Trustees’ duties and safeguarding...

...Do you know your responsibilities?

The Charity Commission’s aim is to make sure that charities that work with or provide services to vulnerable beneficiaries comply with their legal duties.

The Charity Commission’s aim is to make sure that charities that work with or provide services to vulnerable beneficiaries comply with their legal duties and take reasonable steps to protect them from harm and minimise the risk of abuse.

Trustees must therefore be alert to their responsibilities to protect those with whom the charity comes into contact. It is essential that trustees:

  • Know their responsibilities;
  • Have adequate measures in place to assess and address safeguarding risks;
  • Have adequate safeguarding policies and procedures appropriate for their charity’s particular circumstances and which reflect both the law and best practice; and
  • Ensure that these policies and procedures are effectively implemented and regularly reviewed. 

The above is vital, given that charities are accountable to the public and must operate for the public benefit.

Trustees are responsible for safeguarding even if certain aspects of the work are delegated to staff.  Trustees should make public a clear commitment to safeguarding by publishing the charity’s safeguarding policy stating that failure to follow the policy will be dealt with as a very serious matter.

Trustees should proactively promote the well-being and welfare of their charity’s beneficiaries and take reasonable steps to protect and safeguard these beneficiaries, and others who come into contact with their charity, from harm. Any failure by trustees to manage safeguarding risks adequately would be a serious regulatory concern to the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission may consider any failures to be misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and it may also be a breach of trustee duty.

Trustees should make a serious incident report to the Charity Commission if:

  • Beneficiaries have been, or are alleged to have been, abused or mistreated while under the care of the charity, or someone connected with the charity, for example a trustee, staff member or volunteer;
  • There has been an incident where someone has been abused or mistreated (alleged or actual) and this is connected with the activities of the charity; or
  • There has been a breach of procedures or policies at the charity which has put beneficiaries at risk, including a failure to carry out checks which would have identified that a person is disqualified under (safeguarding legislation) from working with children or adults. As a result of making a serious incident report to the commission.

Trustees must then manage and minimise the risk of further incidents happening as far as this is reasonably possible by making any changes to policies, procedures and work practices.

The contents and details of a charity’s safeguarding policy will depend on the charity’s activities and level of risk. Risk will be higher where activities involving children or vulnerable adults are central to the charity’s core purposes and services, or take place frequently. Where risks are higher, trustees will need to do more to fulfil their legal duties and make sure their policy is adequate within the context of their operations. The policy should always include requirements for trustees, staff and volunteers to learn about protection issues in accordance with the relevant statutory guidance and within the context of their own roles and responsibilities.

In all cases the Charity Commission expects that, as a minimum; policies are agreed by trustees; are regularly updated; reflect statutory guidance and national and local practice; and are supported by an implementation plan. The policy should be publically available, to provide reassurance and to enable constructive feedback from beneficiaries and other stakeholders.

We can assist with advising on a charity’s current safeguarding policy and whether this meets the requirements set by the Charity Commission or prepare a new safeguarding policy for a charity. Source – Charity Commission

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.