Protecting staff and beneficiaries and managing risk

Protecting staff and beneficiaries and managing risk

Charities working internationally may be working in high-risk areas. This section looks at how you can manage risk and protect staff and vulnerable beneficiaries. It also mentions insurance.

My charity employs staff working in unstable and dangerous conditions. How can we protect them?

You should assess the risks to your staff and volunteers, both local and expatriate. The risks may be increased by certain activities such as helping women escape violence, promoting human rights or advancing a religion. Staff may be at personal risk through natural causes such as disease and climate, as well as through kidnapping, arrest and armed conflict.

We recommend that the charity:

  • arranges for basic security training for all staff and volunteers employed to work in an unstable environment - this is available from a number of training suppliers (see Sources of information)
  • has a security policy in place. Staff and volunteers should receive a written assessment of security and health risks, emergency evacuation procedures and insurance arrangements.
Case study: Staff working in dangerous conditions

The government of a foreign state requisitioned the vehicles and staff belonging to a charity working in that country, for non-charitable and possibly hazardous purposes. The political situation in this particular state was volatile. The charity was concerned for the safety of its staff, the misuse of its property and the disruption to its work. The charity made it clear to the government in question that its assets could only be used for charitable and humanitarian purposes.

Nonetheless, its vehicles and staff were still requisitioned by the government. In these circumstances, the trustees took the view that further protest might put the safety of staff at risk. They considered the security of workers of higher priority than assets.


My charity works with vulnerable people. How can we protect their interests?

We strongly recommend that charities put policies and procedures in place to safeguard the interests and rights of its vulnerable beneficiaries. These should include measures for regularly monitoring staff and volunteers abroad. Remember that paid charity workers are in a position of power in situations of widespread unemployment and poverty. There is the risk of exploitation and abuse in these situations.

The charity should make checks into the eligibility and suitability of all trustees, staff and volunteers who will work with vulnerable people. The checks that can be performed will vary from country to country. A reference from a teacher or other professional with knowledge of the applicant may be all that is available. You could also ask the local police for a reference. These procedures have an additional benefit –they protect both the interests of staff and volunteers and the good name of the charity.

The trustees should ensure that staff and volunteers working overseas have a protection policy and procedures for use at the local level. Local staff should be familiar with these processes and be aware that unacceptable practices can be challenged. It is important that beneficiaries know who to take complaints and concerns to and that they are confident that these will be considered by a sufficiently independent person.

What steps should we take to protect the children we work with?

Children are an especially vulnerable group and it is important to stress the importance of proper safeguards for their protection.

Charities working with children should have a child protection policy which clearly sets out procedures for safeguarding children and preventing, identifying and dealing with possible abuse.

Such charities should also make all possible checks on trustees, volunteers, employees and anyone connected with the charity that might have access to children. In the UK, these checks are administered by the Disclosure and Barring Service:

Disclosure and Barring Service –

For more information look at our Safeguarding Children guidance. See also Sources of Information for organisations which can advise on developing child protection policies and procedures.

What about insuring volunteers?

Please read Part B4 of Charities and Insurance (CC49) for details.

Is there insurance available for special risks?

Charity staff and volunteers can be insured against special risks such as kidnap and ransom as well as the more usual risks. This type of insurance is likely to be expensive. It is probable that only the largest charities will be able to afford it.

Some organisations consider that insurance against kidnapping makes their staff a target for ransom demands. They manage this risk by being discreet about who is insured in this way.

I have identified some of my charity's activities as very high risk. Does this mean we should stop doing them?

Not necessarily. This depends on how important the activities are for achieving the charity's objectives. It is a judgment that the trustees should make.

It is important to identify what the charity can do to mitigate the risk. You should put practical procedures in place to reduce the risk. Look at our guidance on managing risk for further information.

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