What is safeguarding?
In UK legislation, safeguarding relates to protecting vulnerable adults and children from abuse, neglect and harm. However, organisations working in international development and UK charities are expanding that definition to address abuse and harm which might take place in their organisations. According to the UK Charity Commission this means ensuring that, "no one who comes into contact with their charity suffers distress or harm."
Identifying & addressing safeguarding risks
Much like the concept of duty of care, there is no one thing which must be done to address all safeguarding risks. Establishing a safeguarding 'function' or hiring a 'Head of Safeguarding' are good steps toward identifying and addressing safeguarding risks but - like duty of care and security - safeguarding must be inclusive and integrated in many of the functions and roles in the organisation. Like the oft quoted saying that, 'everyone is responsible for security' in the same way, 'everyone' must be responsible for safeguarding.
Components of safeguarding
There are a variety of components organisations need to consider when strengthening their safeguarding practice to address safeguarding risks including these below. Each are critical in safeguarding practice:
Is safeguarding just about sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse?
No, safeguarding practice is much broader than addressing harm caused by sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. At the moment, there is focus on these issues specifically, but safeguarding practice should be broader and more robust to identify and address all issues which could harm employees and others with whom the organisation works. Sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse is among the issues safeguarding addresses but it is not the only one.
What other risks does good safeguarding practice help address?
withdrawal of funding
Where to begin?
Safer Edge recommends beginning by being proactive in discovering and preventing safeguarding risks
Traditional approaches to safeguarding tend to rely on those targeted for abuse, or an observer, speaking up. However, the average time for a survivor of sexual abuse to speak out is 22 years after the last incident of abuse. Placing sole emphasis on people coming forward to report runs serious risks of missing or deterring misconduct. Sexual harassment, violence, exploitation and other safeguarding risks can be invisible until the damage is done.
Relying solely on complainants reporting doesn’t sit well with the values and commitments international development organisations and charities. Having people well trained and capable of proactively investigating safeguarding issues – spotting triggers, identifying behaviours, as well as competently responding to concerns – is vital for organisations.
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Safeguarding in humanitarian organisations: a practical look at prevention and response
Humanitarian organisations are looking to improve their safeguarding practice. Some have well developed system and mechanisms and some are just beginning to implement or enhance theirs. This article by Kelsey Hoppe and Christine Williamson gives safeguarding practitioners some thoughtful practical steps to take. Read more...
UK Charity Commission
UK Department for International Development (DFID)
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