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Safeguarding audits for the charity sectors

SCIE safeguarding audits get to the heart of what is helping or hindering good safeguarding in your charity. We give you a roadmap for development that is rooted in a solid understanding of the wider system and factors at play for your organisation and area of work.

Charities across the UK play an important role in the lives of people. They enable volunteers to play their part and make a difference, as well as support staff.

Strengths-based approaches have to be balanced with reliable safeguarding to manage risk, minimise mistakes and avoid children, young people or adults being exploited, neglected or abused. As such, safeguarding must be a governance priority for all charities.

Understanding how effective safeguarding is in your charity, and making the improvements needed, is not straightforward. SCIE can help, whether you are seeking:

  • assurances around the standard of your safeguarding provision to beneficiaries and/or
  • support with internal governance, culture and safeguarding frameworks such as for whistleblowing.

We bring the fresh eyes, safeguarding expertise, capacity, experience and an evidence-informed, tried-and-tested approach.

Through our safeguarding audit partnership for charities, we will equip you with the insight that you need to be confident that you meet and even exceeds your safeguarding requirements and responsibilities. We will help you understand what good practice looks like in your organisation.

Safeguarding responsibilities under the Charities Act (2016) and the Charity Commission

Protecting people and safeguarding responsibilities must be a governance priority for all charities. It is a fundamental part of operating for the public benefit.

As part of fulfilling your governance duties, you must take reasonable steps to protect from harm people who come into contact with your charity.

This includes:

  • people who benefit from your charity’s work
  • staff
  • volunteers
  • other people who come into contact with your charity through its work.

The Charity Commission will hold Trustees to account if things go wrong and will check that Trustees followed this guidance and the law. Trustees are expected to take responsibility for putting things right.

Why now is the right time for a charity safeguarding audit

We recognise that charities face a specific set of challenges which includes responding to the requirements of regulators and legislation, and learning from incidents within the wider sector incidents and reviews into safeguarding practice. These challenges are evolving at pace and have only increased in recent months and years. This is often compounded by a tension between operational and organisational priorities and knowing how to put in place effective and impactful safeguarding arrangements.

Challenges include:

  • Financial and resource constraints
  • Reliance on volunteers for core work and roles related to the delivery of safeguarding
  • Hidden and new contextual safeguarding risks, e.g. online financial crime, self-neglect
  • Impact of COVID-19 on operating models, financial security and ways of working
  • Increasing sector scrutiny and wealth of learning generated from organisational safeguarding incidents
  • Supporting staff and volunteers to safeguard effectively, and be safeguarding themselves.

Our experience in supporting charities with safeguarding tells us that each organisation will be at a different stage of this improvement journey:

  • Some may be looking to establish the basic building blocks of safeguarding necessary for regulatory compliance.
  • Some will be seeking to understand why implementation is not occurring as planned.
  • Some will be grappling with more complex issues for which there are no simple solutions.

We will work with you whatever stage of this journey you are at.

Why is SCIE the partner of choice?

SCIE has a proven track record of supporting organisations to improve safeguarding, whatever stage they are at. We know that to achieve this, a systems-learning approach is essential. So, our approach goes beyond more traditional compliance-based approaches to audit to understanding the wider context, structures and culture of your organisation. We help you to identify what is at the root of helping or hindering good safeguarding practice.

Our unique approach and experience mean that we can offer:

  • A beyond-compliance appraisal of your safeguarding systems and controls that draws on the perspectives of those with lived experience.
  • Local ownership of your improvement journey, building on the analysis, findings and considerations posed to you.
  • An in-depth understanding of the systemic factors at play in your organisation, using the expertise of auditors experienced in systems.

Our methodology

SCIE has pioneered a unique approach to conducting case reviews and audits in child and adult safeguarding that is collaborative in nature. It is called Learning Together and it has proved valuable in the adults’ and children’s safeguarding fields. It built on work in the engineering and health sectors which showed that improvement is more likely if remedies target the underlying causes of difficulties. Learning Together audits involve exploring and sharing understanding of both the causes of problems and the reasons why things go well.

Our principles

  • Working collaboratively: the audits done ‘with you, not to you’
  • Highlighting areas of good practice as well as problematic issues
  • Focusing on understanding the reasons behind inevitable problems in safeguarding
  • No surprises: being open and transparent about our focus, methods and findings so nothing comes out of the blue
  • Distinguishing between unique local challenges and underlying issues that impact on all or many similar organisations and charities.

Our approach to audit

We draw on a tried-and-tested audit methodology and range of tools that support an analytical approach to understanding safeguarding in your charity which we use to generate the most useful systems learning. This will best equip you to drive sustainable and impactful change and improvements:

1. Building the team, defining the goals

· Audit team
· Learning team
We will work with you to understand your charity’s structure, needs and priorities. We will support you to form both an audit team, who will support the gathering of data and drive the analysis and audit process, and a learning team who will support the translation of our findings into meaningful action.
2. Apply the model
· Document review
· Reflective learning
· Practice insight
· Lived experience
Two of our experienced safeguarding auditors, with expertise in our Learning Together approach, will work to explore the factors that may be helping or hindering good safeguarding practice in depth. This will be conducted through a document and case file review, individual and group conversations with those working in your organisations in roles related to safeguarding and input from people with lived experience. We will deliver a comprehensive audit report which covers areas of safeguarding including safe working practices, policy, training, recruitment, leadership, culture and governance.
3. Develop the safeguarding improvement planOn delivery of our audit report, we will continue to work with your audit team and learning team to turn our findings and considerations into action. We will do this through a series of workshops that include:
Putting learning into action and developing an action plan for change
Understanding systems thinking
Theory-of-change training to support your implementation plan.
4. Ongoing partnershipAs you start your journey of change, we will maintain a partnership to support any emerging needs that your organisation has in safeguarding, drawing on our expertise in training, policy development and focused audit and review.

Get in touch

To find out more about our safeguarding audits for charities, hear about our recent work and discuss your needs, please get in touch with us directly.

More resources for safeguarding

We have a wide range of guidance and training options to assist you and your organisation.