Trustee duties explained on safeguarding children

Written by Andrew Holt

The Charity Commission has today published its Strategy for dealing with safeguarding children and vulnerable adults’ issues in charities.

The strategy sets out trustees’ safeguarding responsibilities in their charity and this includes taking steps to protect children and vulnerable adults from harm, it explains what they should do to prevent problems from arising in the first place and how they should respond to allegations and incidents of abuse when they do arise in their charities.

This follows from the publication of the Commission’s new Risk Framework and Risk Application Guidance.

This sets out its regulatory approach, how it assesses risk, and identifies three regulatory areas requiring a clear strategic response; one of which is safeguarding in charities.

The Safeguarding Strategy makes clear that trustees must develop and implement systems to safeguard children and vulnerable adults and monitor these procedures on a regular basis to ensure they are working in practice.

The strategy also explains the regulator’s own role in this area. The Commission is not responsible for safeguarding matters or for dealing with incidents of actual abuse - this is a role for other agencies.

The Commission’s regulatory role is focused instead on the conduct of trustees and the steps they take to protect the charity and its beneficiaries now and in the future.

The strategy describes the Commission’s role and approach in dealing with safeguarding issues in relation to charities. It explains how the Charity Commission:

Works with the sector and other agencies to prevent safeguarding concerns arising in the first place

Responds to allegations or reports of abuse of children and vulnerable adults within a charity

Deals with concerns about someone who is currently acting as a charity trustee, employee, volunteer or contractor and their suitability to hold that position

It sets out its 4 strand approach: awareness and prevention; oversight and supervision; co-operation and intervention.

The Commission also recently published a strategy for dealing with fraud, financial crime and financial abuse in charities and will shortly republish its Counter-terrorism strategy – originally published in 2008 – which is being updated to reflect changes to CONTEST (the UK’s Counter-terrorism strategy).

The new safeguarding strategy is aimed at trustees of charities, as well as at other agencies responsible for safeguarding issues.

Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission said: “Any abuse of children and vulnerable adults is a criminal offence and therefore a matter for the police. But when it happens in a charity, such abuse also risks undermining public trust and confidence in all charities.

“Trustees of charities which work with children and vulnerable adults have a duty of care to their charity which will include taking the necessary steps to safeguard and take responsibility for those children and vulnerable adults. So it is vital that they develop, implement and monitor effective safeguarding policies and procedures to protect these vulnerable beneficiaries.

“We will intervene in serious cases or where there has been non compliance or abuse. We urge trustees to familiarise themselves with this safeguarding strategy.”

Simon Massey, head of Safe Network added: “It’s vital for trustees of charities to ensure that they take the necessary steps to protect their service users from any form of abuse and, if there are concerns they are reported to the relevant organisations to follow up."

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