People stand on stage at WOW London

Safeguarding Policy

Last Updated: January 2024


This policy sets the standards for The WOW Foundation’s commitment to the protection of vulnerable adults and children in order to promote their wellbeing and safety.

The purpose of this policy is:

  • To protect children, young people and vulnerable adults who are part of The WOW Foundation’s activities (both online and offline) from harm.
  • To provide core staff, freelancers and partners organisations, as well as children, young people, vulnerable adults and their families, with the overarching principles that guide our approach to safeguarding.

The WOW Foundation is committed to building a safeguarding culture where treating each other with respect, prioritising safety and practicing a duty of care is paramount to our work.

In line with our Code of Conduct, at WOW we will always prioritise marginalised and vulnerable people’s safety. We pride ourselves on being a platform for open and often difficult conversations therefore it is crucial that we have a robust safeguarding policy to protect our participants and promote their wellbeing and safety.

This policy applies to anyone working on behalf of The WOW Foundation.


The people that we are safeguarding

We have written this policy to make sure that we have a vigorous safeguarding protocol for:

  • our engagement work online and offline with young people which can involve working with young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • our participation programme which can involve working with young people and vulnerable adults
  • under 18’s and adults who are part of WOW’s public facing programme (as speakers or performers)
  • the facilitators and participants of Under 10’s Feminist Corner sessions
  • the mentors and mentees who take part in our Speed Mentoring sessions
  • survivors of abuse who might speak on WOW platforms as part of our Festivals and events
  • audience members of our public facing programme (both online and offline)
  • our global work with children and vulnerable adults outside of the UK (e.g. Convening of Young Leaders)
  • our work with schools and youth organisations for WOW Girls Festival activities
  • our work with schools for WOW Festivals e.g. we often offer a Schools Ticket for our festival programme curated specifically for schools

Legal Framework

This policy has been drawn up on the basis of legislation, policy and guidance that seeks to protect children and vulnerable adults in the UK including Working Together To Safeguard Children 2018 and the Care Act 2014: Promoting Individual Well-Being.

This policy should be read alongside our organisational policies, procedures, guidance and other related documents including:

  • Our Code of Conduct
  • Accountability Procedure
  • Equality and Diversity policy
  • Anti-bullying statement


  • In England, a child is a person under the age of 18.
  • A young person is not a legal term but often refers to someone under the age of 25.
  • An adult at risk of harm is someone over the age of 18 who has needs for care and support and is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, and as a result of those needs is unable to protect themselves against the abuse or risk of it.
  • Adults who may be at risk may include people who have: dementia, learning disability, substance dependencies, mental health needs, physical ill health, long term illness or physical disability.

Categories of abuse in child safeguarding

Child abuse is defined as any form of maltreatment of a child. This can be abuse or neglect of a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting, by those known to them or by others. Abuse can take place online, or technology may be used to facilitate offline abuse. Children may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.

There are four main areas identified by Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. We are aware that there are further areas to consider within these categories.

  • Physical Abuse (e.g. child criminal exploitation, county lines, domestic violence, bullying)
  • Emotional Abuse (e.g. bullying)
  • Child Sexual Abuse (e.g. child sexual exploitation, FGM, indecent photographs*, sexual activity)
  • Neglect (e.g. this may include neglect or, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs)

*If an image is sent to the WOW team (regardless of whether we do or don’t download it), it puts WOW employees themselves at risk of prosecution if they don’t report it immediately to the DSO. It is imperative that staff report it as a safeguarding incident first, before reporting it as a crime.

Adult abuse is the violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons. At The WOW Foundation we take safeguarding adults to mean upholding the rights of adults to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. To achieve this, we may take or prompt action to minimise risks, prevent and/or stop abuse and/or neglect.

The Care Act 2014 identifies additional categories of abuse for adults:

  • Domestic violence or abuse
  • Financial or material abuse
  • Modern slavery
  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Organisational or institutional abuse
  • Self-neglect


The people who work with our participants

The WOW Foundation’s core team, key partners and freelancers who are working closely with children or vulnerable adults are required to have a thorough understanding of this policy, and adhere to it and its associated procedures.

The WOW Foundation is a small organisation with core staff covering a multitude of different roles. Required safeguarding skills and knowledge will vary for each employee, however all core staff and Board members will be offered basic safeguarding training. Staff who are assigned to work on our engagement or participation programme must have more advanced training depending on the type of project. If further safeguarding training is needed, this is to be identified, addressed and signed off between WOW’s Safeguarding Lead and employee. Examples of further safeguarding training include safer recruitment training, designated
safeguarding lead courses, managing allegations of abuse training, and refresher DSL courses (if needed). All WOW staff who work on Shameless Festival (a festival of activism against sexual violence) have undertaken trauma informed safeguarding, led by Survivors Trust.

As part of our Equality and Diversity policy we are currently working on a safer recruitment policy. Core staff, freelancers and any partner organisations working directly with young people must have valid DBS checks that are in date and no longer than 2 years old, or registered on the update service.

For the recruitment of new staff roles who are working with children and vulnerable adults having an Enhanced DBS check is an essential criteria. We are currently looking at DBS checks for all staff and board members.

Copies of DBS certificates and safeguarding certificates for core staff and freelancers are stored in WOW’s HR google drive folder that is only accessible to HR and the executive team. Records of who has DBS / safeguarding certificates (core staff / freelancers / partner organisations) certificates are to be logged in a register of evidence. Members of WOW’s executive and Senior Management Teams will regularly report safeguarding
training engagement at WOW Board Meetings as part of the Operations agenda item.

Safeguarding Policy Statement

We believe that children and young people should never experience abuse of any kind. The WOW Foundation is committed to protecting all the children, young people and vulnerable adults that we work with and who attend any WOW related activity. We believe that everyone working for The WOW Foundation, from freelancers to core staff to our Trustees have a responsibility to promote the welfare of all children, young people and vulnerable adults to keep them safe and to practice in a way that prioritises their protection, always acting in their best interests.

We recognise that:

  • The welfare of children is paramount in all the work we do and in all the decisions we take all children, regardless of age, disability, gender, sexuality, race, religion or belief have an equal right to protection from all types of harm or abuse.
  • Some children are additionally vulnerable because of the impact of previous experiences, their level of dependency, communication needs or other issues
  • Working in partnership with children, young people, their parents, carers and other agencies is essential in promoting young people’s welfare.
  • Even though the majority of our work with children and vulnerable adults is done via a partner organisation, the range of issues addressed in WOW’s activities means that we need to be constantly considering who may need safeguarding.


The actions that we take to keep people safe

The WOW Foundation’s range and scope of work is constantly developing. We will make sure to assess and manage safeguarding risks before we commit ourselves to any new work. We understand that implementing our safeguarding procedures and putting practice into place is far more important than the words in this policy. We will make sure to monitor and review safeguarding processes annually and at the start and end of each new project - this is to make sure that they are being implemented effectively and that key learnings are built into the foundations of our safeguarding protocol.

Safeguarding is a key component of individual projects risk registers and our organisational risk register.

  • Higher risk projects include those working directly with children and vulnerable adults.
  • Medium risk projects are those where direct contact with children and vulnerable adults is via a partner organisation.
  • Low risk projects are those that are not centered around children or have very little risk of child participation.

Risk assessments are part of project files, stored in WOW’s Google Drive folder, accessible to core staff and relevant project staff. Child performing licenses are stored on WOW’s Google Drive folder and only accessible to key members of staff we are aware that they may need to be shared with partner venues (if requested).

Our protocol for applying for child licenses is at least 2 months before the event date. We may apply for a BOPA form depending on the scale of event and criteria of local authorities.

All staff working on behalf of The WOW Foundation must always maintain a professional relationship with participants, audience and speakers. This includes being objective, having time constrained interactions, having a clear purpose and function for interactions and being professionally held accountable.

We will seek to keep children, young people and vulnerable adults safe by:

  • valuing, listening to and respecting them
  • the appointment of a Designated Safeguarding Lead for Children and Young People and a Deputy Safeguarding Lead.
  • adopting child protection and safeguarding best practice through our policies, procedures and Code of Conduct
  • developing and implementing an effective online safety strategy (see below)
  • providing effective management for staff through supervision, support, training and quality assurance measures so that all staff know about and follow our policies, procedures and behaviour codes confidently and competently
  • recruiting staff, including freelance staff safely, ensuring all necessary checks are made and DBS and any advanced safeguarding training certificates are stored on file
  • our contracting procedures will ensure that partner organisations and artists who are are commissioning to deliver work adhere to our safeguarding policy and the high priority given by The WOW Foundation to the protect of children and vulnerable adults
  • recording, storing and using information professionally and securely, in line with data protection legislation and guidance
  • sharing information about safeguarding and good practice with schools, partners and organisations that we are working with so the children and their families are kept informed re WOW’s safeguarding measures
  • making sure that children, young people and their families know where to go for help if they have a concern
  • using our safeguarding and child protection procedures to share concerns and relevant information with agencies who need to know, and involving children, young people, parents, families and carers appropriately
  • having a procedure to manage any allegations against staff, freelancers or partners (see our Accountability Procedure)
  • creating and maintaining an anti-bullying environment
  • ensuring that we provide a safe physical environment for our children, young people, staff and volunteers, by applying health and safety measures in accordance with the law and regulatory guidance

Online precautions

In order to manage behaviour online, all participants and speakers for our online events must adhere to our Code of Conduct which supports people in understanding how to behave online during WOW’s activity.

In our work with children and young people, we keep ourselves updated on the safeguarding risks of different sorts of apps (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Instagram etc…) that they may be using via www.net-aware.org.uk

Our engagement, participation and convening of young leaders programme online currently uses Zoom Meetings. Our online rules for all activities include:

  • Always using a random meeting ID
  • Not sharing meeting info or passwords in public spaces
  • Disable join before host function
  • Use the waiting room feature and message people in the waiting room if we don’t know who they are
  • Disable recording for participants
  • Disable screen share
  • Never having less than 3 people in a breakout room
  • Code of conduct and online etiquette explained at the top of each session / workshop
  • Reducing backchannels* - direct chat function turned off so that participants cannot message each other individually.
  • Before we begin online events we will check our set up before we begin. It is important that participants and facilitators are in neutral spaces (e.g. no bedrooms)
  • We will encourage participants under 18 to use their parent or carer’s Zoom account if possible. If a child is under 13 then this is essential. We have a practice of children being ‘dropped off’ and then ‘collected’ by their parent or carer.
  • For older participants, we will suggest that they let someone know that they are taking part in the activity.
  • All participants must have their camera on during a Zoom session. If there is a connectivity issue participants must turn their camera on to speak and to sign in and sign off so we know that the person on the call is the participant.
  • All WOW staff and speakers must have their camera on during a Zoom session.
  • We will endeavour to share as much information in advance of WOW activities as possible e.g. timings, format, access provision etc.
  • In group sessions we will always make sure that participants know who else is in the room e.g. production team, captioners etc.

*backchannels is a term that refers to other ways participants may interact outside of the sessions. This might include the use of other technologies and can create risks around bullying.

Under 18's who are speaking or performing (online and offline)

If we are working with under 18’s for our public facing programme then we will apply to their local authority in which they live for a child performing license. We will do this no later than a month before the performance date. Their local authority must be informed of all performances including individual licenses, exemption enquiries and BOPA requests.

For both online and offline events, under 18’s must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone (e.g. a teacher). If it is an online event, the parent or chaperone will have their camera turned off and muted during the actual performance.

All events will have a designated safeguarding event lead. If an event is determined as having a low risk to children or vulnerable adults, then the Designated Safeguarding Lead will be on call.

For in person events, we will make sure that under 18’s have a designated breakout space and designated under 18 toilets. Where possible there should always be at least two members of staff with a group of young people.

Audience members of our public facing programme (online and offline)

For our in person WOW Festivals we work with the Samaritans who are on hand in case any discussions or activities are triggering to audience members. The Samaritans have a stall in our WOW Marketplace and are also positioned outside rooms with talks that have sensitive content.

For our online work, we always have a disclaimer regarding sensitive content. In case audience members are triggered from discussions raised during WOW’s activities, we signpost them to mental health organisations such as Mind, Calm, Anxiety UK and the Samaritans. We put these contact details on our website, in follow up emails and in the chat function during our events.

For our public facing programme we do not put age restrictions on events, instead we provide the following disclaimer:

Please note, some themes and conversations in the festival’s events may include sensitive content. We want everyone coming to WOW to be as comfortable as possible - attendees will be able to leave events at any time and there will be support on hand for anyone who needs it. If you are attending with young people under the age of 18, please use your discretion when choosing events to attend.

Organisations to sign post children to include Young Minds, MIND, NSPCC and Childline.

Organisations to sign post audience members and participants to include Survivors Trust and The Samaritans.

WOW projects in other venues

For our work with young people that take part in a physical, partner venue (e.g. Aviva Studios) we would adhere to our safeguarding protocol and make sure Venue’s safeguarding protocol is embedded and implemented into our safeguarding practices whilst on location. Venue’s safeguarding practices will be added to each project’s risk assessments. We request the venue's safeguarding policies well in advance of the project happening.

Lost & Found Children

For the vast majority of our projects, events and festivals Young people will be under the care of their youth workers / adults and carers alongside the WOW team at all times and our activity will be housed inside a partner venue. In these cases, we will ensure we are familiar with the school/venue lost/found child procedure in advance of the partnership and ensure we follow this procedure should the need arise.

There may be occasions for some projects where we require our own Lost Child procedure, ensuring all staff on duty are aware. On these occasions, in the event of a lost child we will follow WOW's Lost Child procedure which includes:

  • all other children continue to be supervised appropriately whilst a search is carried out
  • organised remaining available responsible adults to conduct a search of the surrounding areas, and request all staff return within a short time frame
  • if the child is not found after the search, contact the child's parents / guardian and advise them of the concern, reassure them that everything is being done to find them
  • make a note of the circumstances in which the child has gone missing and where they were last seen
  • report the concern to the police if the search is unsuccessful and no later than 20 mins after the initial missing person report if the search is still ongoing
  • follow police guidelines
  • report to WOW's DSL

In the event of a found child we will follow WOW's procedure which includes:

  • any found children will be attended by 2 DBS checked members of staff
  • a search for them to be reunited with their group/parent/carer/school will be undertaken
  • WOW’s DSL will be informed and will report/escalate in the event that the young person is considered vulnerable or makes a disclosure
  • when a child is successfully reunited with a responsible adult from WOW and or parent / guardian, everyone on the search will be informed
  • no child will be handed over to an adult without ID
  • if the child is expressing any reason not to be reunited with the adult, the situation must be escalated

Convening of Young Leaders / Safeguarding in an international context

For our Convening of Young Leaders sessions we work with Purposeful who are a feminist movement-building hub for adolescent girls. Purposeful opened up their vast global network of grassroots organisations for us to approach to identify young girls and non binary leaders to take part in our convening sessions. They have a robust international safeguarding strategy in place which takes into consideration the complexities of legislation (or lack of legislation) in other countries.

We have adopted Purposeful’s ethos of ‘empowering girls rather than creating rules,’ for the convening sessions. Apart from the WOW core team and workshop facilitators we restrict the presence of adults in the sessions as we want the young leaders to share stories with each other in an open and honest way. We are aware that sometimes the presence of adults can hinder open conversation.

For breakout rooms, we appoint older girls recommended by Purposeful (who have had training and are over 16) to be facilitators to look out for the young girls and to monitor conversations. If there is a safeguarding concern, the breakout room facilitators (who are DBS checked) know to contact WOW’s Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Both The WOW Foundation and Purposeful share best practice and each other’s updated safeguarding policy with each other in the preparation of a collaborative project and agree on a set of safeguarding practices that adhere with each other’s safeguarding protocol. Any updates will be added to the project’s risk assessment.

We are aware of the difference between a forum for discussion that is part of WOW’s activity and the very open confidential conversations a young person might have within a social group. The distinction of WOW’s activity is that there is the presence of a trusted adult employed by WOW in every discussion room.

Spotting abuse online

Our main indicators to spotting abuse online include emotional behaviour including unusual behaviour, persistent behaviour or acute / urgent physical behaviour.

Safeguarding on social media

WOW operates accounts across various social media platforms and has a responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of all its followers when interacting with WOW online . All of WOW’s channels are public and can therefore be followed by people of any age.

We expect all users to follow WOW’s Code of Conduct. WOW is committed to regularly monitor comments across all its channels. The following is not acceptable:

  • Offensive comments relating to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neuro (a) typicality, physical appearance, body size, age, race, ethnicity, culture, political opinion, age, skill level, occupation, background or religion. Unwelcome comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those relating to food, health, parenting, drugs and employment
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Hate speech, inflammatory or derogatory language
  • Discrimination of any kind, including micro-aggressions or subtle displays of prejudice
  • Violence, incitement or threats of violence or intimidation
  • Personal attacks
  • Encouraging behaviour that violates the code of conduct
  • Unwelcome sexual attention or simulated physical contact e.g. textual descriptions like “hug”
  • Sexually explicit, violent or triggering material that is not contextualised and preceded by a warning
  • Deliberate misgendering or use of ‘deadnames’ or rejected names
  • Deliberate “outing” of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent except as necessary to protect vulnerable people from intentional abuse
  • Any comments that break our Code of Conduct are removed, deleted or hidden ASAP. If a young person or vulnerable adult repeatedly breaks the code of conduct, WOW would need to consider blocking the user in order to safeguard WOW's other followers. We would seek independent advice before blocking any young person or vulnerable individual.
  • Where applicable, WOW’s social pages employ technical settings to filter comments for defamatory or offensive language.
  • WOW staff are not to enter into any public conversations with offenders. In the case of complaints, the Designated Safeguarding Officer will liaise with the Head of Communications and Marketing to respond via hello@thewowfoundation.com
  • WOW’s social advertising never targets people under the age of 16
  • Personal details of children or vulnerable adults are never shared on WOW’s channels without full consent from the appropriate representative. This can include name, date of birth, address, phone number, email address and social media profile name.
  • Images or filmed capture of young people or vulnerable adults is never used on WOW’s channels without a signed permission form from the appropriate representative.

Communicating with children and vulnerable adults online:

  • WOW staff should not accept personal ‘friend’ or ‘like’ requests from any young person or vulnerable adult connected with WOW
  • All communications with young people are through WOW’s accounts, and staff should ensure all communications are relevant to the work of the project and/or organisation
  • WOW only follows and/or promotes young people’s social media channels when they adhere to the legal age requirement to have a social media account. Age Guidance can be found here https://www.internetmatters.org/resources/what-age-can-my-child-start-social-networking
  • WOW staff are aware of their digital footprint and that personal accounts may be searched by and visible to young people, parents and carers. Personal discretion should be used as to whether your accounts need to be private, and personal phone numbers and email addresses should not be published

Reporting and escalation process

We have a Designated Safeguarding Lead, Colette Bailey (Executive Director). Our Deputy Safeguarding Lead is Cathryn Fenton.

Their key duties include:

  • Making sure all staff are aware how to raise safeguarding concerns
  • Ensuring all staff understands the symptoms of abuse and neglect
  • Making referrals to local authority children’s social care if there is a concern that the child is suffering significant harm or is likely to do so
  • Dealing with any safeguarding concerns (not only serious concerns)
  • Maintaining accurate and secure records

Please note: for adults at risk we are aware that we need their consent to share a safeguarding concern.

The Four R's

In the event that a WOW staff member have something disclosed to them, they will follow the four R’s:

1. Recognise

Recognise that you have a concern, or someone has made a disclosure to you

2. Respond appropriately

Reassure the individual. Do not ask probing or leading questions to get the child / vulnerable adult to reveal more. Listen to what they have to say. Explain that the information they have shared will need to be passed on to others, but stress only to those who need to know. Under no circumstances promise to keep it a secret.

3. Refer

Pass concern on by contacting WOW’s Designated Safeguarding Lead

4. Record

The designated safeguarding lead will ask you what have you seen, heard or been told? And will then ensure that the incident is recorded as soon as possible.

We have created a safeguarding crib sheet for our events (see appendix 1) and a safeguarding report form (see appendix 2). It is important to acknowledge that WOW deals with a huge range of difficult topics in both our offline and online programmes. All of our core staff are briefed to understand the difference between a disclosure and a participant or speaker describing lived experience or storytelling of their activism. A disclosure can be historical and / or abuse that is currently happening to a child or vulnerable adult in their present environment.


It is essential that confidentiality is maintained at all stages of the process when dealing with safeguarding concerns. Information relating to the concern, should be shared only with the staff involved in the incident and the Designated Safeguarding Lead. Information should be kept secure at all times and in line with the reporting procedure. It may be necessary in some instances to pass this information on to the relevant Local Authority and police.

Allegations against staff members

If any member of staff has concerns about the behaviour or conduct of another individual working for the organisation including:

• Behaving in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed a child or vulnerable adult;

•Possibly committed a criminal offence against, or related to, a child or;

• Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates she/he is unsuitable to work with children.

The nature of the allegation or concern should be immediately reported to the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

The member of staff who has a concern or to whom an allegation or concern is reported should not question the child or investigate the matter further.


We will never share personal information with children or vulnerable adults engaging in our activities, this includes Facebook and Instagram profiles.

All WOW staff must not blur their personal persona with their professional persona. They must be careful as to which photos they have on professional online accounts.


The data we keep and how we use it

Transparency is paramount. If for any reason we need to record a session or event, we will get recording permission from children, parents and partner organisations. We will let them know exactly where the recording will be used, where it will be stored, how it will be used and how long it will be online for.

We ask speakers and participants for photo permissions. When collecting personal data we will keep it safe, in line with our GDPR policy.

If a participant wants other participants or speakers contact details then we will always ask the participant or speaker for permission to pass on their details.

Our safeguarding policy is reviewed by our Board annually and is discussed and agreed by the whole Board each time in a meeting that is minuted, to make sure we are following any changes in the Department for Education and other bodies’ guidance.

This policy was last updated in January 2024 and was shared with The WOW Foundation Board on 29 January 2024.