Safeguarding: do you need to update what you’re doing?

Safeguarding has shot to the top of the sector’s agenda in the wake of the revelations from international development charities.

But while these concerns originated from the aid sector, safeguarding is important for all charities. Just this weekend we saw new figures on sexual misconduct in the charities’ retail operations. While they are low in the context of the quarter of a million who volunteer in charity shops, we should be striving to get incidences of misconduct as close to zero as they can be everywhere throughout the sector. It’s important to us that we’re providing the support and resources to help all voluntary organisations work towards this.

What safeguarding means

Whereas in the past, the concept of safeguarding was used primarily in relation to children and vulnerable adults, best practice these days is to think about how we safeguard everyone in our organisations at all times. Everyone who works for us and everyone we come into contact with could be vulnerable at some point or in some situations. Real safeguarding needs to recognise this reality and account for these situations.

Safeguarding means protecting people in our organisation or people we come into contact with from inappropriate behaviour as well as from abuse or financial harm. This means we have to think about recruitment, supervision and support in everything we do. We also have to ensure that beneficiaries, staff and volunteers feel able to raise any concerns or complaints.


Above all, getting this right means we have to think about culture, and how we instil the right culture in our organisations. A safeguarding policy is not enough alone: it needs to genuinely help drive priorities and culture throughout an organisation. It has to set expectations and boundaries.

At a time of widespread concern about sexual harassment, let’s not forget that charities can have a meaningful impact on the rest of society. Between us, we employ over one million people. We can help raise standards by acting as model employers and model partner organisations.

While the scale of risk will vary greatly between different organisations, there is no charity which does not need at least to assess the safeguarding risk that their activities present. The approach to safeguarding should be rooted in that assessment and proportionate to the risk presented. This needn’t be a laborious process for most organisations, but safeguarding is something that should be on every board’s agenda for their next meeting.

It’s crucial we don’t see this as something that only large charities need to do. As my colleague Karl pointed out the other day, this is a matter for organisations of all sizes, and it’s very reassuring to see small organisations taking it just as seriously as household-name brands.

Resources to help you

We’re doing all we can to help our members ensure their safeguarding practices are the best they can be. We have a range of free resources, and we have also secured discounts for NCVO members with a leading supplier of safeguarding training and advice.

Information and guidance

We have also dropped our members paywall with associated content:  template policies on whistleblowing and anti-harassment and bullying.

Face-to-face training

NCVO’s Trusted Supplier Leonard Consultancy can provide bespoke training to organisations with a 10% discount for NCVO members

Online training

NCVO’s Trusted Supplier SAFEcic offers online courses on:

  • Child safeguarding
  • Leading on child safeguarding for managers
  • Adult safeguarding
  • Safeguarding adults with dementia
  • Leading on adult safeguarding for managers 

Safeguarding audits and pre-inspection visits

NCVO’s Trusted Supplier SAFEcic also offers safeguarding audits and pre-inspection audit services for a wide range of organisations such as those in leisure, health and education. These aim to raise standards and also assist managers in benchmarking the safeguarding arrangements in their organisation.


NCVO members get 10% discount on consultancy and practice services from our Trusted Supplier Leonard Consultancy.


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Avatar photo Richard is the director of enterprise. His brief includes consultancy, training, membership, marketing events and business development, and the development of new products and services that benefit civil society. Richard has worked in the voluntary sector for over 30 years and focused on youth enterprise, unemployment measures, environmental issues, income generation, partnership development, and diversity. He is a trustee of the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust and an ambassador for The Conservation Volunteers. Richard is a non-executive director of Trustees Unlimited and CaSE Insurance, both NCVO collaborative ventures, and non-executive director of NCVO Trading Ltd. He is the founder of Business Launchpad, formerly the Wandsworth Youth Enterprise Centre.

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