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 effective safeguarding practice.
  • National safeguarding lead - 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 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.
  • Safeguarding panel – The safeguarding panel provide independent consideration of safeguarding cases and undertake safeguarding decision appeals, where there is disagreement within a case.
  • 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 From January 2021 it is mandatory for all leaders to have the correct level of safeguarding training for their role, in line with our A Safe Space Programme, and units must not meet unless at least one leader present holds A Safe Space level 3.
  • Volunteers - Safeguarding is the responsibility of all volunteers. Volunteers must complete A Safe Space training required by their role 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 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 vulnerable adults at that time.
  • You must inform your commissioner or the Safeguarding team of any ongoing or past investigation(s) by the Police, Social Services, an employer or other organisation you volunteer for, which relates to children or vulnerable adults, involving yourself or any person you have a significant relationship with, for example, someone you live with, immediate family members or partners

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.

All volunteers need to follow the following safeguarding behaviours 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. But 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 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.
  • Refer 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, and the HQ Safeguarding Team to report the disclosure, as appropriate.
  • Support them following the disclosure and offer immediate reassurance that you will help get them the support they need. Then continue to be consistent and reliable in the support offered.

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.

British Guiding Overseas must complete the following steps.

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

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

  1. Contact your chief commissioner or the Safeguarding team 
  2. Complete a written report and email to [email protected] 
  3. The Safeguarding team will record and manage all allegations, concerns and disclosures.

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 handy A Safe Space 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)
  • For safeguarding emergencies only - Out of hours emergency phone: +44 07508 032997 (5pm-10pm Monday-Friday; 9am-10pm Saturday/Sunday/English Bank Holidays)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Let the Safeguarding team know ASAP if you call the police or other emergency services.

For volunteers or members of staff from British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) you can also contact the BGO Chief Commissioner on (+33) 6224 53553. If the Chief Commissioner is unavailable contact the HQ Safeguarding Team as above.

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 and membership numbers, 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 previous concerns or incident you have had about the person you are referring
  • 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 liaise with external agencies as necessary and take any appropriate next steps necessary, to ensure that all members are protected from any further harm. They will work together with you, your commissioner and region safeguarding leads to keep you safe and updated, as appropriate.

How does Girlguiding address safeguarding allegations, concerns or disclosures?

The HQ Safeguarding Team share and store information in line with The Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR which do not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children 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 vulnerable adults.

You must ensure reports are made and handled in the following way:

  • Keep the information on a secure device that is password protected and shared with only those required to view it. Alternatively, this can be stored away in a locked cupboard with restricted access to those that are required to view the information.
  • When reporting to HQ make sure cannot be overheard by anyone around you as this could compromise the security of the personal information.
  • If reporting via email, please ensure you are not using a public computer. Make sure that the email is sent securely and to the intended recipient and delete when case is closed as requested by HQ Safeguarding team.

Girlguiding approaches safeguarding referrals on an individual basis and therefore this may be different, depending on their nature, severity, complexity and personal details. The duty safeguarding practitioner and team assistant receive the referral first - whether it’s by phone call or email. They assess the risk and then do the following:

If the concern or disclosure relates to a child at risk of harm, we will…

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

If there is no risk of imminent harm, the duty safeguarding practitioner may ask the referrer for more information and context 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 the relevant country or region. They will manage the concern or disclosure after this point.

Our standard procedure for safeguarding cases is that the region safeguarding lead, county commissioner and country and region chief commissioner are notified of the case and provide support in managing the case where necessary.

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 be have been told about the referral, and whether their consent will be needed. The safeguarding practitioner will make the referral without parental/carer 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. If consent is needed the referrer or an appropriate volunteer will be asked to speak to the parents or carer to get this before the referral is made.

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

Sometimes a referral to children’s services and/or the police isn’t necessary. The HQ Safeguarding Team will provide advice and/or signpost the referrer to any support and resources that can be given to the child, young person, or their family. The referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) is likely to be asked to share the concerns with the child’s parent/carer if they haven’t already.

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

Honest conversations

The HQ Safeguarding Team is likely to ask the referrer (or an appropriate volunteer) to share the concerns with a parent/carer. There will be times when this conversation must 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 manage 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.
  • To offer ongoing support to the parents/carers if appropriate

The HQ 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 HQ 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.

 Consider whether the adult at risk should be informed of this referral to HQ, and whether their consent should be sought before referring 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 government definition of a ‘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 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 HQ 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 a risk assessment and adult support plan with the individual, where appropriate.

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

Honest conversations

The HQ 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 HQ 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 HQ 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 immediate action is needed. An allegation about an adult that poses a risk of harm may include...

  • behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child, young person or adult at risk
  • failed to protect a child, young person or adult at risk from harm
  • may have committed a criminal offence against or related to a child, young person or adult at risk
  • behaved towards a child, young person or adult at risk in a way that indicated they may pose a future risk of harm to them
  • exploited an adult at risk, for example, financially, through their role
  • is in a relationship with someone who has had/has police involvement in relation to offences against a child, young person or adult at risk.

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.

The HQ Safeguarding team may 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 and procedures.

As per, 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 employer’s and voluntary organisation’s around allegations and concerns regarding adults working with children. The LADO is responsible for overseeing individual cases and ensuring partnership working between different agencies. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and BGO this role will be fulfilled by an appropriate person in the Local Authority.

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

If the outcome of an external or internal investigation leads to significant concerns regarding the adults conduct or behaviour, then a suitable sanction, maybe withdrawal of membership, may take place and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Access NI or PVG may need to be informed.

* Please note that, in Scotland, a person 16 years and over is considered an adult, whereas the rest of the Country/Regions are 18 years and over.

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

  • 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 Complaints team.

More information

Safeguarding policy

Safeguarding pages online

Dos and Don’ts of handling disclosures

Types of abuse and harm

Six principles of adult safeguarding

Published: September 2020

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