Sarah Duncan-Jones, manager at FAN, tells us why safeguarding is so important for them and other charities.
The FAN (Friends and Neighbours) Charity is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. It’s been 20 years since an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher called Gill started one small group as a way to give her female students an informal place to practise their new skills. Gill established ‘the FAN model’, our ground rules which allow everyone to take their turn, to speak only if they want to, and to be listened to with respect.
FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS
From that one small group there are now more that 35 groups meeting weekly in Cardiff, Barry, Bridgend, Swansea Llanelli and online. Most groups are for men and women and some women only, led by volunteer FAN facilitators. While one third of our participants are learning English, the majority now are local people who enjoy reaching out to the wider community, feeling less lonely and talking about interesting and varied topics each week, ranging from favourite foods, to adventures, to weddings and more.
As FAN grew it brought challenges and opportunities too. In 2010 FAN became a Charity, managed by a board of trustees who employ a tiny part-time staff team (manager, development workers and admin) as funding allows, with day-to-day responsibility for safeguarding currently lying with the manager supported by the Safeguarding Trustee Working Group.
FAN takes its safeguarding responsibilities seriously and people come to us and talk about themselves, their week and a topic with such enthusiasm because they feel safe. FAN’s Safeguarding policy was written initially using a WCVA template, and is reviewed annually as well as when facing new circumstances or in response to changes in regulation.
Safeguarding is part of staff induction and facilitator training and a standing item on trustee meeting agendas. Access to the Wales Safeguarding Procedures App means that we have key information at our fingertips. We have rolled out the Group A training module to all volunteers recently which has increased discussion and awareness of safeguarding.
LEARNING FROM WORK
I say this cautiously, but due to the nature of what FAN does certain concerns have been raised at times by facilitators, staff or participants. These have not been frequent and when they have arisen, with advice from WCVA, they have been dealt with effectively, leaving us with better understanding and better practices.
While Covid caused many problems, it did also increase the opportunities for virtual connectivity, and I have been very glad to attend the regular WCVA Safeguarding Community of Practice (SCoP) meetings online (email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details).
A HUMAN TOUCH
These meetings bring together the WCVA safeguarding team (Mair Rigby, Suzanne Mollison and Amanda Harvey-Cooke) and representatives from the voluntary sector who have safeguarding responsibilities. They share up to the minute changes in regulation, concerns, statistics all presented with context and explanation with a human voice and it’s so much more powerful than just reading through an email update!
Sometimes there is an outside speaker and we always get a case history and discussion, a key part of the meeting, where the knowledge, kindness and good sense of the group are shared. Discussions about what to consider when running online FAN groups were particularly helpful when they all moved online at the start of Covid.
You get to hear views that reflect your own, and it was cheering at a recent SCoP to hear other representatives share a similar point of view to ours, that while safeguarding is core to our business, our ‘in-house’ expertise would be relatively limited were it not for the back-up of those we can ask for help – namely Mair, Mandy and Suzanne. If we didn’t have the connection with WCVA, then it would be a much more challenging situation for FAN.
GET IN TOUCH
If you have any questions about safeguarding, you can get in touch with our Safeguarding team who will happy to help Safeguarding@wcva.cymru
Want the latest news, views and announcements as well as useful articles on the topics that matter? Join our mailing list. Each week we offer a round up of voluntary sector news and updates straight to your inbox.