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Farrer & Co | Safeguarding for HEIs – is your institution complying with its obligations to under 18s and adults at risk?

The Prevent Duty (brought into force by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015) has received a significant amount of national and HEI sector coverage. This is understandable as it is aimed squarely at the HEI sector and is rightly at the top of many HEI’s agendas at present. However, the Prevent Duty could just be the tip of the HEI safeguarding iceberg. From social stakeholder, legal and reputation perspectives, it is crucial that safeguarding is on HEIs’ radars in order to ensure appropriate corporate governance and legal compliance.

A quick glance at a typical HEI’s activities will reveal a number of safeguarding areas. For example, ask yourselves whether you have:

  • under 18s as students;
  • under 18s as visitors to sports or research facilities;
  • facilities which are rented out to local schools during or outside term time;
  • students who work with or go on placements where they will spend time with under 18s;
  • community outreach programs to schools or colleges;
  • under 18s as occupiers of residential properties either on a permanent or temporary basis;
  • onsite childcare facilities; or
  • students whose medical conditions may mean they are adults at risk

These people and activities come with significant legal safeguarding obligations which should be addressed at the most senior governance level. In our experience, many universities do have some or all of these areas covered by someone who has safeguarding experience or training – but serious issues can and do fall through the gaps when there is a failure to link these potential risk areas together.

We advise HEIs to ensure that safeguarding features at board/senior management team level and one senior person in the organisation is designated the safeguarding co-ordinator. This person must be given sufficient status, time, resources and training to ensure that they can proactively manage the HEI’s obligations and risks in relation to safeguarding. These obligations may include:

  • responsibility for receiving and referring cases of suspected abuse to the correct authorities;
  • liaising with the senior governance/management team in relation to ongoing issues and enquiries;
  • acting as a source of support and advice to other members of staff;
  • ensuring proper training is undertaken by all relevant staff;
  • ensuring appropriate records are kept;
  • encouraging a culture of openness in the institution on safeguarding issues; and/or
  • ensuring policies and procedures are up to date.

Our team have in depth experience of advising on safeguarding issues and can guide you safely through the process of ensuring your institution is compliant. We can also provide hands on support if a safeguarding issue is raised in your institution. In particular we can:

  • provide practical support and guidance on how to deal with a disclosure of current or historic abuse of adults at risk or children;
  • advise you how to carry out risk assessments to identify safeguarding areas of weakness in your institution;
  • ensure your institution is compliant with its legal obligations;
  • provide training to staff;
  • draft or amend safeguarding policies and procedures;and
  • link your safeguarding issues to your Prevent Duty obligations in order to minimise additional time and work for you.

If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact Kathleen Heycock (kathleen.heycock@farrer.co.uk; 020 3375 7113), or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000.

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