Liberal Democrats

Safeguarding Under 18’s and Vulnerable Adults Policy

Introduction  

The vast majority of people who work with under 18s/vulnerable adults are well motivated and would never harm them. Unfortunately, a few do and it is essential that the Party creates a culture that makes all those who work for and with the Party willing and comfortable to voice their concerns, particularly those about someone with whom they work or who they know personally. Where there are valid concerns, it is important that the procedure is followed and if necessary, the Party’s internal processes are also commenced at the same time.  

Everyone can help to safeguard Under 18s and vulnerable adults, if they are willing and able to act should they have concerns about their welfare. Parents and other primary caregivers have the primary responsibility for safeguarding their under 18s and vulnerable adults. Statutory and voluntary agencies, relatives, friends and neighbours also have responsibilities. 

If an incident occurs within Liberal Democrat activity all employees, members, candidates  and volunteers have a responsibility to follow the steps outlined within this policy.  

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this policy is to set out the Liberal Democrat commitment to keeping under 18s and vulnerable adults safe. It applies to all members, employees, candidates and volunteers working on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. 

Policy Statement

We believe that everyone has a responsibility to promote the welfare of under 18s and vulnerable adults and to keep them safe. 

We will give equal priority to keeping all under 18s and vulnerable adults safe regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. 

We will do this by:-

  • Explaining the responsibilities of the Liberal Democrats and its employees, members and volunteers, in respect of under 18s and vulnerable adult protection.  
  • Providing a clear set of procedures and processes that will be implemented where  under 18s and vulnerable adult protection issues arise.  
  • Building a safeguarding culture where all stakeholders know how they are supposed to behave and feel comfortable about sharing concerns. 

Context 

All under 18s and vulnerable adults have the right to protection from all forms of abuse  including exploitation, neglect, physical and mental abuse regardless of their age, gender,  disability, culture, language, racial origin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. 

Under 18s and some adults are less able to protect themselves than others, and some have  difficulty making their wishes and feelings known. This may make them vulnerable to abuse.  

The priority should always be to ensure the safety and protection of under 18s and vulnerable adults. To this end it is the responsibility of all employees, members, and volunteers, to act on any suspicion or evidence of abuse or neglect and to pass on their concerns to a responsible person/agency.  

Definitions 

For the purposes of this document and ensuring consistent and widely understood terminology,  the following definitions are used: 

A child is defined as a person under the age of 18 (The Children’s Act 1989) and young  people are defined as a person generally from 14 to 17 years of age (as defined by the  Department of Health). For the purposes of this document, these groups are referred to  collectively as under 18s.  

The legal definition of a vulnerable adult is “an adult defined as vulnerable when they are in  receipt of a ‘regulated activity’ in relation to vulnerable adults”. ‘Regulated activities’ include assistance with healthcare, personal care and assistance with a person’s own affairs, such  as managing cash and paying bills (sections 65 and 66 of the Protection of Freedoms Act  2012). 

A more generic definition is that a vulnerable adult can be defined as someone aged  18 or over who is, or may be, in need of community services due to age, illness or a  mental or physical disability and who is, or may be, unable to take care of  himself/ herself, or unable to protect himself/herself against significant harm or  exploitation (definition from the Department of Health 2002). 

You should consider both the legal and generic definitions when considering whether you are dealing with a vulnerable adult, although if there is conflict the legal definition shall take priority. 

Abuse  

Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment. It is a violation of an individual’s human and  civil rights by any person or persons. The abuse may be a single act or repeated acts, financial, sexual, physical, verbal or psychological, or an act of neglect or an omission to  act. 

The abuse may occur in a family or in an institutional or community setting and can be  carried out by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. It can occur in any  relationship and it may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person. In  addition, for vulnerable adults, it may occur when a vulnerable person is persuaded to enter  into any transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent. 

Some definitions of abuse are: -

Physical Abuse 

This may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning,  suffocating, misuse of medication, restraint, or inappropriate sanctions or otherwise causing  physical harm. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the  symptoms of or deliberately induces illness in the vulnerable adult or under18.  

Emotional Abuse 

This is the persistent emotional maltreatment of the vulnerable adult or under18 such as to  cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the individual’s emotional wellbeing. It may  involve conveying to the under18/vulnerable adult that they are worthless, unloved or  inadequate. It may involve bullying, causing them to feel frightened or in danger. 

Sexual Abuse 

This type of abuse involves forcing or enticing a vulnerable adult or under18 to take part in  sexual activities, including prostitution whether or not the vulnerable adult or under18 is  aware of what is happening. Examples of physical contact include penetrative or non-penetrative acts.  It may include non-contact activities involving under 18s' looking at or being involved in sexual online images and/or encouraging under18s to behave in sexually inappropriate  ways. In relation to a vulnerable adult, it occurs when they have not or cannot consent or are pressured into consenting. 

Neglect and acts of omission 

This is the persistent failure to meet the under18’s or vulnerable adult’s basic physical,  emotional and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment to their  health and/or development. It can include failing to provide adequate food, clothing and  shelter, adequate supervision or failing to provide medical help when needed. 

Psychological Abuse 

This is the use of emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact,  humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation  or withdrawal from services or supportive networks. 

Financial or material Abuse 

This type of abuse involves theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills,  property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of  property, possessions or benefits. 

Discriminatory Abuse 

This type of abuse can be racist, sexist, or based on a person’s disability, age, or sexuality  and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment. 

Roles and Responsibilities

The Role of Activists, Employees, Volunteers, Candidates and Trustees 

All activists, employees, volunteers and trustees working on behalf of the Liberal Democrats have a  duty to promote the welfare and safety of under 18s and vulnerable adults. Anyone who  works regularly with young people and vulnerable adults should ensure they are fully aware and up to  date with safeguarding procedures, and referral processes. 

Activists, employees, volunteers and trustees may receive disclosures of abuse of  under 18s/vulnerable adults or observe under 18s/vulnerable adults who are at risk. This  policy will enable them to make informed and confident responses to specific safeguarding  issues. 

Role of a Responsible Person (Line Managers/Person-in-charge/Local Party Chair)

The role of the Responsible Person is to support the employee(s), member(s) or volunteer(s) involved  with the incident and to ensure the correct procedures are followed. The responsible person  should make contact with the delegated safeguarding lead in the local party or designated Safeguarding Officer at HQ in the first  instance. 

The Responsible Person should ensure that all people within their team are familiar with the Liberal  Democrat’s current safeguarding procedures and where appropriate undertake  safeguarding training. They should also ensure that those who work  closely and regularly with under 18s/vulnerable adults in an unsupervised environment, have a disclosure and barring (DBS) check (previously called a CRB check).  

Recruitment should be undertaken in line with current Liberal  Democrats recruitment processes and procedures. These procedures and processes take  account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of under 18s and vulnerable adults, including arrangements for appropriate checks on new employees, volunteers and trustees where applicable. 

Role of Safeguarding Officer 

The designated safeguarding lead has overarching responsibilities regarding safeguarding in the Liberal Democrats. They will also hold a central register of all safeguarding cases

The Safeguarding Officer for the Liberal Democrats is the The Head of People and Pastoral Office.  Contact: [email protected] and phone: 07471 143 559. 

DBS Checks

DBS Checks can be obtained by contacting the People Team ([email protected]). The criteria for an enhanced DBS check is that the applicant works directly with vulnerable adults or under 18s frequently (once a week or 4 or more days  in a 30 day period) in an unsupervised environment e.g.:- Regularly transports an under 18 in their own car for the purpose of deliveries.

Applicants will be required to complete an online form and supply 3 forms of identification and proof of address.

Training and Support  

Core safeguarding learning sessions will be available during conferences and available as a recorded video link post conference. More in depth training  may be available from individual Local Authorities and Local Safeguarding Partnerships for Adults and Children (Local Authorities, Police and CCGs)

For members, volunteers and employees who have occasional contact with children and young people: You  should be familiar with these guidelines and understand your responsibilities relating to  safeguarding under 18s and vulnerable adults. 

Use of Photographic/Video Equipment 

Parental written consent should be obtained prior to the taking of photographs and/or video  footage and use of images of under 18s. If a vulnerable adult is not able to give informed  consent themselves, carer written consent should be obtained prior to the taking of  photographs and/or video footage and use of any image of that vulnerable adult. When consent  is being sought, parents/carers should be made aware of when, where and how the images  may be used. A consent form form can be obtained from [email protected] 

See also the guide and code of conduct for working with under 18s and vulnerable adults for  more information on working with this group. https://www.libdems.org.uk/doc-safeguarding-guide

Procedure in the Event of a Disclosure  

It is important that under 18s/vulnerable adults are protected from abuse. All complaints, allegations or suspicions must be taken seriously. This procedure must be followed  whenever an allegation is made that an under18/a vulnerable adult has been abused or  when there is a suspicion that an under18/vulnerable adult is being or has been abused or is at risk of harm.  

Responding Appropriately to a Disclosure 

If an under18/vulnerable adult makes a disclosure to you of alleged abuse, the key is the ‘3  Rs’: reassure, report and record. 

  • Reassure: stay calm, listen and show empathy. Reassure them that it will be taken  seriously and explain that the issues will be reported internally and what may happen  next. 
  • Report: report to the person in charge immediately. Consider notifying external  agencies, including social services or the police if necessary (see more detail on  reporting below).  
  • Record: write up notes of the conversation clearly and factually as soon as possible  and pass them onto the line manager, Local Chair, and Head of People and Pastoral Office. (See Appendix 1)

DO: 

  • Make sure the individual is safe
  • Assess whether emergency services are required and if needed call them. 
  • Listen carefully to what is said. 
  • Stay calm, offer support and reassurance. Reassure the individual that the matter will  only be disclosed to those who need to know about it. (See section on  confidentiality) Reassure the individual that they have done the right thing in telling  you. 
  • Explain areas of confidentiality. Find an appropriate early opportunity to explain that  it is likely that the information will need to be shared with others – do not promise to  keep secrets. It is important that the individual is sensitively informed that cases of  alleged abuse will be referred to appropriate agencies for the individual’s own  sake. 
  • Speak to your manager for support and guidance. 
  • Be clear to the individual about what your role is regarding the information and what  action you will have to take as a result. 
  • Explain the procedure to the individual making the allegation. The individual’s  involvement in the process of sharing information should be fully considered and their  wishes and feelings taken into account.  
  • Ascertain and establish the basic facts. Make careful notes and obtain agreement with them, ensuring notation of dates, time and persons present are correct and agreed.  Ask questions for clarification only, and at all times avoid asking questions that  suggest a particular answer. Allow the individual to continue at her/his own pace. 
  • Tell them what you will do next, and with whom the information will be shared.  Record in writing what was said, using the individual’s own words as soon as  possible – note the date, time, any names mentioned, to whom the information was  given and ensure that the record is signed and dated.  
  • Assurances should be given to the individual that they will be kept informed of any  action to be taken and why.  
  • Follow the correct procedure.

DON’T: 

  • Confront the alleged abuser
  • Be judgmental or voice your own opinion. 
  • Be dismissive of the concern. 
  • Investigate or interview beyond that which is necessary to establish the basic facts. 
  • Disturb or destroy possible forensic evidence
  • Consult with persons not directly involved with the situation
  • Ask leading questions, as this can cause problems for the subsequent investigation  and any court proceedings. A ‘leading question’ is one which suggests a particular  answer or contains the information you are seeking to confirm. 
  • Assume information
  • Make promises of confidentiality, as this may conflict with the need to ensure the  safety and welfare of the individual.  
  • Ignore the allegation
  • Elaborate in your notes
  • Panic
  • Seek proof before reporting your concerns. 

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. 

That is a task for the professional  safeguarding agencies, following a referral. 

Reporting a Disclosure 

 

Making a record 

A full record must be made as soon as possible of the nature of the allegation and any other  relevant information including using the ‘Recording a Safeguarding Concern Form’ at Appendix 1 to this  procedure. 

This should include information in relation to the date, the time, the place where  the alleged abuse happened, your name and the names of others present, the name of the  complainant and, where different, the name of the under 18/ vulnerable adult who has  allegedly been abused, the nature of the alleged abuse, a description of any injuries  observed, the account which has been given of the allegation.  

Referring to outside agencies 

A referral should be made to relevant outside agencies including (a) Social Services and (b)  if there has been a potentially criminal act, the police.  

If you are not sure about the seriousness of the allegation or whether it should be reported to  outside agencies or the police, contact the Safeguarding Officer for advice as soon as possible. 

It is not for you to decide whether something is criminal or abusive  – only that it might be, in which case the relevant agencies and/or police should be informed  to make this decision. 

When submitting a report to the relevant authorities such as the police or social services a written record of the date and time of the report shall be made and the report must include  the name and position of the person to whom the matter is reported. 

The telephone report  must be confirmed in writing to the relevant local authority Social Services department within  24 hours.  

You can find information about the local area social services or safeguarding teams on your local council’s  website. 

 

The police can also offer advice regarding safety at home and in the community and may  refer people who have experienced violence, abuse or crimes to the Victim Support helpline  - 08 08 16 89 111 or  the chat function of the Victim Support Website https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/supportline/.  

Reporting within the Liberal Democrats 

Any disclosure of suspected abuse must be reported without delay, that working day where  possible, to the Safeguarding Officer unless  this person is involved. It is important that under 18s and vulnerable adults are protected  from harm therefore all complaints, allegations or suspicions must be taken seriously. 

If the police or social services have been informed, always also contact the Local Party Chair except if the Local Chair is involved in, or has a connection  to, the disclosure or the under18/vulnerable adult, in which case you should contact the Head of People and Pastoral Office directly. Contact: [email protected] and/or phone: 07471 143 559. 

Making a Formal Complaint 

Whether the disclosure relates to suspected abuse, or does not relate to suspected abuse,  but is nevertheless against the Members’ Code of Conduct, discriminatory and/or relates to  behaviour by a member of the Liberal Democrats which is likely to bring the party into  disrepute, you can also log a complaint about that member via:  

https://www.libdems.org.uk/making-a-complaint

You should then receive an acknowledgement of this within 48 working hours from our  Standards Officer. The Standards Officer will also be able to set up support at  any time prior to, during, or after the proceedings of the complaint.  

All complaints are reviewed on an individual basis. You can find out further information about  how our complaints procedure works by reading our step by step complaints procedure here https://sites.google.com/libdems.org.uk/complaints-path/home 

Confidentiality 

Safeguarding raises issues of confidentiality which should be clearly understood by all. 

Members, employees,and  volunteers have a responsibility to share relevant information  about the protection of under 18s and Vulnerable adults with other professionals, particularly  investigative agencies. Clear boundaries of confidentiality should be communicated to all. 

All  personal information regarding under 18s should be kept confidential except when it is  suspected that the person is the victim of abuse.  

If an under18/vulnerable adult confides in a member, volunteer, trustee or member of employees  and requests that the information is kept secret, it is important that the person confided in tells the individual sensitively that he or she has a responsibility to refer cases of alleged  abuse to the appropriate agencies for the under18/vulnerable adult’s own sake. Within that  context, the under18/vulnerable adult should, however, be assured that the matter will be  disclosed only to people who need to know about it.  

Where possible, consent should be obtained from the under18/ vulnerable adult 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 under18/vulnerable  adult is the priority

Child/adult protection issues are highly sensitive and anyone who receives information about  children/vulnerable adults or their families in the course of their work should share that  information only within appropriate professional contexts to people who justifiably have a need to know. 

All records should be kept secure and all personal information regarding an  under18/vulnerable adult should 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. 

This section should be read alongside the party’s guidance on data protection, including  GDPR which can be found here - https://www.libdems.org.uk/gdpr

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