We typically associate safeguarding with the vulnerable – the very young or very old. We tend to forget the safeguarding of employees or those cared for by charitable organisations. When what we should be concerned with is the safeguarding of all. We all deserve the opportunity to feel safe and this is what the number one concern of society should be.
This article is not to point fingers, it is simply to illustrate the truths. Many of which have been hiding in plain sight and now, with the advent of the internet have been made more apparent. Safeguarding is not just the protection of those in physical care, all individuals can need safeguarding. It is a frontline concern that should be adopted by all organisations.
A costly omission
The Guardian reported this week that donations received in the not for profit sector have reduced over the last two years. This is since scandals such as those seen in Haiti have come to light. The fallout from this and other hugely impactful stories have had a direct impact into the life blood of the sector. Donations keep charities going, they pay for the services that help those in need. Without which, many people are left without.
They are forced out into the cold as the public withholds their money. Now it would be incredibly unfair to say that the public is harming these charities directly. A fairer assessment of the situation would be to say that the lack of confidence in the sector has indirectly led to the loss of services. The reduced donations does not punish those that have ‘sinned’, it instead takes away from those that are in the greatest need of assistance.
Between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2018, direct donations to charities dropped to 57% of the public. The number of those sponsoring someone also fell in comparison to the previous year and why? Because we all believed that one of the purest sectors could never fall prey to scandals such as Haiti but we were wrong.
Let’s be realistic – safeguarding will always be needed
In an ideal world safeguarding does not need to be considered, but that is not today. We need to think of everyone and create policies and procedures that ensure best practice is followed. The definition of safeguarding is:
‘…to denote measures to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals, which allow people — especially children, young people and vulnerable adults — to live free from abuse, harm and neglect.’
This definition encapsulates safeguarding and its core principles. Whilst the term is primarily used within social care to protect vulnerable families, it should be applied to everyone. Whether you are working in a charity or as an air steward, working on the bar at a football stadium, or simply volunteering, you should feel safe. You should never feel intimidation or threat that may lead to abuse.
The Haiti story is by no means unique and if you look deep enough into most industries then you will find safeguarding issues. This is not to be overdramatic, it is simply to be truthful. Once you can accept that, then you can look at what you can do in order to keep people as safe as possible. This is the goal that we are all working towards.
What can you do?
We have accepted that for at least the near future, safeguarding is an issue. You have a duty to your staff, volunteers, patients, parishioners, children and people you talk to. In a more succinct manner, everyone. We all have a duty to treat people with respect but how can we ensure that any issues are reported and addressed?
Policies and procedures can set the tone. From the application to the day that new staff members arrive into the organisation, they need to know that there is zero tolerance for abuse. New starters need to know that policies and procedures are in place to protect them and everyone around. They should be encouraged to review and sign these policies to showcase their agreement.
From this point, if a staff member is found in violation, then they should be subject to the appropriate action. This would obviously be after they have been given the opportunity to provide their account themselves. Safeguarding is of paramount importance and should therefore be treated as such. Proactive actions should show to the outside the world that safeguarding issues are not acceptable. We need to show that those that violate people whether, physically or verbally will be discovered and appropriate steps taken to make their actions accountable.
Technology is an invaluable ally in the battle
Technology is an enabler of change. We have proved this time and time again during our 28 years in business. We have worked with local authorities, health care providers, education establishments and charities to provide solutions that help to safeguard the vulnerable. We provide technology that provides a 360 degree view of the individual.
Progressions in technology trends have provided us with the unique opportunity to design systems that can be instantly updated from anywhere, at any time. This in the battle for safeguarding is priceless. If a safeguarding issue occurs, then it can be instantly reported to the named individual in the policy.
This can take the time from when a breach occurs to when it is reported from weeks to minutes. The benefits of this do not need to be written, they are evident. To remove safeguarding issues entirely is not possible at this time. What we can do is mitigate against the risk of them slipping through the net as much as possible by utilising technology, alongside policies and procedures.
Tell the truth
History has proven that society is hard wired to reject change. Any changes have emerged from civil unrest, by showing the world that what is happening is unacceptable. The reporting of the Haiti scandal can be seen as the first volley on the safeguarding front. It has shown the public a snippet of what has been going on behind closed doors.
This is in no way suggesting that Haiti is indicative of the entire charity sector. It is rather a point to re-enforce that change occurs when the problem is seen. By utilising technology, you can get to the root of the problem quicker, you can work to ensure you are aware of all risks and report on the progress of investigations. Through this we can re-enforce to the wider public that while safeguarding issues might occur, they are being proactively dealt with.
The sooner that a problem can be reported, the sooner that those responsible can be punished. They can be dealt with and the victim given peace of mind to move on with their life. This use of technology as an enabler is something that we fully endorse, as abuse in any shape or form, should not be considered as acceptable.
We all deserve to live life the way in which we intend to and should not be subjected to any form of intimidation. Safeguarding policies and procedures help to keep us safe. They extend the laws on which failure to adhere to them will be based. By working together we can reduce safeguarding risks to the bare minimum possible.
Technology can assist with the process. It can be the eyes and ears of the organisation when employees are not there, it never sleeps and ensures that everyone is safeguarded. Safeguarding is not limited to one sector of life, it is a concern for all and should be respected as such.