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For charities and voluntary organisations partnering with other organisations, safeguarding responsibilities and accountability falls into the following three categories.

  • Statutory duties: If a charity delegates its statutory duties to a partner, the charity remains ultimately responsible for these duties.
  • Regulatory duties: The Charity Commission expects charities to carry out appropriate due diligence checks on individuals and organisations it works closely with. Charities should set clear expectations around conduct and ways of working, and should have a clear reporting line for serious incidents.
  • Duties of care: A common law duty of care becomes a matter of law where it is fair, just and reasonable for it to do so. This includes where one party reasonably relies on another for their protection or benefit; where one party exercises control over the circumstances resulting in risk; where one party assumes responsibility for the circumstances resulting in risk; and in providing specialist advice.

When working with partners, charities should carry out the appropriate level of due diligence and decide what level of control to exercise through contractual arrangements. They should share out obligations and liability appropriately between all members of the partnership.

Broadly speaking, the less control a charity has over a partner, and the lower the reliance on them, the lower the duty of care from the charity to the partner is likely to be (if one is found to exist at all). A duty of care is less likely to arise if a partner fully understands and freely accepts and assumes the risks involved.

But in order to discharge a duty of care where it arises, charities must take reasonable steps to mitigate reasonably foreseeable risks of harm. These steps include carrying out due diligence on a partner, and clearly setting out their expectations of the partner (eg in an agreement). This could include for example an expectation for the partner to carry out risk assessments, to adhere to the charity’s policies and procedures and to report breaches of policies or serious incidents to the charity.

A failure by a charity to effectively negate or limit its duty of care could leave the charity liable for its partner’s failures/omissions. It’s therefore important to ensure that a duty of care is not inadvertently created though a contract or by a charity’s actions or omissions.

There are particular requirements imposed in this respect for organisations that receive grant funding from institutional or government funders.

Last reviewed: 15 June 2022

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Safeguarding when working with partners

  1. Overview
  2. Key duties for charities and voluntary organisations

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 15 June 2022

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