What are the key challenges affecting charity safeguarding?

  • Any charity that has contact with children and adults at risk has a duty to put in place appropriate safeguarding procedures to protect them from harm
  • A combination of factors is making it harder for many charities to keep on top of their safeguarding responsibilities
  • We discuss how charities can support their staff, volunteers and trustees to deliver effective safeguarding

While not every charity will come into contact with children or adults at risk, for those that do, protecting them from harm is a top priority.

One of the biggest challenges for organisations that have contact with children and adults at risk is that safeguarding risks are continually changing, as we discuss in detail in our new whitepaper, The evolving safeguarding risk landscape.

For charities, there are also a range of internal and external pressures that can make safeguarding a more complex challenge.

The impact of austerity

Many charities depend on the revenue they receive through local government contracts. However, with local authority budgets significantly diminished following a decade of austerity, there are concerns that some councils are pricing contracts in a way that is not sustainable.

This has had serious implications for certain organisations, including charities that take on local authority contracts to provide care and accommodation for children and adults at risk. Some councils are now only covering the cost of care – because that is what they have a statutory responsibility to deliver – forcing these charities to find another way of funding accommodation.

Gordon Wilmott, Head of Charities and Social Organisations, Zurich Municipal, says: “The situation has become far more complex and costly for many charities, and some are undoubtedly operating services that are underfunded. However, what they cannot afford to do is let that affect the way they choose to deliver safeguarding.”

Increased public scrutiny

The charitable sector also finds itself under scrutiny like never before, partly as a result of the safeguarding scandals involving some of Britain’s best-known charities, including Oxfam and Save the Children.

Gordon says it is vital that charities learn lessons from safeguarding failings within the sector and respond accordingly. While not every charity will be able to double the size of its safeguarding team – as Oxfam reportedly did following the sexual misconduct allegations it faced – all charities need to ensure they are providing their staff, volunteers and trustees with the training and support they need to carry out their safeguarding duties.

Gordon says: “I’ve heard some charities say that potential trustees and volunteers are being put off because they’re worried they won’t get the right training, or that they’ll be held responsible in the event of a safeguarding incident.

“It’s very much in the interest of charities to be able to demonstrate they have the right training, policies and procedures in place to support their people.”

Gordon says many charities have expressed a need for practical safeguarding guidance they can share with staff, volunteers and trustees, including information about changes in relevant safeguarding legislation and statutory guidance.

Our whitepaper, The evolving safeguarding risk landscape, provides a concise summary of several of the most important recent changes in safeguarding legislation, including the recently updated Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance.

High rates of staff turnover

Keeping staff abreast of safeguarding developments is often made more complicated by high rates of staff turnover.

“Some charities will typically see 20-30% of their staff leave within their first year,” says Gordon. “We are speaking to many of our charity customers about how we can help them to make sure their training is updated for new staff members, and how they can ensure their safeguarding processes and protocols are continually promoted and reviewed.”

How Zurich can support charities on safeguarding

Zurich is the only insurer in the UK to have a dedicated Safeguarding Risk Consultant. Marie Williams works with customers, and internally with our underwriting teams and other colleagues, to improve understanding of safeguarding risks.

We also have a dedicated Safeguarding Risk Resource – an archive of all our safeguarding content that addresses some of the most frequent safeguarding questions.

In addition, our latest whitepaper, The evolving safeguarding risk landscape, provides simple, practical guidance on a range of safeguarding topics, including a useful checklist for organisations to use when creating or updating a safeguarding policy.