Recent guidance on safeguarding for charities and the housing sector

In December 2017, the Charity Commission published a revised safeguarding strategy and the Local Government Association published “Making Safeguarding Personal: What might ‘good’ look like for those working in the housing sector?”.  These publications serve as a useful reminder of the part which charities and the housing sector have to play in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.


The Charity Commission’s revised safeguarding strategy

The revised safeguarding strategy, published by the Charity Commission on 6 December 2017, emphasises that safeguarding should be a key priority for all charities, regardless of whether their work focusses on groups who are traditionally considered to be at risk. Safeguarding remains one of the three main areas of risk for charities prioritised by the Charity Commission, alongside fraud and financial abuse/mismanagement and terrorist and extremist abuse of charities. 

The policy paper reiterates that trustees play a central role in safeguarding and it is their responsibility to ensure that their charity fosters a safe environment for all who come in contact with it including staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries. It is the trustees who are primarily responsible for safeguarding, even if certain aspects are delegated to others in their organisation.

It also confirms that safeguarding should be interpreted more broadly than the prevention of physical abuse and extends to a range of types of harm including neglect, emotional abuse, exploitation, radicalisation, and the effects of the misuse of personal data.

The previously used four-strand approach to safeguarding is retained in the revised strategy but with some amendments:

  • Awareness and Prevention – here it is reiterated that trustees have responsibility for safeguarding and prevention of harm and are expected to have the requisite knowledge, skills and expertise to do so effectively and responsibly.
  • Oversight and Supervision – the Charity Commission undertakes strategic, tactical and operational risk assessments of safeguarding issues based on a range of information. Trustees are reminded of the requirement to report serious incidents to the Commission so that: (i) the Commission is able to provide advice at the earliest opportunity, (ii) the information can be used to inform their assessments of safeguarding issues, and (iii) they can ensure that a person unsuitable to be a trustee owing to safeguarding concerns is not a trustee of another charity.
  • Co-operation – the Commission emphasises the importance of effective relationships between it and other agencies to facilitate prevention and intervention where necessary through, for example, the sharing of information, referrals where the charity’s activities are specialist, and keeping up to date with legislative changes.
  • Intervention – the Charity Commission will assess safeguarding concerns against their Risk Framework and also have the power to open inquiries under section 46 of the Charities Act 2011. Where trustees have acted honestly and reasonably and are taking appropriate steps to manage the risk, the Commission’s intervention is likely to be limited. Trustees are expected to act responsibly, follow advice and deal with the consequences of a breach without the need for further intervention.

Perhaps the most practical addition to the new strategy is an Annex containing an explanation of trustees’ duties including the basic principles, support available, and good practice in recruiting trustees and staff. Particularly noteworthy for trustees of charities which have an international element is the duty to carry out appropriate due diligence on connected organisations, including overseas partners, so that the trustees can be confident that their partner organisation has adequate safeguarding policies and procedures to carry out the proposed activities or services safely. 

The Local Government Association’s guidance for the housing sector

As this guidance notes, the housing sector has an important role to play in safeguarding adults, both on the ‘front line’ and at a strategic level, as partners on safeguarding adults boards, and this publication is part of a suite of resources aimed at supporting the housing sector in relation to adult safeguarding under the Care Act 2014.  

“Making safeguarding personal” is a concept which forms part of the Department of Health’s Care and Support Statutory Guidance and which was designed to help ensure adult safeguarding:

  • is person-led;
  • is outcome-focused;
  • engages the person and enhances involvement, choice and control; and
  • improves quality of life, wellbeing and safety.

The guidance outlines 8 core principles which it says are already present in existing housing policy and guidance but should be applied consistently across front line practice and which should be developed and worked on by the housing sector to make safeguarding personal. These include supporting and developing the workforce, making sure that staff are aware of and respond to the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and developing a focus on prevention and early intervention.

For any questions regarding the content of this article, please contact Claire WhittleEmma Dowden-Teale or Caraline Johnson

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of December 19, 2017.