Safeguarding for charities and trustees

Find out about your responsibilities to keep everyone who comes into contact with your charity safe from harm: this includes volunteers, staff and beneficiaries.

Applies to England and Wales

Safeguarding people video

All charities have a responsibility to ensure they don’t cause harm to anyone who has contact with them. Charities working with children or adults at risk have extra responsibilities.

As a trustee you must make sure your charity fulfils this responsibility. Even if you delegate some activities to a safeguarding lead or group, you retain overall responsibility. You will find a link to our more detailed guidance at the end of this summary.

Harm and abuse have a devastating impact. A strong safeguarding culture means:

  • you protect people
  • you minimise the risks of any harm or abuse
  • everyone has confidence their concerns will be dealt with appropriately
  • everyone at the charity understands their role

Every trustee must make sure their charity undertakes these 5 actions:

Identify and manage risks

Each charity must identify any safeguarding risks it must manage. These could depend on:

  • who your charity works with
  • where it operates
  • what it does


Identify your charity’s safeguarding risks. Use our detailed guidance to help you identify and address risks associated with:

  • working with children and young people
  • working with adults at risk
  • operating online
  • working with other bodies
  • working overseas
  • preventing terrorist abuse

Have suitable policies and practices in place

Your charity must have robust safeguarding policies which everyone understands and uses.

These should include making sure everyone knows how to identify and report a concern or incident.


Check when you last reviewed your policies and practices. If it’s been over a year, you need to review them as a priority.

Carry out necessary checks

You must make sure trustees, volunteers and staff are suitable to act in their roles through carrying out relevant checks. These could include checking gaps in people’s work history, references and carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.


Go to the DBS for information on the levels of checks available to make sure your charity gets all the relevant checks.

Protect your volunteers and staff

This includes having clear policies on:

  • bullying and harassment
  • whistleblowing

You must also have suitable insurance in place.


Make sure your volunteers and staff know how to raise any bullying or harassment concerns.

Handle and report incidents appropriately

You must always follow your policies and procedures when handling incidents or allegations of abuse. This should include:

  • handling and recording in a secure and responsible way
  • acting quickly, ensuring you stop or minimise any further harm or damage
  • reporting to all relevant agencies


Use Handling safeguarding allegations in a charity for support.

Further support

Read more detailed safeguarding guidance from the Charity Commission.

Whether you are reviewing your existing safeguarding arrangements, or just starting out, you can also use the following resources for support:

NCVO’s safeguarding resource or Bond’s ‘Good governance for safeguarding’.

Published 17 November 2021