Safeguarding procedure

This procedure explains how to respond to safeguarding disclosures, allegations or concerns

Statement of purpose

As a volunteer, or anyone involved in Girlguiding, you must know how to use the safeguarding procedure. This procedure explains how you use the safeguarding policy when you recognise, receive or refer a safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is the action we take to promote the welfare of girls, young women and adults and protect them from harm.

What is our safeguarding structure?

Girlguiding’s safeguarding structure allows us to use our safeguarding policy and procedures effectively. And it means we can proactively safeguard across the organisation.

  • HQ Safeguarding team - Our Safeguarding team interprets legislation and makes sure Girlguiding is legally compliant and demonstrating good safeguarding practice.
  • County/region safeguarding leads - Safeguarding leads support the country/region chief commissioner in making sure we are providing guidance to our local leadership teams. They also work with the HQ Safeguarding team where there are allegations, concerns or disclosures from their country or region.
  • Commissioners - Commissioners provide support and guidance to leaders who have allegations, concerns or disclosures. Their role is to be alert, question behaviours, seek advice and support and report any allegations, concerns or disclosures.
  • Unit leaders - Unit leaders provide a safe space for the girls and volunteers in their unit. Their role is also to be alert, question behaviours, seek advice and support and report any allegations, concerns or disclosures.
  • Volunteers - Safeguarding is the responsibility of all volunteers. Volunteers must complete A Safe Space training to enable them to do this. All volunteers must refer to our A Safe Space pocket guide.

How can I recognise a safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure?

A safeguarding concern, allegation, or disclosure could be anything relating to an adult’s or child’s safety or welfare, or it could be about the risk a person poses. It could include any of the following:

  • A disclosure of abuse, neglect or harm made by anyone under the age of 18.
  • A disclosure of abuse, neglect or harm made by anyone over the age of 18.
  • Something concerning in a person’s behaviour or appearance that could indicate abuse, neglect or harm.
  • A concern about the behaviour of one child or young woman to another (peer on peer abuse).
  • A concern or allegation against a Girlguiding volunteer.
  • A concern or allegation involving a person or persons associated with a Girlguiding volunteer, for example a spouse or parent.

A safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure could also relate to abuse or harm that has happened in the past. You must still treat this seriously, and report it straight away.

What do I do when I receive an allegation, concern or disclosure?

Sometimes, a girl, young woman or adult will trust you with personal information, or you will have a concern about their safety or wellbeing. It is extremely important that you understand your role, including what to say and how to behave.

If someone shares information with you directly (either about themselves or about someone else) you must:

  • Listen carefully and trust that what is being said is correct.
  • Offer immediate support and reassurance.
  • Tell the person that you cannot keep it a secret. Explain that you may need to pass the information on to keep them, or other people, safe.
  • Stay calm. Try not to show signs of anxiety or shock .
  • Do not investigate but try to find out as much as you can from them, using open questions. A good way to seek further information is to repeat the person’s statement back to them. For example if you are told, ‘I feel unsafe at home’ you could say, ‘You feel unsafe at home?’
  • Record an account of the conversation immediately, using the person’s actual words wherever possible. Sign, date and keep the record safe.
  • Share the report with your unit leader immediately.
  • Contact your commissioner and the HQ Safeguarding team to report the disclosure. Your unit leader will support you.
  • You must refer and must not investigate.

If you notice signs or behavioural indicators of abuse or harm, share them with your leader or commissioner straight away. 

  • Give facts. State clearly your concerns. If you also share your personal opinion, make it very clear that it is your personal point of view.
  • Don’t investigate. Don’t try to find out more from the girl, young woman or adult before sharing your concerns. Don’t question them or try to investigate in any way.
  • Discuss with immediate colleagues. Share your concerns within the confidential setting of your immediate team in your unit, for instance, during your end of activity meeting. Use this time to identify if anyone else has similar concerns. This must be a confidential discussion.

The dos and don’ts of handling an allegation, concern or disclosure are in our handy A Safe Space pocket guide.

What do I do if I have my own safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure about an adult or child?

As a volunteer, member, parent, third party or member of staff, you can refer an allegation, concern or disclosure about an adult or child. Anyone can.

As a volunteer you have the same safeguarding responsibilities as those who work with children in a paid capacity (this is government guidance). For that reason, you must complete the following process within 24 hours, or sooner if it is an emergency or there is an immediate risk of harm.

What does ‘imminent risk of harm’ mean?

Examples are:

  • A person has said they intend to self-harm or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • The alleged abuse or harm is being carried out at a place they are about to go to (for example, in the home).
  • They have a life-threatening physical or psychological injury or condition.
  • Someone who is causing them harm is coming to collect them at the end of the activity.

The Safeguarding team at HQ will take a lead in managing the safeguarding concern and ensuring that girls, young women and adults are protected.

If you’re not sure whether you should take a concern seriously, or whether you should report, report anyway.

You can also find this process for reporting an allegation, concern or disclosure in our safeguarding pocket guide.

How do I contact the HQ Safeguarding team?

You can contact the national Safeguarding team on:

  • Tel: +44 020 7834 6242 (9am-5pm Monday-Friday excl. bank holidays)
  • Out of hours emergency phone: +44 07508 032997 (5pm-10pm Monday-Friday; 9am-10pm Saturday/Sunday)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Using the Contact us form on the website
  • Let the Safeguarding team know as soon as possible if you call the police.

For volunteers or members of staff from British Guiding Overseas (BGO) or Branches you can also contact the BGO Chief Commissioner on (+33) 6224 53553

The Safeguarding team aims to respond to all concerns/emails within 1-2 working days, and will always respond within 5 working days. The out of hours phone is for emergencies only.

You can also find the Safeguarding team’s contact details in the Safeguarding pocket guide.

What do I include when making a safeguarding referral?

When you make a safeguarding referral you need to include the following: 

  • Who you are, your contact details and your role in Girlguiding (if appropriate).
  • Who or what you are making a referral about, including names if known.
  • Where and when the events of the referral happened.
  • Any action you took about the allegation, concern or disclosure before making this referral.

It would be helpful if you could also include:

  • A clear and concise summary. You could use bullet points and notes, as long as they follow a logical order.
  • Any supporting documents and correspondence.

Bear in mind the following when reporting your concerns:

  • You must state very clearly if you are concerned about the person’s immediate safety.
  • Keep fact and opinion separate.
  • Identify any help given to or needed by the person.

The Safeguarding team will make enquiries and take steps if necessary to ensure that the child, young woman or adult is protected from any further harm while the authorities are informed. They will work with you and your commissioner to keep you safe.

How does Girlguiding address safeguarding allegations, concerns or disclosures?

Girlguiding approaches all safeguarding referrals differently, depending on their nature and severity. The duty safeguarding practitioner and team assistant receives the referral first - whether it’s by phone call or email. They assess the risk and then do the following:

First decide whether there is an imminent risk of harm. If there is an imminent risk of harm, the duty safeguarding practitioner will take urgent action. This may mean referring the concern or disclosure to the police or children's services. 

If there is no risk of imminent harm, the duty safeguarding practitioner may ask the referrer for more information to help decide if they need to refer to the police or children’s services. When asking the referrer for more information the duty practitioner will also copy in the safeguarding practitioner at HQ who is responsible for ther relevant country or region. They will manage the concern or disclosure.

If a safeguarding practitioner identifies that a referral to the police or children’s services is needed, they will consider whether these services will expect the parent or carer to have been told about the referral, and whether their consent will be needed. The safeguarding practitioner will make the referral without parental consent if they feel that asking for consent would put a child at further risk of harm. They will let the referrer and region safeguarding lead know their action.

What happens when it’s not necessary to refer to children's services or the police?

Sometimes a referral to children's services or the police isn’t necessary. The Safeguarding team will provide advice or signpost the referrer to any support that can be given to the child, young person, or their family. They may also ask the referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) to share their concerns with the child's parent or carer if they haven't already done so.

In all cases, the referrer will be provided with a reference number relating to their referral.

Difficult conversations

The Safeguarding team may ask the referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) to share their concerns with a parent or carer. There will be times when this conversation has to take place before the concern can be progressed by ourselves or other agencies.

The purpose of this may be:

  • to make sure the family is aware so that they can deal with the concerns raised and safeguard their child.
  • to allow the family the opportunity to offer an explanation, and if needed, share any relevant concerns of their own. They may tell you about the help already being provided to them.
  • to seek consent for a referral to children’s service.
  • to share relevant links and signpost to resources available.

The Safeguarding team will initially ask the referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) to have this conversation as the parent or carer is likely to have an existing rapport with them which will make this conversation easier. The safeguarding team understands that this may not be an easy discussion to have and should this situation arise, they will identify sources of support including local commissioners and region safeguarding volunteers.

Anonymity

Girlguiding can’t stay anonymous when making a referral, but the safeguarding practitioner won’t give the name or details of the referrer unless required to by law. Again, the safeguarding practitioner will advise the referrer of their action.

 Will consider whether the adult at risk should be informed of this referral to HQ, and also whether their consent should be sought before referring to social services. The Safeguarding team may also need to consider if the adult is capable of giving this consent.

The HQ Safeguarding team will pass the referral directly to social services or the police if any of the following apply:

  • The person meets the government definition of a ‘vulnerable adult’. This means the person:
    • Has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs)
    • Is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect
    • As a result of those needs, can’t protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect, or the risk of it
  • There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed or will be committed
  • The individual is at imminent risk of significant harm
  • The individual needs urgent medical treatment

What happens when it’s not necessary to refer to social services or the police?

Sometimes a referral to social services and/or the police isn’t necessary, or the adult may not give consent. The Safeguarding team will provide advice and/or signpost the referrer to any support that can be given to the adult. They may also ask the referrer to complete an adult support plan with the individual. 

In all cases, the referrer will be provided with a reference number relating to their referral.

Difficult conversations

The safeguarding team may ask the referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) to share their concerns with the individual. There will be times when this conversation has to take place before the concern can be progressed by ourselves or other agencies.

The purpose of this may be:

  • to allow the individual the opportunity to offer an explanation and share any relevant concerns of their own. They may tell you about the help already being provided to them.
  • to seek consent for a referral to social services.
  • to share relevant links and signpost to resources available.

The safeguarding team will initially ask the referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) to have this conversation as the individual is likely to have an existing rapport with them which will make this conversation easier. The safeguarding team understands that this may not be an easy discussion to have and should this situation arise, they will identify sources of support including local commissioners and region safeguarding volunteers.

Decide whether urgent action is needed. The Safeguarding team may need to refer the concerns to an appropriate statutory agency who are responsible for managing concerns, allegations or disclosures relating to volunteers in a position of trust. The Safeguarding team may also need to refer the concerns to the police. 

The Safeguarding team may need to suspend the membership of the adult who poses a risk. This is in line with our Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy and procedures.

If the concerns don’t meet the threshold for a referral to statutory agencies or the police, then the Safeguarding team may request an internal investigation. Girlguiding will investigate the concerns, in line with our investigation procedures and appeal and review policy and procedures. 

Published: July 2019

Girlguiding policies and procedures are reviewed and updated from time to time as part of a review cycle.