The Charity Commission issued an alert on 24 June 2021 to help trustees of international aid charities to improve their safeguarding practices. This contains several helpful recommendations for steps charities can take to ensure they are keeping those who come into contact with their organisation safe from harm.
Why safeguarding is still important
Recent casework and analysis of serious incident reports made to the Charity Commission show that there is still much work to be done to protect the vulnerable people international charities come into contact with, particularly aid beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, the International Development Committee’s recent report on this issue showed that aid beneficiaries continue to experience sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by aid workers, who continue to move from organisation to organisation with impunity. A lack of trust in the aid sector, combined with cultural traditions, gender roles and differing justice systems, means many incidents go unreported.
Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the challenges faced by trustees of international charities trying to tackle those risks, with reductions in aid and food supplies making female beneficiaries in particular more vulnerable to exploitation.
For this reason, it is as important as ever for trustees of international charities to consider what further measures they can take to protect the individuals their charities seek to help.
Key recommended steps
Some of the key steps the Commission has recommended when it comes to safeguarding for charities are as follows:
1. Seek to strengthen your charity’s safeguarding risk prevention and risk management measures.
- Consider joining the Misconduct Disclosure Scheme to help protect your charity and other organisations in the sector from individuals who pose a safeguarding risk.
- Consider whether you could use the sector-led safeguarding culture tool for leaders as part of developing and modelling a positive safeguarding culture.
- Make sure your policies, communications and ongoing performance management help maintain appropriate behaviours by charity staff and workers, both to each other and the beneficiaries they serve.
- Review Keeping Children Safe’s summary findings from safeguarding-specific central assurance assessments of charities to identify any relevant lessons for your charity, such as whistleblowing and safeguarding risk management.
- Explore whether gender and diversity imbalances in your charity’s trustee board and senior management are potential safeguarding risk factors which require proactive management.
2. Try to encourage more reporting by local beneficiaries.
- Provide victims and survivors, and their families and friends, with a safe means to report their concerns and complaints.
- Design reporting mechanisms that are sensitive to the local context, considering face-to-face reporting and safe spaces for witnesses and survivors to report.
- Where appropriate, use community-based organisations to hold open and frank conversations with beneficiaries about any concerns in a safe and trusted environment.
- Review the reporting arrangements your charity has in place with any third parties or partner agencies, and assess what steps can be taken to develop those.
3. Develop management responses, including victim and survivor support.
- Develop a survivor-centred approach to safeguarding that accurately reflects the range of potential harms faced and considers possible victim and survivor support services from programme/project conception.
- Communicate clearly what support is available to victims and survivors and how it is accessed.
- Act quickly to prevent or minimise any further harm or damage when incidents or allegations occur.
- Launch robust and timely investigations into allegations or concerns where they arise.
The new Guidance can be read in full here.
Resources for safeguarding for charities
The Commission also highlights several other useful resources for charities seeking to improve their safeguarding practices, including:
- The FCDO – Safeguarding against sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector;
- UK Aid – The Resource and Support Hub; and
- The Open University – Introduction to Safeguarding in the International Aid Sector.
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