Minister: ‘Safeguarding should be a key governance priority for all charities’

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Tracey Crouch, minister for civil society, has said that safeguarding and the prevention of sexual harassment should be a key priority for chairs and trustees of all charities, at today’s Trustee Exchange conference.

Speaking at Civil Society Media and Governance & Leadership magazine’s conference, now in its 11th year, the minister said that charities cannot “shy away from subjects that threaten the integrity and impact” of their work, and that when issues do occur they need to be “ready to respond robustly and overcome them together”.

Speaking on the Safeguarding Summit which took place in response to claims of harassment taking place in a number of aid charities, she said that safeguarding and the prevention of sexual harassment needs to be “key governance priorities for all charities”.

Crouch added: “We need to ensure the highest standards. And as charities leaders you have an important role to play to ensure that within your own charity, these issues are prioritised and properly addressed.”

She said that charities and government, as well as the public and private sector, must all work together to “spread best practice”, and that “only by working together can we identify and find creative ways to respond to future societal challenges before they arrive”.

Answering a question on how she feels the sector is responding to the increasing challenges in safeguarding. Crouch said that charities are performing “by and large incredibly well”.

Headlines can ‘skew’ what is happening in the whole sector

But she said that the challenges are enormous and that she thinks “what is always the case is that major headlines can sometimes really skew what is actually happening around the whole sector”.

She said she takes safeguarding very seriously, but that “sometimes, in the past, we have assumed that the safeguarding policies that we have in place are enough. And it takes a scandal like that we have seen to really show that perhaps they haven’t involved.

“I think the response from the sector has been positive. I think it is a shame it has had to happen, and actually we need to just continue to all work together to make sure we have effective policies in place.”

Civil society strategy

Crouch encouraged anyone who has not yet responded to the consultation on the civil society strategy to do so. The consultation, which closes on 22 May, is open on the website.

She said: “This strategy will provide a clear vision for governments to work with and for civil society over the next ten years. As we look to the future I want us to strive for new and innovative ideas that unlock the potential of everyone that can and should contribute to civil society.”

Crouch added that themes that have already emerged include thoughts on future of commissioning, sustainability of civil society organisations and how to open up social action to all.

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