Every day, more than ten thousand families entrust PEAS to take care of their children. Those children, in turn, trust PEAS staff to act in their best interests, and keep them safe. The size of that task, and the significance of the responsibility is such that PEAS consider Safeguarding to be the most important aspect of our work and the primary measure by which we judge the quality of our provision. While we expect all PEAS employees to hold the safety of children as their number one priority, we understand that the highest standards require the greatest preparation, and as such we work to provide our teams with the training and resources they need to keep all children safe. We are proud to say that the hard work of our Ugandan team has been recognised by “Keeping Children Safe” – an independent body which sets the highest International Child Safeguarding Standards.
At PEAS, we organise our Child Protection and Safeguarding work into four areas; Awareness, Prevention, Reporting and Response. We believe that this is the best way to ensure that our teams are informed when employing our Child Protection Policy, supported to prevent Child Protection incidents, empowered to report concerns of misconduct, and capable of responding quickly and safely to protect vulnerable children. To achieve these aims PEAS has developed a number of policies, guidelines, tools and training materials, which provide our teams with the resources to guide their safeguarding practice, and to encourage consistency and clarity across our school-network.
The first is our Child Protection Policy, to which all PEAS staff are co-signatories. The policy outlines the PEAS approach to CP, the positive actions we take to protect children and the expectations we have for our staff, as professionals working with children. During induction, all staff are given training on the policy and the PEAS Code of Conduct, and agree that meeting the requirements of the two policies is required for employment at PEAS. While the Code of Conduct and CP Policy contribute to awareness; guidance on prevention, reporting and responding to concerns are outlined in detail by our Child Protection Implementation Guidelines (CPIGs).
The CPIGs provide a detailed summary of the structures and processes which we have adopted to protect children, and those that we follow when a concern has been raised. To support the prevention of CP incidents, the CPIGs outline safe recruitment processes, the safeguarding induction and ongoing training to be provided to all staff, the requirements we have when allowing visitors/contractors on our sites, and our policy on the use of images of children. The CPIGs also provide our staff with advice on the classification of CP incidents, and the appropriate channels and processes to use when reporting concerns. Finally, the implementation guidelines provide our staff with steps to follow when responding to a child protection incident, such as the processes for supporting child-survivors of abuse, investigating concerns, and the actions required when a staff-member is found to have breached PEAS’ safeguarding policies.
We also understand that to protect children, it is essential that adults feel safe to report concerns and do their jobs in an environment free of coercion or victimisation. For this reason we also supplement our child-protection policy with our Adult Safeguarding and Whistleblower Policies. These documents provide legal protection for adults in the PEAS staff, or under PEAS’ care, and ensure that workers feel empowered to raise concerns in an appropriate manner and in good faith.
Through ongoing training led by experienced safeguarding focal persons at every level of the organisation, our policies are well-embedded throughout PEAS and our school networks. This has been reflected in the findings of external evaluations and DFID technical safeguarding monitoring visits. PEAS Uganda have also been certified by Keeping Children Safe (KCS), who recently completed a robust assessment of our safeguarding measures. KCS found that PEAS’ policy, people, procedures and accountability measures all meet their International Child Safeguarding Standards. KCS conduct a rigorous external child safeguarding audit, which helps to determine how well an organisation’s policies and procedures are understood and implemented by staff, consultants, volunteers and partner organisations. The KCS audit is unique in that it is the only procedure of its kind based on international safeguarding standards. As a result of our successful application to KCS, PEAS are a member of an international network of organisations who model best-practice in safeguarding, and can now benefit from the resources and shared expertise of the network.
While this is positive, we recognise that when it comes to protecting children, our work is never done. As a result, we always consider how we can improve the quality of our provision, extend its reach and ensure that our standards are sustained. PEAS has been working with consultants to develop a state-of-the-art suite of safeguarding training for all of our staff, increasing the availability of local language and child-friendly resources, and strengthening our links to public bodies and local civil society institutions which support children. It is our view that these efforts can extend the reach of our safeguarding measures, and positively contribute to the safeguarding landscape in the countries where we work.