Charity trustees urged to act on safeguarding

Charity Commission has published a safeguarding strategy urging all trustees to act proactively to ensure no one who comes into contact with their charity suffers distress or harm, highlighting safeguarding as a key governance priority

It also makes clear that safeguarding goes beyond preventing physical abuse, and includes protecting people from harm generally, including neglect, emotional abuse, exploitation, radicalisation, and the consequences of the misuse of personal data.

Where a charity funds other organisations, such as overseas partners, that work with children or adults at risk, its trustees should carry out appropriate due diligence so that they can be confident that their partner has in place appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures.

Safeguarding is one of the three areas of risk facing charities that the Commission priorities in its work, alongside fraud and financial abuse and mismanagement and the extremist and terrorist abuse of charities. It says trustees always remain responsible for safeguarding, even if some aspects of it are delegated to staff.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Commission, said: ‘The public rightly expect all charities to be safe environments. So all trustees should make safeguarding a governance priority.

‘Of course, what trustees do in practice will depend on the context of their charity’s work, and trustees should take a proportionate approach.

‘Charities working with vulnerable groups such as children and adults at risk for example, will need to ensure their safeguarding policies and practices comply with relevant safeguarding legislation and regulations.

‘But all trustees should think about the people that come into contact with their charity and consider the steps they can take to prevent them from coming to harm.’

Russell said recent accusations of harassment in the work place, including against some charities, demonstrated how vital it is that trustees are alive to the need to protect and safeguard all those involved in or affected by their work.

The Commission also recently found that some veterans’ charities were not taking adequate steps to protect their beneficiaries, in part, because the trustees did not consider certain veterans as being vulnerable.

The new strategy sets out the Commission’s approach to safeguarding, and explains what trustees’ charity law duties mean in the context of safeguarding. It replaces a previous strategy.

Strategy for dealing with safeguarding issues in charities is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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