Safeguarding guidance for local action groups

At Friends of the Earth, we believe that everyone has the right to live free from abuse of any kind, and that everyone should feel safe when participating in group activities. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. We should all be doing everything we can to keep children and adults at risk safe by reporting any concerns we have about their wellbeing.

28 Mar 2024

This guide is to help groups:

  • understand what safeguarding is and their responsibility
  • meet any legal safeguarding requirements
  • understand what to do if they have a safeguarding concern.

You can view Friends of the Earth’s full internal safeguarding policy for information.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is the overarching term used to describe everything needed to create safe environments, protect individuals from harm, and promote their welfare.

Below are examples of situations which would require measures to be put in place to protect individuals:

  • All forms of abuse, such as physical, emotional, financial.
  • Homelessness.
  • Mental health.
  • Coercive and controlling behaviour and relationships.

What is your responsibility?

Including children and adults at risk in our work is hugely rewarding and Friends of the Earth is here to support you in doing this effectively within your groups. This includes if you’re:

  • Working with schools or colleges.
  • Welcoming children into your group. Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Supporting a Youth Friends of the Earth group within your local area.

As a group member or co-ordinator, it’s important that you’re ensuring safeguarding best practices are always followed in your group.

If you intend to do work which involves working with children or adults at risk, we encourage you to appoint a group safeguarding lead.

Please note:

If you have any safeguarding concerns, you can report them by contacting us at [email protected]

Safeguarding guidance

Safeguarding children and adults at risk

A child is classed as an individual who is under 18. An adult at risk, is an individual 18 and over who may need or be receiving community care support due to their mental health, physical or learning disabilities, sensory impairment, age, illness or transitioning from children’s support services.

The main difference between safeguarding children and adults is down to an adult’s right to self-determination. This is in reference to the fact that adults have more control of their choices and independence, therefore may choose to act in in a way which doesn’t protect themselves. This means that it’s only in extreme circumstances where local authorities including the law would intervene.

Reporting a safeguarding concern

If you suspect that a child or adult attending your group meeting or activity is at risk of harm or is the victim of abuse, you must report it as soon as possible.

In the first instance, unless someone is at immediate risk of harm, please report all safeguarding concerns to the Friends of the Earth Safeguarding Team by emailing [email protected]. This should be done within 24 hours of the incident or concern being raised. We'll then work with you to identify appropriate next steps, including contacting your local authority and/or other relevant external agencies. All safeguarding concerns will be treated seriously.

If someone is at immediate risk, please call 999 straight away and then report it to the Friends of the Earth Safeguarding Team.

See below for important guidance on behaviour, communication and note taking if you observe an incident of abuse or someone makes a disclosure of abuse to you.

If a group member has any safeguarding related concerns or queries, they should inform the group safeguarding lead who will then inform the Friends of the Earth Safeguarding Team by emailing [email protected]

What is abuse?

Content note: links to description of signs and symptoms of different types of abuse.

Abuse usually starts with a power imbalance with one person taken advantage of another. It can be inflicted by anyone including family members, friends, carers and colleagues. Abuse can happen anywhere.

  • physical
  • sexual
  • emotional or psychological
  • domestic violence
  • financial
  • modern slavery
  • organisational
  • discriminatory
  • self-neglect
  • neglect
  • physical abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse

Children are also at risk of:

  • online grooming
  • bullying and cyberbullying
  • child sexual exploitation
  • criminal exploitation

Please read this page outlining different forms of abuse and the signs to look out for in adults.

Mental health and/or self-harm don't come under the legal safeguarding framework, however, if you have these concerns about an adult or child, please email [email protected] or call 999 if you believe the individual is in immediate danger.

Key prevention methods

When working with children and/or adults at risk to ensure that everyone feels safe and the risk of harm is minimised, you should always adhere to the following behaviours and practices.

  • Never work alone.
  • Keep room doors open.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries.
  • Don’t give out of accept personal contact details to anyone under 18.
  • Don’t provide alcohol to anyone under 18.
  • Don’t fundraise from children or adults at risk.
  • Check whether anyone under 18 is planning to attend.
  • Set out clear ground rules.
  • Appoint a facilitator or chair for the meeting.
  • Appoint a safeguarding lead, especially if you plan to work with children.
  • Ensure the ground rules and procedures are made clear to the group.
  • Ensure that a risk assessment is completed when necessary.
  • Ensure that there’s is a safeguarding point of contact or a safeguarding lead at the event when necessary.
  • Ensure that group attendees are aware the the ground rules and behaviour expected from them.
  • When working with under 18s, you must gain consent if you wish to use any digital images.
  • Don’t not engage in any private communication with under 18s, for example through social media channels such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram.

When planning webinars where children and young people will be present consider the following:

  • Disabling the private chat function.
  • Have 2 hosts, one facilitating the session and the other able to keep an eye on attendees and their behaviour.
  • Ensure that the online space is protected so that no unwelcome guests can attend.
  • Having a sign-up process so that you can see in advance who will be attending.
  • Ensure all attendees use appropriate usernames.

More guidance to assist you in facilitating online meetings can be found here.

Dealing with a disclosure

A safeguarding concern could come to your attention via a variety of means. You might observe something, someone might disclose an allegation of abuse about themselves or someone else, or someone might report something to you that they've seen or suspected.

It’s important that if someone has chosen to disclose a concern to you that you’re a reassuring presence for them. Refrain from making physical contact, for example, hugging as an act to provide comfort. Also, remember that you’re there to support and shouldn’t provide advice. You should also make the individual aware that you will have to inform the Friends of the Earth Safeguarding Team.  Keep your personal opinions out of the situation and only provide Friends of the Earth Safeguarding Team with objective information about the concern.

The following guidance will help you to engage and record appropriately if a concern comes to your attention.

The following guidance will help you to engage and record appropriately if a concern comes to your attention.

Be a reassuring presence

One of the most important steps you can take to help children or vulnerable people is to reassure them that they're safe and that they've done the right thing. If you're panicking or appear alarmed, they will be too. Make sure your behaviour mirrors your words.

  • Be truthful. Never tell a lie to make someone feel better.
  • Frame it positively. Use constructive, positive, peaceful language.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be compassionate. Use appropriate tone of voice and body language.
  • Explain. Keep them informed of positive developments so they have ownership over their part in the situation.
  • Offer a drink of water or juice (no food unless they're with you for an extended period of time).
  • Don't have physical contact. Regardless of whether it seems appropriate or not, it's best to refrain from physical contact to maintain a professional boundary. This is especially important as you may not know the extent of a person's vulnerability, and to maintain a bond of trust your behaviours must be completely professional.
  • Work as a pair with another member of your group or a trusted adult.
  • Support but don’t give advice.
  • Avoid commenting on what they've told you. Reporting or disclosing abuse can generate a mix of emotional responses, and your reactions may be unwelcome or inappropriate.

Some examples of reassuring things to say include: “you've done the right thing by asking us for help, we're going to make sure you get the help you need”, “if you wait here with us you'll be safe until more help arrives” or “this is a safe place to wait until more help arrives.”

  • Date, time and location.
  • Identity of the person you're concerned about.
  • Names of any other people present.
  • Factual information.
  • The actions you took.