nowhere else to turn are protected.
  • An organisation that does safeguarding well is an organisation that is trusted.
  • The Charity Commission expects every charity to make safeguarding a priority.

Want to convince someone safeguarding matters? Share our video of these reasons to do safeguarding well.

Safeguarding for everyone

To do safeguarding well you need to develop habits, practices, rules and procedures which keep people safe whilst they are taking part in your activities.

Borage for Bees is a charity that provides online advice on how to create flower gardens that support bees. It organises a few planting days each year, attended by families and groups from local day centres. It has safeguarding policies for both children and adults at risk, which emphasise the Code of Conduct for volunteers and staff on planting days. These policies work alongside the day centres’ own policies.

You also need to know how to recognise and report abuse or harm affecting people your organisation has contact with, wherever that abuse has occurred, so that you can help them speak up and take action.

Time to Live Training is a charity that trains adults in employment skills, including adults with mental health issues. It has a safeguarding policy that covers how to spot the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse and a code of conduct for all staff. Annual training prepares staff to be confident they know the best ways to support their participants.

Even if you don’t interact with people directly, you still need to think about your safeguarding responsibilities and how you respond to them.

Our Place Village Hall hosts a number of small community groups working with children and adults at risk. The village hall has a safeguarding policy itself and makes sure every group who uses the hall also has one. A member of the village hall management committee is the designated safeguarding lead. Although the administrators at the village hall work part-time and do not interact much with the groups who use the building, they know the procedure to respond to safeguarding concerns, and will refer these concerns to the designated safeguarding lead.

Differences between safeguarding children and adults

How you meet your safeguarding duties must be proportional to the level of risk involved. The time and effort you will need to spend on meeting that duty increases when you work with children or adults at risk. (What is an ‘adult at risk’? Read our definition.)  

It’s important to understand that both children and adults at risk need safeguarding, but that there are different approaches to take. 

Five reasons to think about safeguarding adults and children differently
  • Children and adults at risk can experience different types of harm and abuse.
  • Many people don’t understand why adults need safeguarding. Separate policies and procedures help to get the message across.
  • The way abuse is reported for children and adults at risk is not the same and the legislation for managing each is different. Organisations must make sure everyone understands the right steps to take when they’re worried someone is not safe.
  • All adults, including adults at risk, have a right to make unwise decisions - including the choice not to take action to protect themselves. This is different for children, where their safety is the primary concern - although listening to their views is still important.
  • When you’re safeguarding adults, you must consider the individual adult’s needs in every situation. This might include considering whether the adult is subject to coercion or undue influence. 

Need to help people understand why you need more than one approach to safeguarding? Share our video about treating children and adults differently. 

Get started with safeguarding


Page last edited Jun 18, 2021

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