New tools for charity leaders to change safeguarding culture

24 Mar 2021 News

The aid umbrella body Bond has urged charity bosses to “step up” on protecting staff and beneficiaries from abuse, as it launches guidance for improving safeguarding culture.

The toolkit, Developing and Modelling a Positive Safeguarding Culture, was launched this week and was funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Stephanie Draper, chief executive of Bond, said that international development charities must do more than just “meet minimum compliance standards” on safeguarding by addressing attitudes and culture across the whole of their organisations.

Protection from harm

The tool is designed to help leaders assess how their organisation approaches questions of safeguarding and then develop plans for preventing “all types of harm, including sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment”, Bond said in a statement.

It identifies six “foundations” to building a stronger safeguarding culture: accountability; policies and processes; safer programming; a survivor-centred approach; awareness-raising; and safer recruitment and HR processes. 

The toolkit aims to help bosses lead discussions, and agree potential actions for their charity, under each heading. 

'It will only succeed if leaders step up'

Draper said: “The past few years have proven that organisations cannot deliver good safeguarding practice without a healthy safeguarding culture. 

“It isn’t enough to meet minimum compliance standards. Organisations need to live and breathe a strong safeguarding culture and as leaders, we play a fundamental role in creating this. 

“Yet pinning down what an organisation's culture is can be very difficult.  

“We hope this tool will help guide leadership teams and staff through the process of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their own organisational culture so they can have the honest and challenging conversations necessary to prevent harm, including sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment.”  

Frances Longley, co-chair of the working group at Bond which developed the tool, said: “A healthy safeguarding culture has to be everybody’s responsibility, but it will only succeed if leaders step up to the challenge and lead by example. 

“We’ve built this tool to help leaders to work with their teams through discussion to understand what a positive safeguarding culture looks like, and crucially, what they need to change to strengthen their own cultures at work. 

“Leaders who are serious about safeguarding must set clear expectations, and meet those expectations themselves. 

“They need to invest in high standards, ask for feedback from their staff and be open about the organisation's shortcomings. And leaders must encourage honest, constructive conversations and be transparent about how they deal with unacceptable behaviour.”  

£70,000 project

Bond said that FCDO provided just under £70,000 to fund the three-year project.

That covered the cost of developing the online and offline version of the tool, as well as the costs of staff time, research, and testing the kit.

Working groups were not paid for their time advising on the development of the tool.

A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK takes a leading role in driving up safeguarding standards across the aid sector, and continues to ensure survivors get the assistance they need and can report their abusers without fear.”

The new kit comes after Civil Society News revealed earlier this month that just 23 UK charities have so far registered with a government-backed scheme for addressing abuse.

ACF guidance

Separate safeguarding guidance was published today by the Association of Charitable Foundations and Funder Safeguarding Collaborative.

The guidance Safeguarding Frameworks for Foundations, updated from 2018, said that it is designed to help large grantmakers “consider their own internal practices and integrate safeguarding within their funding cycle”.

Karen Walker Simpson, director of the FSC, said: “We know that there is a genuine commitment amongst trusts and foundations to promoting practices and organisational cultures that keep people safe. 

“The framework captures the learning and best practice that already exists within the sector and is a simple, accessible tool to help foundations think through their approach.”

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


More on