Our approach to safeguarding

10min read


A child is as defined as anyone under the age of 18.

A Vulnerable Adult is as defined in accordance with the Care Act 2014 and Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendments) Order 2002 as a person aged 18 or above including:

  • a substantial learning or physical disability;
  • a physical or mental illness or mental disorder, chronic or otherwise, including an addiction to alcohol or drugs; or
  • Significant reduction in physical or mental capacity.
  • Is elderly and frail

With respect to the role of Family Lives, an adult may also be termed ‘vulnerable’ for a short period, usually at a time of crisis or particular stress due to a life event or recur as a result of stressful events or relationship difficulties, or while under the influence of substances or coercion.

This may include a person who:

  • Is homeless
  • Is going through a period of extreme stress as a result of personal or relationship difficulties including bereavement
  • Is subjected to work related or other forms of bullying, violence or other abuse by family members, gangs or others

Overview of policy

This safeguarding policy sets out Family Lives’ approach to safeguarding and in promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults. It applies to all areas of Family Lives’ work. Family Lives recognises its responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults within the legal framework of the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 and Care Act 2014.  This includes children and vulnerable adults of any gender, ethnic background, sexuality, religion or with any disability. 

As safeguarding underpins all of the work of Family Lives, it is essential that we undertake our work within a robust safeguarding policy framework.  Family Lives’ understands that safeguarding is the responsibility of everyone and therefore seeks to make safeguarding a priority throughout the organisation.  We allocate resources to support this commitment and towards making Family Lives’ a safer organisation for all those associated with it. All staff and volunteers, who work directly (in person, on web or helpline) with adults and children receive safeguarding training as part of their induction which is appropriate to the nature of their role, and our training follows the Working Together to Safeguard Children’(2018) statutory guidance.

As part of this commitment, this policy also seeks to ensure that any barriers to young people or vulnerable adult involvement and participation in our services are addressed.

Family lives is committed to:

  • Implementing clear lines of accountability for safeguarding throughout the organisation
  • Effective performance management processes
  • Clear goals and monitor and review progress.
  • Undertake regular annual reviews of its safeguarding processes and practices (including Health & Safety Policy, Confidentiality Policy, Diversity & Equal Opportunities Policy and DBS Disclosure Policy)
  • Maintain the resources necessary to support this commitment.
  • Provide access to training for all staff and volunteers in applying safeguarding principles to every aspect of their work.  The designated Principle Safeguarding Officer will also register for relevant external training as legislation and practice becomes updated.

Legislation and Government Guidance:
Over the past decade, there has been a wealth of legislation and government policy relating to the protection of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults.  It is within this policy context that Family Lives operates its Safeguarding Policy and associated Policies, processes and procedures.

Family Lives is committed to:

  • Exercising safer recruitment policies and procedures in the selection, appointment and support of those working with children, young people and vulnerable adults whether paid or voluntary
  • Working in partnership with young people and vulnerable adults.  Ensuring they are respected and listened to by valuing their voices and contributions, whilst ensuring they are safe and protected while participating in Family Lives services
  • Working in partnership with parents and carers and offering support, encouragement, information and advice
  • Working in partnership with other Agencies concerned with the well-being and welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults 
  • Working with young people and vulnerable adults by including them in creating a safe environment where they can take part in development activities to increase their confidence and potential
  • Implementing and maintaining our Risk of Harm process for identifying and reporting concerns about possible abuse

Policy and Guidance Document Content:

This Policy provides reference to Organisational Policies, procedures and processes in relation to the following areas:

  • Roles and appointment of Staff & Volunteers
  • Risk of Harm
  • DBS Disclosure Policy
  • Codes of Conduct
  • Supervision & Management
  • Confidentiality
  • Complaints
  • Whistleblowing 

Staff Supervision

Upon appointment, all staff and volunteers are provided with a timetable of provision for supervision, monitoring and practice development support and are expected to comply with Family Lives expectations and standards.

All staff and volunteers are expected to become familiar with the Safeguarding policy and Risk of Harm reporting procedures.  It is the responsibility of the Line Manager to identify and provide suitable training opportunities for staff and volunteers to ensure they are able to identify and address child protection and vulnerable adult issues within all Family Lives services and projects.  

What we know:

We recognise that many children, young people and vulnerable adults are the victims of different kinds of maltreatment. These may include abusive acts by parents, family members, known adults or strangers.

Maltreatment of children can occur when parents or others with caring responsibilities fail to take appropriate protective action, resulting in a child suffering from neglect or maltreatment by others.  Child maltreatment can result from or be aggravated by psycho-social and relationship factors that have an adverse impact upon the lives of adults and children in a family – including domestic violence, substance misuse, bullying, child sexual exploitation racist abuse or ritualistic practices that are abusive.

The characteristics of adult abuse can take a number of forms and cause victims to suffer pain, fear, anxiety and distress reaching well beyond the time of the actual incident(s). Victims may be too afraid or embarrassed to raise any complaint. They may be reluctant to discuss their concerns with others or unsure who to trust or approach with their concerns. We know that there are some situations where victims are unknowingly exploited or unaware that they are victims of abuse or have difficulty in communicating this information to others.

Family Lives commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of young people and vulnerable adults seeks, through its services, to create a safe and emotionally healthy environment within which children, young people and vulnerable adults can thrive and work with the security of clear guidance. 

Responding to Possible Safeguarding Concerns

These guidelines are for the use of all paid staff, volunteers and service users.

All safeguarding protection concerns need be actioned immediately. If you are concerned that a child or adult might be at risk or is actually suffering significant harm, abuse or neglect, report concerns as soon as possible to your Supervisor, Manager or On Call Rota Manager as outlined in the Risk of Harm Procedure.

Process includes:

  1. Listen carefully, make notes of what is said or disclosed to support the concern. (In case of web or email read content carefully).
  2. When running a group, the facilitator will need to create the opportunity for a private conversation e.g. by calling a break, setting up a pairs exercise etc.

1.3    Ask questions for clarification purposes only (where possible). .

1.4   Check with the parent/carer what they can do to ensure safety, encourage and support them to seek help from the most appropriate source given the nature of the concern

1.5   Unless it may place a child or adult in danger, seek consent to contact an appropriate source of help and ask for details (if not already known) to allow them to do this.

1.6   Explain that we may need to share this information with somebody else within Family Lives and possibly another agency and explain our Confidentiality Policy

All those involved need to decide the severity of the risk by asking themselves the following questions:

2.1      What information do I have which makes me think that an adult or child is at risk of significant harm, or any likelihood of significant harm?

2.2      How immediate is the risk?

2.3      What support is already available?

2.4      What action can be taken by the parent/informant to lessen the risk?

2.5      Is the risk immediate and therefore needs addressing and reporting urgently?

The responsibility for investigating allegations of abuse, whether they result from the disclosure of a child or the concerns of an adult, lies with local authority social care teams and/or the Police Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT). It is the responsibility of the On Call Rota Manager or Director of National Services to make a referral to these agencies.  If you judge the situation to be an emergency and/or you require urgent advice you must call the On Call Rota Manager as soon as possible.

If you are working as part of a team around the family, commissioned by a statutory agency, providing outreach, family support and befriending you must ALSO immediately or as soon as is practicable, call the accountable worker (usually a local authority social worker)  and follow up details by password protected email. If the case accountable worker is not available, you must contact the duty system. You must be familiar with and follow the safeguarding procedures for the Local Authority commissioning the work. 


Some adults and children that access our services have suicidal feelings. Be aware that there may also be children that an adult with suicidal feelings may be caring for and there could be a child protection issue. Follow the guidance on suicide and the Risk of Harm procedures, involving a supervisor and On Call Rota Manager.

Any mention of suicidal thoughts should be noted and the person listened to carefully.  It is a myth that if someone talks about suicide they will not do it.

If a parent discloses a child is self-harming or expressing suicidal thoughts:  parents should be encouraged to listen carefully to what their child is saying and consult their GP.

Suicidal risk indicators vary with each individual circumstance and may be health, historic or socially related.  This may include: family history of suicide; childhood abuse, neglect or trauma; previous suicide attempt; mental health conditions; family break-up, bereavement; violence within the family; being subjected to bullying or personally undermined by peers or adults.

Prevent strategy

Prevent is the multi-agency set of arrangements aimed at preventing individuals and groups from engaging in violent extremism. Family Lives is committed to co-operate and works collaboratively with a multi-agency approach.

Parents and carers should be involved in discussion about any extremism concerns at the earliest point possible unless this would increase risk to a child or young person or increase the risk of a crime being committed in the immediate future.

What could be signs of possible radicalisation?

There may be a number of signs a young person or vulnerable adult may be being radicalised which could include:

  • Notable changes in behaviour or mood
  • Beginning to express extreme political or radical views
  • Appearing increasingly sympathetic to terrorist acts
  • Changes in appearance
  • Changing friends and spending excess time alone or on the internet

What to do if you have a concern

If you have a concern about a particular young person/adult you will follow the normal safeguarding procedures, including discussing with the designated safeguarding lead, and where deemed necessary, the relevant local Authority children’s social care team. In Prevent priority areas, the local authority will have a Prevent lead and you or the parent/carer can discuss concerns with the local Safeguarding Team. You can also contact the local police 999 force or dial 101 (the non-emergency number). They will talk in confidence about any concerns and help you gain access to support and advice.

The Department for Education has dedicated a telephone helpline (020 7340 7264) to enable schools to raise concerns relating to a young person’s extremism directly, or by email to counter.extremism@education.gsi.gov.uk. Please note that the DfE helpline is not intended for use in emergencies, such as a child being at immediate risk of harm or a security incident, in which case the normal emergency procedures should be followed.  Any worker who believes a crime is being committed, or planned, or is aware of any terrorist activity, should contact the Police immediately. Other referrals should be direct made to Social Services Safeguarding team.


Practitioners that work with, or in contact with children, young people and vulnerable adults need to be aware of the possibility that allegations of abuse may be made against them or a colleague from Family Lives or other agency.  (See whistle-blowing policy). 

Allegations will usually be that some kind of abuse has taken place. Allegations may be made by parents, children and young people in the family you are befriending/ supporting or by other adults or children. These allegations are made for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common are:

  • Abuse has actually taken place;
  • Something happens to a child or adult that reminds them of an event that happened in the past – children or adolescents in particular may be unable to recognize that the situation and the people are different;
  • Children or adults can misinterpret your language or your actions because they are reminded of something else;
  • Some children and vulnerable adults know how powerful an allegation can be; if they are angry with you about something they can make an allegation as a way of hitting out;
  • An allegation can be a way of seeking attention.

Staff must acknowledge their responsibility to bring any allegation made to the notice of the Director of National Services immediately. In cases where the allegation made is against this person, the complainant should approach the Chief Executive

  • Ensure that the child or vulnerable adult in question is safe and away from the alleged abuser;
  • Irrespective of any investigation by social workers or the police, Family Lives will follow the appropriate disciplinary procedure; common practice is for the alleged abuser to be suspended from work until the outcome of any investigation is clear;
  • Consider whether the person has access to children anywhere else and whether those organisations or groups need to be informed;
  • Act upon the decisions made in any strategy meeting.

All incidents will be internally investigated after any external investigation has completed. This is to review organisational practice and put in place any additional measures to prevent a similar thing happening again.

Whistleblowing Policy

Family Lives encourages staff and volunteers to acknowledge their responsibility to bring matters of concern about the practice of a member of staff or volunteer to the attention of the Chief Executive using the internal reporting procedure. Although this can be difficult, this is particularly important where the welfare of young people or vulnerable adults may be at risk.  Where concerns may involve the Chief Executive, practitioners should report to a member of the Trustee Board.  Any disclosure will be taken seriously and addressed.

Safer recruitment for Staff

The application of rigorous procedures for the recruitment of any staff who are in contact with vulnerable adults and children, both directly and indirectly, can reduce the likelihood of any complaints or allegations of abuse. As an absolute minimum, we follow the following standards:

  • All prospective paid workers complete an application form which asks for:
    • A curriculum vitae,
    • details of their previous employment
    • the names of two referees;
  • Shortlisting and interview process, involving at least 2 panel members from Human resources, Line Manager, Senior Manager 
  • All prospective workers undertake an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before they start employment – anyone who refuses will not be employed;
  • All prospective paid workers are interviewed to establish previous experience of working in an environment where there may be children and/or vulnerable adults
  • All work offers are dependent upon receipt of satisfactory references.  Referees are reminded that references should not misrepresent the candidate or omit to say things that might be relevant to their employment;
  • All appointments are subject to an agreed probationary period;
  • New members of staff are clear about their role responsibilities and work to an agreed job description
  • All staff are required to attend regular supervision with their Line Manager/Supervisor 
  • These required standards apply to all incoming staff and fully discussed as part of the staff recruitment and induction process.

Safer recruitment of volunteers

We apply rigorous procedures and processes for recruitment of all volunteers who are in contact with vulnerable adults and children, both directly and indirectly, to reduce the likelihood of any complaints or allegations of abuse. As an absolute minimum, we follow the following standards:

  • All prospective volunteers complete an application form which asks for:
    • Personal Statement
    • the names of two referees
  • Undertake an interview and selection for training process, involving Service Managers and/or Senior Family Support Coordinators  
  • All prospective volunteers undertake an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before they can start volunteering
  • All volunteer places are dependent upon receipt of 2 satisfactory references.  Referees are reminded that references should not misrepresent the prospective volunteer or omit to say things that might be relevant to their application to volunteer
  • Prospective volunteers undertake training where their skills and abilities are assessed to be appropriate to their role
  • All volunteers undertake a set probationary period;
  • Volunteers are clear about their role and commitment responsibilities
  • Volunteers are required to attend regular practice development sessions
  • These required standards apply to every volunteer and are fully discussed as part of the volunteer recruitment and induction process.

Recognising signs of abuse and neglect

It can often be difficult to recognise abuse. The signs listed in this policy are only indicators and many can have reasonable explanations. Children may behave strangely or seem unhappy for many reasons, as they move through the stages of childhood or their family’s experience changes. It is nevertheless important to know what could indicate that abuse is taking place and to be alert to the need to consult further.  There is a sometimes a crossover between the types of abuse and the resultant symptoms and behaviours that lead to abuse being recognised. Children may suffer from a single form of abuse, but usually there will be more than one type of maltreatment resulting in the child suffering different forms of significant harm expressed by different symptoms. Someone can abuse a child by actively inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent harm.

For Vulnerable Adults, abuse is often a violation of an individuals’ human and civil rights by any other person or persons. It can take a number of forms:

  • Physical abuse e.g. hitting, bullying, pushing, shaking, inappropriate restraint, force-feeding, forcible administration of medication, neglect or abandonment
  • Sexual abuse e.g. involvement in any sexual activity against his/her will, exposure to pornography, voyeurism and exhibitionism
  • Emotional/psychological abuse e.g. intimidation or humiliation
  • Financial abuse e.g. theft or exerting improper pressure to sign over money from pensions or savings etc.
  • Neglect or acts of omission e.g. being left in wet or soiled clothing, or malnutrition
  • Discriminatory abuse e.g. racial, sexual or religious harassment
  • Personal exploitation – involves denying an individual his/her rights or forcing him/her to perform tasks that are against his/her will
  • Violation of rights e.g. modern slavery, preventing an individual speaking his/her thoughts and opinions
  • Institutional abuse e.g. failure to provide a choice of meals or failure to ensure privacy or dignity
  • Coercion and gaslighting

Abuse can take place within a family, institutional or community setting and via social media. Perpetrators can be family members, a known adult, carer, professional partner, stranger, a young person or child.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, and suffocating. It can also result when a parent or carer deliberately causes the ill health of a child in order to seek attention; called fabricated illness or Munchhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. Some families or cultures may believe physical chastisement is not only acceptable but desirable. Symptoms that indicate physical abuse include:

• Bruising in or around the mouth, on the back, buttocks or rectal area

• Finger mark bruising or grasp marks on the limbs or chest of a small child

• Bites

• Burn and scald marks; small round burns that could be caused by a cigarette

• Fractures to arms, legs or ribs in a small child

• Large numbers of scars of different sizes or ages

Psychological or emotional abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse sometimes co-exists with other forms of abuse. Emotionally abusive behaviour (which sometimes amounts to emotional cruelty) occurs if a parent, carer or authority figure is consistently hostile, rejecting, threatening or undermining. It can also result when children or adults are prevented from social contact with others, or if developmentally inappropriate expectations are imposed. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of someone else. Symptoms that may indicate emotional abuse include:

• Excessively clingy or attention-seeking behaviour

• Very low self-esteem or excessive self-criticism

• Excessively withdrawn behaviour or fearfulness; a ‘frozen watchfulness’

• Despondency

• Lack of appropriate boundaries with strangers; too eager to please

• Eating disorders/ Self Harm

Physical and/or emotional neglect

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s or vulnerable adult’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, causing damage to their health and development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter or clothing, or protect them from harm or danger, or failing to access appropriate medical care and treatment when necessary. Emotional neglect happens when a child’s need for love, security, praise and recognition is unmet. This may occur if a parent is psychologically unavailable because of stresses on the parent or circumstances affecting parenting such as addictions or domestic abuse. It can exist in isolation or in combination with other forms of abuse. Symptoms of physical and emotional neglect can include:

  • Inadequate supervision; being left alone for long periods of time
  • Lack of stimulation, social contact or education
  • Inadequate nutrition, leading to ill-health
  • Constant hunger; stealing or gorging food
  • Failure to seek or to follow medical advice such that a child’s life or development is endangered
  • Very low self-esteem, depression or withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities
  • A child expressing suicidal thoughts, ‘running away’ or threatening to do so
  • Inappropriate clothing for conditions

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child, young person or vulnerable adult to participate in sexual activities, whether or not they are aware of what is happening. This may include physical contact, both penetrative and non-penetrative, or involve no contact, such as watching sexual activities or looking at pornographic material. Encouraging children to act in sexually inappropriate ways is also abusive. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, any sexual activity –contact or non-contact – with a child under the age of 13, is a crime. Symptoms of sexual abuse include:

  • Allegations or disclosure
  • Genital soreness, injuries or discomfort
  • Sexually transmitted diseases; urinary infections
  • Excessive preoccupation with sexual matters; inappropriately sexualized play, words or drawing
  • A child who is sexually provocative or seductive with adults
  • Repeated sleep disturbances through nightmares and/or wetting

Older children, young people and vulnerable adults may additionally exhibit:

  • Depression
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders; obsessive behaviours
  • Self-mutilation; suicide attempts
  • School/peer/relationship problems

Some members of our communities hold beliefs that may be common within particular cultures but are against the law in England. Family Lives Group does not condone any practices that are illegal or harmful to children or vulnerable adults.

Examples of particular practices are:

Forced Marriages

No faith supports the idea of forcing someone to marry without consent and should not be confused with arranged marriages between consenting adults.

Under-age Marriages

In England, a young person cannot legally marry until the age of 18 or have a sexual relationship until they are 16 years old or older

Female Circumcision

This is against the law yet we know that for some communities it remains a religious act and a cultural requirement. It is also illegal for someone to arrange for a child to go abroad with the intention of having her circumcised.

Ritualistic Abuse

Some faiths believe that spirits and demons can possess people (including children). We would never condone the use of any physical violence to get rid of any possessing spirit. This is physical abuse and we will report perpetrators even if it was their intention to help the child.

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse in which children become sexually exploited for money, power or status.  Children or young people may be tricked into believing they are in a loving, consensual relationship or given drugs and alcohol in order to perform sexual acts. Children are also at risk to online grooming.  Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people as part of the initiation into gangs.

Parental Consent

Family Lives recognises that children and young people can be actively involved in ensuring their own safety.  Young people will input into the planning of any day trips/activities in particular the ground rules for any such activity. 

However, Family Lives has set the following parameters when working with children and young people:

  • No child will be allowed to participate in any activity without the written consent of the parent or carer
  • Consent forms should provide parents/carers with an overview of all events that will take place within a session or a day trip.  Parents/carers should be given the opportunity to opt out of any activity they do not wish their child to participate in
  • Family Lives understands it has a responsibility to support parents/carers in completing parental consent forms and communicating information to parents and carers in a way that allows them to make an informed decision on whether they wish their child to take part
  • Consent forms are confidential and any information provided will not be shared with any other Agency unless consent has been sought from the parent or carer. 
  • Parental consent will be sought for the use of images of young people under the age of 16.  Young people 16 years and over are able to give their own consent for use of their images. Any photographic images will only be used for purposes stated on the consent form and will only be shared with any external partners if given express permission to do so.
  • Staff/Volunteers may not transport individual children and young people in their vehicles except in an emergency such as a crisis hospital visit as this exposes both worker and children to unnecessary levels of risk.

Designated Safeguarding Lead

Family Lives recognises the importance of appointing a named senior member of staff to handle any concerns regarding the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults. 

The designated Safeguarding Officer at Family Lives is Rosemary Spillman, Director of National Services.  Email: rosemarys@familylives.org.uk

Implementation Checklist for Managers and Supervisors

Family Lives Safeguarding procedures will only be effective if all staff and volunteers in our organisation own and understand them. This checklist is designed to help Managers with that process:

  • Ensure the worker attends safeguarding training and updates that training regularly.
  • Ensure all staff and volunteers have a copy of Family Lives Safeguarding procedures and have easy access (electronically or hard copy) to the most recent version of Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) (with guidance on accessing the sections relevant to their role).
  • Ensure that all staff and volunteers know what to do if they have concerns about a child, young person or vulnerable adult.
  • Ensure that all staff and volunteers have access to the Risk of Harm procedure.
  • Ensure all existing staff and volunteers who have contact with children, young people and vulnerable adults have Enhanced DBS disclosure.
  • Ensure that new staff/volunteers who have contact with children and vulnerable adults have Enhanced Disclosures before they start work.
  • Ensure that the premises conforms to health and safety guidelines.
  • Ensure that any letting arrangements are bound by contracts that include an agreement to adhere to the host organisation’s safeguarding procedures.


  • Family Lives hold appropriate insurance for public liability and professional indemnity.  Parents and young people will be advised that they require their own insurance for the purposes of personal accident and personal property.


Digital safeguarding refers to the safeguarding policies, procedures and practices relating to online spaces. The same safeguarding principles apply to Family Lives programmes and activities, whether these take place digitally or physically. However, there are specific considerations to take into account with online initiatives, as digital technology has brought about new safeguarding issues. For example, perpetrators of exploitation, abuse and harassment can hide behind fake photos and profiles, and the online disinhibition effect leads to the proliferation of trolling and cyberbullying. Images, videos and texts can be sent easily to large groups of people, and once images or data have been shared digitally, it is almost impossible to delete or recall them.

The following risks should be taken into account by Family Lives staff and volunteers when considering digital safeguarding.

Content risks

Risks that are produced as a result of the material that people can access online. People may be exposed to this content actively or passively, and it may produce a harmful effect. Content may be illegal to possess or share according to national law, e.g. sexually exploitative images of children or radicalising videos. Inappropriate and offensive content is more subjective, and includes: commercial adverts or spam; violent, extremist or hateful material; sexually exploitative or sexual material; and content which is discriminatory based on someone’s race, ethnicity, age, sex and gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, religion, or other status.

Contact risks

Risks that are produced as a result of others’ online behaviour. Individuals may have information about them shared or may be engaged in ways which lead to harmful consequences. The types of behaviour which people may experience include:

  • Bullying online or through mobile phones;
  • Harassment and stalking;
  • Ideological grooming;
  • Exposure to political risk, e.g. government surveillance or having details of online activism shared with authorities in politically oppressed contexts;
  • Increased exposure to cybersecurity risks, e.g. by having malicious content shared such as ransomware, apps or other active content or malicious code;
  • Harvesting, tracking and illegal sharing and possession of information – including having personal data collected, processed or shared without the individual’s consent or on another unlawful basis;
  • Distribution of private and sexual images, e.g. the distribution of sexually exploitative images or videos without an individual’s permission;
  • Non-contact sexual abuse and exploitation – including grooming, flashing, being persuaded to perform sexual acts online, and being exposed to sexually exploitative images or videos.

Conduct risks

Risks that are produced as a result of people’s own online behaviour, which may put themselves and others at risk. People may download something illegally, bully, harass or exploit others, unintentionally reveal their location, create and upload sexual material or sext (send someone sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone).

Technology-based gender-based violence

We recognize that online harassment, bullying and sexual exploitation can affect anyone, but is most likely to affect women, girls and LGBTQI+ individuals. These groups face an increased risk of violence through digital technology, which can be considered a form of Gender-Based Violence. Family Lives staff, volunteers, representatives and others working with us should be aware of common perpetrators and acts of such violence.

Perpetrators include:

  • Individuals or groups who target people on an ideological basis such as fundamentalist, patriarchal, sexist or homophobic groups.
  • Acquaintances, intimate partners or family members who wish to harm someone or exercise power over them.

Acts of violence include:

  • Online harassment and trolling.
  • Cyberstalking (tracking and monitoring of someone’s movements and activities online).
  • Invasion of privacy by gaining access to phones, devices, and email or other accounts without consent.
  • Distribution without consent of private and sexual images, or using these images as leverage and enforcement of power dynamics.

Roles and responsibilities for digital safeguarding

All Family Lives staff and volunteers are required to report any digital safeguarding suspicions or incidences. Failure to report these to a relevant person is a breach of Family Lives’ policy and could lead to disciplinary action being taken against employees and the termination of Family Lives relationship with non-employees.

Family Lives Trustees and Directors hold overall accountability for this policy and its implementation.

Safeguarding Leads provide support to staff and volunteers to prevent and respond to digital safeguarding concerns. They raise awareness, conduct training and promote best practices, as well as receiving concerns, conducting referrals to specialised services and supporting investigations, where needed.

Use of social media and digital platforms

Staff and volunteers for Family Lives are personally responsible for what they communicate on social media and digital platforms, and when using Family Lives internet and equipment – both on behalf of Family Lives and in a personal capacity. Published content is often available for anyone to read and may reflect negatively on the organisation.

Family Lives staff and volunteers should not behave in a threatening, bullying or abusive way online – whether in a professional or personal capacity.

Social media, website, channel, project, programme and campaign managers are responsible for signing off the creation of official social media accounts or digital platforms related to Family Lives programmes, campaigns or initiatives, and accounts and platforms should not be developed without this sign-off.

Children and vulnerable adults should not be tagged in online or social media posts.

If illegal, harmful, violent, extremist, sexually exploitative, abusive, offensive or otherwise inappropriate content is posted in Family Lives groups or platforms, this should be hidden or deleted by group moderators, and where appropriate reported to third-party platform hosts.

Family Lives should develop appropriate relationships with online platform and social media providers where possible, so that content which may put others at risk can be removed swiftly.

Family Lives provides guidance and advice on settings and privacy to people engaging in digital spaces for Family Lives initiatives to protect them from harmful behaviour.

Sharing online content of people involved in Family Lives work on social media should follow the guidance on privacy, data protection, informed consent, safe programming and risk management.