Young people and children are key members of our PCD community, and alongside adults, we are committed to including them in our activities and prioritising their safety.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many of our activities, including our PCD annual gathering meeting, to be held online. The Management Committee agree that for the purposes of infection control, the majority of PCD Support UK’s future activities will be held in a virtual online environment.
We are committed to the welfare and safeguarding of our members and volunteers, both online and offline.
Whilst we will endeavour to ensure that our online activities are held in as safe a way as possible, PCD Support UK cannot and does not take responsibility for any harms or negative consequences to adults or children (those under 18) with whom we communicate.
We will, however, always take steps to mitigate the risks involved with online activities. These steps are outlined in this policy and are subject to regular review by the management committee.
Digital safeguarding is ‘the protection from harm in the online environment through the implementation of effective technical solutions, advice and support and procedures for managing incidents’.
Nowadays, social media and online events are everywhere, and are used by people of all ages. At PCD Support UK, we regularly use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to communicate with our members. We also hold regular live events online.
Because much of our work is public facing, there are inevitable risks involved with some of our outputs, such as:
- Video-based events
- Messaging services
- Online forums
These risks might include (but are not limited to):
- Inappropriate behaviour by members of the public
- Inappropriate behaviour by volunteers of PCD Support UK
- Unintended delays to responding to messages
- Circulation of incorrect information (or ‘disinformation’)
It is impossible to avoid all risks in digital communications and events, but we do take steps to create as safe an environment as possible for all of our members, regardless of age.
We do NOT take responsibility for any harms or negative consequences of individuals contacting us or participating in our events. Users do so at their own risk.
The steps we take to mitigate risks are outlined in the sections that follow.
We are increasingly making use of live talks, video-based meetings and video-based events. To mitigate risks, we endeavour to adhere to the following rules:
- Our meetings are held on Zoom or Microsoft Teams and require a password to join.
- For most events, we avoid publicly advertising the joining information (e.g., meeting link), to avoid those with bad intentions joining the events. This is not always possible and depends on the type of event held.
- We circulate community guidelines or rules for meeting etiquette before each event.
- We explicitly state that all children (under 18s) must have permission from a parent or legal guardian to attend any of our events online.
- We encourage children (under 18s) NOT to have their video function on during live events.
- Given the risk of inviting speakers from outside PCD Support UK, there is always at least one member of the Management Committee present at all live events.
- When ‘breakout rooms’ are used during video-based events, we endeavour to have at least one Management Committee member or volunteer present in each ‘room’ to ensure the meeting runs smoothly and appropriately.
- All Management Committee members and Volunteers are briefed prior to the event, with clear lines of communication established for if there is any inappropriate behaviour.
- In the event of inappropriate behaviour, culprits are removed from the event as swiftly as possible.
- We make explicit when we are going to record an event. This is usually detailed in the community guidelines prior to the event and communicated orally prior to recording.
PCD Support UK is run by volunteers, who give up their time around busy lives. We do not operate within consistent working hours, nor are we able to respond immediately to any form of communication via any of our channels.
Whilst we endeavour to respond to communication from our users within reasonable timeframes, we DO NOT accept any responsibility for harm or negative consequences caused to users because of our communications, lack of communication (e.g. not responding), nor of using any of the messaging services via which we communicate.
We use messaging services such as (but not limited to) Instagram and Facebook, to allow users to contact us. These services are managed by our Communications volunteers and our Chair, all of whom have access to the PCD Support UK messaging services.
- By having joint access to the messaging services, we avoid providing inconsistent advice and are more likely to be able to respond in a timely manner. This also allows us to monitor conversations between our volunteers and users.
- We actively encourage users to seek the advice of their doctors or medical teams.
- We often signpost people with more complex enquiries to contact the Chair via the website, so that further advice might be sought from specialists or other professionals.
- PCD Support UK volunteers keep conversations on messaging services professional, and they avoid disclosing personal details about themselves.
- From time to time, we are contacted by young people who may be under 18. We consider users under 18 to be children. We cannot guarantee confidentiality to children if they tell us anything that leads us to believe that they are at risk of harm. If we think they are at immediate risk of harm, we will endeavour to contact 999 on their behalf or Children’s Services for their area. Unfortunately, social media and the internet offer varying degrees of anonymity and so we cannot guarantee that we will always be able to alert emergency services in these instances.
- We CANNOT take responsibility for any harms that come because of any users interacting with us on social media.
- All Children (under 18s) who interact with us on social media, messaging services or otherwise MUST obtain permission from their parent or legal guardian. We do NOT accept responsibility for ensuring under 18s have obtained consent of their parent or guardian. This responsibility lies solely with the parent or guardian of the child.
PCD Support UK has volunteers that contribute to several forums including (but not limited to) HealthUnlocked, PCD Connect (Facebook – closed UK group) and social media channels, such as (but not limited to) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Our volunteers give up their time to respond to queries on behalf of PCD Support UK. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that volunteers provide consistent information, we cannot guarantee this and therefore volunteers provide information as individuals. We encourage all users to verify any information provided by volunteers with their own medical teams, who know their condition and can provide the best advice.
The nature of social media and online forums means that we cannot always monitor, verify, and respond to the information that is being ‘posted’ or circulated. We do not take responsibility for incorrect information that is circulated on our social media channels or forums that we participate in, nor do we take responsibility for any harms that come to the user because of engaging with said forums or channels.
Children must have the permission of their parent or legal guardian to participate in online forums or to interact on our social media channels. Whilst we will always seek to create a safe environment for everybody, we cannot take responsibility for children’s activity online.
Policy revised April 2021