• Increase Text
  • High Contrast Mode
We are the umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Southwark. We support charities, community groups and individuals through capacity building, networks and training.

What is safeguarding?

A relationship between an adult and child, young person or vulnerable adult is not a relationship between equals. It is vital for all those in positions of trust to understand the power this can give them over those they care for and the responsibility they must exercise as a consequence of this relationship.

A relationship of trust applies to staff or volunteers who are, as a result of their knowledge, position and/or the authority invested in their role, in a position of power or influence over a child, young person or vulnerable adult.

The Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS) is in just such a position and therefore must be equipped to deal with a situation in which this relationship of trust is abused. Safeguarding policies are in place to help prevent abuse and where it does take place esure that it is dealt with effectively and appropriately.

In 2018 the Charity Commission stressed that safeguarding should be a priority for all charities, not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk. The message came as the charity regulator published a report showing safeguarding concerns are an increasing feature in its regulatory compliance case work with charities. The Comission’s updated strategy reminded trustees that they should proactively safeguard and promote the welfare of their charity’s beneficiaries and take reasonable steps to ensure that their beneficiaries or others who come into contact with their charity do not, as a result, come to harm.

Safeguarding has been defined as:

  • All agencies working with children, young people and their families taking all reasonable measures to ensure that the risks of harm to children’s welfare are minimised; and
  • Where there are concerns about children and young people’s welfare, all agencies taking appropriate actions to address those concerns, working to agreed local policies and procedures in full partnership with other local agencies.

Who does Safeguarding protect?

Safeguarding protects vulnerable people falling under the following headings:

  • Early Years
  • Children
  • Children with Disabilities
  • Young People
  • Vulnerable Adults

Who are Vulnerable Adults?

A vulnerable adult as described by the Care Standards Act 2000 is a person aged 18 or over who has a condition of the following type:

  • A learning or physical disability
  • A physical or mental illness, chronic or otherwise, including addiction to alcohol or drugs; or
  • A reduction in physical or mental capacity

In short, a vulnerable adult is a person who is or may be for any reason unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.

The Protection of Vulnerable Adults (2006) scheme was introduced by the Care Standards Act 2000. It aims to ensure that no one is allowed to work in the care sector if they have ever abused, neglected or otherwise harmed vulnerable adults in their care or placed them at risk.

Southwark Safeguarding Adults Board has recently adopted London-wide policies and procedures for adult safeguarding.  You can read all about the new approach here.

Whose responsibility is it?


How does safeguarding protect my organisation?

Understanding the Safeguarding agenda will also help ensure your organisation works responsibly and safely, without putting staff in vulnerable positions.

What should your organisation be doing?

‘A safe organisation: Ensures that its governing body, all of its employees, commissioned or contracted agents and volunteers or adult participants are aware of their responsibilities to safeguard children and vulnerable adults’ (Safe organisation checklist; Southwark Council).

Your organisation should have policies and procedures regarding Safeguarding, particularly if you work closely with children or vulnerable adults.

If you are working directly with vulnerable persons, all individuals within your organisation should be able to recognise the different types of abuse, identify the signs and where to go for help. The most important aspect your organisation should be ensuring is that all staff members keep accurate records.

Where can I find free training on safeguarding?

Free safeguarding training is available via Southwark Council’s online platform, called My Learning Source. You can find out how to access this via our information pages.

This include a basic introduction to safeguarding module, which all staff and volunteers should complete. You can also find a range of other sessions that go into more details.

You may also find this short video helpful:

Please note, this training was originally delivered in March 2020, and was aimed at community groups and those working on the front-line to support their neighbours during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, some of the references are specific to that time, but the general content and policies are still applicable.