Charity Commission launches new Safeguarding Portal
The Charity Commission has updated its safeguarding resources and has implemented a new safeguarding portal. The launch of the portal is useful in view of the unprecedented situation charities are facing in the light of Covid-19. The portal can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/safeguarding-for-charities-and-trustees and is a helpful resource for charity trustees to understand their duties in respect of safeguarding and also how any concerns should be handled.
The portal recommends that charities should refer any safeguarding concerns to a named person within their charity as a first port of call. It is also important that trustees put an appropriate safeguarding policy in place that takes into account their charity's circumstances and that is fit for purpose.
The online portal also contains links to the Charity Commission's guidance in relation to safeguarding policies and procedure, which are all useful documents for all charity trustees to have read and understood. A typical safeguarding policy would include information on the steps which the charity takes to protect the charity's beneficiaries or service users as part of delivering the charity's aims. It would also include information on how the charity's trustees, employees and volunteers should handle and raise any safeguarding allegations or concerns, how these can be reported within the charity and how the charity will deal with these. A policy would also include information on who the charity would report to externally regarding safeguarding concerns.
The portal allows a reporter to select the type of safeguarding incident that has occurred within a charity and works through questions that the charity's trustees should have asked themselves as the incident has come to light. The portal reflects practical questions that trustees should be considering or issues that they should be mindful of when dealing with a safeguarding incident and provides useful advice on how a charity should be handling the incident with relevant links and guidance available to hand. The portal also deals with any further action that the charity might need to take in relation to alleged perpetrators and links are provided to the ACAS Guidance.
The online portal also links to serious incidents and helps trustees to understand their duties around serious incidents and when these should be reported to The Charity Commission. Serious incident reporting is particularly relevant at a time when trustees are trying to strategize and take difficult or potentially controversial decisions in the light of Covid-19. The withdrawal of The Charity Commission's recently issued guidance on serious incident reporting and Covid-19 following criticism that it was not as helpful as it could have been, demonstrates just how difficult this is, including for the Regulator. Although it can be overwhelming for trustees when there is so much information out there - and frustrating when guidance is suddenly withdrawn; having regard to guidance issued by The Charity Commission and keeping up to date with changes to it remains sensible because it is harder to criticise trustees who are doing their best to have regard to, and interpret and implement this guidance where it is relevant to their charity and where they can. Making sure that someone in the charity receives The Charity Commission's emailed bulletins, and that these are distributed to others where appropriate is useful and also having someone who periodically checks The Charity Commission's website for any updates.
Overall, the updated portal provides charity trustees with practical information and questions that they should be mindful of when dealing with safeguarding concerns. It also takes into account other factors such as data protection and employment issues that may arise during the course of a safeguarding incident. Trustees should bear in mind that there is no 'one size fits all' and that guidance should always be interpreted and implemented in the context of their organisation and what is in the charity's best interests.
We can provide further advice to charities and their trustees around how to handle any specific safeguarding concerns, and guidance on developing or implementing a safeguarding policy if required.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.