Safe360°™ Safeguarding PolicySection 1: Policy & purpose

1.1 Purpose

Through this Safeguarding Policy we establish a unified understanding of safe and respectful behaviours. We aim to promote preventative safeguarding and are committed to ensuring that harmful or abusive behaviours will not be tolerated.

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and adhering to this policy keeps us all safe. It sets out our safeguarding principles, the procedure to follow to report a concern, and signposts where to go for advice when you need it.

This policy advises on what to do if you need to report a safeguarding issue personally, or if you receive:

A disclosure of harm

An allegation of abuse

You have a concern that a person is at risk, see or suspect abuse

(no disclosure)

We use the term Reporter to describe a person who reports an incident, a disclosure or a concern.

We use the term Reported to describe a person who is accused of causing harm or is considered a cause for concern.  Where a person at risk discloses or discusses potential abuse or harm, the staff member or volunteer should be able to:

Person-centred, we respect the rights of all who become involved in the safeguarding process: The Reporter, Reported and any individual(s) who have complaints or accusations made against them.

1.2 Scope

All representatives noted below should be aware of their duty to comply with the policy, hold themselves to account and play an active role ensuring a safe environment for all.

  • University Court and Senate Members, Trustees, Executive Team Representatives, Committee Chairs and Members, supported by Committee Managers.
  • All members of staff including those with full-time, part-time and sessional contracts, honorary staff, and staff from other institutions or organisations on placement, or working on a visiting basis at the University.
  • Chief / Principal Investigators, Grant or Research Leads, Sponsors, Doctoral Researchers and all other team members working on behalf of the University.
  • All students, including interns, exchange and placement students.
  • Visitors, including individuals using the University’s premises.
  • Contractors, third party associates and volunteers working at the University.
  • Some children and protected adults may have an appointed representative, e.g., mental health advocate, legal/enduring power of attorney.

This policy applies to all individuals working or acting on the University’s behalf, including suppliers of goods and services.

See also, Section2: Roles & Responsibilities

1.3 The aims of this policy and procedures are to ensure:

  • We are all alert to signs of harm or abuse and all members of the University community are vigilant to the wellbeing of those around them.
  • Everyone studying, working and volunteering for the University of Strathclyde, or acting on the University’s behalf, consider safeguarding within the design and delivery of all University activity.
  • Everyone within the scope of this policy can Recognise, Respond and Report safeguarding concerns.
  • We promote clear procedures explaining next steps.
  • Specific legislation that applies to children or vulnerable groups are upheld.
  • Guidance provided by our funders and charity regulators is adhered to, and safeguarding is demonstrated within the grants and contracts process.
  • We monitor activity to continually learn and improve our approach to safeguarding.
  • A suite of guidance supplements this policy to provide detailed information to support operational teams in their application of safeguarding practices.

1.4 What is Safeguarding?

The university is a microcosm of society and safeguarding relates to everyone; incidents that cause harm, or failure to thrive, can happen to anyone. The University of Strathclyde is located in a city centre campus with global reach.  We refer to probable statistics to understand the likelihood that Safeguarding issues in society, happen in the lives of those within our University community, in both the physical environment, and, increasingly, in the digital environment.

We define safeguarding as taking all reasonable steps to prevent harm, harassment or abuse from occurring; to protect all people, we are mindful that some individuals, particularly, children and adults at risk are inherently more vulnerable to harm, abuse or neglect. By safeguarding we can all provide greater protections and to respond appropriately to safeguarding concerns.

Safeguarding applies consistently and without exception across our programmes, partners, students, volunteers and staff. It requires a focus on prevention with proactive anticipation and mitigation of risk as far as is possible. Where incident occurs, to respond appropriately, with clear systems for reporting and learning from incidents.

1.5  Types of abuse or harm

Harm could be due to another person, or people, deliberately taking advantage of another, neglect would be the result of a failure by a responsible adult or care function. Peer on peer abuse is when a child or children harms another child.

The main categories of harm or abuse are Physical, Psychological / Emotional, Sexual, Financial Abuse, Neglect, Self-harm and Self-neglect. We also refer to the broad themes of Gender-based Violence (GBV); Hate Crimes; Child Abuse; Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment; Online Abuse; Trafficking, Slavery and Exploitation and Extremism. This list is not exhaustive.

A person can be subjected to harm anywhere: in their home, where they work, in a public place – often by the people closest to them, more rarely, by a stranger. Somebody may abuse or neglect a person by inflicting, or by failing to act to prevent significant harm. It can even happen in the very places tasked with the responsibility of protecting them.

Harm and abuse may occur face-to-face, in personal and professional lives, on or off campus, including via digital or online methods. Abuse can take place wholly online, or technology may be used to facilitate offline abuse. Not everyone experiences the same level of risk. Factors such as protected characteristic, financial dependency, poverty, disability, homelessness, care of dependants or insecure immigration status can heighten vulnerability to abuse or further entrap people experiencing abuse.

1.6 Legal terms summarised, for the purpose of this policy

The university is a predominantly adult learning environment where children, young people and adults interact across physical, digital and global environments. This Policy articulates our commitment to support children, young people and adults equally, in an appropriate and timely way.

There are a number of different laws across the UK that specify age limits in different circumstances and protective interventions that dictate what legal measures can be applied, for example, child protection, positions of trust and consent. Where there is ambiguity about the status of a child or protected adult, our first response will always be to apply the higher level of protection. The Report and Support Response Team (RSRT) can provide guidance on a case-by-case basis.


We refer to a child as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. A young person is a child aged 16 – 17 years old. These terms may be used interchangeably.

The University of Strathclyde works with children and young people directly, or indirectly in a range of ways and we recognise our role to deliver the rights of children as per the United Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Please refer to the University’s Child Safeguarding Policy and Child Protection Guidance.

Adults at risk

An adult is anyone aged 16 or over. The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 defines a vulnerable adult as a person of 16 years or over who:

  1. are unable to safeguard their own well-being, property, rights or other interests,
  2. are at risk of harm, and
  3. because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity, are more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected.

An adult is at risk of harm* if:

  1. another person's conduct is causing (or is likely to cause) the adult to be harmed, or
  2. the adult is engaging (or is likely to engage) in conduct which causes (or is likely to cause) self-harm.

Protected Adults

The Disclosure (Scotland) Act 2020, defines a Protected Adult as any person aged 18 or over, as described within who by reason of physical, or mental disability, illness, infirmity or ageing has an impaired ability to protect themselves from physical or psychological harm, or requires assistance with the activities of daily living. They may also be homeless or have experienced, be experiencing, or at risk of domestic abuse.

A Protected Adult may also be defined as an adult aged 18 or over, who is being provided with a prescribed service; support, adult placement service, care home service, housing support service, community care service or welfare service.

1.7 Applicants, students & employees under the age of 18

The University does not have a minimum age of entry and apprentices, or employees may be under the age of 18. the University’s Child Safeguarding Policy and Child Protection Guidance provides further information and should be read in conjunction with this Policy.

Any application to work or study at the university from applicants who are aged under 18 years in the first Semester of their programme of study, or probationary period if staff, will be identified by age. This enables HR, Admissions staff, and Faculty staff to identify specific requirements that need to be satisfied for an offer to be made and appropriate safeguards will be applied when they commence their course of study or work, to help them prepare for the University environment, signpost the guidance, and support available.

1.8 Vulnerability within the University context

In addition to the groups defined within legislation, we also recognise that within a diverse student and staff population, or participants of research and beneficiaries of University programmes, there may be individuals who are personally or circumstantially vulnerable at any given time. People may have personal circumstances that are not necessarily within the University’s control, but where the University may be a first point of contact and the likelihood of the University being approached for support is very high.

Coming to University may mean living independently or away from support networks for the first time, or interacting in unfamiliar or adult environments, navigating a new city or cultural environment, and seeking to make new connections. Transitions at different age and stage or adapting to change can raise challenges or be stressful and the support needed may vary.

Vulnerability can be due to visible or hidden disabilities, life changes, bereavement, housing issues, financial crisis or relationship problems. Some individuals can be at increased risk of harm or abuse, often due to circumstances beyond their control. Another person’s conduct may cause (or is likely to cause) a person to be harmed e.g. gender-based violence, hate crime, or exploitation.

Through the course of our day to day lives, in our work and study, we should be alert to the needs of those who may be vulnerable because they:

  • Are a child or young person, under 18 years of age
  • Have a physical or learning disability / sensory impairment or special educational needs
  • Are experiencing poor mental health such that their capacity is reduced and/or which may cause (or is likely to cause) self-harm or risk of suicide.
  • Are elderly or frail due to ill health, physical disability, or cognitive impairment
  • May be exposed to domestic abuse or gender-based violence, including coercive control
  • Have a long-term illness / condition
  • Are care-experienced
  • Are a carer
  • Live away from home or estranged from their immediate family
  • Live in temporary accommodation
  • Are homeless or living a transient lifestyle e.g., sofa surfing
  • Do not have English as a first language
  • Live in a chaotic or dysfunctional household, neglectful or unsupportive situation
  • Live in an environment with substance abuse
  • May be in recovery
  • Are unable to demonstrate the capacity to make decisions and needs care and support
  • Are from an asylum seeker/refugee background
  • May be vulnerable to being bullied or discriminated against (this could include mistreatment on the grounds of race, disability, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or beliefs)
  • Are involved directly or indirectly with organised crime
  • Are subjected to slavery, trafficking or sexual exploitation e.g., pressured into giving someone money or sex for rent
  • Engage in sex work
  • Are affected by criminal charges or history of criminal convictions
  • May be vulnerable to financial harm or exploitation

This list is not exhaustive. It serves to illustrate the nature and breadth of lived experiences that may be disclosed or undisclosed. Issues referred to in this policy may affect any one of us. We can all be vigilant to and play our part in protecting everyone we learn and work with.

Through routine or frequent contact with students, colleagues or friends (maybe someone we see in lectures, pass routinely in the lab or workshop or share an office with), we may be well placed to observe outward signs of changing or unusual behaviours, changes in appearance, withdrawal, attendance or academic development. We should be mindful of those we see less frequently in person, such as distance learners and visiting, temporary or distance staff who may not fully, or regularly, integrate with the wider university community through the course of their work.

1.9 Trauma-sensitive, compassionate, caring & non-judgemental

At any time, any member of the University Community may be a first point of contact for a person reporting a safeguarding concern. We are committed to understanding trauma and trauma-informed practice to ensure a responsive and supportive environment for disclosure by any member of the University Community.

Our support services are compassionate and non-judgemental and we commit to support anyone experiencing a safeguarding issue, anyone sharing a concern on behalf of someone, or who has a complaint to make about the conduct of others. We recognise that supportive relationships matter to build trust and empower individuals if a person feels comfortable sharing information, to think together about what might help and signpost the right support.

For the Reporter or the person who makes a disclosure, it is highly likely that they will have to recount their experiences multiple times. For example, Police or Social Work Services will speak with the individual and collect evidence. Empowerment is our aim is for the person being supported. We should be aware of complex feelings and responses that may be triggered. We will always communicate in a compassionate and empathetic way and be sensitive to previous experiences which may take a person back to a time of trauma.

We provide support for staff and students affected personally, or by issues raised, recognising that responding to safeguarding concerns can provoke personal feelings for any person supporting.

  • All staff have access to the University Employee Assistance Programme, PAM Assist, providing access to a 24hr helpline and an extensive online resource providing information and advice on a wide range of topics concerning work life, personal issues, health, and wellbeing, including legal advice and debt management.
  • All Students can receive specialist expertise in mental health, counselling, wellbeing, disability and general health support through the Disability and Wellbeing Service. ‘The Service’ contacts applicants who disclose a disability or medical condition during the application process in order to commence discussions about reasonable adjustments and support requirements. We have Rape Crisis support on Campus.
  • We are a member of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower discreetly indicates to people that the wearer may need additional support, help or a little more time. Hidden disabilities don't have physical signs and include learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, mental health as well as mobility, speech, visual or hearing impairments. They can also include asthma, COPD, and other lung conditions as well as chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders when those diseases significantly impact day-to-day life. Sunflower lanyards may also be suitable for people who could experience secondary trauma or severe distress by wearing a face covering.
  • We work with Choose Life to support suicide prevention through Safer Suicide Strathclyde.
  • The Access, Equality and Inclusion Service supports individuals traditionally under-represented in higher education. For example, targeted information before entry, a named contact and tailored support is available on an ongoing basis to those who have spent time in local authority care. Our Care Experience Policy for Staff and Students (pdf) delivers a commitment set out in our University of Strathclyde Corporate Parent Plan (pdf). We support students with caring responsibilities; individuals estranged from their families (studying without family support) and within our LGBT+ Community LGBT+ Policy (pdf).