ChildHope Executive Director Jill Healey is Co-chair of Bond’s Accountability Committee, one of four groups set up in the wake of DFID’s review of safeguarding procedures. Here she talks about why developing partners’ safeguarding capabilities is not as hard as it may seem and why it is in everyone’s best interests.
Earlier this year DFID produced new due diligence guidelines and requirements on how organisations should develop and implement their safeguarding and protection policies. The framework very clearly articulates that if you have partnerships in southern countries then your responsibilities extend to those partnerships and you must prove that they are as equally equipped to protect and safeguard the people they are working with as your own teams.
Local NGOs have frequently been seen as deliverers of an agenda set by the northern organisation and as such it's sometimes been quite a transactional relationship so there’s traditionally been a stronger focus on making sure that accounting systems and financial acumen are sound. Now that we have another layer of accountability and scrutiny many organisations are struggling with how to meet those requirements.
At ChildHope we’ve always had a different relationship with partners. Rather than finding partners to meet our agenda our key focus is to support partners to build their capacity in whichever area they're working in. Our partners largely focus on children who are at the extreme end of marginalisation and ignored by many other organisations and because of this have often sought guidance on how to work effectively with children who are most vulnerable. For many years we've said that partners need to have their own child protection policy and we would work with them to build that and strengthen that, to review it and to give training to partner staff members. This has been as equally important as developing things like monitoring and evaluation and financial systems and processes.
Developing your partners’ capacity in safeguarding is not difficult to do. One of the concerns that has been expressed in recent months is that local partners will reject the idea of having to scrutinise themselves around child protection and safe guarding but, in our experience, if it's well explained and it's contextually appropriate partners recognise its importance. It does need buy in from the leadership of an organisation so it's really important when you have these discussions with partners that it includes their board and their senior management. It doesn’t need to be a terrifying or onerous task, but it can't be just one person who's given that responsibility, it has to be a whole organisational approach.
What we have found is that if an organisations develops a very strong child protection perspective they tend to think about the child first in whatever they're developing. So, when developing new works areas they think about the child at the early stages, often consulting them directly to check that this is the most appropriate piece of work. It means that they go back to the child at regular intervals and monitor progress and impact against what is working for the child. This reduces the number of inappropriate activities that are set to fail because they’re relevant from the outset. If I think about our partners who have embraced a very strong child safeguarding and protection approach, when we visit them we see a lot of rules and regulations around how to make sure that it's a safe environment for the child and that you as a visitor are not breaching that. But it doesn't feel like an imposed set of rules it feels like the gold standard to achieve. The partners who have achieved that, I believe, do more effective programming.
When we’re developing these policies with a partner we start with what the organisation already has, get them to analyse and appraise it and build from there. A consultative approach from the very beginning minimises the apprehension and concern about it. Like many things, it’s a common sense approach. In the budget-stretched world we are all working in concerns about the cost of this are also understandable but we would reassure people that donor will to support this area is there. Many international organisations haven't thought to ask for financial support for this in the past but we have always included this in our budgets and we have never had the request turned down by a donor. We would encourage all our peers to seek support for this area when you develop future bids.
Because of our track record in this area, we now have the support of Comic Relief to develop our approach in a far more significant way, enabling us to support UK-based and global organisations as they scale up their safeguarding and protection policies. We're developing a south to south safeguarding and consultancy service which will provide much more contextually relevant training and consultancy to organisations in the south. It's being developed with our partners who have very good practice themselves and who’ve expressed a wish to extend their knowledge to other organisations within their own countries or regions. These partners are able to develop tailored support to other organisations within their countries or regions that comes from an understanding of what it's really like to try and implement good child protection practice in those countries. This can only be a good thing for the children and vulnerable adults that we are all working to support.
I think many organisations haven't thought to ask for support for this in the past but have always included this in our budgets and we have never had this request turned down by a donor. So we would encourage anyone to seek support for this area as you develop future bids.