How our team built a strong safeguarding culture

National safeguarding week

Before Sense, Adrian Darkin worked in retail, where safeguarding wasn’t a major concern. Today he oversees over 100 volunteer-run Sense shops across the UK. Adrian had to quickly build his knowledge of safeguarding purpose and processes. He shares some of his key lessons with us here. 

Before I worked for Sense, my team and I simply hadn’t considered how safeguarding might have a role in trading and running shops. But when I joined the charity sector, I realised it was going to be crucial for us to understand how we were going to protect the welfare of our staff and volunteers. This is what ultimately ensures the value and longevity of our beloved Sense shops.   

Today, as director of trading, we’re confident that our controls and reporting are stronger than ever. Here are three of the key things my team and I learned as we built our strong safeguarding culture: 

1. Training is never an afterthought 

As a team, we knew that we had to make sure all our staff and volunteers understood Sense’s approach to safeguarding.  

Our priorities were: 

  • Setting up staff training through a digital eLearning programme, so that everyone has a shared understanding of what safeguarding means. 
  • Ensuring that volunteers know how they can access support when they join and providing clear signposting to helpful information. 
  • Reviewing our processes regularly to make sure they’re clear and easy to understand

2. Check, monitor and support 

Monitoring is crucial. We carry out checks through shop visits and have an annual safeguarding audit. However, it’s also important that our team knows we’re there to support them if an incident does arise. 

We ensure that teams know how to spot potential signs of concern and address them, with a clear support structure.  

This approach was particularly important during the pandemic lockdowns when all our shops were shut. People felt more vulnerable, so we maintained regular communication with all team members, including our volunteers, to ensure support was available as needed.    

3. Being proactive is crucial  

Safeguarding is not just about responding to situations. It’s about setting up a culture and an environment where people are safe and where we’re minimising risks. 

For example, we’ve reviewed all of our shop spaces to make sure that there are no hidden areas where someone vulnerable could be at risk. We also train the drivers who pick up furniture for our shops to identify the flags that might lead to a safeguarding concern. 

Safeguarding is all of our responsibility and we’re proud of the work we’ve done to ensure that Sense’s shops are a safe environment.