Charity Commission’s statement on safeguarding

Updated Charity Commission guidance on legal duties

Charity Commission's statement on safeguarding

On 10 February 2018, the Charity Commission issued a statement in response to concerns in the media regarding Oxfam. Within the statement, the Charity Commission highlighted that a key focus within the investigation into Oxfam’s conduct following alleged incidents made in 2011, would be on the charity’s approach to safeguarding.

Since making this statement, the Charity Commission has updated its guidance for charity trustees on the protection of vulnerable groups.  Charities may have their own safeguarding policies, however the Charity Commission guidance is mandatory.

Updated Charity Commission guidance on legal duties

“Safeguarding is a key governance priority for all charities, not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk. You must proactively safeguard and promote the well-being and welfare of your beneficiaries (the people the charity is set up to help).”

Charity trustees must take “reasonable steps to make sure that beneficiaries and other who come into contact with the charity do not come to harm.”

“There are legal restrictions under safeguarding legislation on who can be involved in working with children and adults at risk. Charities have a responsibility to:

  • Make sure that trustees, employees and volunteers are suitable to work with children and adults at risk
  • Request appropriate checks from Disclosure and Barring Service where the role is eligible
  • Check that the individuals are legally able to act in the position (Annex 1 of the Charity Commission safeguarding strategy).

Charity trustees must put safeguards in place to protect those who come into contact with their charity.“These include, but are not limited to:

  • Making all trustees, employees and volunteers aware of what abuse is and how to spot it
  • Having a clear system of reporting concerns as soon as abuse is identifies or suspected
  • Responding to abuse or allegations or abuse rapidly and carrying out investigations confidentially
  • Preventing harm and abuse with a rigorous recruitment and interview process”

“Even where work with children or adults at risk does not form part of the core business of the charity, trustees must be alert to their responsibilities to protect those with whom the charity comes into contact. “

For charity trustees to comply with the legal duties they are required to react responsibly to reports of safeguarding risks and incidents of abuse, and take steps to make sure that people working in the charity know how to deal with these.

“The Charity Commission has an important regulatory role in ensuring that trustees comply with their legal duties and responsibilities in managing their charity. In the context of safeguarding issues, it has a specific regulatory role which is focused on the conduct of trustees and the steps they take to protect beneficiaries and other person who come into contact with the charity.”

Charity trustees should also make a serious report to the Charity Commission if they have any concerns regarding actions of another trustee, employee or volunteer. Failure to report a serious incident that subsequently comes to light may be considered as mismanagement by the Charity Commission and could result in regulatory action being taken, particularly if further abuse or damage has arisen following the initial incident. 

Charity trustees may wish to review their own safeguarding policies in order to ensure that they are compliant with the strategies suggested by the Charity Commission. It may even be advisable for Charities which are looking to incorporate their constitution to consider making reference to the existence of having a safeguarding policy contained within their constitution. 

If you require further help and advice concerning the Charity’s Commission’s statement please contact our Charities Law team, call 01733 882800 or email

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.