What is safeguarding, and why is it important for Trustees?

4 November 2020 | By Erin Hughes

Safeguarding is an important part of the role of every Trustee. But what is it, who needs to be safeguarded, and how can Trustees ensure that they are fulfilling this role properly?

Safeguarding for Trustees means ensuring that your charity takes all reasonable and practicable steps to protect from harm people who come into contact with your charity. This does not just mean children and vulnerable adults but includes all people who benefit from your charity’s work, your staff, volunteers, and any other people who come into contact with the organisation. 

There are varying risks that Trustees should be alert to, including bullying, negligent treatment and cyber abuse, among many other areas, which are listed on The Charity Commission website. 

It is essential that Trustees take the role of safeguarding seriously as it is vital to protecting people from harm. Good safeguarding requires habits and practices which keep people safe whilst they are engaging with your charity and should be an integral part of the culture of your Board of Trustees.

How, then, can Trustees improve safeguarding practices?

  1. Recognise the role of the Trustee: Your organisation should have a designated safeguarding lead, who should attend training to help them carry out their role effectively. In small organisations with less staffing capacity, this is often a Board member. However, whether you are the safeguarding lead or not, safeguarding should be considered a priority for every member of the Board, and all Trustees need to have an awareness and understanding of safeguarding and the different risks their organisation might face. Trustees are responsible for upholding the charity’s values, ethics and code of conduct, creating a supportive and responsive environment, and listening to staff and volunteers. 

Safeguarding should be considered a priority for every member of the Board

  1. Review reporting practices: Recognising the signs of harm or potential for harm will not benefit the organisation if nobody knows how to effectively report concerns. It is important to frequently review reporting procedures and to ensure that everybody at the organisation is familiar with them. Trustees, staff and volunteers should be aware that they do not need to be certain there is an issue before they report their concerns, and they should know that, if they need to voice concerns, their concerns will be heard, and appropriate action will be taken.  

    It is important to recognise that zero safeguarding reports is not a guaranteed sign that everything is okay. A safeguarding policy and reporting procedure will help people at your organisation to know when to report something, and how to do so.  

  2. Talk about it: Safeguarding needs to be an integral part of the culture at charities. One way to ensure this is to make it a priority on your Board meeting agenda. Create space for reflection on current practice and to hear feedback from staff, volunteers and service users, as well as taking time to review your policies and procedures.  
  3. Invest in training: Training for staff, volunteers and Trustees is a great way to build a positive safeguarding culture in the organisation. This doesn’t need to be delivered by a formal external facilitator but should include induction sessions to set out the safeguarding policy and reporting procedures. In addition, all new staff and volunteers should receive a code of conduct, and a record should be kept showing that everybody has seen and understood it.  Where you do want to consider external training, there are plenty of support services available. 
  4. Ensure that staff and volunteers have the relevant checks in place: Trustees are responsible for ensuring that everybody at the organisation has had the relevant checks to carry out their role. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations provides guidance on what checks may be necessary, as well as useful tips for better recruitment and interview processes, to help keep everybody at your organisation safe. 

Does your Board have the right safeguarding practices in place? What other tips would you suggest that could help the charity sector improve safeguarding as a whole? Let us know @OfficialCause4

This blog is published as part of Trustees Week 2020 – find out more about how to get involved here.

If you want to know more about how we can support your organisation’s governance start a conversation that matters here


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