Children and Vulnerable Adults Safeguarding Policy

1. Purpose1 and scope

At the GSMA we believe that all children and vulnerable adults have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse or exploitation. The GSMA will not tolerate any abuse or exploitation (which, for purposes of this policy are as defined in Appendix A) of children or vulnerable adults. Hence, it is the GSMA’s policy to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults in its engagements with them.

This policy provides details on the processes and procedures implemented by the GSMA to safeguard children or vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation and the related roles and responsibilities across the organisation. The document also provides guidance on the behaviour and conduct expected while working with children or vulnerable adults on behalf of the GSMA.

This policy applies to all GSMA staff and associated personnel globally. Additionally, all contractors, consultants, suppliers and activity providers that work for or on behalf of the GSMA (collectively, “business partners”) must adhere to the principles set forth in this Safeguarding Policy.

2. What is safeguarding?

A child is any person under the age of 18.

A vulnerable adult2 is any person aged 18 and over, that, for any reason, is unable to protect himself or herself against abuse or exploitation. This may be because of a mental or physical disability, illness or age.

Within the context of the GSMA, safeguarding means protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse or exploitation that may arise from:

  • the conduct of its staff and associated personnel when dealing with children or vulnerable adults on the GSMA’s behalf; and
  • the design and implementation of GSMA’s programmes and activities.

Situations at the GSMA that may have safeguarding exposure include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • YoMo events;
  • Mobile for Development (M4D) Foundation Programmes;
  • Girls in ICT Day;
  • mSchools activities (under the GSMA’s Mobile World Capital initiative)
  • Outreach activities with schools and colleges;
  • Work experience students under 18;
  • Photography of children for publication; or
  • Christmas parties or other social events for children.

3. Principles

The key principles of the Children and Vulnerable Adults Safeguarding Policy apply as described below.

3.1 Prevention

The GSMA intends to design and undertake all its programmes and activities in a way that protects children and vulnerable adults from risk of abuse or exploitation that may arise from them coming into contact with the GSMA. This includes:

3.1.1. Screening check at recruitment:
A screening check, in accordance with the applicable local legislation, if any in the country of employment, applies to all job positions that involve, or are reasonably likely to involve work3 with children/vulnerable adults. The Recruitment Business Partner, in collaboration with the Hiring Manager, ensures that the appropriate screening checks4 are conducted, depending on eligibility, for any individuals starting or moving into a position, which involves working with children or vulnerable adults.

3.1.2. Identification and management of safeguarding risk
The GSMA aims to proactively identify and manage the risks to children or vulnerable adults that may be associated with its programmes and activities. Prior to commencement of any activity/programme that is reasonably likely to involve work4 with or impact5 on children or vulnerable adults, the GSMA requires a Safeguarding Risk Assessment (Refer to Appendix C) be conducted as follows:

  • The relevant programme director (or manager) or the activity lead (e.g. event director/manager) is required to complete a Safeguarding Risk Assessment and implement the required actions identified by the assessment.
  • The completed Safeguarding Risk Assessment is submitted to the relevant HR Business Partner who reviews and approves the assessment and the proposed actions.
  • The Safeguarding Risk Assessments are completed and the required actions are implemented prior to commencement of the activity/programme.

3.2 Code of Practice

The GSMA expects all members of staff and associated personnel (including contractors) working for and on behalf of the GSMA to follow the Safeguarding Code of Practice (Refer to Appendix B) when in direct contact with children or vulnerable adults. It provides clear standards for acceptable behaviour as well as the use of images in relation to children/vulnerable adults. Failure to follow the Safeguarding Code of Practice may lead to disciplinary proceedings for GSMA employees or termination of contracts for third parties.

3.3 Reporting suspicions and allegations

This applies to all GSMA staff and associated personnel (including contractors) made aware of, or involved in, an allegation or suspicion involving abuse and exploitation to children or vulnerable adults during the course of their work with the GSMA. Each person has a responsibility to act if they have any concerns about someone’s behaviour towards a child or vulnerable adult.

This policy requires that any suspicions and allegations involving abuse and exploitation to children and vulnerable adults are referred to the HR Director or their HR Business Partner immediately. Alternatively, individuals may use the GSMA Speak Up (whistleblowing) channels to anonymously report concerns through a report online, an email or a phone call.

The HR Director, as the GSMA Safeguarding Officer, is responsible for reviewing the information available to decide on the appropriate course of action.

The GSMA endeavours to:

  • Investigate suspicions/allegations thoroughly, as required, while treating the parties involved fairly and with sensitivity. The procedure for managing suspicions and allegations aims to strike a balance between the need to protect children or vulnerable adults from abuse and the need to protect staff from false or unfounded accusations.
  • Take suitable steps as a result of any investigations, which may include invoking the GSMA’s disciplinary procedures and/or contacting the police and/or referring information to relevant legal authorities.

If the GSMA receives a complaint about a member or a business partner, we expect the member or partner to respond quickly and appropriately and in accordance with their obligations under local law. If there is reason to believe that a member or partner has dealt with an allegation inappropriately, then they risk withdrawal of funding or ending the relationship.

3.4 Training

The GSMA requires all employees and individuals involved in working with children or vulnerable adults to familiarise themselves with the content of this policy and the associated Code of Practice.

Mandatory safeguarding training (Personal Conduct Training) is provided to all staff to support those working with children or vulnerable adults in complying with their responsibilities.

3.5 Shared responsibility for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults

All GSMA business partners who are engaged by the GSMA to perform any activity that is reasonably likely to involve work with or impact on children/vulnerable adults are expected to act in accordance with the principles of this policy. This includes:

  • undertaking their own safeguarding risk assessment or similar procedure and implementing actions resulting therefrom;
  • ensuring appropriate recruitment, screening, and employment practices;
  • training personnel in child protection awareness and ensuring that they understand their obligation to protect children or vulnerable adults when carrying out their work;
  • having clear internal reporting mechanisms or procedures for their personnel to report concerns;
  • ensuring that their representatives act in accordance with the Code of Practice set forth in Appendix B while performing services for the GSMA; and
  • immediately reporting any suspected or alleged instances of child or vulnerable adult abuse or exploitation to the GSMA.

The relevant staff engaging with the business partner must identify the safeguarding risk to GSMA Legal Counsel to ensure the inclusion of appropriate safeguarding requirements in the business partner’s contracts.

4. Roles and responsibilities

  • The Human Resources (HR) Director is the GSMA Safeguarding Officer. As such, they take overall ownership of the policy and promotion of the importance of safeguarding within the GSMA. They are also responsible for reviewing and updating the policy on a regular basis.
  • The HR and Recruitment Business Partners support the HR Director in their role by:
    • in collaboration with the hiring manager, identifying job positions that require safeguarding screening checks and ensuring these are completed per process; and
    • managing any safeguarding allegations or concerns and any related investigations.
  • The Head of HR & Recruitment Business Partnering and the Head of HR Operations are responsible for promoting and providing day-to-day advice on this Safeguarding Policy, both to the HR teams and to the wider business.
  • The HR Operations team processes screening checks and disclosures.
  • HR, Legal and Risk and Compliance teams are jointly responsible for reviewing safeguarding risk assessments for activities and programmes. The HR Director, Deputy General Counsel and Finance Director provide the final approval based on recommendations of their respective teams.
  • Hiring/Line Managers ensure that job positions that are reasonably likely to involve work with children or vulnerable adults are highlighted to the HR or Recruitment Business Partner for a safeguarding screening check at recruitment or when a current employee takes up such a role.
  • All GSMA staff (including contractors) are obliged to:
    • be familiar with this policy and complete the relevant mandated trainings;
    • when managing any relevant activity/programme, complete a Safeguarding Risk Assessment;
    • conduct themselves in accordance with the Safeguarding Code of Practice set out in Appendix B;
    • ensure business partners that pose any safeguarding risk are highlighted as such to GSMA Legal Counsel; and
    • report any suspicions or allegations regarding abuse or exploitation to children or vulnerable adults that they become aware of, to their HR Business Partner or the HR Director.

Appendix A – Abuse and Exploitation

Abuse and exploitation can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • Physical Abuse is deliberately physically hurting an individual including hitting, pinching, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating.
  • Emotional/ Psychological Abuse is the persistent emotional verbal or non-verbal maltreatment.
  • Sexual Abuse/Exploitation is any sexual activity with (i) a child, (ii) a vulnerable adult who has not provided consent, to the extent such vulnerable adult is legally competent to provide such consent, or (iii) a vulnerable adult who is not legally competent to provide consent, regardless of whether consent was provided.
  • Financial and Material Abuse is theft, fraud, exploitation, misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions and benefits of a vulnerable adult.
  • Discriminatory Abuse is based on race, gender, disability, faith, sexual orientation, or age.

Appendix B – Code of Practice

When working with children and/or vulnerable adults, GSMA staff and business partners are expected to take account of the guidance below in the way that they conduct themselves.

  • Treat all children and /or vulnerable adults with respect and act professionally.
  • Avoid unnecessary physical contact.
  • Avoid personal relationships with a child or vulnerable adult.
  • Do not make suggestive or inappropriate remarks to or about a child or vulnerable adult, even in fun, as this could be misinterpreted.
  • It is not appropriate for staff to have a physically or emotionally intimate relationship with a child under the age of 18 (or under the local age of consent where higher). This applies regardless if the local age of consent is lower than 18. Mistaken belief in the age of the child is not a defence.
  • Do not hit or otherwise physically assault a child or vulnerable adult, irrespective of cultural norms, including as punishment.
  • Avoid taking a child or vulnerable adult alone in a car on journeys, however short.
  • Do not take children or vulnerable adults to your home.
  • Report incidents of alleged abuse, poor practices or any accidents to the relevant HR Business Partner or the HR Director.
  • Do not put a child or vulnerable adult at risk through inaction, i.e. failing to stop abuse, failing to report a concern, etc.
  • Disclose any convictions or child related investigations that you have been party to.

In addition,
(i) for events/activities involving children or vulnerable adults:

  • Consider the wellbeing and safety of children/vulnerable adults in advance, through proper planning and development of safe methods of working/activities.
  • Set expectations of the standards of behaviour required from participants in an activity/event.
  • Ask participants in an activity/event to take reasonable steps to ensure their own safety and that of others, and to report any inappropriate behaviour they experience/witness or any concerns that they may have.
  • Avoid showing favouritism towards particular participants.
  • Wherever possible, work in an open environment with children/vulnerable adults where you can be seen by others.
  • In a situation where left alone with a child or vulnerable adult, make sure that others can clearly observe you and them.
  • Avoid taking a child or vulnerable adult to the toilet, unless another adult is present or is aware (this may include a parent, group leader or other responsible person).
  • First aid treatment should be given with more than one adult present unless a delay would be life-threatening.

(ii) for use of images and social media:

  • Remember that inappropriate behaviour can also occur over the telephone, email, social media or internet.
  • Where it is necessary to take photographs or video images of children or vulnerable adults:
    • Obtain written consent (from parents/guardians in the case of children), preferably in local language, before these images are taken. Please consult with your Legal Counsel regarding obtaining appropriate consent. Individuals must understand and acknowledge what they are giving consent for.
    • Ensure subjects are suitably dressed and in an appropriate pose in these images (e.g. when taking place in a sporting activity)
    • Do not use images of someone who is in distress
    • Do not include any personally identifiable information in images
  • Only use official GSMA social media when engaging with the wider community. Facebook instant chat, WhatsApp and other similar functions should not be used to interact with children or vulnerable adults.

Appendix C: Safeguarding Risk Assessment

The GSMA must ensure that safeguarding risk is considered, and is managed appropriately at design, implementation, and throughout the lifecycle of the activity, event or programme that is reasonably likely to involve work with or impact on children or vulnerable adults.

The purpose of the Safeguarding Risk Assessment is to enable the responsible person to identify, mitigate and remove any potential risks of abuse or exploitation to children or vulnerable adults. This can also be a prompt to consider alternative working practices, such as minimising occasions where an individual is alone with a child or vulnerable adult and considering whether the activity could be supervised or observed by others.

Failure to complete a risk assessment where required may result in the GSMA’s:

  • Non-compliance of its contractual obligations to its GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation donors
  • Failure to fulfil its ethical obligations and duty of care
  • Noncompliance with relevant child protection and health and safety legislation; and/or
  • Invalidation of the GSMA’s insurance coverage.

A detailed Safeguarding Risk Assessment is required if the activity, programme or the event is reasonably likely to involve:

  • Work with children/vulnerable adults: an activity where the contact would reasonably be expected as a normal part of the activity
  • Impact on children/vulnerable adults: Overall long-term effect (positive or negative) produced by an activity, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended

The relevant programme director (or manager) or the activity lead (e.g. event director/manager) is responsible for ensuring that the Safeguarding Risk Assessment is undertaken in advance of the relevant activity, programme or event. The assessments must be completed by a competent person who understands the programme, activity or event and is aware of the hazards involved. The Safeguarding Risk Assessments must be completed and the required actions must be implemented prior to commencement of the activity/programme. The Children and Vulnerable Adults Risk Assessment form is provided to assist with this process. The risk assessment should:

  • Identify the nature, length and frequency of the contact with children or vulnerable adults and if it would be supervised or unsupervised;
  • Consider if there will be children or adults who are particularly at risk;
  • Consider whether any children or vulnerable adults have any disabilities (physical or mental), or any behavioural difficulties;
  • Identify any potential areas for abuse and exploitation;
  • Evaluate the risks;
  • Determine actions to prevent abuse and exploitation occurring, which might include consideration of alternative working practices, and prompt individuals to ensure that they are implemented; and
  • Identify those situations that would require a screening check.

Where there are multiple activities or events of a similar nature, it is not necessary to complete an individual risk assessment for each of them. Instead, an overarching assessment for a particular type of post, activity or event should be completed, ensuring that it manages the relevant risks appropriately.

Where an activity is ongoing but unchanged, relevant leads should review the risk assessment on a regular basis to ensure the measures put in place are still relevant and appropriate.

Completed assessments are reviewed for appropriateness of proposed actions and timelines jointly by HR, Legal and the Risk and Compliance teams who may suggest additional actions if required. The HR Business Partners also retain these assessments while any activity/event is ongoing and for five years after it has ceased (or the risk assessment has been superseded).

It is important to complete a risk assessment prior to any work experience placement being provided. All work experience placements must have prior approval from the HR department to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place and that there is compliance with relevant legislation. Further details are available from HR Business Partners.

In the event of any uncertainty as to whether a Safeguarding Risk Assessment should be completed, please contact your HR Business Partner.