Plan International UK exists to help children, and we therefore take child protection very seriously. A sad reality is that many children worldwide are at risk from abuse and exploitation, and can inadvertently be put at greater risk through inadequate or inconsistent policy and practice.
Child-related organisations, including Plan International UK, have also been and can be a target for those intending harm. Children have a right to protection. It is important that children are not put at risk through our work or through those that we put into contact with them.
With that in mind, our child protection policy aims to lay out guidelines and procedures for the protection of children through any area of our work. It aims to provide consistency in policy and practice for all Trustees, staff, volunteers, interns, consultants, suppliers and contractors to prevent children from harm, abuse and exploitation.
Our global child protection mission is “to create ‘child-safe’ environments – internally and externally – where children are respected, protected, empowered and active in their own protection, and where staff are skilled, confident, competent and well-supported in meeting their protection responsibilities through clear policies, procedures and good practice”.
This includes ensuring that our partners, suppliers, staff, volunteers and Board members adhere to our child protection policy.
Plan International UK upholds child protection throughout our programme and advocacy work, within the framework of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
We promote children’s rights to protection in the countries we work in, by supporting interventions to tackle children’s vulnerabilities to the risks of harm such as: female genital cutting, child trafficking, natural hazards and man-made disasters, violence in schools and at home, child labour and early marriage, social exclusion and discrimination, lack of care and a supportive environment.
To reduce the risks for children we monitor staff and external people that work for us, or come in to contact with children. These mechanisms are designed to prevent harm:
1. Internal responsibilities
A designated Board Member is assigned the responsibility of ensuring child protection in relation to all Board decisions. There is an internal Child Protection Focal Point key contact. All Board members, and relevant staff, interns and volunteers, and where appropriate, partners/suppliers, must obtain Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance. Clearance is a condition of continued employment or association.
Plan International UK staff, along with long-term volunteers, undergo formal child protection training. Children’s participation in our advocacy, communication and marketing work will prioritise their best interests and their protection from unintended harm above all else.
Some Plan International UK staff and volunteers work and/or communicate directly with children in the UK and overseas and have access to children’s contact details. They may sometimes be solely responsible for groups of children. In this instance, staff must ensure that the young people they are working with and their parents or guardians are familiar with Plan International UK’s child-friendly child protection policy document.
By the nature of our work we take, hold and pass on details and images of children and other community members. We are responsible for ensuring that data and images are appropriate and are held as safely as possible.
2. External responsibilities
To ensure we do not put children at risk through contact with external people, who do not work for Plan International UK, we retain the right to turn down requests to support Plan International UK at our discretion. We consult with the police if we have any serious doubts about a specific individual/organisation.
We require supporters visiting communities or those whom we put into direct contact with children to obtain a background check from the DBS via Plan International UK.
We screen all communications from sponsors to sponsored children for any inappropriate written or visual material. Where the sponsor writes in a child’s local language not spoken at Plan International UK, local colleagues are asked to carefully check the content.
We check that letters forwarded to children do not contain sponsors’ contact details. This could enable direct, unregulated and possibly inappropriate contact between sponsors and sponsored children. Where relevant we return correspondence to sponsors explaining our concerns and actions.
Any concerns are referred to the Child Protection Policy Focal Point who liaises with any appropriate external bodies.
3. Reporting and responding
All staff have a responsibility to consider and help minimise the child protection risks of activities. We ensure that child protection is mainstreamed in all projects supported by Plan International UK. Our projects aim to promote social inclusion and protection of the most marginalised and most at risk.
Plan International’s emergency response work promotes child protection through interventions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in temporary shelters and in all our work on reconstruction and rehabilitation.