Safeguarding is the responsibility that an organisation has to ensure:
- That their employees and volunteers, partners, vendors, operations and programmes do no harm to children, young people or vulnerable adults (together referred to as ‘vulnerable people’ under this policy);
- That they do not expose them to the risk of discrimination, neglect, harm and abuse;
- That any concerns the organisation has about the safety of vulnerable people within the communities in which they work, are dealt with and reported to the appropriate authorities.
It is also the responsibility that the organisation has for protecting its employees and volunteers when they are vulnerable, for example, when ill or at risk of harm or abuse.
Child protection is a central part of but not separate to safeguarding. It is the process of protecting individual children identified as either suffering or at risk of significant harm as a result of abuse or programme of work. It also includes measures and structures designed to prevent and respond to abuse.
Over recent years, there has been increasing recognition of the way in which children, young people and vulnerable adults can be at risk of discrimination, neglect, abuse and exploitation by those who are in positions of trust and power over them, including through international development activities. As a consequence, there has been a significant increase in the efforts made by development organisations to ensure that no harm results from the contact their employees, volunteers and other representatives have with their target populations or communities.
Through their work, Africa Foundation employees, employees of partner organisations and volunteers may engage with young people and vulnerable adults either directly or indirectly. Africa Foundation recognises it has an obligation to put in place all reasonable safeguarding measures to ensure, as far as possible, the safety and protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults, including those with whom we work and those in the communities where Africa Foundation work is undertaken.
The purpose of this policy and associated procedures is to provide clarity to all on how they should engage with children, young people and vulnerable adults when working for, on behalf of, or in partnership with Africa Foundation. It is also to help us make sure that employees, volunteers and other representatives are protected. It is intended to help us to have a common understanding of safeguarding issues, develop good practice across the diverse and complex areas in which we operate and thereby increase accountability in this crucial aspect of our work. This policy constitutes Africa Foundation’s global policy. Whilst it is recognised that local legislation may vary from country to country, this policy identifies our minimum standards and may exceed the requirements of local legislation.
Any breach of this policy will be treated as a disciplinary matter, which may result in immediate termination of employment or contract, withdrawal of volunteer status, and reporting to the police, relevant regulatory authority or other body.
Abuse – a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons. It can take the form of physical, psychological, financial or sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the health, survival, development or dignity of a child, young person or vulnerable adult. Abuse can be a single act or repeated acts and can be unintentional or deliberate. Abuse often involves criminal acts.
Discriminatory abuse – abuse motivated by a vulnerable person’s age, race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristic.
Financial or material abuse – including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
Neglect – the persistent failure to meet a vulnerable person’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of his/her health or development. Examples include failure to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter, failure to protect them from physical or psychological harm or danger; failure to ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers); or failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a vulnerable person’s basic emotional needs.
Physical abuse – includes hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm, misuse of medication, restraint, or inappropriate sanctions.
Psychological abuse – includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks. Examples include not giving a vulnerable person opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on a vulnerable person, which may include interactions that are beyond a vulnerable person’s developmental capability. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber bullying), or the exploitation or corruption of a vulnerable person.
Sexual abuse – involves forcing, enticing or coercing someone to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the vulnerable person is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving a vulnerable person in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse can be carried out by adults or other children.
Child – Africa Foundation regards a child as anyone under the age of 18 years, irrespective of the age of majority in the country in which the child lives or in their home country. It is widely recognised that children are generally more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation due to factors such as age, gender, social and economic status, developmental stage, and dependence on others.
Vulnerable person/people – for the purposes of this policy this is an umbrella term which covers children, young people and vulnerable adults.
Vulnerable adult – a person, 18 years and above, who by reason of disability, age, gender, social and economic status, or illness, the context they are in, may be unable to take care of or to protect him or herself against abuse, harm or exploitation.
Youth or young people – individuals aged 15 to 35 – Africa Foundation recognises that this group spans the categories of ‘children and ‘adults’ but regards young people as having particular safeguarding needs and requiring distinct consideration aside from younger children and older adults.
This policy is mandatory for all Africa Foundation employees worldwide. For the purposes of this policy, ‘employee’ is defined as anyone who works for or on behalf of Africa Foundation, either in a paid or unpaid capacity. This therefore includes directly employed staff, trustees, contractors, employees and volunteers of sub-contractors, agency workers, consultants, volunteers, interns and all visitors to Africa Foundation work programmes and offices.
It also covers implementing partners whom we fund, and who we expect to work under the policy as a condition of their involvement with Africa Foundation.
This policy demonstrates how Africa Foundation will meet its legal obligations and reassure volunteers, employees, partners and members of the public:
- On what they can expect Africa Foundation to do to protect and safeguard vulnerable people.
- That they are able to safely voice any concerns through an established procedure.
- That all reports of abuse or potential abuse are dealt with in a serious and effective manner.
- Policy Statement
Africa Foundation has zero tolerance against abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people. Africa Foundation also recognises that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and that it has an obligation to put in place reasonable measures to ensure, as far as possible, the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people with whom we work and those in the communities in which we live.
Africa Foundation works to the following key principles to protect vulnerable people:
- Everyone has an equal right to protection from abuse and exploitation regardless of age, race, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or having a child, gender reassignment, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
- The best interests of the vulnerable person are paramount and shall be the primary consideration in our decision making.
- Africa Foundation will take responsibility to meet our obligations regarding our duty of care towards vulnerable people, and take action where we believe that a child, young person or vulnerable adult is at risk or is actually harmed.
- When working with or through partners or sub-contracted agencies, Africa Foundation will ensure that their safeguarding procedures are consistent and in line with the principles and approaches set out in this policy.
- Africa Foundation recognises that an element of risk exists, and while we may never be able to totally remove this, we need to do all we can to reduce it or limit its impact.
- Africa Foundation respects confidentiality and has a responsibility to protect sensitive personal data. Information should only be shared and handled on a need to know basis, that is, access to the information must be necessary for the conduct of one’s official duties. Only individuals who have legitimate reasons to access the information are allowed to receive it.
- Africa Foundation commits to monitoring the implementation of the safeguarding policy. This policy will be reviewed every three years and earlier if necessary.
- Cultural sensitivity: Africa Foundation seeks always to work in ways which are culturally sensitive and that respect the diverse nature of the people we work with. We recognise that there are many different ways of thinking and taking care of vulnerable people and making sure they are protected. It is acknowledged that protecting these groups of individuals and being culturally sensitive can be a difficult balancing act, especially given the situation in many of the countries where we work. As an international organisation, we endorse the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child general principle, that all the rights guaranteed by it must be available to all children without discrimination; and article 19 which accords equal rights to protection for children from abuse. Every child matters everywhere in the world. Culture must not be used as an excuse to abuse children, young people or vulnerable adults.
All employees, volunteers, consultants, agency staff and sub-contractors, are obliged to follow this policy and maintain an environment that prevents exploitation and abuse and which encourages reporting of breaches of this policy using the appropriate procedures.
- Reports can reach the organisation through various routes, verbal and written. This may be in a structured format such as a letter, e-mail, text or message on social media, or in the form of informal discussion or rumor. If a staff member hears something in an informal discussion or rumour that they think is a safeguarding concern, they must report this to the Africa Foundation CEO.
- If a safeguarding concern is disclosed directly to a member of staff, the person receiving the report should bear the following in mind:
- Empathise with the person
- Ask who, when, where, what but not why
- Repeat/ check their understanding of the situation
7.1.3 The person receiving the report should then document the following information, specifying – where possible:
- The name of person making report.
- Name(s) of alleged survivor(s) of safeguarding incident(s) if different from above.
- Name(s) of alleged perpetrator(s) (“Subject of Concern”).
- Description of incident(s).
- Dates(s), times(s) and location(s) of incident.
7.1.4 The person receiving the report should then forward this information to the Africa Foundation CEO as soon as possible.
7.1.5 Due to the sensitive nature of safeguarding concerns, confidentiality must be maintained during all stages of the reporting process, and information shared on a limited ‘need to know’ basis only. This includes senior management who might otherwise be appraised of a serious incident. Please refer to the Confidentiality and Data Protection provision of the Safeguarding Policy for further information.
7.1.6 If the reporting staff member is not satisfied that the organisation is appropriately addressing the report, they have a right to escalate the report to the Africa Foundation Board Chairman or to an external statutory body. The staff member will be protected against any negative repercussions as a result of this report. Alternatively the reporting staff member should report the matter using the government Child Abuse Report line – 13 14 78, or to Child Welfare South Africa – 082 822 1516 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Responding to reports
- The Africa Foundation CEO shall determine whether it is possible to take this report forward, taking into account whether:
- The reported incident(s) represent a breach of the Safeguarding Policy?
- There is sufficient information to follow up this report?
- If the reported incident does not represent a breach of the Africa Foundation Safeguarding Policy but may represent a safeguarding risk to others, the report should be referred through the appropriate channels (e.g. local authorities) if it is safe to do so.
- If there is insufficient information to follow up the report, and no way to ascertain this information (for example if the person making the report did not leave contact details), the report should be filed in case it can be of use in the future and look at any wider lesson learning we can take forward.
- If the report or subsequent investigation raises any concerns relating to children under the age of 18, the CEO shall seek relevant expert advice immediately.
- If the decision is made to take the report forward, the CEO shall secure appropriate professional and legal support as required.
- Confidentiality shall be maintained at all times, with information shared on a need-to-know basis.
- The CEO shall keep the Africa Foundation Board appraised of all safe guarding incident reports and the associated follow-up.
- The CEO shall ensure that all decisions made resulting from the case and clearly and confidentially documented and stored in accordance with Africa Foundation policy and local data protection law, including anonymised data relating to the case.
- Provide support to victims where needed/requested
- Where relevant, Africa Foundation shall offer appropriate support to victims of safeguarding incidents. Such support shall be determined by the CEO in consultation with the Africa Foundation Board, and could include inter alia:
- Psychosocial care or counseling;
- Medical assistance;
- Protection or security assistance (for example being moved to a safe location).
- All decision making in respect of an offer of support should be led by the victim.