As a charity or social enterprise, it is your organisation’s duty to protect the safety of all your members and volunteers, particularly your youngest members. Failure to implement a robust monitoring and safety programme could lead to accusations of misconduct or abuse and subsequent claims under your Charity Insurance policy.
Creating a Safe Environment
The foundation of your youth protection policy is to ensure that your environment is fully secure by implementing policies with children’s best interests in mind. This will allow you to manage, reduce and help to prevent any adult misconduct while also protecting your staff and volunteers from unsubstantiated accusations.
Take Care When Selecting Employees and Volunteers
Any employees or volunteers who may potentially work with children within your organisation should undergo a thorough screening process, including:
#1 Implement a Waiting Period
Volunteers wishing to work with children should be members of your organisation for a determined minimum period of time (e.g. a minimum of six or twelve months), so the individual can be evaluated by you and other current staff members.
#2 Employment Applications
Ensure that all potential employees and volunteers fill in detailed employment applications requiring information about their previous experience working with children, previous organisational affiliations, and references.
#3 Interview Process
Conduct face-to-face interviews to discuss the role in detail and probe the applicant’s background and suitability.
#4 Reference Checks
Before your potential hire starts work, obtain at least three references for each applicant, preferably those from organisations where the applicant worked with children.
#5 Conduct Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks
As part of your standard recruitment and volunteer monitoring you should complete a DBS check for all eligible applicants and volunteers who will engage in the following activities:
- Involvement with daycare and/or schooling
- Chaperoning overnight activities with children
- Counselling minors
- Involvement in youth mentoring programmes
- Roles which involve any potential for sporadic encounters with minors, such as driving youth groups to activities off-site
#6 Morale History
Applicants should be dismissed from the selection process if the following offences are evident:
- Illegal substance use
If an applicant does not reveal an offence in the application for employment, he or she should also be removed from the application process.
Suggested Guidelines for Youth Workers
Your charity or social enterprise may want to hire youth employees to serve as child care providers during events or other activities. As such it is important to consider the following policies when hiring or using people aged under 18:
- Workers must be of legal working age.
- Workers should be screened the same way as older volunteers and employees.
- Workers must be supervised by an adult employee at all times.
Guidelines for Parents
With regard to all activities involving children, implement a requirement that the parent or guardian checks the child in and out of the activity by signing a check-in log sheet.
Lavatory supervision is often an area that is often overlooked. Employees or approved volunteers should escort children to the lavatories in groups. Before allowing children to enter the lavatory, the employee should check to make sure it is empty. Once the children go inside, the employee should wait in the hallway for the children to congregate again.
If a child requests assistance from an employee while in the lavatory, the member of your team should prop the lavatory door open and then leave the stall open while providing assistance to the child.
Best practice is also to ask parents to take their children to the lavatory before any classes, programmes and activities themselves to reduce any potential exposure.
If members of your organisation will be counselling any young children, your charity should implement guidelines for these employees as well. These precautions will safeguard against negligent counselling, malpractice, abuse of authority, breach of confidentiality or fiduciary duty, sexual battery and unnecessary inappropriate influence. Consider the following guidelines:
- Create a counselling contract with the employee outlining the scope of the counselling sessions (length and duration), confidentiality issues and dispute resolution protocol.
- Limit counselling to proper context. For those children who wish to discuss abuse, mental health issues and/or addiction, request that they see a professional counsellor outside of your organisation.
- Consider only allowing male counsellors to work with males and vice versa.
- Limit the time, duration and number of sessions allowed for counselling for each individual. If further guidance is needed, request that the parishioner visit a professional counsellor.
- Hold counselling sessions in highly visible areas of the facility while keeping confidentiality in mind. Consider installing a video camera in the counselling room with the audio capabilities turned off.
- Maintain confidentiality in all counselling sessions unless employees learn of illegal activity. In that event, the employee should consult your organisation’s legal representation for further guidance.
- Warn employees that the following activities are strictly forbidden:
- Personal conversations and questions with the counselee of an extremely intimate nature
- Physical contact and greetings that go beyond handshakes
- Fantasising about an inappropriate relationship with the person being counselled
- Seeing individuals outside of the counselling sessions, such as giving them a ride home
How To Respond to Allegations of Child Abuse
For the purposes of establishing a structured policy at your organisation, consider the following acts constituting child abuse:
- Physical abuse that is not accidental (beating, burning, biting, etc)
- Emotional abuse in which a child is not nurtured or made to feel secure, such as extreme criticism, teasing, etc
- Sexual conduct between an adult and a child (or between one child and another child that is at least four years older). Conduct may include pornography, incest, fondling, exhibitionism and intercourse
- Depriving a child of essential survival needs, such as food, water, shelter and adequate medical care
In the event that one or more of the abuses described above occurs at your organisation, consider the following actions:
- Contact the child’s parent or guardian.
- Place the accused employee on leave immediately until an investigation is complete.
- Contact your Charity Insurance Company immediately and report the incident
- Comply with laws regarding abuse reporting to police.
- Cooperate with the authorities during their investigation.
- Contact your organisation’s legal representation for guidance on how to address the media and the congregation.
- Terminate the employee if he or she is found guilty of the abuse.
Charity and Social Enterprise Insurance
If your Charity, Community Group or Social Enterprise comes into contact with vulnerable adults or minors it is important to ensure that your Charity Insurance policy provides adequate cover for abuse. This is not always provided as standard by some insurers, as such we would suggest you review your documentation carefully, or better still take expert advice.
Insync specialises in cover for all types of social enterprise, from charitable organisations to Community Interest Companies (CIC’s). You can request a Charity Insurance or CIC Insurance quote online. Alternatively, why not book a free review with one of our expert Gurus who can guide you through the insurance maze.