Note that by the nature of the Society we have excluded children and domestic situations from detailed policy below.
We include face-to-face meetings and conferences, online and hybrid, and our use of social media (viz. Slack channels, Twitter, Email broadcasts and LinkedIN – and any others as added and used by the Society).
The Society has two Codes of Conduct (CoC) currently in place: an event CoC and an organisation CoC (also known as the Trustee Code of Conduct). The event CoC covers the expected conduct at events and on any online forums and apps. We also have a Complaints and Grievances Policy.
1.1 SocRSE aims to ensure that we provide a safe and secure environment for members, trustees, online guests and conference attendees and the general public. We believe that abuse is unacceptable and we are committed to preventing any form of abuse, including bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination. We will:
- protect trustees and volunteers from unmanageable workloads;
- when approving funding applications part of the due diligence will include safeguarding;
- use DBS (Disclosing and Barring Service) checks on trustees with significant financial access and responsibilities (minimally: the President and the Treasurer);
- ensure that we respect the individual and their individuality;
- ensure that members, trustees, online guests and conference attendees are aware of their responsibility to be proactive in situations where they suspect abuse is occurring;
- take seriously complaints of abuse by members, trustees, online guests and conference attendees, the general public and any others;
- create a working environment where those who suspect abuse are not afraid of reporting it;
- listen and respond to people who are alerting us to abuse, whoever they are;
- ensure that local procedures are developed for the prevention, detection and response to abuse, including procedures for systems for reporting concerns of abuse, and for recording detailed and accurate records of allegations of abuse and any subsequent actions taken by the trustees;
- ensure that all trustees are familiar with these procedures and are trained to the necessary level in their use;
- ensure appropriate senior trustees are trained in dealing with abuse allegations;
- recognise the importance of confidentiality but not at the expense of leaving anybody at risk;
- recognise that the term ‘abuse’ can include criminal activity. When it is suspected a criminal offence is being committed then consultation with the police will take place.
- Scope of this Policy
2.1 This policy will apply to all those involved in SocRSE, at any location, both in person and online. The purpose of this policy is to set out:
- The definition of abuse in its many forms
- The responsibilities and liabilities of all members of SocRSE in relation to abuse
- Basic procedures on dealing with abuse
- The Legal Framework
3.1 This policy and it’s procedures reflect the following legislation:
- Care Act 2014
- Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
- Human Rights Act 1998
- Mental Capacity Act 2005
- Public Interest Disclosure act 1990
- Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
It is not necessary to understand the detailed legislation, related policies, or detailed guidance before passing on urgent concerns about abuse, or failure to safeguard.
4.1 Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons.
4.2 Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It may be physical, verbal or psychological, it may be an act of neglect or an omission to act, or it may occur when a vulnerable person is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent. Abuse can occur in any relationship and it may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it.
4.3 Abuse can take many forms and may or may not involve criminal activity.
4.4 There are many kinds of abuse which can take the form of:
Physical abuse results in bodily harm and/or mental distress. It includes physical assault, imprisonment, and misuse of drugs. The perpetrator may cause physical or mental pain. Often the nature of the physical injury is not consistent with the account of how it occurred.
- Neglect and Acts of Omission
Neglect also results in bodily harm and/or mental distress. It can involve failure to provide help and support in daily living tasks. Often there is a failure to meet basic needs (e.g. warmth, nutritional diet). It can involve failure to intervene in behaviour which is likely to cause harm to a person or to others. Neglect can occur because of lack of knowledge by the supplier.
This includes various behaviours; disregarding one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings resulting in a risk that impact on the person’s wellbeing.
- Psychological Abuse
Psychological abuse results in mental distress and may affect a person’s physical health. It can involve the denial of choice, dignity and respect. It can include the fear of violence, threats, harassment, humiliation, loss of liberty, name calling, the use of racist/sexist/discriminatory language. It can involve restricting or failing to present all of the options to the adult with care and support needs, over-riding consent, treating adults as children.
A person may be subject to such treatment in one off incidents by strangers. Trustees will ascertain if the incident is a one off. If it is, support will be offered to the victim and records of decisions taken will be kept but no further enquiry will be undertaken.
e) Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse occurs when a vulnerable person is involved in sexual activities she/he does not want to be involved in or does not understand, or to which she/he is unable to give informed consent. Sexual activity does not always involve contact. It may take the form of looking at pornographic photographs, videos and magazines, voyeurism, indecent exposure.
f) Financial or Material Abuse
Financial or material abuse includes the theft, misuse or withholding of money or possessions. It can involve the use of verbal, physical and emotional threats. The vulnerable person’s financial and material position is exploited.
g) Discriminatory Abuse
Abuse can be experienced as harassment, insults or similar actions due to race, religion, gender, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation.
Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, or lack of training, knowledge or understanding.
A person is specifically targeted, groomed or radicalised to take part in, assist with or promote potential terrorist or other violent extremist activities.
5.1 All members, trustees, online guests and conference attendees have a duty to report any abuse or suspected abuse.
- All members of SocRSE have a moral obligation, a right and a duty to raise concerns with the ‘Designated Person’ (defined below) any instance of malpractice, negligence, or unprofessional behaviour.
5.3 In practice this means that everybody involved in SocRSE is responsible for being alert to abuse and for doing the right thing.
5.4 Being alert to abuse means:
- Identifying behaviour that is not acceptable
- Listening to anybody who discloses abuse
- Acknowledging hints or signals which ‘leak out’
5.5 Doing the right thing means:
- Reporting concerns to the appropriate person
- Ensuring that an investigation takes place
6.1 There will be no recriminations for ‘whistle blowing’ and all concerns will be dealt with fairly and justly. It is recognised that anybody might be scared of taking action when they suspect that abuse is occurring. It is common to react to distressing situations by denying reality or by feeling guilty or de-skilled.
- The Public Disclosure Act 1998 offers protection for staff who ‘whistle blow’. Please refer to the whistle blowing policy for further information.
- Designated Person (Safeguarding Officer/Responsible Person)
7.1 The Board of Trustees must appoint a ‘Designated Person’
[This is normally the Vice President but can be delegated to the President or other senior officer of the Society].
- The ‘Designated Person’ is responsible for investigating any allegations of abuse.
7.3 If the appointed ‘Designated Person’ is the subject of allegations, if there are other conflicts of interest or the ‘Designated Person’ is unavailable another person will be appointed by the Board of Trustees. All events, such as the annual conference, could have a small team of people acting with and on behalf of the Designated Person.
7.3 This ‘Designated Person’ will:
- Undertake or oversee and supervise the investigation of the abuse.
- Support staff who are involved in working with abusive situations
- Gather initial information
- Keep detailed records
- Ensure that an action plan is in place and appropriate aftercare is offered to the person who has been abused
8.1 All suspected abuse will be reported to the ‘Designated Person’ who will then undertake an assessment in order to take appropriate action.
8.2 Immediate actions:
- Ensure safety of the person/s involved and protect from any further abuse
- Provide support and reassurance
- Assess whether emergency services are required and if needed call them
- Follow the procedure
- Explain the procedure to the individual making the allegation and areas of confidentiality
- Explain the circumstances in which certain information may need to be shared to comply with legal obligations
- Listen to the person’s account
- Make careful notes of their account, using their words where possible, your observations and actions
- Obtain agreement that all notes are an accurate reflection of their account
- Ensure notation of dates, time and persons present are correct and agreed
- Take all necessary precautions to preserve and maintain any forensic or other evidence
- Listen to the views of the complainant on how they wish to proceed
- Explain again the policy, procedure and obligations
- Remember the need for ongoing support
- Confront the alleged abuser
- Be dismissive of the concern
- Be judgmental or voice your own opinion
- Investigate or interview beyond that which is necessary to establish the basic facts
- Disturb or destroy possible forensic or other evidence
- Consult with persons not directly involved with the situation
- Ask leading questions
- Assume information
- Make promises
- Ignore the allegation
- Elaborate in your notes
8.4 It is important to remember that the person who first encounters a case of alleged abuse is not responsible for deciding whether abuse has occurred. In the first instance any allegations of abuse will be reported to the ‘Designated Person’.
- If a trustee is implicated in suspected abuse, Society disciplinary procedures will apply
- If the abuse allegation involves a criminal act the ‘Designated Person’ will inform the police
- If the abuse allegation involves a member of the public, a child, an adult with care and support needs or a registered sex-offender the ‘Designated Person’ will inform the police and social services where appropriate.
8.5 Where the ‘Designated Person’ is not immediately available there should be no delay in taking any initial action necessary to prevent further abuse. Where such action is required a record of that taken should be made and this should be handed to the ‘Designated Person’ when they are made aware of the allegation.
9.1 The ‘Designated Person’ will make initial enquiries to ensure the reliability of any information given prior to any formal investigation.
9.2 If at any time during the investigation it appears that a criminal offence may have been committed then all attempts to investigate should stop until the police investigations have been concluded.
9.3 Similarly if at any point the abuse allegations involve a member of the public, a child, an adult with care and support needs or a registered sex-offender Social Services will be contacted where appropriate and asked to conduct the investigation.
9.4 An investigation should be completed within 5 days working days of the incident first being reported. The investigation should:
- establish what has happened – when, to whom, by whom and to assess the general well-being of the person who is thought to have been abused
- identify the physical and psychological needs of the person.
9.5 Factual information obtained during the course of the initial assessment and any investigation should be recorded and retained on file.
9.6 A report should be written within 3 working days of the investigation being concluded giving:
- a clear review of what has happened
- a clear review of what has been concluded
- a clear statement of what is going to happen next and what additional support is to be provided; and
- a clear indication of any recommendations
10.1 Protection of ‘Adults at Risk’ raises issues of confidentiality which should be clearly understood by all.
10.2 Members, trustees, online guests and conference attendees have a professional responsibility to share relevant information about the protection of ‘Adults at Risk’ with other professionals, particularly investigative agencies and adult social services.
10.3 Clear boundaries of confidentiality will be communicated to all.
10.4 All personal information will be kept confidential. All written records will be kept in a secure area for a specific time as identified in data protection guidelines. Records will only record details required in the initial contact form.
10.5 If a person confides in a trustee and requests that the information is kept secret, it is important that the trustee tells the person sensitively that he or she has a responsibility to refer cases of alleged abuse to the appropriate agencies.
10.6 Within that context, the person should, however, be assured that the matter will be disclosed only to people who need to know about it.
10.7 Where possible, consent should be obtained from the person before sharing personal information with third parties. In some circumstances obtaining consent may be neither possible nor desirable as the safety and welfare of the ‘Adult at Risk’ is the priority.
10.8 Where a disclosure has been made, trustees should let the person know the position regarding their role and what action they will have to take as a result.
10.9 Trustees should assure the person that they will keep them informed of any action to be taken and why. The people involvement in the process of sharing information should be fully considered and their wishes and feelings taken into account.
11.1 If the nature of any abuse requires the involvement of external agencies, advice will be sought from the appropriate external body/s such as social services or the police on legal requirements and necessary actions which will then be implemented.
11.2 Where the matter is not of a nature that requires intervention by the police and/or social services the following actions will be taken.
- Abuse by members:
If an investigation concludes that a member has been abusive to any other member of SocRSE this will be dealt with under the Code of Conduct policy.
- Abuse by trustees:
If an investigation concludes that a trustee has been abusive towards any member of SocRSE, or other, action will be taken in accordance with Society disciplinary procedures.
- Abuse by volunteers
Where appropriate the ‘Designated Person’ or the President will make a decision on whether the individual will be able to continue with their role in the Society or whether another form of remedial action is appropriate.
11.3 If the investigation concludes that abuse has not taken place it must be made clear to the person making the allegation that there is no further course of action available internally.
11.4 If the person is not satisfied with the outcome, they should take the matter up with an external agency. Should the person decide to take such action they will not be subject to any form of harassment as a result.
11.4 Trustees are protected by the Charity Commision’s Whistleblowing Policy.
- ‘Designated Person’
Links that informed this policy