Volunteer at Team College deep in the heart of rural Uganda!

Volunteer Uganda

Child Protection Policy

Team College has a moral and legal obligation to ensure that, when given responsibility for young people and vulnerable people, volunteers provide them with the highest possible standard of care.

Unfortunately, sometimes people who work or volunteer with such organisations may pose a risk to children or vulnerable adults and may wish to harm them. It is therefore the duty of Team College to put in place safeguards to protect the children, young people or vulnerable adults with whom we work. This is not just to protect the vulnerable from abuse and neglect but to actively promote their welfare.

Team College is committed to devising and implementing policies so that everyone involved accepts their responsibilities to safeguard children and vulnerable adults from harm and abuse.  This includes, but is not limited to, following procedures to protect children and report any concerns about their welfare. In addition, Team College wishes to put in place safeguards to avoid putting the volunteers in positions where abuse might be alleged, and to ensure that all volunteers know exactly what to do should abuse be suspected.

The aim of this policy is to promote good practice, providing children and young people with appropriate safety/protection whilst in the care of volunteers and to allow volunteers to make informed and confident responses to specific child and vulnerable adult protection issues.

For the purposes of this document a child/young person is defined as a person under the age of 18 (Children’s Act 1989). A vulnerable Adult is someone who “is or may be in need of community care services by reason of disability, age or illness; and is or may be unable to take care of unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation”.  This definition of an Adult covers all people over 18 years of age.

Team College notes that volunteers will be operating in Uganda, however for the purposes of this policy, it will adhere to UK law where relevant and practicable.

Policy Statement

Team College is committed to the following:

  • The welfare of the child is paramount.

  • All children, whatever their age, culture, ability, gender, language, racial origin, religious belief and/or sexual identity should be able to participate in projects administered in whole or part by Team College in a supportive and safe environment.

  • Taking all reasonable steps to protect children from harm, discrimination and degrading treatment and to respect their rights, wishes and feelings.

  • All suspicions and allegations of poor practice or abuse will be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately.

  • All Ruhanga Community Network volunteers who work with children will be recruited with regard to their suitability for that responsibility, and will be provided with guidance and/or training in good practice and child protection procedures.

Monitor and review the policy and procedures

The implementation of procedures will be regularly monitored and reviewed. The chair of Ruhanga Community Network will regularly report progress, challenges, difficulties, achievements gaps and areas where changes are required to the trustees’ committee.

The policy should be reviewed every 3 years or whenever there is a major change in the organisation or in relevant legislation.

Promoting Good Practice

Introduction

To provide children with the best possible experience and opportunities everyone must operate within an accepted good practice framework. This section will identify what Team College means by good practice and poor practice.

Good Practice

All volunteers should adhere to the following principles and action:

  • Always work in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication with no secrets.)

  • Make the volunteer experience fun and enjoyable whilst promoting fairness and confronting and dealing with bullying.

  • Treat all young people equally and with respect and dignity.

  • Always put the welfare of the young person first.

  • Maintain a safe and appropriate distance from children (e.g. it is not appropriate for volunteers to have an intimate relationship with a child or to share or invite children back to their room with them).

  • Avoid unnecessary physical contact with young people.  Where any form of manual/physical support is required it should be provided openly and with the consent of the young person.  Physical contact can be appropriate so long as it is neither intrusive nor disturbing and the young person’s consent has been given.

  • Request parental consent whenever possible if volunteers are required to transport young people to facilities such as hospital unless it is a life threatening situation and the welfare of the child would be significantly impaired if delay was introduced to secure that consent.

  • Gain written parental consent for any significant travel arrangements e.g. overnight stays such as camps etc.

  • Ensure that if mixed groups are taken away, they should always be accompanied by a male and female members of staff/volunteers.

  • Be an excellent role model, this includes not smoking, administering non prescribed drugs or drinking alcohol or be intoxicated in the company of young people.

  • Always give enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism.

  • Keep a written record of any injury or other significant event that occurs, along with details of any treatment/response given.

  • Poor Practice

The following are regarded as poor practice and should be avoided by all volunteers:

  • Unnecessarily spending excessive amounts of time alone with young people away from others.

  • Taking young people to your room where they will be alone with you.

  • Engaging in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay.

  • Allowing or engaging in inappropriate touching of any form.

  • Allowing young people to use inappropriate language unchallenged.

  • Making sexually suggestive comments to a young person, even in fun.

  • Reducing a young person to tears as a form of control.

  • Allowing allegations made by a young person to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon.

  • Do things of a personal nature that the young person can do for themselves.

If during your stay you accidentally hurt a young person, the young person seems distressed in any manner, appears to be sexually aroused by your actions and/or if the young person misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done, report any such incidents as soon as possible to the Volunteer Manager and make a written note of it.  Parents/carers should also be informed of the incident.

Defining Child Abuse

Introduction

Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm, it commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and is an abuse of power or a breach of trust.  Abuse can happen to a young person regardless of their age, gender, race or ability.

There are four main types of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.  Abuse in all of its forms can affect a young person at any age.  The effects can be so damaging that if not treated may follow the individual into adulthood.

Young people with disabilities may be at increased risk of abuse through various factors such as stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, isolation and a powerlessness to protect themselves or adequately communicate that abuse had occurred.

Local children living with relatives because they have been orphaned or their parent(s) cannot provide adequate care may be particularly susceptible to abuse.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse:

Where adults physically hurt or injure a young person e.g. hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, biting, scalding, suffocating, drowning.  Giving young people alcohol or inappropriate drugs would also constitute child abuse.

This category of abuse can also include when a parent/carer reports non-existent symptoms or illness deliberately causes ill health in a young person they are looking after.  This is called Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.

Emotional Abuse:

The persistent emotional ill treatment of a young person, likely to cause severe and lasting adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.  It may involve telling a young person they are useless, worthless, unloved, inadequate or valued in terms of only meeting the needs of another person.  It may feature expectations of young people that are not appropriate to their age or development.  It may cause a young person to be frightened or in danger by being constantly shouted at, threatened or taunted which may make the young person frightened or withdrawn.

Ill treatment of children, whatever form it takes, will always feature a degree of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse in school may occur when the young person is constantly criticised, given negative feedback, expected to perform at levels that are above their capability.  Other forms of emotional abuse could take the form of name calling and bullying.

Bullying

May come from another young person or an adult. Bullying is defined as deliberate hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those bullied to defend themselves. There are three main types of bullying.

It may be physical (e.g. hitting, kicking, slapping), verbal (e.g. racist or homophobic remarks, name calling, or threats etc), emotional (e.g. tormenting, ridiculing, humiliating, ignoring, isolating from the group), or sexual (e.g. unwanted physical contact or abusive comments).

Neglect

Occurs when an adult fails to meet the young person’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, to an extent that is likely to result in serious impairment of the child’s health or development.  For example, failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect from physical harm or danger, or failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

Volunteers should be mindful that domestic conditions in Uganda are significantly different that those in most volunteer’s home environment and, as such, concerns of this nature should be discussed in the first instance with the Volunteer Manager.

Refusal to give love, affection and attention can also be a form of neglect.

Sexual Abuse

Occurs when adults (male and female) use children to meet their own sexual needs.  This could include full sexual intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, anal intercourse and fondling.  Showing young people pornography or talking to them in a sexually explicit manner are also forms of sexual abuse.

Indicators of Abuse

Even for those experienced in working with child abuse, it is not always easy to recognise a situation where abuse may occur or has already taken place.  Most people are not experts in such recognition, but indications that a child is being abused may include one or more of the following:

  • Unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries.

  • An injury for which an explanation seems inconsistent.

  • The young person describes what appears to be an abusive act involving them.

  • Another young person or adult expresses concern about the welfare of a young person.

  • Unexplained changes in a young person’s behaviour e.g. becoming very upset, quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper.

  • Inappropriate sexual awareness.

  • Engaging in sexually explicit behaviour.

  • Distrust of adult’s, particularly those whom a close relationship would normally be expected.

  • Difficulty in making friends.

  • Being prevented from socialising with others.

  • Displaying variations in eating patterns including over eating or loss of appetite.

  • Losing weight for no apparent reason.

  • Becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt

Signs of bullying include:

  • Behavioural changes such as reduced concentration and/or becoming withdrawn, clingy, depressed, tearful, emotionally up and down, reluctance to go to school.

  • An unexplained drop off in performance.

  • Physical signs such as stomach aches, headaches, difficulty in sleeping, bed wetting, scratching and bruising, damaged clothes, bingeing e.g. on food, alcohol or cigarettes.

  • A frequent loss of possessions.

  • It must be recognised that the above list is not exhaustive, but also that the presence of one or more of the indications is not proof that abuse is taking place.

Responding to Suspicions and Allegations

Introduction

It is not the responsibility of volunteers working within Team College to decide whether or not child abuse has taken place.  However there is a responsibility to act on any concerns through the appropriate channels so that enquiries can be made and the necessary action taken to protect the young person. This applies BOTH to allegations/suspicions of abuse occurring within Team College and to allegations/suspicions that abuse is taking place elsewhere.

This section explains how to respond to allegations/suspicions.

Receiving Evidence of Possible Abuse

We may become aware of possible abuse in various ways.  We may see it happening, we may suspect it happening because of signs such as those above or it may be reported to us by someone else or directly by the young person affected. In the last of these cases, it is particularly important to respond appropriately.  If a young person says or indicates that they are being abused, you should:

  • Stay calm so as not to frighten the young person.

  • Reassure the child that they are not to blame and that it was right to tell.

  • Listen to the child, showing that you are taking them seriously.

  • Keep questions to a minimum so that there is a clear and accurate understanding of what has been said. Only ask questions to clarify.

  • Inform the child that you have to inform other people about what they have told you.  Tell the child this is to help stop the abuse continuing.

  • Remember the safety of the child is paramount. If the child needs urgent medical attention call an ambulance, inform the doctors of the concern and ensure they are made aware that this is a child protection issue.

  • Record all information.

  • Report the incident to the Volunteer Manager.

Recording Information

To ensure that information is as helpful as possible, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern.  In recording you should confine yourself to the facts and distinguish what is your personal knowledge and what others have told you.  Do not include your own opinions.

  • The child’s name, age and date of birth (if available.)

  • The child’s home address

  • Whether or not the person making the report is expressing their concern or someone else’s.

  • The nature of the allegation, including dates, times and any other relevant information.

  • A description of any visible bruising or injury, location, size etc. Also any indirect signs, such as behavioural changes.

  • Details of witnesses to the incidents.

  • The child’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising/injuries occurred.

  • If the parents have been contacted? If so what has been said?

  • If anyone else been consulted?  If so record details.

  • Has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record detail.

Reporting the Concern

All suspicions and allegations MUST be reported promptly.  It is recognised that strong emotions can be aroused particularly in cases where sexual abuse is suspected or where there is misplaced loyalty to another volunteer/member of staff.  It is important to understand these feelings but not allow them to interfere with your judgement about any action to take.

Team College expects it’s volunteers to discuss any concerns they may have about the welfare of a child immediately with the volunteer manager and, subsequently, to check that appropriate action has been taken.

If the volunteer manager is not available you should seek advice from a senior member of staff at the school.

Where there is a complaint against an employee or volunteer, there may be three types of investigation.

Criminal in which case the police are immediately involved.

Child protection in which case the social services (and possibly) the police in the volunteer’s home country will be involved if the allegations are substantiated.

Disciplinary or misconduct n which case Team College will be involved.

If there is any doubt, you must report the incident: it may be just one of a series of other incidences which together cause concern

Any suspicion that a child has been abused by an employee or a volunteer should be reported to the Volunteer Manager who will take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the child in question and any other child who may be at risk.

Allegations of abuse are sometimes made sometime after the event.  Where such allegations are made, you should follow the same procedures and have the matter reported to the Volunteer Manager.

Volunteers should be aware that unlike in their home country there are few if any services to investigate concerns regarding child abuse outside of police action where physical evidence is obvious. Despite this, reports should still be made as detailed above.

Concerns outside the immediate environment (e.g. a parent or carer).

  • Report your concerns to the Volunteer Manager.

  • If the Volunteer Manager is not available, the person being told or discovering the abuse should contact a senior member of staff at Team College.

  • Maintain confidentiality on a need to know basis 

Confidentiality

Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned.  Information should be handled and disseminated on a need to know basis only.  This includes the following people:

  • The Volunteer Manager

  • The person reporting the suspicion

  • The police (if involved)

All information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with UK data protection laws.

Internal Inquiries and Suspension

The Volunteer Manager will make an immediate decision about whether any individual accused of abuse should be temporarily removed from the pending further inquiries.

Recruiting and Selecting Personnel with Children

Introduction

It is important that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent unsuitable people from working with children.  This applies equally to volunteers, both full and part time.  To ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children the following steps are taken when recruiting.

Controlling Access to Children

Team College acknowledges that as volunteers will be undertaking their duties in Uganda, it is the legal responsibility under UK law for the projects in Uganda to determine their own recruitment criteria and apply it.

  • All volunteers should complete an application form.  The application form will elicit information about the applicants past and a self disclosure about any criminal record.

  • The applicant, before any direct work with children or vulnerable adults is undertaken, should present a disclosure form from Disclosure Scotland here.

  • Two confidential references, including one regarding previous work with children may be required.

  • Evidence of identity (passport or driving licence with photo) is required.

Interview and Induction

All volunteers will receive an induction on arrival at Team College and this will include an update on current events and activities, child protection, working with vulnerable adults, personal safety and cultural awareness.

Training

In addition to pre-selection checks, the safeguarding process can also include training after deployment to help volunteers to:

  • Analyse their own practice against what is deemed good practice, and to ensure their practice is likely to protect them from false allegations.

  • Recognise their responsibilities and report any concerns about suspected poor practice and/or abuse.

  • Respond to concerns expressed by a child.

  • Work safely and effectively with children

  • This ongoing work may take the form of existing regular group meetings or one to one sessions with volunteers where additional needs have been identified.

General Note for volunteers:

Please be aware on a general level to take special consideration of and respect for gender and cultural issues to which you may have a different viewpoint when volunteering in Uganda.  Without a full understanding of the culture, which you cannot hope to acquire on a short visit, you cannot afford to challenge these issues.  Ask questions in an attempt to get clarity but please don’t pass judgement.

Also, children may ask you for items, and whilst it may make you feel good to give, please do not.  The giving of possessions or money does not help in the long term it only perpetuates an underlying problem. Remember at all times that most children have parents/carers and, as the family providers, any giving should come from the parents

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