Voluntary Sector Support Guidance

Safeguarding advice for voluntary organisations

Safeguarding refers to the steps that are taken to protect everyone from harm. Everyone has a right to be safe from harm, abuse and neglect. In your organisation steps should be taken to ensure that everyone is safe including your beneficiaries, volunteers, staff and trustees. Safeguarding is defined in ‘Working together to safeguard children’ 2018 as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment;
  • preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development;
  • ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

In terms of adult’s safeguarding means protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect

Abuse of both children and adults can include:

It is not your organisation’s role to establish whether or not abuse is taking place but it is the organisation’s responsibility to report any concerns over the welfare of individuals. This duty extends to the identification of abuse, poor practice by staff, volunteers and trustees of the organisation, as well as allegations brought to the attention of the organisation by a member of the public/community.

Who is responsible?

Everyone within your organisation has a responsibility towards safeguarding.

But the board of trustees are responsible for ensuring that there are appropriate policies and procedures in place to safeguard everyone. The board of trustees may choose to delegate this responsibility to a senior employee, for example the organisation’s Chief Executive if there is one.

Training should be offered to all staff, volunteers and trustees that is proportionate to their role and reflects the work they do. For example, a volunteer befriender visiting people in their own homes will need much more detailed safeguarding training than perhaps a marshal at a one off jogging event. However both volunteering roles need to have an understanding of safeguarding and their role within it.

Safeguarding Policy

It’s important to have a clear approach to safeguarding and to have this written down in a Safeguarding Policy.

Having safeguards in place within your organisation not only protects and promotes the welfare of children and vulnerable adults but it also increases the confidence of trustees, staff, volunteers, parents/carers and the general public.

Safeguarding is most effective when everyone understands their individual responsibilities towards it and how they need to work together with others. Your policy should clearly outline responsibilities and the process or steps taken to safeguard effectively within your organisation.

You should make sure that your policies are appropriate to the size of your organisation, they need to reflect the work that you do and be easily understood by everyone. There are some useful tips on the NCVO website here.

Remember to include the trustees when writing a Safeguarding Policy. The Policy and any subsequent amendments to it will need to be adopted at a meeting of the trustees. It’s good practice to review your organisation’s policy at regular intervals (usually annually) to make sure they reflect your current working practices and are fit for purpose.

Safe recruitment of staff, volunteers and trustees

When recruiting support for your organisation including trustees, staff and volunteers, the following is best practice in safe recruitment.

It may be helpful for your organisation to have a safe recruitment policy which includes these points.

  • Role profiles. It’s important that you’re clear about the role you’re recruiting to. This includes volunteering roles, trustees and staff. Having role profiles for everyone will help to set clear boundaries on what is expected from the start of each role. Role profiles can be referred to throughout the volunteering role / employment not just during the recruitment process.
  • Interviews. You should carry out an interview for all roles including volunteers. Interviews can be very formal, or informal depending on what you feel is appropriate to the role. It is often helpful to ask a safeguarding question of your candidates during the recruitment process. For example, ‘What is your understanding of safeguarding’? This will help you identify any potential training needs.
  • References. It is standard practice to ask for references, including for volunteers. References should be used alongside information you gather in the interview and recruitment process to help build a bigger picture of the person potentially joining your team.
  • DBS Checks. Depending on the role you’re recruiting to, you may need to undertake a Disclosure and Barring (DBS) check, previously known as a Criminal Records Check (CRB). Only individuals undertaking what is known as ‘Regulated Activity’ require a DBS check. It is your responsibility to ensure that only the appropriate people are DBS checked. In accordance with Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) procedures, it is also your responsibility to report any individual to the DBS who come to your attention through the recruitment process.
  • Induction, probation and training. All staff and volunteers should have an induction that will include an explanation of the organisations safeguarding policies and procedures. Appropriate training should be offered for each role. It’s also quite common for staff and volunteers to start their role on a probationary period (eg six months). Having a probationary period is a two way process, it also allows volunteers and staff to ‘road test’ their roles within your organisation too.
  • Support and supervision. Depending on the different roles of your volunteers / staff, they will need differing levels of ongoing support and supervision. For example, a volunteer for a one off event probably doesn’t need weekly or monthly supervision, however a volunteer befriender supporting families weekly with parenting support would definitely need regular supervision. Supervision can be formal or informal, but it’s very important that your team all understand what support is there for them, and what to do if they have any worries or concerns.

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