Safeguarding Policy

International Alert has a policy of zero tolerance to abuse and will make every endeavour to prevent and stop abuse happening.

We have a duty of care to protect anyone who comes into contact with our work – especially our beneficiaries, from any form of abuse.

It is essential that in all of our work (in the UK and globally) we uphold the highest standards of conduct in its staff (trustees, employees, interns, volunteers), partners, and other associates (consultants, partner organisations, suppliers). These standards are embodied in our ethical commitment and related policy documents.

We work in some countries with children or adults at risk. However, in all our work, proactively safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all who come into contact with Alert is a key governance priority for our Trustees.

Implementing and upholding this Safeguarding Policy is a key duty of all of our managers, and all staff, partners and other associates have a responsibility to comply with the policy and promptly report any breaches.

This policy will be made compliant with local legislation by each of our overseas offices and forms part of the Staff Handbook in each office.

Policy aims

The aims of this policy are to:

  • ensure we provide a safe and trusted environment that safeguards anyone who Alert has contact with;
  • ensure that safeguarding policies, procedures and measures are understood by all staff, partners and other associates;
  • promote an organisational culture that prioritises safeguarding and makes it safe for those affected (directly or indirectly) to report incidents and concerns with the assurance that they will be handled sensitively and properly;
  • provide clarity on how incidents and allegations will be handled, should they arise; and
  • reflect our obligations to our UK regulators, and to the donors that support our work, as well as the laws of the countries in which we work.

What is safeguarding

Safeguarding and promoting wellbeing and welfare means:

  • protecting the rights of adults (aged 18 and over) to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect;
  • protecting children and young people under 18 years of age from maltreatment;
  • preventing impairment of health or development;
  • ensuring children and young people are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
  • taking action to enable people to have the best outcomes.

Everybody has the right to be safe, no matter who they are or what their circumstances. Abuse and neglect can have devastating effects on individuals, families and wider society, and the damage from safeguarding incidents and allegations can be devastating.

What is abuse

Abuse is a misuse of power and control that one person has over another. Where someone is dependent on another, there is the possibility of abuse or neglect unless enough safeguards are put in place. Abuse takes many forms, can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm or exploitation.

We consider abuse any behaviour towards a person that causes harm, endangers life or violates rights. Within this broad definition of abuse, the following subtypes of abuse are identified:

  • Physical abuse: includes assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, restraining someone or only letting them do certain things at certain times.
  • Domestic abuse: includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse. It also covers so-called ‘honour’-based violence.
  • Sexual abuse: includes rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, taking sexual photographs, making someone look at pornography or watch sexual acts, sexual assault or sexual acts the adult didn’t consent to or was pressured into consenting to.
  • Sexual exploitation: includes any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes including, but not limited to, profiting financially, socially or politically from the exploitation of someone else. Using prostitutes is strictly forbidden at any time when engaged on Alert business.
  • Harmful cultural practices: includes child marriage.
  • Commercial exploitation: includes child labour, slavery (including domestic slavery), human trafficking and forced labour.
  • Financial or material: includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, putting pressure on someone about their financial arrangements (including wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions) or the misuse or stealing of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Psychological abuse: includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, depriving someone of contact with someone else, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, putting pressure on someone to do something, harassment, verbal abuse, cyber bullying, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or support networks.
  • Neglect and negligent treatment
  • Discrimination: includes types of harassment or insults because of someone’s race, gender or gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.

Safeguarding principles

All our staff, partners and other associates are required to adhere to the following principles:

  • We have a duty of care to those with whom we work and with whom our representatives work.
  • We monitor the consequences of our actions and discontinue or change any that are not contributing to peace.
  • We avoid increasing people’s risk of harm by our actions, though we respect the choices they make themselves.
  • We are aware of the possibility of abuse of the power that unequal relationships at times confer on us and take reasonable measures to prevent that possibility.
  • We recognise that every human has equal rights to protection from abuse and exploitation and that the welfare of vulnerable persons should particularly be safeguarded and promoted.
  • We have a responsibility to ensure contractors with whom we work meet minimum standards of safeguarding in their work and to support them wherever possible to achieve this.
  • We have a duty to report any actual or suspected incident of abuse using our reporting system.
  • We will take all suspicions and allegations of abuse seriously and respond swiftly and appropriately.

All our staff, partners and other associates are also required to adhere to the values and principles outlined in our ethical commitment.

Putting safeguarding into practice

All activities undertaken by Alert shall be planned, organised and delivered in accordance with the principles of this policy.

Due diligence

To the fullest extent possible, due diligence will be conducted prior to contracting to ensure that there is no history of prior abuse of the principles of this policy. This will apply to:

  • new staff (strengthened guidelines on reference taking); and
  • partners and other associates (will also be vetted to ensure they provide adequate guidance for their staff to avoid any abuse of the principles of this policy.

Any of our staff and contractors who will work directly with children and /or vulnerable adults will be subject to more rigorous vetting procedures.

Deterrence

A key aspect of prevention is to deter potential perpetrators from committing abuse.

  • All staff are required to have read and signed the Ethical Framework and Staff Handbook, which (in forming part of the employment contract with Alert) provide a firm basis (if breached) for disciplinary action and other sanctions, as appropriate.
  • Partners and other associates are required to have read and signed the Ethical Framework, and this policy also forms part of their contract with Alert. Failure to comply may result in immediate termination of the contract and other sanctions, as appropriate.
  • Compliance with this policy is integrated within our internal compliance monitoring mechanisms (including internal audit).

Support

We will deliver safeguarding briefings and support to help staff, partners and other associates know:

  • what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour when working for Alert; and
  • how to safely and securely report their concerns when they experience or witness abuse or other misconduct.

Further guidance

Other relevant policies

The above policies are also complemented by a range of policies and documents, available in full, accessible to and actively promoted to all our staff through our intranet. These include:

  • Ethical Framework
  • Equal Opportunities Policy
  • Core behaviours
  • Performance management process
  • Grievance Policy
  • Disciplinary Policy

Reporting incidents and concerns

Informal and formal incident reporting mechanisms are available to anyone who has experienced abuse during contact with Alert or has any concerns about abuse they wish to report.

All our staff, partners and other associates are obliged to report any suspicions of abuse of others.

Confidentiality

We have an overall duty of care to safeguard and promote the welfare of all who come into contact with the organisation. Nevertheless, we will make every effort to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information will be handled and disseminated on a need-to-know basis only.

Seeking advice

We recognise the sensitive nature of abuse. Whether you believe you have been subjected to abuse or you have concerns that another individual may have been, you may wish to discuss a particular situation before deciding what action to take.

We operate an open-door policy and employees can choose to discuss the matter with their manager on an informal basis. If this is not appropriate in the circumstances, you can discuss the situation with the next higher level of management or with a member of the Human Resources department.

Anyone giving advice will:

  • ensure the conversation remains confidential as far as possible;
  • listen sympathetically;
  • help individuals consider objectively what has happened;
  • discuss what outcome the individual would wish to see;
  • draw attention to available procedures and options;
  • inform the individual of the legal liabilities involved;
  • help weigh up the alternatives, but without pressure to adopt any particular course; and
  • assist the individual in dealing with the situation (if the individual asks for help).

Note, where a serious abuse has occurred or is suspected, the formal reporting mechanism will be instituted – either instead of or in addition to the informal reporting mechanism.

Whistleblowing

Any person who is aware of suspicions, allegations or actual wrongdoing by a person involved with our work, either in the UK or in the countries where we operate, has an obligation to notify the Whistleblowing Officer immediately. For more details, read our Whistleblowing Policy.

Grievance

Staff can bring a formal complaint against a colleague in the form of a grievance. Our Grievance Policy can be found in the Staff Handbook for every office and is also available upon request from a member of the Human Resources department.

Complaints

Third-parties can bring a formal complaint against Alert or one of its staff, and our staff can bring a formal complaint against a third-party with whom they have come in contact in the context of their work for Alert. If you have any concerns, email complaints@international-alert.org.

Internal reporting

Country Managers and London-based managers are required to report incidents internally in writing within 24 hours to the Director of Finance and Operations. The Director of Finance and Operations will then, bearing in mind the requirements of Data Protection legislation, notify the following:

  • Executive team
  • Board of Trustees
  • Section leader

They will also keep a log of all reports received and the outcomes of investigations, for reporting purposes to our Board of Trustees.

Investigation

We are committed to investigating all allegations of abuse. This commitment to fully investigating every allegation is an important source of deterrence to the potential abuser.

Every disclosure is treated with the highest levels of care and professionalism using rigorous, fair and impartial investigation procedures in respect of all parties to an investigation.

Investigations are an internal administrative process and would not therefore involve the police or judiciary. Investigations are carried out so that we can have the best information possible on which to base its decisions concerning the conduct of our staff, partners and other associates, and the consequences thereof.

Notifying authorities

Following an investigation, we will notify the appropriate authorities if it judges that:

  • it is required by the terms of the contract held with a donor;
  • it is required by the terms of our registration with the Charities Commission and/or Companies House; and/or
  • a crime has taken place.

Extreme caution will be exercised to ensure that:

  • confidentiality can be ensured; and
  • the victim(s) will not be subject to further abuse, disrespect or violence.

Penalties

  • Directly-contracted individuals: Any directly contracted individual who breaches this policy (including the above clause on confidentiality) will face disciplinary action, which could ultimately result in dismissal for gross misconduct. Depending upon the nature and extent of the allegations, legal action may also be brought against them.
  • Third parties: Any third party involved with our work who is found to be in breach of this policy (including the above clause on confidentiality) will be deemed in breach of contract and the contract will be terminated with immediate effect. Depending upon the nature and extent of the allegations, legal action may also be brought against them.

Malicious complaints

Where a complaint is blatantly untrue and has been brought out of a malicious motivation, the complainant will be subject to the organisation's disciplinary procedure, as will any witnesses who have deliberately misled the organisation during its investigations.