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by Isabelle Hillson 31st January, 2019
2 min read

ESG – responsible approaches to vulnerable children

Companies that provide services to children risk losing the trust of children, parents and institutional clients unless they can properly identify and manage vulnerability.

Vulnerability is an increasing concern for the investors and companies that GK Strategy advises on ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues. It’s a growing issue for providers of educational, childcare, fostering and healthcare services, as well as residential care and  children’s holidays.

Vulnerability can be the result of many factors – poverty, mental or physical health problems, family issues or special educational needs. These factors affect millions of children.

In the UK, approximately four million children live in poverty, there are 580,000 children supported or accommodated by the state, 2.3 million children with health related vulnerabilities such as mental health disorders, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses or special educational needs (SEN).

For companies that deal with vulnerable children, ESG considerations need to be integrated into policies, processes, governance and culture.

Providers need to be able to identify vulnerability systematically and ensure that they properly manage these children accordingly. Specific vulnerabilities associated with a child need to be identified, and development and care plans created on this basis.

In some cases, the vulnerability may be presented early on – due to SEN or healthcare problems – but other vulnerability risk factors, such as family break up or mental health problems, also need to be monitored

Companies dealing with vulnerable children should of course ensure that all employees have comprehensive vetting and induction processes, as well as ongoing training and performance monitoring with robust reporting mechanisms.

It is critical for such businesses to have well-established escalation processes for complaints or concerns raised by employees, guardians or parents, and children. Furthermore, these policies, processes and reporting mechanisms must be effectively communicated internally – and made accessible – to parents, guardians and other key groups.

The debate about vulnerability and best practice in relation to it has moved significantly in the last two years. And, with the FCA recently publishing a new approach to consumers and Ofgem currently consulting on their approach to vulnerability, the pace of change is set to continue. It is vital that companies ensure that their policies and practices reflect this.

Their governance should ensure that these are reviewed and updated regularly – and any specific vulnerability issues or complaints reported to the board. Advisory panels and external experts and organisations can also play a useful role in oversight and policy development, etc.

Much has changed in last 2 years, that vulnerability as a policy area is fast moving – and those businesses that fail to anticipate and respond to these changes may have reputational issues.

To understand how GK can help companies and investors deal with vulnerability issues – for adults and children – and other ESG issues, get in touch with martin@gkstrategy.com.  

See more articles by Isabelle Hillson