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Use this page to prepare for handling safeguarding concerns. It outlines all three main steps of the process and shows you how to think about meeting your reporting responsibilities.
When you do safeguarding well, you reduce the risk of harm and abuse for you, your team and all the children and adults you work with. There will still be issues to deal with, but a safer organisation prepares its staff and volunteers so they’re ready to deal with problems when they happen. Leaders in an organisation must work hard to make sure everyone feels respected and safe so they are able to speak up.
People in your organisation should know the signs and symptoms of harm and abuse. Signs and symptoms are not always obvious or clear. However, the more that staff and volunteers know about possible warning signs, the more likely they are to recognise abuse and take action.
You must understand the particular risks and circumstances of the children and adults you work with so you can decide what staff and volunteers need to know about. As a general rule, the more directly your staff or volunteers work with children or adults at risk, the more detail about recognising the different types of harm and abuse they should know.
Remember people don’t need to be certain before they speak up. If anyone in your organisation is ever worried about someone, they should always speak to the person responsible for safeguarding.
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You must make it clear to all staff and volunteers in your organisation that they are expected to record safeguarding concerns, disclosures or allegations and take action in response. You need to develop procedures for everyone to follow.
You should let your staff and volunteers know that you understand it can be hard to take action.
Want to share this advice with your colleagues? Use our slideshow of statements about speaking up.
What to do next depends on the type of harm, level of risk and whether you are talking with a child or an adult.
You must develop your own specific organisational procedures. These procedures should recognise that safeguarding is often not black and white and people will need support to make the right judgement call.
However, some general principles apply when a staff member or volunteer is responding to a safeguarding concern:
Want to know more about creating a culture where people can speak up? Our section on letting people know they have a right to be safe is a good starting point for ideas.
As we note in our advice on policy and procedures, you must have a procedure that sets out how to report different types of incident. Different local areas have different methods and templates for reporting concerns about a child or adult at risk. Who you need to tell may be different depending on:
There are several types of report an organisation may need to produce. This will depend on what’s happened and the nature of your organisation.
Types of report could include:
Your procedures will state which of these elements you need to include, depending on your level of risk and where you are in the country. In addition to your reporting procedures you will want a whistleblowing policy or other guidance for what people should do if they don't think concerns are being dealt with properly.
Last reviewed: 18 June 2021Help us improve this content
Resources and guides to help your organisation do safeguarding well
Understand the basics of safeguarding and why it's important
Find out what safeguarding means for your organisation
What the Charity Commission expects you to do, and the main areas of activity to focus on
Find out more about your legal and regulatory responsibilities in safeguarding
Get advice on the safeguarding challenges of working outside the UK
Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services