Charities: how to protect vulnerable groups including children
How to get checks and assessments on volunteers, employees and trustees if your charity works with vulnerable groups.
People who need protection
Charities working with vulnerable groups including children have to make sure their users are safe and protected from harm. Charities may be set up to help children or people who could be vulnerable to abuse because of their age, health, physical or mental abilities. People who rely on others can be particularly vulnerable, for example when receiving nursing care, being washed, dressed or transported.
Legal requirement: if your charity works with vulnerable people, you need to take the necessary steps to safeguard them.
Criminal record checks
You can check whether people applying for certain roles with your charity have a criminal record, using the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This service was formed by the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority merging.
There are different levels of checks available. Jobs that involve caring for, supervising or being in sole charge of children or adults require an enhanced DBS check.
Safeguards to protect your beneficiaries
Trustees of charities have a duty of care to their charity which, if they work with vulnerable groups including children, will include taking the necessary steps to safeguard and take responsibility for them.
Your charity must put safeguards in place to protect vulnerable people from abuse, and prevent abuse happening in the first place.
Safeguarding induction training is now mandatory for all those who work directly with children, young people, their families and/or carers.
Safeguards are internal procedures and policies, for example:
- making trustees, staff and volunteers aware of what abuse is and how to spot it
- having a clear system of reporting concerns as soon as abuse is identified or suspected
- responding to abuse rapidly and carrying out investigations confidentially
- preventing harm and abuse with a rigorous recruitment and interview process
Having proper safeguards in place means your charity can promote a safe place for your beneficiaries, and gives the public confidence in your charity and trustees.
For example, a charity that works with children should:
- have a child protection policy – a statement explaining how the charity protects children from harm
- put in place child protection processes which give clear, step-by-step guidance if abuse is identified
- carry out the appropriate level of DBS checks on staff, volunteers and trustees (depending on their access to children)
- have policies and procedures to help prevent abuse happening in the first place, such as adult workers not having one-to-one access to young people
Serious incidents and how to report them
If your charity encounters a serious incident or problem, you must report it to the Charity Commission as soon as you become aware of it.
If you and the other trustees fail to report a serious incident, the commission may consider this to be mismanagement and take regulatory action.