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What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding is about protecting children, young people and vulnerable adults from abuse or neglect. Everybody has the right to be safe no matter who they are or what their circumstances.

Safeguarding is a consideration for a range of University activities and we are all responsible for the safety of under-18s and vulnerable adults. We must ensure that we are doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

The University's Safeguarding arrangements include risk–based policies and procedures that focus on University activities that involve children and vulnerable adults.


Safeguarding Policies and Procedures

The University’s key policies and procedures linked to safeguarding are:

Our safeguarding arrangements also include:

  • Safeguarding awareness training including how to recognise possible signs of abuse
  • A Safeguarding Behaviour Code
  • Clear reporting channels for reporting concerns and/or allegations, all of which are treated in confidence by trained Designated Safeguarding Officers


Further information on the above items can be found in the table below and/or in the weblinks above. 

Who is classed as a child or vulnerable adult?

Child or children (also known as “Under 18s”)

A child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. The fact that a child has reached 16 years of age, is living independently or is in further education, is a member of the armed forces, is in hospital or in custody in the secure estate, does not change his/her status or entitlements to services or protection.[1]

Vulnerable Adults (also known as “Adults at Risk”)

An adult is any person aged 18 or over. Some adults may be vulnerable and entitled to be safeguarded because they are unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.[2] 

Any adult can suffer neglect or be subjected to abuse.  There are many factors which can increase an individual’s vulnerability: indicators of possible vulnerability include:

  • a mental health issue
  • dementia
  • a physical or learning disability
  • a condition within the autistic spectrum
  • a significant difficulty related to vison (requiring more than correction through spectacles and contact lenses alone)
  • a significant difficulty related to hearing (requiring more than correction through hearing aids alone), complications related to frailty or a serious illness
  • a vulnerable adult may be receiving support services from the local authority, the NHS or a non-statutory agency (but this will not always be the case). 

When considering if an adult is vulnerable and requires safeguarding, it is important to consider whether the adult has support needs because of one of the issues listed above, regardless of whether support is currently being provided.

[1] Definitions taken from Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) statutory guidance.

[2] Definition and indicators influenced by the Care Act 2014 


Where might children and or vulnerable adults feature in University activities?

Some Northumbria students and staff may be under 18 (legally classed as a child) or meet the definition of a vulnerable adult. 

They might come into contact with the University through:

  • recruitment and outreach activities in schools and colleges
  • fieldtrips
  • participation in research or consultancy activities
  • sporting or voluntary activities on and off campus
  • by being taught or cared for by students training to enter Education or Health services, as part of their academic studies.

Safe Recruitment of staff and students

The safe recruitment of staff and students is an important part of the University’s safeguarding arrangements. 

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. It replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

A DBS check is a pre-appointment safe recruitment check which is carried out on all staff and students (including volunteers) involved in “regulated activity” (i.e. close and unsupervised contact with under 18s and vulnerable groups which cannot be undertaken by a person on the DBS’s Barred List).

The University has appropriate policies and procedures for the recruitment of ex-offenders.

For queries about staff DBS checks

  • Staff DBS applications are administered by HR. For further information please contact: Johanna Turl, Human Resources. Telephone: 0191 227 4518. Email:

For queries about student DBS checks (incl. Post Graduate students and student volunteers)

Dealing with children and vulnerable adults

Examples of University procedures that cover how we engage with children and vulnerable adults include:

  • Student recruitment stage – at application and/or enrolment, all under 18s are identified and flagged with a referral to Student Support and Wellbeing (“SSW”).  Those students who may meet the vulnerable adult definition (e.g. those with an identified disability) are referred to the Disability Team within SSW to ensure that a DSSR (Disabled Student Support Recommendations) is prepared with them and provided to the appropriate Faculty. 
  • Health and Safety Risk Assessments for University activities should consider and include any additional risks/controls specific to under 18s or vulnerable adults
  • Our Research Ethics procedure ensures that the involvement of under 18s and vulnerable adults is identified at an early stage, with clear policy guidance on related matters (e.g. obtaining consent, carrying out DBS checks, etc)
  • The University has a Safeguarding Behaviour Code which gives general guidance for dealing with children and vulnerable adults.
  • Online training is available for staff to raise awareness of safeguarding issues and how to recognise possible signs of abuse. 

Reporting concerns or allegations about abuse or neglect

It is important that everyone knows what to do if they suspect someone is being abused or neglected. You may suspect that someone is being harmed or abused because:

  • You have general concerns about someone's wellbeing
  • You see or hear about something which could suggest abuse or neglect is taking place
  • Someone tells you something has happened or is happening to them which could be abuse or neglect.

University staff undertake Safeguarding training which aims to raise awareness of the typical indicators that might suggest that someone is being abused or neglected. 

The University's "Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and Neglect" document also provides an overview of these indicators.  

You may also like to talk to one of our Designated Safeguarding Officers about your concern but we would encourage all concerns and allegations to be reported in writing, using the SAFE1 Form - see the section below for more details. 


All concerns and allegations raised will be treated in confidence. 

How to raise a concern/allegation


If an individual is at imminent risk of harm,

you should call Security on the emergency number (x3200).

If there is no imminent risk of harm,

you should complete the Safeguarding Concern Form (SAFE1)

Individuals external to the University should send concerns/allegations on SAFE1 Form to Susan O'Donnell (Principal Safeguarding Officer) marked “Confidential”.


All other individuals (including staff and students), should send the SAFE1 Form to the appropriate Designated Safeguarding Officers (DSOs).

DSOs can be contacted via telephone in advance of submitting the form

Raising concerns anonymously

There may be genuine reasons why an individual who has a concern or allegation may not feel able to disclose their identity so all anonymous allegations or concerns will be accepted and acted on.  However, anonymous enquiries may not facilitate any internal or external investigation process and contact details are often helpful in clarifying and acting on the information provided. 

We would remind anyone with a concern that all safeguarding concerns raised are treated confidentially but can also be submitted, using the SAFE1 Form via the University’s “whistleblowing” process (i.e. the University’s Public Interest Disclosure Policy) if required, directly to Susan O'Donnell.


What we will do with the information raised in concerns

The information contained in safeguarding concern or allegation may include information about a child or vulnerable adult, people known or unknown to them and information about the person raising the concern/allegation. 

The information will initially be restricted to trained members of staff (i.e. the relevant Designated Safeguarding Officer, the Principal Safeguarding Officer and his deputy) who will review the concern in line with safeguarding guidance and legislation.

Depending on the nature of the concern or allegation raised, the University may then:

  • Contact the person raising the concern;
  • Hold a case conference to discuss the concern, involving a small number of individual staff members from other University Service Departments (e.g. Human Resources, Student Support and Wellbeing, Legal Services, Security)
  • Be required to pass details of the child or vulnerable adult to Children or Adult Services, or in some circumstances, the Police and other agencies, where there is an emergency situation


Any allegation made about a member of staff will be reported to the Local Authority “Designated Officer” at the relevant Local Authority's Children's Social Care Services, as required by law.  

Further information

For general queries about the update of the University's Safeguarding arrangements, please contact Susan O'Donnell, Secretary to the Board and Head of Governance (x4222) who acts as the University's Principal Safeguarding Officer

For information about safeguarding arrangements at NU Nursery, please contact Deborah Thorpe, Executive Childcare Manager (x4567) 

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a concern but I’m scared to raise it in case I’m wrong – what should I do?

  • Tell us about it. With safeguarding issues, historical cases have highlighted that it is better to think “what if I’m right?” rather than “what if I’m wrong?”. Serious Case Reviews show that it is like gathering pieces of a jigsaw often over a long time period, with different agencies and organisations each holding a separate piece of the jigsaw. 

  • Raising a concern allows the piece of the jigsaw to be considered by trained staff - Designated Safeguarding Officers - who will take appropriate action (such as making a referral to Children or Adult Services), which may include no action. In some cases, it could lead to a person receiving much needed help and support at a difficult time (e.g. domestic violence situations) or receiving a level of protection. In other cases, there may not be sufficient information to take any action at the time but the information may be critical if any similar concerns are raised at a later date. 

What is a Designated Safeguarding Officer (“DSO”)?

  • Northumbria University staff who are trained to receive and respond to reported concerns and/or allegations of abuse or neglect, and to make external referrals if required. Our DSOs are located in areas most likely to deal with under 18s and vulnerable adults on a regular basis, including Student Support and Wellbeing, Student Recruitment and Sport, with additional DSOs located in Governance Services. The current list of DSOs is available here. 


What is a DBS check and why is it required?

  • A DBS check is a pre-appointment safe recruitment check which is carried out on all staff and students, including volunteers, involved in “regulated activity” (i.e. close and unsupervised contact with under 18s and vulnerable groups which cannot be undertaken by a person on the DBS’s Barred List).

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