Safeguarding children and adults at risk

Safeguarding refers to the processes of keeping people safe from abuse and promoting their wellbeing, where a child or adult is unable to protect themselves from abuse. Safeguarding usually refers to all children (up to 18yrs old) and adults at risk.

Who is a child at risk

A child or young person is someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.

‘Children who are defined as being ‘in need’ are those who are vulnerable and do not have a satisfactory level of health or development, or that their health or development will be impaired without the help and support of services. The term ‘children in need’ also describes children who are disabled.’
Chorley and South Ribble CCG

Types of Child Abuse – NSPCC


Who is an adult at risk

‘any person who is aged 18 years or over and at risk of abuse or neglect because of their needs for care and or support. Where someone is over 18 but still receiving children’s services and a safeguarding issue is raised, the matter should be dealt with as a matter of course by the adult safeguarding team.’ NHS – Safeguarding Adults

Causing harm can take several forms; physical, emotional/psychological, sexual, financial, neglect, Female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic abuse, trafficking and modern slavery and covers discriminatory behaviour.  It can take place in institutions such as hospitals, care homes, children’s homes as well as non-institutional establishments such as people’s homes.

Ten types of abuse – East Riding Safeguarding Adults Board


Whose responsibility

Staff and volunteers are responsible for safeguarding. For some, there are legal obligations or contractual obligations, and for the rest there is a moral and ethical obligation to act on safeguarding. Regardless of your organisations legal status, will have a ‘duty of care’ to people who are involved with your activities. ‘Duty of care’ – refers to a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety of others.

Why? Because nobody walks around with a badge saying that they are an abuser or that they are a victim or abuse, therefore it is important that you are aware of the signs that:

  1. Abuse has taken place
  2. You have processes in place that reduce the possibility of abuse taking place in your organisation.

Why safeguarding is important in volunteering

You have a ‘duty of care’ to:

  • Volunteers- ensuring they can undertake their tasks in a safe environment.
    • Volunteers with additional support needs – where organisations are more accessible to people with additional support needs, there is an increase in volunteers who may be considered ‘at risk’ and this needs to be considered when developing your volunteering programme.
  • Staff- It is important to establish as much as possible that the volunteer does not represent a risk to staff.
  • Service beneficiaries – It is important to establish as much as possible that the volunteer does not represent a risk to service beneficiaries.

Partner organisations – It is important for working with other groups that volunteers are neither at risk, nor present a risk to the partner organisation, staff, volunteers or service beneficiaries.


What happens if I ignore safeguarding?

Organisations who involve volunteers are increasingly reliant on volunteers to support their work. If you do not take safeguarding seriously, it can lead to the following consequences:

  1. Volunteers will feel unsafe in their volunteering which can lead to low retention rates
  2. Already vulnerable people will be open to abuse and this will have a subsequent impact on their lives, safety, wellbeing, confidence
  3. A negative impact on your professional reputation and consequences for your services

Safeguarding and policy

It is good practice for your organisation to have a Safeguarding policy for both children and adults. However in addition, it is good practice to ensure that this policy in embedded in other organisational polices such as:

  1. Safer Recruitment policy
  2. Finance policy
  3. Confidentiality policy
  4. Data protection policy
  5. Volunteer policy
  6. Whistleblowing policy
  7. Training policy
  8. Recording guidelines

Having robust policies and procedures listed above that people adhere to goes a long way towards making your organisation safer and giving volunteers guidelines on behaviour and where to go in they are concerned about someone’s safety.

Support for staff and volunteers

  • We recommend regular training for staff and volunteers on safeguarding, including:
    • recognising signs of abuse,
    • making an alert
    • recording guidelines
    • ensuring everyone is up to date on organisational and local polices, guidelines and procedures.
  • Information and guidance to be included in induction
  • Create a safe space in supervision and support to discuss safeguarding issues
  • Ensure that safeguarding is on any meeting agenda as a regular item
  • Ensure all volunteers know who is the safeguarding lead in your organisation
  • Volunteers as well as paid staff need to be aware of their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting welfare of children, how to respond to child protection concerns and make a referral to appropriate line manager/safeguarding lead and local authority and police where necessary

Policies and procedures should dovetail into local safeguarding structures.

Online safeguarding

Here is a useful online tool available to organisations working with children and young people, but also as a general check  to help review and improve online safety.  The online compass provides an opportunity to check how well you fare with all the safeguards, policies and procedures you currently have in place:


Safeguarding can feel complex and overwhelming and sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to discuss safeguarding issues or make an ‘alert’ – however, it is always better to let someone know your concerns rather than miss an opportunity to do stop abuse.