February 9, 2024

Life buoy ring

Safeguarding Overview


What is safeguarding?

If you’re new to volunteering or running a community organisation, creating safeguarding policies and procedures may seem overwhelming. We’ve created an introduction to safeguarding to understand some of the basics, the expectations and where to find more information. 

Government Policies

To make safeguarding matters more confusing, countries in the UK can have slightly different policies. However, the overarching goal is the same: reduce the risk of harm to children, young people, and vulnerable adults. This responsibility extends across various sectors, including voluntary organisations, faith groups, the private sector, hospitals, and schools.

Your organisation’s policies and procedures should protect everyone involved in it. This includes staff, trustees, and volunteers, as well as those with whom your organisation is in contact.

Children Act 2004: Safeguarding Children

The Children Act 2004 in the UK aims to promote children’s welfare by emphasising interagency cooperation and accountability and enforcing the Every Child Matters agenda. It establishes Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) for local coordination and it prioritises key outcomes for children: health, safety, achievement, positive contribution, and economic well-being.

The Act focuses on early intervention and highlights children’s best interests in decision-making. Overall, an integrated approach to safeguarding, encouraging collaboration among agencies and professionals involved in child welfare.

The Care Act 2014: Caring for Adults

The Care Act of 2014 makes organisations legally responsible for making enquiries when there is reasonable cause to suspect a vulnerable adult is at risk for abuse or neglect. Adults that have a learning or physical disability, drug or alcohol-related problems or be frail are especially vulnerable.

The Act focuses on overall well-being, not just basic health and safety. It introduces important ideas like empowerment, prevention, proportionality, protection, partnership, and accountability.

Empowerment: Encouraging autonomous decision-making and informed consent.

Prevention: Measures put in place to avoid harm to others.

Proportionality: Don’t go overboard. Respond to risks with the least intrusive solution.

Protection: Representation and support for those in greatest need.

Partnership: Work with local community services.

Accountability: Taking responsibility by knowing where safeguarding measures need improvement.

These guide the approach to caring for and protecting vulnerable adults.

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and the Protection of Freedoms Bill

The 2006 Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable people. The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) was established to operate vetting and barring in partnership with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). A vetting and barring system was introduced to protect vulnerable people and paid and unpaid roles in which regulated activities occurred were identified. Regulated activity was defined as close contact with a child or vulnerable person and prevents people with a criminal history from causing potential harm.

Enacted in 2012, the Protection of Freedoms Bill amended existing safeguarding systems. The aim was to review the system and “scale it back to common sense levels”. Some regulations, such as the monitoring scheme, were abolished, and some were narrowed. Vetting and barring services were transferred to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which combines the ISA and parts of the CRB.

The scope of regulated activities was also narrowed. Regulated activities cover close contact work (paid or unpaid) with a vulnerable person, including health care and personal care. For adults, this also includes offering financial assistance and work that requires making decisions on their behalf.

Requirements for employers to check before employees engaged in controlled activities were abolished. As was the monitoring scheme in England and Wales.

Where to Start

Assessing and Addressing Risks

A helpful starting point to creating safeguarding policies in your organisation is to list all the ways that children and vulnerable adults interact with your organisation. These interactions can be face-to-face and digital through phone calls, video calls, and emails.

Understanding the needs of those your charity benefits can help you build safeguarding measures around those needs. You can categorise their potential needs by age, gender identity, religion, disability, cultural or ethnic background. An example of a safeguarding measure to protect someone who struggles with verbal communication could be using a sign language interpreter. Another for someone of advanced years might be wheelchair-accessible entryways.

Begin by assessing what you already do. You are probably doing a lot of safeguarding already. You might offer training to new staff and volunteers and address specific disabilities needs. Building these actions into formal documentation benefits your organisation and supports staff and volunteers.

When you Identify the potential risks and assess the effectiveness of your current procedures, you’ve made a self-assessment. There’s a lot to consider when identifying risks. You can think about the environment you run the group in. One example of managing this risk is inspecting for potential hazards like mould and asbestos. This protects your staff and volunteers as well as those that it serves.

What are Risks

A safeguarding risk is anything that causes a person harm or makes them feel unsafe.

Here are some examples of risks that you should look out for. Some are more obvious than others.

Sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation are types of risk that safeguarding action will mitigate and prevent. A comprehensive code of conduct, safeguarding training for staff, and an accessible reporting process will help you manage these risks.

Data breaches and GDPR are another safeguarding risk you can prepare for. You can strengthen cybersecurity measures, train staff, and regularly audit how your organisation handles data. Including GDPR compliance training for staff is another action you could take.

Policies, Procedures and Practices

Your safeguarding policies should be examined once a year but always reviewed after a severe issue.

Policies provide overarching principles, procedures offer detailed step-by-step instructions, and practices embody the real-world application of both in daily operations. Every trustee in your organisation should have the means to monitor the performance of policies, procedures and practices.

You can use strategies such as recording risk management, engaging with stakeholders for feedback, and conducting site checks. As well as collaborating with statutory agencies and implementing training plans for safeguarding. This multifaceted approach ensures trustees remain vigilant, responsive, and proactive in upholding the well-being and integrity of their charity.

Discussion and Decisions

If your organisation is large, make sure everyone knows the procedures by creating a working group. Include leaders in the group, trustees and those responsible for health and safety. You could also approach local safeguarding agencies, the police or your local council for professional advice.

Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO)

There should be at least one person in the organisation who handles the development of safeguarding policies and is the first person to call for safeguarding-related concerns. Everyone must know who this is. This information must be available to anyone who needs to elevate a concern. You might be referring to them as the Child protection or safeguarding lead.

If you are a safeguarding lead, you can respond to information that might be a safeguarding concern by elevating this to the relevant authority, such as the NSPCC, the police or your local child protection agency.

Code of Conduct

The Charity Governance Code is a good resource if you are unsure what to include.

A comprehensive code of conduct will communicate to your staff and volunteers what behaviour you expect of them.

Volunteers & Staff

When it comes to keeping your team safe and preventing harm, it’s important to make sure that everyone you bring on board is allowed to work for your organisation. 

In addition, some activities may require insurance coverage for your volunteers, staff, or other assets. You can find out more about the types of insurance needed for these activities on the government website.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your team is operating in a secure and protected environment.

Got a project?

Let us talk it through