Safeguarding Code of Practice

The Safeguarding Code of Practice was approved by Council on 22 June 2015 to take effect from 1 October 2015.  It was first published in supplement (1) to Gazette 5106, 23 September 2015. (It supersedes the 2007 Code of Practice on the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.)

1. Aim

1.1  The University is committed to providing a safe environment for all adults at risk and children [see definitions below]. The University may encounter adults at risk and children through its teaching, research, outreach, access or other activities. The University cannot act ‘in loco parentis’ and ultimate responsibility for children rests with those who have parental responsibility. This Code of Practice seeks to support activities involving adults at risk and children, and to offer assurances to staff, students, volunteers and visitors that safeguarding will be dealt with effectively and in a timely manner. 

1.2  The University has two Safeguarding Officers who will work with other agencies where appropriate to achieve its aims. In clinical settings appropriate NHS safeguarding procedures will apply.

1.3  This Code of Practice should be read in conjunction with the University’s policies referred to within this Code of Practice, or listed below. 

2. Planning an activity

2.1  Any member of the University who has responsibility for organising an activity involving adults at risk or children must nominate an individual to act as the designated safeguarding lead for the activity.

2.2  Activities should:

  • be designed so that appropriate training and supervision is available to those working with adults at risk or children; 
  • minimise occasions on which members of the University will need to work alone in an unsupervised way with adults at risk or children; and
  • be appropriately risk assessed.

2.3  Every activity which involves adults at risk or children should be risk assessed and the assessment should consider how the risks identified can be minimised and should also outline the local processes for reporting concerns, as well as taking account of Health and Safety considerations. This may form a part of an application for ethics approval. Training requirements and records of training undertaken should be recorded in the risk assessment.

2.4  Completed risk assessments should then be made available to all staff or volunteers involved in the activity.

2.5  Guidance on health and safety for young people can be found on the Safety Office website and an example risk assessment can be found here.

2.6  Any pre-employment or pre-activity checks should be carried out in accordance with the University’s guidance.

2.7 Children and adults at risk who are participating in a University activity must, as part of their induction to the activity, be given clear information about how, and to whom, they can report concerns about any member of the University with whom they will be interacting. More than one point of contact should always be given and the details of the University’s Safeguarding Officers included (in addition to the contact details of the nominated safeguarding lead for the activity) so that complaints can be made directly to these officers, where appropriate.

3. Training

3.1  Any member of the University who will be planning activities with children should have completed the on-line introduction to safeguarding training1 provided by Oxford Safeguarding Children Board, together with any additional training that may have been identified by the risk assessment process.

3.2  Anyone holding the role of University Safeguarding Officer and their deputies will undergo detailed training in safeguarding issues on a regular basis.

3.3  Activity organisers (for example, involving residential courses for young people) may wish to arrange additional training.

3.4  Training can be recorded and monitored via the CoreHR system.

1As at October 2015 the appropriate online courses are:

 "An Introduction to Safeguarding Children" if you will be working with children, a refresher course is also available

 "Safeguarding Everyone: Protecting children, young people and adults at risk" if you will be working with 'at risk' adults

4. Dealing with suspicions or allegations of abuse

4.1  Those working with children and adults at risk may:

  • have alleged abuse disclosed to them;
  • suspect abuse is being carried out; or
  • be accused of abusing those in their charge. 

4.2  Whilst these issues may require very different courses of action (see the further guidance), it is essential that the safety and welfare of the child or adult at risk is prioritised. The risk assessment for any activity involving adults at risk or children should identify at least one individual who will act as the key contact point to deal with such matters. The nominated safeguarding contact for the activity is responsible for ensuring that concerns and allegations are escalated to the appropriate University Safeguarding Officer without delay.

  • Allegations against a member of staff, non-student volunteers or academic visitors, or suspicions of abuse involving a staff member who is considered to be an adult at risk or is under 18 years of age should be reported to the University’s Director of HR.
  • Allegations against a student, or suspicions of abuse involving students who are considered to be an adult at risk or are under 18 years of age should be reported to the Director of Student Welfare and Support Services.

 4.3  Where both groups may be involved the Safeguarding Officers will jointly agree the most appropriate response. Where allegations relate to one of the Safeguarding Officers, the other Safeguarding Officer should be contacted.

4.4  The University Safeguarding Officers are responsible for nominating deputies to ensure that a nominated individual is available during normal working hours, to ensure that all allegations can be dealt with without delay.

4.5  Any allegations or suspicions of abuse must be reported without delay to a relevant person, as listed below, who must then take prompt action.

In the event that an allegation is made against University staff, students, volunteers or academic visitors this must be referred to the relevant Safeguarding Officer who will assess and, where appropriate in cases involving children, refer the matter to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub.  This referral must be made within one working day of the allegations being made. The Local Area Designated Officer will advise on the appropriate action to be taken. In cases involving adults at risk of harm, referral will be made to the relevant statutory agency. 

In the event there is a risk of immediate serious harm to a child or an adult at risk the emergency services should be contacted via 999 or the police via the 101 service. Anybody can make a referral in these circumstances. The relevant Safeguarding Officer should then be notified of the case.

4.6  University Safeguarding Officers will share information, as appropriate with relevant colleagues to ensure that the relevant authorities both within and outside of the University are involved and that any necessary processes can be followed (for example, depending on the nature of the allegations, it may be necessary to make a disclosure to the Disclosure and Barring Service.)

4.7  Appropriate records will be retained in accordance with the University’s Data Protection Policy. Where the matter may relate to both staff and students, the Safeguarding Officers will agree on where the file will be kept.

5. Useful links

External agencies

Oxfordshire Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub 

For children: Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board 

For at risk adults: Oxfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board

University of Oxford policy statements and codes of practice

A list of the University’s key policies can be found at:

The following are of particular relevance:

University Harassment Policy and Procedure

University Equality policy

University Data Protection Policy

University Public Interest Disclosure (‘whistleblowing’) policy

Safety Office: Health and Safety of young people and children

Policy on the ethical conduct of research involving human participants and personal data

Staff-student relationships

IT guidelines on handling illegal material  

Personnel guidance relating to recruitment and pre-employment screening can be found on the  Personnel Services website

Definitions used in this Code of Practice

Adult at risk Defined by the Department of Health as “those who are or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation". The term ‘adult at risk’ has been used in place of the term ‘vulnerable adult’. This is because the term ‘vulnerable adult’ may wrongly imply that some of the fault for the abuse lies with the adult abused. The term ‘adult at risk’ is used as an exact replacement for ‘vulnerable adult’, as used throughout existing government guidance to local authorities.
Child  A 'child' is any person under the age of 18; 'children' are to be construed accordingly. Particular care shall be afforded to a child under the age of 16