Safeguarding: A round-up

Safeguarding has dominated the agenda of the charity sector and the aid sector this year. Six months on from a high level summit of governments, regulators, charities, and other aid actors, October saw the culmination of various efforts to improve safeguarding practice. Here Emma Hutchins looks at what they are, and importantly, what they mean for foundations.

International measures

The Department for International Development (DFID) acted quickly in leading the government’s response to the stories that came to light in the media in February. Having revised its standards of due diligence for funded organisations, a series of new measures was announced in October. They included a pilot system with Interpol to prevent known perpetrators moving from organisation to organisation undetected, and a donation of £2m to the Humanitarian Innovation Fund to support interventions that prevent sexual abuse and exploitation.

Perhaps of most use to foundations, DFID is also establishing a Resource and Support Hub bringing together research, guidance and training available for NGOs. Foundations may want to direct grantees towards this hub when they are seeking to improve their practice.

Channels of reporting will also be improved. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is launching a hotline to raise concerns in future emergencies, and the Charity Commission for England and Wales is working on a standard approach to criminal reporting. A Statement of Victims’ Rights is also in development, led by experts in this area and the UN.

The Summit also saw major international donors committing to uphold principles of ethical behaviour, as set out by Bond.

Domestic measures

The Office for Civil Society announced a package of measures for all charities to complement DFID’s plans. There will be £2m for projects that raise awareness of and improve the handling of safeguarding incidents, and digital solutions to improve reporting are being developed. There are also plans to offer free training to charities, supported by Big Lottery Fund. To ensure the measures are implemented, Professor John Drew CBE has been appointed to chair a Safeguarding Programme Group.

Underpinning these measures to address cultures within charities, government is pointing to NCVO’s charity Code of Ethics that is currently under development. Its aim is to provide a set of standards similar to the public sector Nolan principles that reflect values held universally across the charity sector.

For foundations

Regardless of what kind of work they do, it is important that foundations take stock of these measures. The emphasis on the importance of culture and values is a common thread under the Charity Commission for England and Wales’ new strategy, and is likely to underpin many debates in the coming years.

There is also a renewed focus on the importance of reporting, which has perhaps been more muted in years gone by. Reporting serious incidents to the regulator is a sign of good governance and risk management, as well as a regulatory requirement, and we are likely to see this point reiterated as the Commission develops its use of digital and data.

In practical terms, foundations working directly or indirectly with children or vulnerable adults may want to become familiar with the new measures. Those whose work overlaps with government may also find it useful to consider the impact on grantees and beneficiaries. New measures may place additional requirements on some charities; others may provide a source of training or information for foundations to signpost in support of grantees.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about ACF’s work on safeguarding, please contact

Emma Hutchins
Policy & Communications Manager, ACF

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