Safeguarding procedure

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

As a volunteer, or someone 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 report a safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure.

What is safeguarding?

In Girlguiding, 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. So we can proactively safeguard our members across the organisation.

  • HQ Safeguarding team - Our Safeguarding team manages the allegations, concerns and disclosures reported by volunteers or external agencies. They interpret legislation and make sure Girlguiding is legally compliant and demonstrating effective safeguarding practice.
  • National safeguarding lead volunteer - Our national safeguarding lead promotes all aspects of safeguarding across the organisation, at a national level. They work closely with HQ to provide support, advice and consultation on safeguarding projects and pieces of work. They also support the country/region safeguarding lead team.
  • Country/region safeguarding lead volunteers - 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.
  • Safeguarding panel – The safeguarding panel provide independent consideration of safeguarding cases and undertake safeguarding appeals, where certain criteria is met.
  • 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.
  • Volunteers - Safeguarding is the responsibility of all volunteers. Volunteers must complete the correct level of safeguarding training for their role, in line with the A Safe Space programme, and units must not meet unless at least one volunteer present with the role of leader holds A Safe Space level 3. Volunteers should be alert, seek advice and support, and report any allegations, concerns, or disclosures. All volunteers must refer to our A Safe Space pocket guide. British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) members should refer to the BGO pocket guide.

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

  • A disclosure of abuse, neglect or harm made by any young member or volunteer.
  • A disclosure about conduct or behaviour that failed to protect a child, young person or adult.
  • Something concerning in a person’s behaviour, conduct or appearance that may indicate abuse, neglect, harm, or criminal behaviour.
  • Something concerning in a person’s behaviour, conduct or appearance that may indicate they are being radicalised.
  • A concern about the behaviour of one child or young person to another (peer on peer abuse).
  • A concern, allegation, or disclosure about a Girlguiding volunteer who has behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children or adults.
  • A safeguarding concern, allegation or disclosure involving an external visitor (non-member) while they were at a unit meeting or conducting activities for Girlguiding. Even though this relates to someone outside Girlguiding, you must inform your commissioner or the HQ Safeguarding team without delay.
  • An ongoing or past investigation into you or someone you have a significant relationship with (such as family members, partners, and members of the same household – though this list is not exhaustive) by the Police, Social Services, an employer or other organisation you volunteer for, which relates to any safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure, involving children, adults at risk, or adults posing a risk. You must inform your commissioner or the HQ Safeguarding team without delay.
  • 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.

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. Any information you receive should only be shared with those who need to know, like the HQ Safeguarding team or your commissioner.

The Dos and don’ts of handling an allegation, concern or disclosure are in our handy A Safe Space pocket guide, so you can check them whenever you need to.

All volunteers need to follow the safeguarding behaviours below which help ensure a safe space for all of us.

  • Vigilance and understanding - Take time to understand situations and be alert so that you notice when something is wrong.
  • Awareness – Be alert to your surroundings and ensure no one is unnecessarily left alone with a young member.
  • Early help - Take action and provide support as soon as a problem emerges and before it gets any worse.
  • Inclusion - Safeguard every individual because everyone is equally important and valuable. Everyone involved in Girlguiding has a right to equal protection from all types of harm and abuse.
  • Resilience - Support individuals to develop the knowledge, ability and the confidence to be actively involved in and responsible for their own safety and wellbeing and to cope with life’s challenges.
  • Stability - Develop on-going stable relationships of trust with all those you work with. This means you are more likely to notice if something is wrong.
  • Respect - Treat everyone with the expectation that they are responsible and accountable rather than not.
  • Advocacy - Help others to put forward their own point of view.
  • Accountability - Always respond if you are concerned; never assume someone else has or someone else will.

If you notice signs or behavioural indicators of abuse or harm, or someone shares information with you directly (either about themselves or about someone else):

  • Listen carefully and patiently. 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?’
  • Trust what is said is correct and reassure the individual that they have done the right thing in telling you and you will help them get the support they need.
  • Affirm whatever feelings they may have. Stay calm and don’t make assumptions or judgements about the information they have told you.
  • Report and 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. Record a factual account of the conversation immediately. Contact your unit leader, commissioner, or the HQ Safeguarding team to report the disclosure.
  • Support them following the disclosure and offer immediate reassurance that you will try to help get them the support they need. Then continue to be consistent and reliable in the support offered.

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

As a volunteer you have the same safeguarding responsibilities as anyone who works 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.

Process for reporting an allegation, concern or disclosure

Is there an emergency? Is there an immediate risk of significant harm?

If yes

  1. Inform the emergency services, like the police. Then contact the HQ Safeguarding team.
  2. Complete a written report and email it to [email protected]

If no

  1. Complete a written report. Make sure to include membership numbers, and details of any actions taken.
  2. Contact your commissioner or the HQ Safeguarding team.

The HQ Safeguarding team will record and manage all allegations, concerns and disclosures.

If you're a member of British Guiding Overseas

Follow these steps:

Is there an emergency? Is there an immediate risk of significant harm?

If yes:

  • Tell the chief commissioner
  • Complete a written report and email to [email protected]
  • The Safeguarding team will record and manage all allegations, concerns and disclosures.

If no:

  • Complete a written report
  • Contact your chief commissioner or the HQ Safeguarding team
  • The Safeguarding team will record and manage all allegations, concerns and disclosures.

Someone would be considered at immediate risk of harm if, for example:

  • They've said they plan to self-harm or make a suicide attempt immediately.
  • They are about to go to the place where the alleged abuse or harm happens, like their home.
  • They have a life-threatening physical or psychological injury or condition.
  • A person who causes 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 at risk are protected.

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

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

You can contact the national Safeguarding team on: 

  • Tel: +44 020 7834 6242 (9am-5pm Monday-Friday excl. bank holidays) 
  • For safeguarding emergencies only, the out of hours emergency phone is: +44 07508 032997 (5pm-10pm Monday-Friday; 9am-10pm Saturday/Sunday/English Bank Holidays). Do not text this number as we cannot see the messages.
  • Email: [email protected] 
  • Let the Safeguarding team know as soon as possible if you call the police or other emergency services. 

For volunteers or members of staff from British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO), you should contact the BGO chief commissioner. If they are unavailable, contact the HQ Safeguarding team as above. 

The Safeguarding team aims to respond to all concerns and 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 A Safe Space pocket guide

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

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

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 previous concerns or incident you have had about the person who is the subject of the report. 
  • 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 HQ Safeguarding team will work with external agencies as needed and take any next steps necessary to make sure that all members are protected from any further harm.

They will work together with you, your commissioner and country/region safeguarding leads to keep you safe, if appropriate, and updated, if possible.

You must follow this guidance when making and managing reports:

  • Keep the information on a secure device that is password protected and shared with only those who need to view it. Alternatively, this can be stored away in a locked cupboard with access restricted.
  • When speaking to the HQ safeguarding team, make sure you cannot be overheard by anyone around you, as this could compromise the security of the personal information.
  • If reporting by email, do not use a public computer. Make sure that the email is sent securely and to the intended recipient and delete when the case is closed as requested by the HQ Safeguarding team.
  • Do not use a shared email address to contact the team about a concern, allegation or disclosure. This includes email accounts shared with other volunteers or family members.

The HQ Safeguarding team share and store information in line with The Data Protection Act 2018, GDPR, and the Managing information policy and procedures, which allow us to share information so we can keep people safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children or adults at risk.

How does Girlguiding address safeguarding allegations, concerns or disclosures?

Report will be addressed differently depending on their nature, severity, complexity and those involved.

The duty safeguarding practitioner and team assistant, from the HQ Safeguarding team, will receive the report first - whether it’s by phone call or email. They assess the risk and then do the following:

First, decide whether there is an immediate risk of harm. If there is, then the duty safeguarding practitioner will take act straightaway. This may mean referring the allegation, concern or disclosure to the police or children’s services.

If there is not a risk of immediate harm, the duty safeguarding practitioner may ask the volunteer who reported the concern, the reporter, for more information and context. This will help them decide if they need to refer to the police or children’s services.

At this point, the duty practitioner will include the safeguarding practitioner at HQ who is responsible for the relevant country or region in the conversation. They will manage the report from this point.

Our standard procedure is to notify the relevant country/region safeguarding lead volunteer, county commissioner and country/region chief commissioner of the case. And we provide support in managing the case, where necessary.

Before the safeguarding practitioner makes a referral to the police or children’s services, they'll consider whether they can do this without needing to inform or ask consent from the child's parent or carer.

If letting parents or carers know about the report will put a child at further risk, we will make the referral without doing this. The safeguarding practitioner will let the reporter and country/region safeguarding lead know this action has been taken.

If consent is needed, the reporter, or an appropriate volunteer, will be asked to speak to the parent or carer urgently so that the referral can be made.

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

Sometimes we don't need to refer a case to either of these agencies. In these cases, the Safeguarding team will support the reporter with advice and information about resources that can be given to the young person or their family. It's likely we'll ask the reporter, or another appropriate volunteer, to share the concerns with the parents or carers of the young person.

In all cases, the reporter will be given a reference number for their report. They should not expect to receive specific details regarding the outcome of a case, but will be informed when the case has been closed.

Honest conversations

It's often the case that the reporter or another local volunteer will be asked to talk to the parent or carer about their concerns. This is because they're likely to have a existing relationship and rapport that will make it easier to talk about.

This is not always an easy discussion to have and our team will identify sources of support including local commissioners and country/region safeguarding volunteers.

The purpose of this conversation may be:

  • To make sure the family is aware so that they can manage the concerns raised and safeguard their child.
  • To allow the family the chance to explain or 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 services.
  • To share relevant links and signpost to resources available.
  • To offer ongoing support to the family or carers, if appropriate.

Anonymity

Girlguiding can’t stay anonymous when making a referral, but the safeguarding practitioner won’t give the name or details of the reporter unless required to by law. We will let the reporter know if we do this.

The age of adulthood isn't always the same. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, those ages 18 and over are considered adults. In Scotland those aged 16 year and over are considered adults. In BGO different ages will apply in different countries.

Consider whether the adult at risk should be told about this report, and if we need to get their consent before making a referral to social services. The HQ Safeguarding team may also need to consider if the adult is able to give this consent.

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

  • The person meets the definition of an ‘adult at risk’. This means the person:
    • Has needs for care and support (whether 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 themselves 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 immediate 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 we do not need to make a referral, or an adult doesn't give consent for the referral. In this cases the Safeguarding team will give advice and signpost the volunteer who reported the concern (the reporter) to any support that can be given to the adult.

We might ask that a risk assessment, wellbeing action plan or an adjustment plan be completed with the individual. The safeguarding team will advise on who is appropriate to complete these and, along with your country/region safeguarding volunteer lead, are able to provide support.

In all cases, the reporter will be provided with a safeguarding reference number for their report. They should not expect to receive specific details regarding the outcome of a case, but will be informed when the case has been closed.

Honest conversations

It's often the case that the reporter or another local volunteer will be asked to talk to the parent or carer about their concerns. This is because they're likely to have a existing relationship and rapport that will make it easier to talk about.

This is not always an easy discussion to have and our team will identify sources of support including local commissioners and country/region safeguarding volunteers.

The purpose of this conversation may be:

  • To allow the individual the opportunity to offer an explanation and respond to any concerns or allegations. They may also 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 age of adulthood isn't always the same. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, those ages 18 and over are considered adults. In Scotland those aged 16 year and over are considered adults. In BGO, different ages will apply in different countries.

Decide whether immediate action is needed.

In all cases, the volunteer who reported the concern (the reporter) will be given a safeguarding reference number for their report. They should not expect to receive specific details regarding the outcome of a case, but will be informed when the case has been closed.

The HQ 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 or other emergency service.

We might also need to suspend the membership or consider a sanction for the adult who poses a risk. This is in line with our Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy. If this happens, the suspended member will be offered support by a safe practice liaison volunteer, who will act as a sounding board and attend meetings with them when needed.

Following English and Welsh legislation, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) may be informed of the allegations/concerns raised. The LADO is responsible for providing advice, information and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations about allegations and concerns regarding adults working with children. They oversee individual cases and ensure partnership working between different agencies. In Scotland and Northern Ireland this role will be fulfilled by an appropriate person in the Local Authority.

What happens when the concerns don’t meet the threshold for a referral to statutory agencies or the police?

In this case, the HQ Safeguarding team may request an internal investigation, which will be carried out in line with our investigation procedures, and appeal and review procedures. Some internal investigations may also require a risk assessment to be completed with the volunteer who poses a potential risk of harm.

What will the outcome of an investigation be?

If any investigation leads to significant concerns about the adult’s conduct or behaviour, then a suitable sanction, including withdrawal of membership, may be applied.

For more information about sanctions of membership see the Managing concerns about adult volunteers procedures.

Where certain criteria are met, Girlguiding have a legal duty to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Access NI or Disclosure Scotland following a withdrawal of membership. Where this is the case, the adult volunteer will be informed by the HQ Safeguarding team.

Honest conversations

The HQ Safeguarding Team may ask the commissioner (or an appropriate volunteer) to speak to the individual against whom an allegation has been raised. In most cases this request will be made to a commissioner or senior volunteer, rather than the reporter of the concern.

The purpose of this conversation may be:

  • To gather further initial information from the volunteer.
  • To inform the individual of an allegation made against them and allow them the opportunity to offer an explanation and respond.
  • To inform the individual they are suspended due to an allegation.
  • To inform the individual of the outcome of an investigation. This may include informing them of the withdrawal of their membership.

Support and guidance will be offered to the volunteer undertaking these conversations by the duty practitioner or safeguarding practitioner managing the case, and the country/region safeguarding volunteers.

They'll make sure that the commissioner is aware of what can be shared with the individual, and what must be kept confidential due to the ongoing internal or external investigation. This depends on the guidance received from external agencies (like the police or LADO) regarding the case or concern.

If a sanction will be placed on the individual’s membership, a conversation must take place to inform them of this as soon as possible. This will be followed up by a letter from the HQ Safeguarding team to confirm the details and reasoning for the sanction. The conversation must take place before the letter is sent.

If you don’t think your safeguarding concern has been dealt with by the HQ Safeguarding team appropriately or to the standard you would expect...

Contact the HQ Safeguarding team again, highlight your concern and discuss the points you would like to be considered.

If you still feel it is not being dealt with in the way that you would expect you can escalate your concerns by contacting the HQ Safeguarding team manager.

If an investigation has resulted in a sanction being placed on your membership, you have the right to request an appeal in line with our Appeals and review procedure. This procedure details when an appeal will be granted and how it will be carried out.