1. Purpose

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) collects, analyses and disseminates statistics about the UK’s economy, society and population. When collecting data, ONS staff regularly come into contact with members of the public.

When undertaking official ONS duties, staff may observe or become aware of situations where the safety of a respondent or of others is at risk1. ONS is committed to safeguarding the welfare of all those with whom it comes into contact. ‘Safeguarding’, is defined as “protecting people’s health, wellbeing and human rights, and enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect”.2,3

The purpose of this policy is to outline:

  • when ONS staff should report safeguarding concerns and how to do so

  • ONS’s commitment to safeguarding the welfare of those with whom it comes into contact

  • how safeguarding concerns reported by staff will be considered and dealt with

  • responsibility for the ONS safeguarding policy

Notes for Policy

  1. The safety of ONS staff collecting data is covered by corporate health and safety policies and practices. For most ONS staff these can be found on the intranet. For field interviewers, they are set out in interviewers’ Standard Instruction Manuals.

  2. Care Quality Commission

  3. The scope of this policy does not include observation or disclosure of criminal activity that poses no risk to someone’s welfare.

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2. Main principles

The main principles are as follows:

  • ONS complies with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, Principle 5 of which states that, “Private information about individual persons (including bodies corporate) compiled in the production of official statistics is confidential, and should be used for statistical purposes only”

  • at ONS, we take seriously our responsibility to the public – it is our policy that we will tell the appropriate authority if we believe there is a serious risk to someone's safety

  • the National Statistician1 has the ultimate authority to decide whether information about risks to people’s welfare, obtained through ONS business, should be passed on to the appropriate authorities

  • when ONS staff are in a position to notice risks to people’s welfare, they should report these, using the procedure set out in this policy, so that a decision can be made about whether to alert the appropriate authorities

  • ONS recognises its duty to support its staff when they encounter potentially distressing situations or information through their work

  • ONS will adopt this safeguarding policy for its own data- collection activities and for those done on behalf of other survey commissioners.

  • when ONS commissions other organisations to collect data for its surveys, it must be satisfied that the safeguarding policy of that research organisation is consistent with ONS’s policy

Notes for Main principles

  1. The National Statistician is also the Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority and Permanent Secretary of ONS.
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3. Definitions

“Safeguarding”, is defined as “protecting people’s health, wellbeing and human rights, and enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect”.

“Harm” is the infliction of physical or psychological injury on another person. Harm may be unintentional or intentional.

“Abuse” occurs where an individual or a group of people violate someone else's human and civil rights. It may be physical and can involve a criminal offence, but serious abuse also usually involves non-physical (or psychological) abuse.

“Neglect” is the persistent failure to meet the basic physical or psychological care needs of a child or other dependant.

Examples2 include:

  • physical abuse

  • psychological or emotional abuse

  • sexual abuse

  • domestic violence or abuse

  • financial or material abuse

  • modern slavery

  • discriminatory abuse

  • organisational or institutional abuse

  • neglect or acts of omission

  • self-neglect or self-abuse

Situations, usually relating to a survey or census, where safeguarding concerns may be disclosed to ONS staff and contractors or where they may observe these include:

  • face-to-face contact with an interviewer

  • telephone contact with an interviewer

  • paper responses written on a survey questionnaire and sent through the post

  • online or email responses to a survey

Notes for Definitions

  1. The sources of definitions used are the Care Quality Commission (definition of Safeguarding) and the Civil Service Learning package, “Safeguarding Children and Adults” (definitions of harm, abuse and neglect).

  2. More information about the 10 types of abuse are set out in the 2014 Care Act.

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4. Safeguarding roles

There are four roles relating to safeguarding in ONS:

The National Statistician has overall responsibility for safeguarding in ONS and the ultimate authority to decide whether information about risks to people’s welfare, obtained through ONS business, should be passed to the appropriate authorities. The National Statistician may choose to perform the role of Chief Safeguarding Officer or to delegate this role to another individual1.

The Chief Safeguarding Officer makes decisions about passing information about risks to people’s welfare to appropriate authorities in accordance with this policy. Where this role has been delegated to another individual by the National Statistician, and where a safeguarding situation is novel or contentious, the Chief Safeguarding Officer will consult the National Statistician to agree what action to take.

Safeguarding Contacts will support the Chief Safeguarding Officer. Safeguarding Contacts will act as a primary contact point for staff and contractors who have safeguarding concerns and will report concerns, as appropriate, to the Chief Safeguarding Officer.

ONS data-collection staff may, through their work, observe or encounter safeguarding concerns or have these disclosed to them. They must follow the procedure set out in this policy to recognise, respond to, report and record those concerns.

Notes for Safeguarding roles

  1. In practice, several individuals may be trained to operate as Chief Safeguarding Officer in order to provide sufficient cover. Only one would be in the role at any time.
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5. How does the Safeguarding Policy operate?

If an emergency occurs while an ONS staff member is engaged in their work, they should call the emergency services on 999. As soon as possible afterwards, they will need to report the action they took to one of the Safeguarding Contacts who will complete the reporting form attached to the guidance for data-collection staff.

For all non-emergency situations, decisions about whether or not to pass on a safeguarding concern will be taken by the team consisting of the National Statistician, the Chief Safeguarding Officer and the Safeguarding Contacts. In reaching a decision about whether or not to pass on a safeguarding concern, the National Statistician, the Chief Safeguarding Officer and the Safeguarding Contacts will consider:

  • how serious the allegation of harm, abuse or neglect is

  • how strong the evidence for the concern is

  • whether the observation or disclosure occurred as part of a survey response (that is, as an answer to a survey question) or outside the survey itself

  • whether the individual concerned can seek help for him or herself

  • whether other services (for example, health workers, teachers or social workers) or individuals are already aware of the situation

  • potential risks to the individual

  • previous safeguarding decisions (that is, the body of experience built up)

There will be three stages in decision-making. At each stage, a decision should be made as soon as possible after the concern is raised (usually within 24 hours for all three stages). All decisions, including those not to pass on information about a concern, must be documented and recorded.

Stage One: An ONS staff member who has observed a safeguarding concern or had a safeguarding concern disclosed to them must follow the guidance for data-collection staff, which outlines the 4Rs of safeguarding: recognise, respond, report and record. They must report to headquarters that they have a concern and discuss the incident or disclosure with the Safeguarding Contact assigned. The Safeguarding Contact will use the discussion to complete the recording form attached to the guidance. The Safeguarding Contact will discuss with as many of the other Safeguarding Contacts as are available, to decide whether the concerns should be passed on to the Chief Safeguarding Officer, taking account of the criteria above. Where they decide to pass on the concern, Stage Two begins.

Stage Two: The Chief Safeguarding Officer will decide, taking account of the criteria above, whether to:

  • take no further action
  • recommend that the respondent passes on their concerns to the appropriate authority
  • pass the concern on to the appropriate authority (see paragraph 17)
  • refer the situation to the National Statistician (Stage Three)

When the Chief Safeguarding Officer, acting in the role delegated to them by the National Statistician, passes on the concern, directs the Safeguarding Contact to pass on the concern or recommends that the respondent passes on their concern, this must be done as quickly as possible. The Chief Safeguarding Officer will inform the National Statistician and will decide who else needs to be informed and what detail needs to be shared.

Stage Three: Where the Chief Safeguarding Officer is acting in the role delegated to them by the National Statistician and where a situation is novel or contentious and there is no established course of action to take, the Chief Safeguarding Officer will consult with the National Statistician, who will make the decision about whether information should be passed on to the appropriate authorities. The National Statistician, in discussion with the Chief Safeguarding Officer, will decide whether to:

  • take no further action
  • recommend that the respondent passes on their concerns to the appropriate authority
  • pass the concern on to the appropriate authority.

Where the decision is to pass a concern on to the appropriate authority or to recommend that the respondent passes on their concern, this must be done as quickly as possible. The National Statistician and the Chief Safeguarding Officer will agree who will pass on the concern and to whom. They will agree who else needs to be informed and what detail needs to be shared.

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6. How is the Safeguarding Policy managed?

The National Statistician, who is the Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary of the government department consisting of the UK Statistics Authority and ONS, will ensure that the safeguarding policy is implemented throughout all data collection work for which ONS is responsible. The National Statistician will either perform the role of Chief Safeguarding Officer or will appoint a Chief Safeguarding Officer and provide them with appropriate support. The Chief Safeguarding Officer will:

  • ensure that the safeguarding policy and procedures are communicated, followed and reviewed

  • ensure that ONS staff working in data-collection activities are appropriately trained

  • be the point of contact for questions in relation to the safeguarding policy

  • make decisions as to what action, if any, is required according to this policy and ensure that action is carried out – if the National Statistician has delegated the role of Chief Safeguarding Officer to another individual and if a safeguarding situation is novel or contentious, the Chief Safeguarding Officer must refer it to the National Statistician

  • ensure that a full and confidential record is kept of any safeguarding issues that arise, including of decisions and actions taken and of who else was informed about the issue

The Chief Safeguarding Officer will be responsible for reviewing this policy and practices under it at regular intervals. The most up-to-date version of the Safeguarding Policy will be available to all staff and all staff involved in data-collection activities will be made aware of it by their managers as part of their induction.

The Chief Safeguarding Officer will ensure that appropriate training is available for Safeguarding Contacts, employees and contractors, which will be refreshed when required. The Chief Safeguarding Officer will ensure that appropriate support is available for ONS employees and contractors who encounter potentially distressing safeguarding situations through their work.

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