The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

In our work we meet many children and adults who are potentially at risk for a variety of reasons. We aim to create a safe environment in which no child or adult will experience harm or exploitation during their contact with us.

We will, where reasonably practicable, follow relevant UK and International laws and standards, as well as ensuring local legal compliance.

The British Council is committed to:

  • valuing, respecting, and listening to children and adults, maintaining confidentiality, and acting proportionately.
  • maintaining strong safeguarding systems, to reduce risk and manage situations where abuse and harm could occur.
  • share best practice and information regarding safeguarding concerns with relevant parties, involving children and adults where appropriate.
  • conducting thorough assessments where abuse is suspected or has occurred.

We require all staff to ensure their behaviour is consistent with this policy. We also require that clients, customers, partners, and suppliers are made aware of this policy and operate within it.

We will provide adequate and appropriate resources to implement this policy and will ensure it is communicated throughout the organisation and understood by all staff.


This Policy sets out the broad framework and expectations relating to safeguarding children and adults. It articulates why safeguarding is important and the actions the British Council will take to meet its responsibilities when interacting with children and adults. The policy does not cover staff concerns which are addressed under Human Resources and other organisational policies.

The British Council promotes a zero-tolerance approach to inaction. In practice this means that all necessary efforts must be made to comply with the Policy, irrespective of cost implications or operational inconvenience.

The British Council requires all staff to immediately report safeguarding concerns to an appropriate Manager, Safeguarding Focal Point, or to the Global Safeguarding Team. The external reporting form, the raising concerns policy and Safecall are additional reporting mechanisms that can be accessed.

This policy is in line with our values, forms part of our Code of Conduct and is referred to within both to support compliance and risk management.

This policy is intended to compliment and reinforce other British Council Policies and Procedures that are relevant to Safeguarding – including Code of Conduct, Health & Safety, Equality, Teaching Quality Standards, E-Safety and Data Protection.

The British Council will review this policy annually to reflect new legal and regulatory developments.


In previous years, the British Council has held child protection policies in line with existing UK and International legislation. Since 2018 we have extended the service by incorporating the adult safeguarding agenda, therefore the terminology has changed from child protection to safeguarding.

To reflect these changes, the Global Safeguarding Service amalgamated the Child Protection and the Adults at Risk Policies into this one document.


For ease of reading the Policy, and to prevent having to repeat lengthy definitions throughout, the following terms are used:


A child is defined as anyone who has not reached their 18th birthday.

We use the definition of a child according to international law as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)1, 1989. Although the national laws in countries that we work may have different ages at which a child is considered responsible, an adult, or can give consent.


An adult is defined as:

• any person aged 18 years or over.

• who identifies themself as unable to take care or protect themselves against significant harm, exploitation, or neglect or is understood to be at risk, which may be due to frailty, homelessness, mental or physical health problems, learning or physical impairments, and/or impacted by disasters or conflict.

• It is important to consider that any adult can be at risk, and this might be a temporary or ongoing situation depending on the protective factors around them.


The term staff applies to national, international and UK personnel working in an individual capacity with the British Council, irrespective of the contract used. This includes paid and unpaid staff and volunteers engaged on a one off, short, or long-term basis. It also covers consultants and contracted temporary personnel.

Partners, Suppliers & Contractors:

The terms ‘partners, suppliers and contractors’ relate to all those who we have a contract or agreement with to provide goods, services, or collaboration. There may be a financial or alternative benefit, but this is not essential. It includes implementing partners who carry out work on our behalf and other stakeholders with whom the British Council may establish a working relationship, such as Ministries, and Donors and Funders.


In the context of this Policy, ‘safeguarding’ does not mean preventing accidents (covered by our Health and Safety Policy) or making sure that a child’s rights (as defined in the UNCRC and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are fully implemented. Instead, we are referring specifically to the protection of children and adults from abuse.

Child Abuse:

The British Council uses the definition of abuse endorsed by the World Health Organisation2 :

‘Child abuse’ or ‘maltreatment’ constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development, or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power’.

Adult Safeguarding:

Safeguarding adults means protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organisations working together to both prevent and respond to risks and experiences of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure the adult’s well-being is promoted, including where appropriate, having regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding any action.3

Safeguarding adults involves reducing or preventing the risk of significant harm in relation to neglect or abuse, while also supporting people to maintain control of their own lives.

Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Harassment:

Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) is a distinct category of harm that poses unique risks to vulnerable individuals and populations, including children, adults, refugees and displaced persons. By incorporating SEAH guidance in the policy, the British Council explicitly recognises and addresses the specific risks, ensuring that individuals are better protected within the organisation’s activities and programmes. It also signals our commitment to accountability, transparency and responsible conduct and ensures the British Council takes proactive steps to prevent its staff volunteers and partners from being complicit in acts of exploitation and abuse.

Emphasising SEAH in this policy seeks to promote a culture of respect, equality and non-discrimination, discouraging harmful behaviours. Many countries have laws and regulations related to SEAH, which the British Council aims to be in alignment with, the British Council aims to appropriately mitigate legal risks and demonstrate compliance.

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