Our policy framework for looking after ourselves and each other 

Action for Happiness Safeguarding Policy

This page outlines our policy and approach to safeguarding, to skip this and jump down the page to our guidance on how to manage specific situations click here.

Our mission is to create a happier and kinder world. In doing this we will sometimes encounter difficult situations, either ourselves or witnessing them happening to others. We have put together this policy to the best of our ability to help protect people in all the different areas where Action for Happiness works. Please read through and find the parts relevant to you and your situation. If you would like to question, comment on or contribute to this policy you can email us at

Purpose and Scope

Action for Happiness serves the public through its charitable activities. These activities include volunteer-led courses and get-togethers in local communities, public events and resources and training provided for schools and organisations.

The purpose of this Safeguarding Policy is:

  • to protect the people who attend our courses, get-togethers, events and training, as well as our staff, volunteers and trustees.
  • to provide course participants, course leaders, members of the public who attend our events, staff, volunteers and trustees with the overarching principles that guide our approach to safeguarding.

We believe that no person should have to experience abuse of any kind. We have a responsibility to promote the welfare of the people in our community and to do everything possible to keep them safe. We are committed to delivering our activities in a way that protects everyone we interact with.

This policy statement applies to anyone acting on behalf of Action for Happiness, including managers, trustees, paid staff, volunteers, contractors, researchers, agency staff and students.

Our Pledge

Everything we do at Action for Happiness is based on honouring our core pledge:

"I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me"

This pledge holds us to account as an organisation and as a movement. Everything we do should be done with the genuine intention to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world. We recognise that we can't always control and predict the outcomes of our actions; but we can, to the best of our ability, ensure our actions are carried out with the right intentions and in the most effective and appropriate way possible.

If you are a course participant, course leader, trustee, staff member or volunteer you are entrusted to reflect deeply on the pledge and ensure your actions are aligned with it in good faith.

Safeguarding issues that may arise

Our approach to safeguarding is that when we become aware of something going on that has the potential to harm anyone involved, we take immediate action to remedy the situation.

It may be that the wellbeing of an individual is at risk, for example if they are vulnerable or struggling with mental health issues. Or it may be that someone is mistreating others, being inconsiderate, inappropriate or hostile.

Safeguarding issues that may arise include but not limited to the following:

  • Mental distress
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide risk
  • Sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation
  • Negligent treatment
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Health and safety
  • Commercial or financial exploitation
  • Extremism and radicalisation
  • Discrimination on any of the grounds in the Equality Act 2010

We seek to keep people we work with safe by:

  • Treating people in ways that make them feel valued, listened to and respected.
  • Developing our Safeguarding Policy to be as relevant to our work as possible and to reflect best practice.
  • Ensuring our safeguarding procedures are fit for purpose and signpost to appropriate agencies.
  • Promoting our pledge based code of conduct for staff and volunteers to create and maintain a safe and positive environment that is free from bullying and exploitation.
  • Dealing effectively with any safeguarding issues that may arise.
  • Ensuring course participants, course leaders, staff and volunteers have had the appropriate safeguarding guidance shared with them via email, group work and/or one-to-one discussions.
  • Ensuring that our staff and volunteers are properly supported through supervision, support, training and quality assurance measures.
  • Making sure we have procedures in place to receive, investigate and act on any allegations appropriately.

Reporting a safeguarding issue

If your concern relates to the someone in the Action for Happiness community who is not a member of staff, it may be possible to manage and resolve a safeguarding issue using the guidance in this document. However, if you have concerns around safeguarding or if a safeguarding issue is reported to you and you don't feel it can be addressed by the methods suggested in this document then please report it using this form. The allegation will then be taken forward for immediate investigation.

If your concern relates to a specific member of the Action for Happiness team and it would not be appropriate for them to see your submitted report please write to us at or through the Contact Us form and request the contact details of another senior member of the team, then write to them directly about the issue. Team members can be found here.

We recognise that no safeguarding policy will be perfect and we may not have covered all the issues that may come up, if you have any concerns at all relating to the safeguarding of yourself or others please Contact Us.

How to respond when someone is at risk of self harm or suicide

Our movement centres around mental health and happiness, so there can be rare instances where someone who is very unhappy and considering harming themselves may attend our events. This guidance is to help you respond to such a situation as a fellow human in the spirit of our principles of compassion and boundaries. You are not expected to take responsibility for someone else’s mental health or give them mental health advice. 

STEP 1: Take a breath and notice how you are feeling
We rarely make good decisions in a reactive state - so take at least one deep breath in and out before doing anything else. Give some care and attention to the feelings that have arisen in you so that they don't spill out onto others.

STEP 2: Acknowledge and demonstrate care (for the group also)
It’s important that people feel heard (even if you find what they are saying difficult) as otherwise they are unlikely to hear your requests to them either. Acknowledge what they’ve said and any feelings they’ve expressed, and then bridge to the feelings that have come up for you, and your sense of what the rest of the group might be feeling also. 
(e.g. “I hear you saying ___ and that you are feeling ___ which must be really hard for you. I notice that I’m also feeling ___ and sense that the group might be feeling a bit ___ at this moment also...).

STEP 3: Offer a separate space
Either you or your co-volunteer can offer to go into a temporary private breakout room with this person, or to stay in the main room together when the rest of the group goes into breakout rooms, or you can find a time at the end of the session to speak. Once they agree to this, return your focus to running the session.

In the check-in space, follow the script below... 


Q1: What's going on for you and how are you feeling?
Listen compassionately to what is shared and express empathy and concern where appropriate. Create a sense of a safe space and that you’re here to listen.

Q2: How long have you been feeling like this?
This might feel difficult to ask, but it is really important. We need to listen compassionately and without judgement so that someone can feel safe to share with us. The person may have long term depression and be used to managing these feelings, or this may be a new and imminent risk.

Q3: Have you been thinking of harming yourself (and do you have plans to do so)?

If yes, move to emergency support below. 
If no, continue...
Q4: I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been going through this, can I ask who you have around to support you?
Find out if they have any professional support in place and what kind of friends and family support is available for them. Continue to acknowledge the difficulty of what they are dealing with and celebrate their efforts to seek help and support (e.g. by joining the group).

ACTION 1. Signpost: Let them know that there are ways they can get professional help by reaching out to their GP or calling a service like Samaritans (useful links below). Encourage them to speak to close friends and family. 
● (United Kingdom) NHS Helpline: 111 
● (United Kingdom) Samaritans: 116 123 
● (International) Helplines:

ACTION 2. Welcome back: Make sure they feel welcome in the group and that they feel valued and cared for - that this is a space where they can connect with others and focus on the positive actions that might help in this difficult time.

ACTION 3. Fill in a Safeguarding incident report: so we can follow up and check they 
(and you) are being properly supported. 

If someone communicates they are at imminent risk of harm we must act quickly to try to help if we can by involving emergency services.

I’m feeling worried about you and need to call someone to see if we can get anyone to come over and help you. Can you tell me the address of where you are currently?

ACTION 1. Write down their address (or look up their postcode under the member list for your group) - check a recent ‘session coming up’ email from us to find that list if needed.

ACTION 2. Have your co-volunteer dial 999 (or dial it yourself on another device) - whilst keeping the person on the line with you until the emergency services arrive.

ACTION 3. Fill in a Safeguarding incident report - making sure to tick ‘yes’ on risk of harm so it is flagged for an urgent response from the team so we can follow up as quickly as possible. 

What to do when someone is mistreating others

If we witness someone mistreating others we believe it is right to step in and take action. However, we should not put ourselves in danger. Compassion is a key part of our philosophy at Action for Happiness. Bullying and harassment is a complex psychological field. If someone is mistreating others then it is likely they may also be struggling themselves with their mental health or with a stressful life situation such as family breakdown or financial hardship. As well as supporting those affected by bullying or harassment we should explore whether the person mistreating others has needs that we can help them with.

Be mindful that people being bullied or harassed may sometimes appear to overreact to something that seems relatively trivial but which may be the 'last straw' following a series of incidents. They may not want to address the issue due to a fear of retribution if they complain. Some people may be reluctant to come forward as witnesses, as they may fear the consequences for themselves.

If you witness bullying or harassment don't join in. If someone tells you something unkind or spreads rumours and gossip close the conversation down.

Try to address any unpleasant comments and remarks in the moment as they happen. Calmly and kindly let the person know why what they have said or done is not appropriate. They may not be aware of how their behaviour affects others around them.

If you witness an ongoing bullying and harassment issue and if you feel confident to do so, open a conversation about what is happening with the person affected and offer them your support.

Encourage the bullied person to take action and let them know you will be an ally. Encourage them to enter mediation with the person causing the issue and/or to seek the support of the course leader.

If you don't feel confident to do this then raise the conversation in private with someone else appropriate (e.g. your course leader) who can then take steps to address the issue and contact AfH central office for support if necessary.

What to do if you are being mistreated

In the first instance, it helps to address any unpleasant comments and remarks in the moment as they happen, if you feel able. Calmly and kindly let the person know why what they have said or done is not appropriate and how it makes you feel. They may not be aware of how their behaviour affects others around them.

If you are being bullied or harassed over a period of time and the person doing it is not willing to listen to your needs it's time to move to the next step.

Find an ally, someone you trust and whom you feel comfortable to discuss the problem with and let them know what is happening. Don't be ashamed to share how you feel or what is going on.

Try to stay calm and recognise that criticism or personal remarks are not connected to you or your abilities. They may reflect the other person's own circumstances.

The first step is to talk to the person mistreating you. They may not realise how their behaviour is affecting you.

Your ally can support you to prepare what to say ahead of time so you can politely and calmly let the person know how their behaviour is making you feel and ask them to stop. Be firm, not aggressive and stick to the facts. Use your compassion and remember the person may have their own struggles that have led to this behaviour.

If you don't feel comfortable addressing the person directly you can ask your ally to talk to the person on your behalf.

If a frank compassionate conversation does not resolve the issue then it's possible to move to a formal mediation or counselling.

If someone is continually bullying and harassing and not willing to enter in a reconciliation process they may be asked to leave the event or course in order to preserve the benefit of the wider group.

What to do if someone is being aggressive or violent

If someone is being highly aggressive try to de-escalate the situation but do not put yourself in danger. It's natural to feel an inclination to mirror the aggression back at the person but try to avoid this, you can't fight fire with fire. Take some deep breaths and remain calm. Suggest the person takes a 'time out', ask them to leave the event space temporarily to calm down.

Moving from a meeting room into the corridor for a while, or getting some air outside can help diffuse the situation. If they are not able to calm down and remain aggressive the person may be asked to leave the event and not come back on that occasion.

If someone is being violent the first priority is the personal safety of the people around them, do not hesitate to leave the situation and get away from the violent person. Do not put yourself in danger. In the case of a serious threat of violence or actual violence, we advise that you call the police immediately.

What counts as bullying and harassment?

Bullying and harassment is something that has happened that is unwelcome, unwarranted and causes a detrimental effect. It may be offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. It may be violating someone's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour may include but are not limited to:

Unfair treatment, picking on or regularly undermining someone, spreading malicious rumours, repeatedly touching or hugging someone without asking their permission, unwelcome sexual advances such as touching, standing too close, the display of offensive materials, sending unwanted pictures, asking for sexual favours, making decisions on the basis of sexual advances being accepted or rejected, not respecting someone if they request to be left alone either in person or through digital communication, shouting or verbal abuse, threatening violence, ostracism by making someone feel unwelcome or deliberately leaving them out.
Making inappropriate and offensive comments based on age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race religion or belief and sexual orientation.
Bullying and harassment can happen face-to-face, by letter, by email, by phone, by text or direct message and on social media (cyber-bullying).

Compassion and Boundaries

AfH activities are not therapeutic interventions and it is important that everyone has a clear understanding of and willingness to express compassion and boundaries.

When we talk about compassion, we are referring to the conscious presence of listening and caring for people and the positive reinforcement that people, their thoughts and feelings matter.

Boundaries, in this context, mean having compassion for yourself and the rest of the people around you by understanding the limits of how much care we can offer one person. 

Examples of balancing compassion with boundaries are: 

1. Disruptive behaviour - If someone is behaving inappropriately or intentionally being offensive or discriminatory to you or other members of the group, a compassionate response would be to pause, and remember this person wants to be happy as much as anyone else and must have something going on to make them this way. A boundaried response would be to calmly and firmly call out the behaviour and bring the whole group attention back to the Three Golden Rules and to exclude that person if they fail to adhere to them. 

2. Dominating the conversation - If a group member feels really passionate about a topic and has also been talking at length with no sign of stopping. A boundaried response would be to politely interrupt and mention that you’re curious to hear what others are thinking. A compassionate response would start that interruption by celebrating their passion and one or more pieces of wisdom you notice in what they are saying. 

3. Silent/Invisible group members - If you have someone attending the session, but not using video or audio. A compassionate response would be to recognise this person might be feeling vulnerable and be practicing self-care by not participating. A boundaried response would be offering to speak with them 1 on 1 during the breakouts and to see if you can encourage them to participate fully alongside others. 

Our Daily Action - 1

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I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world