After the media stories and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) global summit in 2018, the focus on safeguarding in the sector took a dramatic spike upwards.
Organisations have spent the last five years making commitments to help prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, to provide survivor support and enhanced accountability, to focus on organisational capacity and capability, and to commit to cultural change and enhanced minimum standards.
But why hasn’t the momentum remained?
Bond has seen a drop in engagement with members on Safeguarding, seen in the survey responses received for Bond’s safeguarding survey, which saw a peak of 144 respondents in 2021 and now, in 2023, is down to just 40 – fewer respondents than before the FCDO global summit.
How have organisations made progress?
Bond members report that they have seen progress with safeguarding in their organisations over the last 5 years thanks to the introduction of safeguarding requirements, which followed the global summit, and the support from organisations like Bond.
Over 50% of respondents have seen an increase in resourcing including staff time, training and financial resourcing. However, half still do not have a full-time member of staff working on safeguarding.
Bond members are reporting that they are accessing resources from Bond, Resource & Support Hub, CHS Alliance and other resource organisations. This is fantastic and will help with consistency within the sector.
Bond has been lucky to be in conversations with the Resource and Support Hub (RSH) as we plan for our upcoming changes resulting from FCDO’s funding coming to an end. RSH supports UK-based organisations and local actors and although this is hopefully set to continue, it’s a shame that FCDO is pulling funding from such a great source of support to local partners.
Organisations tell Bond that having an embedded safeguarding culture has not only had a positive impact on better safeguarding practice but it’s also supported their approach to planning and resourcing safeguarding in their programmes. Leaders in organisations with an embedded safeguarding culture understand their systems to Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment which filters down to survivors in local contexts.
Interested in improving your own organisations culture? Check out this short case study written by Care International UK within the 2022 Cross Sector Steering Group report.Find out more
What does the UK development sector need to do to spark enthusiasm for safeguarding again?
Safer recruitment consistency
Recruitment is always a struggle in this sector in safeguarding contexts, and with FCDO shelving the Aid Worker Registration Scheme project, Bond has been looking to see who else could help organisations. Check out this Bond blog written in collaboration with Safeguard-Me who are working to address this issue.
Decolonising the term safeguarding
Bond’s Partnership and Local Leadership Group recently had the opportunity to work with Bond’s Locally Advisory Group, which allows our working groups the opportunity to talk through their practices and understand what they can do to improve what they are doing to help promote locally led development. The advisory group were honest and open with us, sharing that they feel that the term safeguarding is still colonised and does not translate into local contexts. We need to ensure that we are using a “keeping people safe” approach and that everyone is protected right down the chain.
Reporting cases to funders or regulatory bodies is essential. It holds organisations accountable and helps protect communities. It shows us trends and where resources need to be dispersed and gives us a very clear indication of how our safeguarding processes are improving. However, there are complexities. Organisations have to report concerns multiple times over, local partners show reluctance to report in fear that their local government will find out and stop their operations and confusion on how to report publicly without breaching data. The sector needs to work together to align reporting.
How Bond is continuing to work with the sector to reengage organisations in their safeguarding work
Here are some of the ways we are continuing to champion safeguarding.
- Run skills mapping sessions for safeguarding professionals in small and local organisations.
- Continue to support sector change through Bond’s safeguarding steering group.
- Encourage organisations undertaking FCDO’s preventing SEAH Due Diligence assessment to use Bond’s case studies to give organisations guidance on how the guidance has been applied. FCDO safeguarding due diligence guidance 1: Safeguarding approach and complaints & whistleblowing.
- Change the way Bond engages local partners in their safeguarding work.
- Continue to engage with a variety of safeguarding professionals to support the sector.
We fear that safeguarding in our sector will be forgotten, and the last thing we want is another scandal to remind us of its importance. To avoid future crises, five years on, it is time for organisations to take stock of their safeguarding practices and continue to make improvements.