The Charity Commission released their safeguarding strategy in 2017. The strategy sets out the duty of care charities must display when it comes to preventing abuse, with one major point being that safeguarding should not only apply to those who are most vulnerable, but actually any party who comes into contact with the charity, including their staff and volunteers.
It is not only UK-based charities that this advice applies to; it is extended to international NGOs, meaning there will be different exposures in place overseas that need to be understood and considered. The document acknowledges today’s landscape, in that it no longer refers to just physical abuse in the main but extends to protecting people from other forms of harm, a few examples being neglect, radicalisation and exploitation.
Whilst it will not prevent abuse from taking place, it is a huge step in the right direction for every organisation; having the correct insurance can also assist charities in gaining access to experienced and expert contacts to help all parties through the turmoil.
What to look out for
When it comes to insurance it is not as simple as just having abuse cover, as this cover varies considerably depending on the insurer, although the most common variants are:
For accusations made by third parties:
– Some insurers remain ‘silent’ on the subject, which means that unless any other terms of the policy have been breached or exclusions applicable to the full public liability insurance indemnity limit applies, which is usually to each and every individual occurrence.
– Other insurers may exclude the cover from the public liability insurance as a whole and require the insurance to be bought back for an additional premium.
– Others may set an inner limit that is below the usual public liability limit. Public liability is usually based on a ‘claims occurring’ basis, however an inner limit for abuse cover tends to be on a ‘claims-made’ basis, this means the cover applies if the claim is made during the period of cover, although the incident or period of abuse may be several years earlier. Often this is also on an aggregate (total) limit basis for all claims made during a period of cover.
If accusations are made by staff or volunteers.
– The Employers’ Liability insurance should respond to claims brought by staff (and volunteers as well, if that is how the policy has been set up) and therefore the full Employers’ Liability indemnity limit would apply.
Abuse commonly happens over a number of years, which can mean that more than one insurer and/or policy will be involved.
A key area you need to pay attention to is:
If the basis of Public Liability cover has changed from ‘occurring’ to ‘claims made’, it is easier to manage than if it has changed vice versa. If it was ‘claims made’ to ‘occurring’ there could be a gap in cover unless the different policies are correctly dovetailed to detail how the different covers apply. It’s important to be clear on this before any loss occurs as this is potentially very significant. If your policy does switch from ‘claims made’ to ‘claims occurring’ then you can ask for retrospective cover which is where a new insurer will agree to cover previous periods, to ensure you still have cover.
As mentioned at the very beginning, insurance will not prevent abuse or harm from taking place, but having it in place can provide tremendous support to charities involved and respond to high damages settlements that could be crippling to a charity. These situations can be very unpleasant and sensitive, so having access to an experienced claims team and legal professionals to support you through the issues is extremely important.