Trustee Safeguarding Responsibilities – Breaking the Myths

Safeguarding has been very topical this year, and has been raised at many client meetings; the interesting thing about this is the number of misconceptions Trustees and Clerks have had about their responsibilities.
  • All Trustees of all charities are accountable and responsible for ensuring that their charity has robust safeguarding practices. Responsibilities are not limited to those charities working with children and vulnerable groups (i.e. elderly or disabled).
  • Trustees duty of care covers not only beneficiaries of the charity but also the staff, volunteers and other agencies the charity works with.
  • Safeguarding responsibilities extend beyond where physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and neglect are identified; and cover commercial exploitation, extremism and radicalisation (UK Prevent Agenda), forced marriage and Honour based violence, child trafficking and FGM (female genital mutilation).
  • Notifying the Clerk to oversee the process does not absolve the Trustees from their responsibilities. The clerk is responsible for operational matters, but the Trustees should be making appropriate enquiries to ensure sufficiently robust processes and practice are in place.

However, by investing some time now and the implementation of few simple processes you can quickly make improvements:

  • Identify your areas of risk – complete a risk assessment covering all parties the charity works with either directly or indirectly (i.e. beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, other agencies etc.)
  • Manage your risk – identify training requirements, ensure policies are in place; review existing practice; ensure you, as Trustees, are aware of the frequency of updating awareness training (good practice may be for new staff to complete structured training and annually for all staff to have an update); attend training and refresher sessions for monitoring purposes; understand who needs DBS (disclosure and barring service) checks.
  • Reporting concerns – there must be a clear guidance on how concerns are to be reported and to whom.
  • Monitor your processes – how do you ensure that your policies are up to date?  Who is responsible for this?  How do you want to ensure systems are operating in accordance with policies?  How do you want to monitor this at meetings and on what regularity?
  • Culture – the process must be very much top-down, if you want good or excellent practice staff and volunteers must perceive this as important to you rather than a form filling exercise. Staff and volunteers must understand how to report concerns and feel safe to do so.
The Charity Commission have produced a document “10 actions trustee boards need to take to ensure good safeguarding governance” which may be useful to take along to your next meeting and can be found here
For any questions or if you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Deborah Austin.