The African Outreach Safeguarding Policy for Adults and Children encompasses the charity’s approach to minimising the risk of harm to children and vulnerable adults. (A vulnerable adult is defined as someone over the age of 18 who has disabilities either mental or physical that puts them in a position of vulnerability.). This policy applies both to African Outreach (AO) volunteers and staff, as well as those engaged with AO partner organisations, both in the UK and overseas.
African Outreach (AO) takes all reasonable steps to ensure that, through relevant procedures and training, children, young people and adults taking part in activities delivered or funded by AO, do so in a safe environment.
This policy should be adapted as required to the local context of the countries where it is being used. This includes the political, cultural, faith, or development setting, and should be tailored to the needs and the program context of the organisation implementing the policy. It is the responsibility of everyone working or volunteering with AO to prevent the physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect of every member of our community, and particularly the abuse of the most vulnerable, including children, young people and adults at risk.
All those who work or volunteer with AO or its partner organisations will be made aware of this policy and of what to do if they have any concerns. There is guidance for those responding to concerns so that they are properly dealt with, including sharing information about concerns with agencies that need to know and involve children, young people and families.
Who this policy applies to
This policy applies to:
- AO trustees, employees, volunteers, consultants and contracted agents
- Trustees, employees, volunteers, contracted agents or consultants of partner organisations. ‘Partner organisation’ refers to those organisations which AO has funded or partnered with in order to deliver its objectives. Nearly all of AO’s partner organisations are overseas although this policy relates to both UK and overseas organisations
Definition of abuse
Child abuse/abuse of adults at risk occurs when adults or other children inflict hurt on children or young people under the age of 18 or adults at risk, physically or psychologically or in any other way. Children/adults at risk can be abused in a number of ways. Abuse can be identified, in broad terms, as follows:
- Physical abuse or physical injury to a child /vulnerable adult, such as evidence of hitting, kicking or shaking, where there is definite knowledge or reasonable suspicion, that the injury was inflicted or knowingly not prevented.
- Emotional abuse where harm is done by persistent or severe emotional ill treatment or rejection, such as degrading punishments, threats and not giving care and affection, resulting in adverse effects on behaviour and emotional developments of a child, young person or vulnerable adult.
- Sexual abuse where exploitation of a child, young person or vulnerable adult occurs. This includes rape, incest and all forms of sexual activities including pornography.
- Neglect, where basic needs such as food, warmth and medical care are not met, or when there is a failure to protect a child from exposure to any kind of danger, resulting in serious impairment of a child, young person or vulnerable adult’s health or development.
- Exchanging of benefits, for example goods, food and money in exchange for sexual favours.
- Bullying, which could include physical intimidation. This includes verbal intimidation, including racist and sexist remarks; emotional intimidation for example, excluding or isolating someone.
The safe organisation checklist
The majority of AO’s day to day work is delivered by employees, volunteers, consultants or contractors of overseas partner organisations. AO has therefore adopted a ‘safe organisation’ approach to protecting children and vulnerable adults from harm. The safe organisation approach is communicated to all partner organisations and which is adapted to the local context of countries where it is being used. AO will support the organisations it funds to develop a safe organisation through:
- Safe recruitment and selection practice (including but not limited to rigorous checking of applications, references and appropriate criminal records checks)
- Clear expectations on staff, volunteers, contractors or consultants with regard to personal conduct and promoting the well-being of children and adult service users
- Good induction systems and ongoing training/updates for staff, volunteers, contractors or consultants in minimum standards of protection for children and vulnerable adults
- Listening to the concerns of service users, especially children and vulnerable adults but also their parents and carers, with an open mind.
- Promoting a culture of safeguarding the interests of children and vulnerable adults as paramount
- Clear access to guidance/procedures for child protection and protection of vulnerable adults and awareness of local protocols and systems for information sharing and referral
- Good supervision of staff, volunteers, consultants and contractors
- Clear and accessible complaints and whistle blowing procedures
- Adherence to local procedures for investigating allegations of harm to children or vulnerable adults by persons in positions of trust – including independent advice and referral to the police as necessary
- A formal and independent review process for learning from serious untoward incidents with regard to abuse of children or vulnerable adults by those in a position of trust
- Regular audits to ensure compliance
- Leadership/accountability in a named senior manager and access to specialist advice externally or via AO if not available locally.
AO recognizes that there are a number of potential risks to children and adults at risk in our work, particularly as programs are ‘one step removed’ from AO in that they are delivered by overseas partner organisations.
AO trustees, staff and volunteers should therefore ensure that safeguarding is mainstreamed throughout projects and activities as part of ongoing monitoring and capacity building activities. This includes consideration of safeguarding when conducting a risk assessment for any project, particularly those where overseas staff, volunteers and others come into direct contact with children and/or adults at risk. A risk assessment is conducted during project design, and periodically reviewed during the life cycle of the project. AO commit to reviewing all programs to assess any risks to children and/or adults at risk and develop mitigation strategies. Safeguarding should be mainstreamed in existing programs, and periodic reviews conducted of existing programs for any new or emerging safeguarding risks. While recognizing that different types of programs will require different risk assessments, the risk assessment, in section 5.2 serves as a guide to the types of issues that should be considered when assessing the risks to children and/or adults at risk in particular programs.
AO Code of Conduct
Representatives of AO who come into contact with children and/or young people or adults at risk must follow the code of conduct.
Representatives of AO, including organisations it partners with, must not:
- Hit or otherwise physically assault or physically abuse children or adults at risk
- Develop physical/sexual relationships with children or adults at risk
- Develop relationships with children or adults at risk, which could in any way be deemed exploitative or abusive.
- Place themselves in a position where they could be accused of sexually abusing a child, young person or vulnerable adult, i.e. holding or hugging a child, young person or vulnerable adult, or physically touching children, young persons or adults at risk in a way that could be considered abusive in ways described in this document.
- Spend time alone with children or adults at risk. Plan activities so that more than one person is present or, at least, other people are within sight and hearing. Wherever possible ensure that another adult is present to supervise the activity.
- Take children/adults at risk alone in a car, even on short journeys.
- Act in ways that may be abusive or may place a child or vulnerable adult at risk of abuse.
- Use language, make suggestions or offer advice which is inappropriate, offensive or abusive.
- Offer benefits such as food, favours, clothes, jobs, money in exchange for sexual favours • Show favouritism to any person for sexual favours in return.
- Act in ways intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade children or adults at risk, or otherwise perpetrate any form of emotional abuse.
All representatives must:
- Treat everyone with respect, recognising their right to personal privacy.
- Be aware of situations that may present risks and manage these.
- Avoid being drawn into inappropriate attention seeking behaviour, such as tantrums or crushes.
- Remember that someone else may misinterpret your actions, no matter how well intentioned.
- Adults should avoid being placed in a compromising or vulnerable position. The adult is always considered responsible regardless of the behaviour displayed by the child or adult at risk.
Reporting/responding to concerns
The need to report arises in the following instances:
- Abuse is observed or suspected
- An allegation of abuse is made
- A child/vulnerable adult discloses abuse
All representatives of AO should be alert to signs that may suggest a child, young person or vulnerable adult is in need of help. AO representatives should respond to all concerns, allegations or suspicions by reporting them to the local police, social services department or body that will protect the child or vulnerable adult’s interest
Where representatives report concerns, it is not their responsibility to decide whether or not abuse is taking place but it is their responsibility to pass these concerns on. Particular care will be taken in regard to confidentiality and the sharing of information with appropriate people. Representatives must exercise extreme vigilance in keeping information confidential. Information given should be written in a report as soon as possible after the concern was raised (within 24 hours if possible). Any written records taken must be kept securely in a locked place. Under no circumstances should any person attempt to deal with the problem of abuse alone. When a representative of AO suspects child abuse or abuse of a vulnerable adult is occurring they should follow the reporting procedure