Keeping children and programme participants safe

Violence against any child or programme participant is against, not only the values and principles we uphold as described in this Global Policy, but also in direct opposition to the aims of our work. It is therefore imperative to our mandate to ensure that children and programme participants do not experience harm, abuse, exploitation, or any other form of violence because of their engagement with us or our programmes/projects, events, and processes. Where children who are not programme participants experience violence in the communities, they will be referred to the appropriate authorities, support services and/or absorbed into our protection and other programming interventions as appropriate/needed/can be done.

Safeguarding includes the responsibilities; preventative, responsive and referral measures that we undertake to protect children and programme participants. For us, safeguarding includes protection from sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse (PSHEA). Plan International also has a Policy on PSHEA which provides our clear and explicit stance on PSHEA of children and programme participants and our commitment to preventing SHEA amongst staff. However, when reading our Global Safeguarding Policy, it should be understood that when we use the term ‘safeguarding’ this includes the protection of children and programme participants from all forms of sexual violence.

Our policy’s protection scope: The policy protects all children, those aged under 18, regardless of their association with Plan International or our programmes; and any programme participant irrespective of their age (i.e. child, young person or adult). We also recognise that children and programme participants may be vulnerable and at greater risk of violence due to their intersecting identities, for example, due to their age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, disability, or illness.

Our Safeguarding Policy is informed by a gender responsive intersectional lens: Intersectionality is a way of thinking about power, privilege, and gender that recognises a person’s combination of social identities such as age, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and more. Intersectionality means we think about multiple forms of inequality (based on our social identities) at the same time and this policy recognises how they come together to influence a person’s risk of harm.

Our safeguarding implementation framework, which is explained below, helps us ensure we do all we can to make sure children and programme participants stay safe and protected when they engage with us and with those who represent us.

Our safeguarding policy implementation framework

We hold ourselves accountable to children and programme participants

Plan International has a clear and unequivocal safeguarding policy, Say Yes! to Keeping Children and Programme Participants Safe and Protected, that aims to make sure that no child or programme participant who is associated with Plan International comes to any harm.  The policy governs the behaviours of Plan International staff, associates and visitors, ensuring we minimise risks to children and programme participant and report any concerns about a child or programme participant’s welfare appropriately.

We will take all efforts to ensure that our programmes are safe for people in all their diversity

We run programmes around the world designed to make a lasting difference in children’s lives by promoting their rights and addressing the problem of violence against children. These programme activities are linked to, but distinct from our efforts to ensure that we as an organisation ‘do no harm’ to children and programme participants. 

Read more about our global work to protect children from violence.

Creating safe environments for children and programme participants

We have developed several measures and mechanisms designed to prevent risk of harm to children and programme participants:

Policy and guidance

We have a strong policy; related guidance and tools in place which:

  • Embrace the organisations commitment to safeguarding (and PSHEA) and respecting children and programme participants irrespective of age, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, race, religious or political beliefs, disability, physical or mental health, socio-economic background, or any other aspect of their background or identity.
  • Ensure we recognise and respond to the specific safeguarding (and PSHEA) risks and needs of the differing gender and other identities and challenge biases and discrimination and other forms of violence, which may arise because of these.
  • Ensure staff and associates work and interact safely – adopting appropriate codes of conduct – with children and programme participants.

Awareness and prevention 

We work on creating a culture of awareness

  • all staff are aware of and understand the problem of abuse, inequity, exclusion and discrimination, the impact of misuse of power and privilege on a safe culture  and their roles and responsibilities to ensure a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for the children and programme participants we engage with 
  • those associated with the organisation understand their responsibilities to prevent harm and protect children and programme participants;
  • children, programme participants and communities we work with are aware of the policy, so that they know what behaviours to expect and how to report concerns

Staff, associates and partner development 

We undertake skills enhancing programmes, which ensure the socialisation of the policy, taking it from paper to practice. We ensure that staff and managers are appropriately skilled, confident and supported in meeting their safeguarding (and PSHEA) responsibilities applied with a gender and intersectional lens.

We also ensure skills enhancement is cascaded down to partners and associates on their request and as they feel is needed.  

Reporting and responding 

We ensure that staff and associates are clear on what steps to take where concerns arise and that the organisation can respond effectively to these concerns.

Safe engagement and sanctions

We adopt measures and take actions to prevent those who abuse or may be a risk to vulnerable people from becoming involved with the organisation. We take stringent measures against any staff, associate or visitor who abuses a child or programme participant.

We are members of the Inter-Agency Misconduct Disclosure Scheme , which exists to stop abusers moving within and between humanitarian and development agencies. As such, we systematically check with previous employers for any findings of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and/or sexual harassment during employment or incidents under investigation when a potential new hire left their previous employment. As part of this scheme, we also respond systematically to such checks from others.

Managing risks to keep children and programme participants safe and protected

We include safeguarding (and PSHEA) in risk management so ensuring that risks are identified and appropriate controls put in place.

Clear management responsibilities and designated staff

We ensure that managers and designated safeguarding and PSHEA focal point staff are aware of their responsibilities for creating safe, respectful and inclusive environments, implementing the policy and ensuring safeguarding (and PSHEA) measures in place are operating effectively are clearly defined.

The boards of Plan International are ultimately accountable for the safeguarding policy. The prime responsibility for the implementation of the policy lies with the director of each office. Managers have very clear responsibilities for making sure that safeguarding and PSHEA measures are in place and operating effectively. Each country also has a lead safeguarding and PSHEA focal point who coordinates the implementation of the policy.

Mainstreaming children’s and programme participants’ safety through standards

We have standards in place to embed and implement safeguarding. This is one of the most important tools for creating a safe organisation. These standards: 

  • Clearly state what is expected in relation to implementing the policy.
  • Provide a benchmark and a basis for accountability.
  • Provide targets. 
  • Help minimise risks to children, programme participants, staff and the organisation. 

Managers are accountable for implementing the standards as they apply to their area of responsibility.

Monitoring and evaluation

We monitor the extent to which safeguarding measures are in place, evaluating their effectiveness and undertaking safeguarding reviews/audits. In addition, we undertake staff surveys to monitor attitudes towards and awareness of safeguarding. We also undertake surveys with children and programme participants so that we understand from their perspective how safe they feel with us and what needs improving.

Visible and committed leadership

The role of leaders in changing an organisation’s culture should not be underestimated. 

Our leadership is committed to role modelling our organisational values and behaviours and upholding the principles of our safeguarding (and PSHEA) commitment, ensuring the framework is effective.

However, everyone within the organisation is expected to take individual responsibility for creating positive changes for children and programme participants. 

Contact Plan International’s Director of Global Safeguarding and PSHEA

If you have questions or concerns about safeguarding of and preventing the sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse of children and programme participants at Plan International, contact our Director of Safeguarding:
Phone: +44 (0) 1483 733 346
Address: Plan International, International Headquarters, c/o Director of Safeguarding Children and Young People, Dukes Court, Block A, Duke Street, Woking, Surrey, GU21 5BH, United Kingdom


Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2023

Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2022

Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2021

Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2020

Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2019

Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2018

Annual Report on Safeguarding – 2017