As the Commission continues to look into safeguarding issues, this is a timely opportunity to ensure your charity is complying with the Safeguarding Guidance, which applies to all charities and not just those which work with children and/or adults at risk.

On Thursday 17 November 2021, mid-way though Adult Safeguarding Week, the Charity Commission published an updated version of its guidance on ‘Safeguarding and protecting people for charities and trustees’ (the “Safeguarding Guidance”).

What’s new in the Safeguarding Guidance?

The Safeguarding Guidance now includes greater detail for charities which operate online and recognises a number of specific risks associated with such activities, which include:

  1. Content: Who controls the content on your charity’s website and social media accounts, and is all content posted suitable? Is it necessary to use age restrictions? Does your charity have permission to share details of an individual on social media?
  2. Contact: How do people talk to each other, for example through private messages on social media accounts, and how is everyone kept safe? Is it clear how to report concerns?
  3. Conduct: Is all conduct in line with your charity’s code of conduct and how does your charity monitor this? Is personal information processed in accordance with UK GDPR and your charity’s privacy policy?

This updated guidance will apply to charities which operate an online service or an online chat/messaging function, host meetings online and/or have social media accounts. As we return to a ‘new normal’ post COVID-19, charities need to ensure that policies and procedures reflect the risks of operating with a stronger online presence, particularly if it had to move its services online to respond to COVID-19 restrictions and it continues to operate in this way, but it has not yet been able to ensure its policies and procedures have been updated to reflect these working arrangements.

Why do all charities need to be aware of this?

The Charity Commission’s position is that “Protecting people and safeguarding responsibilities should be a governance priority for all charities”. To ensure that this is at the forefront of trustee’s minds, the Charity Commission has said that it will hold trustees to account if things go wrong and, if necessary, it will make referrals to the relevant safeguarding agencies. Trustees therefore need to ensure that they adhere to the expectations of the Charity Commission set down in the Safeguarding Guidance. These include, but are not limited to, trustees making sure that their charity:

  1. Has appropriate policies and procedures in place, which are followed by all trustees, staff, volunteers and beneficiaries;
  2. Has clear referral and reporting systems in place to relevant agencies as soon as concerns are suspected or identified; and
  3. Conducts periodic reviews of safeguarding policies, procedures and practices.

If your charity’s policies and procedures for protecting people and safeguarding have not been reviewed for more than a year, then it is important time is found to do so, and particularly to ensure that the updated Safeguarding Guidance on online safety is appropriately reflected, if it is not already covered and it is necessary to do so.

Should you need any further advice or assistance in interpreting the Charity Commission’s guidance or updating your charity’s policies or procedures, please contact us.