If your association interacts in any way with youth, the elderly, or people living with disabilities, then you should investigate obtaining abuse and molestation insurance coverage (commonly referred to as abuse insurance).
Abuse insurance could be one of the most needed types of insurance for your organization. This is because abuse claims can be very costly to defend, even if the allegation of abuse is unfounded.
To understand the risks related to abuse, it is important to understand the definitions used by insurance companies and the courts:
- “Abuse means any act or threat involving molestation, harassment, corporal punishment or any other form of physical, sexual, or mental abuse;
- “Vulnerable persons means people including, but not limited to children under the age of consent, persons who are living with mental or physical disabilities, and the elderly; and
- “Volunteer workers means a person who is not your employee [but could be a member of your association], and who donates his or her work, and acts at the direction of and within the scope of duties determined by your association, and is not paid a fee, salary or compensation, by you or anyone else for their work performed for your association.”
But We Already Have Insurance
Most associations have Commercial General Liability (CGL) and Directors & Officers (D&O) insurance. If yours does not, then please read our article Exposures facing Directors and Officers of Non-Profit Organizations.
Unfortunately, it is common for these insurance policies to exclude claims related to abuse.
Trying to Prevent Abuse and Minimizing Your Association’s Risk Go Hand-in-Hand
The pursuit of providing exceptional services to vulnerable people is a very effective tool for preventing abuse in the first place. By having systems and processes in-place your association is helping to protect the people you are serving and if abuse does take place, then you are better equipped to help its victims. You will also be protecting your group’s reputation/good name and ensuring financial sustainability in the event of a claim.
Your association can help to improve services to the vulnerable while also preventing abuse and help its victims by:
- Preparing an abuse prevention program;
- Developing a training program;
- Having a written procedure in place for handling reported or alleged abuse;
- Having procedures in place for working with employees or volunteers who have had an allegation of abuse made against them;
- Having a written policy that clearly establishes your commitment to abuse protection that has been reviewed by your lawyer;
- Having rules/a code of conduct and disciplinary measures established for your members, your paid staff, and volunteers, which clearly define your abuse policy and the consequences of failing to follow it;
- Having a process to ensure that abuse prevention policies and procedures are implemented and enforced;
- Ensuring that management, supervisory personnel, paid staff, and any volunteer workers are trained in the policies and procedures related to your abuse prevention program;
- Establishing guidelines that require all suspected inappropriate behavior and or alleged incidents reported and followed up on;
- Having a person of authority who is designated to handle incidents of abuse;
- Keeping permanent and secure records of:
- Employment and volunteer application forms that include, declarations, references and identity verification;
- Copies of police background checks;
- Records of prevention training; and
- Records of abuse allegations, abuse occurrences, including notification to the appropriate authorities.
- Performing background checks, including police checks, for anyone working with vulnerable persons, and re-checking them on a regular basis;
- Appointing and training a person who is responsible for overseeing your abuse prevention program and policies;
- Providing protection training to new employees and volunteers before they begin to work with any vulnerable persons; and
- Documentation of the supervision of new employees and volunteers following their initial training.
There are many free and low-cost resources available to help your association minimize its risks including:
- “Healthy Use Relationships: Program Lessons for Youth-Servicing Organizations” is a free online course developed by the Canadian Red Cross.
It is designed to complement their Respect Education programs which include a 21-hour certified Prevention Educator training program.
This training includes information on recognizing the signs/indications of abuse, as a person who participates in your programming may be already be a victim of abuse.
This training is so important that many provinces have laws like Ontario, where “People [who are] working closely with children have a special awareness of the signs of child abuse and neglect, and a particular responsibility [and a duty] to report their suspicions”.
- Rotary International has a downloadable 35-page “Youth Protection Guide” which provides detailed examples of how they try to minimize their risk related to abuse of minors.
As an association management company and as event managers, we present the above article for information purposes only. It constitutes general information and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.
 Adapted from Northbridge General Insurance’s, Abuse Coverage Application.