CARE Australia’s Policy for Protecting Vulnerable Persons

As a charity, we work hard to avoid the exploitation of vulnerable people and this protection applies to supporters in Australia who choose to donate or raise funds for CARE Australia.

Supporting CARE should be a positive experience – nothing beats the feel good factor of giving to a cause and knowing that you are helping someone in need.

It is inevitable that from time to time, we will come into contact with people who are vulnerable and whose ability to make informed decisions may be compromised. This can happen either through our own communications or through the agencies who work on our behalf.

This document outlines how we protect vulnerable supporters, how we can identify such persons and what action we take if we suspect a person is vulnerable.

Codes of Conduct

We are a member of the Fundraising institute of Australia and abide by their codes of conduct including the code of Ethics and Professional conduct. The FIA has clear standards relating to various fundraising activities including telemarketing and face to face fundraising. CARE Australia also has its own staff code of conduct and a child protection policy, which are provided to our third party providers of fundraising services to ensure they operate within these bounds.

Types of Vulnerability

By ‘a vulnerable person’ we mean those whose ability to make a decision is affected, either temporarily or permanently. This can include:

  • A particularly frail person
  • An individual with a psychosocial disability, including dementia or a mental health issue
  • An individual with a significant and impairing physical or sensory disability
  • An individual with a learning intellectual disability
  • An individual with a severe physical illness

In addition other types of vulnerability can include:

  • An individual who is experiencing financial vulnerability
  • An individual with a markedly reduced understanding of English
  • An individual who is experiencing a time of stress or anxiety, eg bereavement, unemployment, family breakup, etc
  • An unpaid carer who is overburdened, under severe stress or isolated
  • Where an individual finds the subject matter of the call unduly upsetting
  • An individual under the influence of drugs or alcohol

How to identify a vulnerable contact

There are several indicators which can help to identify vulnerable adults by different communication channels.  By telephone or face-to-face, these could include: 

  • Asking irrelevant and unrelated questions
  • Distraction
  • Responding in an irrational way to simple questions or in a way which shows lack of comprehension of what is being said
  • Taking a long time to respond or finding it difficult to respond
  • Repeating questions they have asked
  • Deviating from the subject
  • Signs of influence of alcohol and other drug usage
  • Unable to hear or understand what is being said OR
  • Unable to read and understand the information provided to them
  • Displaying signs of ill health e.g. breathlessness or discomfort

A supporter or their family member or carer may tell us in person or contact us by telephone to indicate the supporter is vulnerable.

We can at times identify vulnerable adults through written communications.  For example:

  • A supporter who has emailed or written to us to tell us they are permanently vulnerable
  • The supporter’s family member or carer has indicated that they are vulnerable

Do We Use Age as an Indicator of Vulnerability?

For adults, we cannot make a judgement based on age. Vulnerability needs to be assessed on the person’s circumstances. CARE Australia does not seek financial support from children. If an individual is identified as being under the age of 18, then we must remove them from fundraising appeals and calls and they are not to be approached to donate through email, direct mail or telemarketing.

Having Conversations with Vulnerable Contacts

We will ensure that we treat our supporters fairly, enabling them to make informed decisions about their donation.

If an external fundraiser or internal staff member reasonably believes that a supporter is unable to make a decision or is in a position which does not allow them to make a donation, then a donation will not be sought or accepted.

Where an individual appears to be permanently vulnerable – we will flag their record as ‘Vulnerable’ and adjust their mailing/solicitation preferences to ‘DO NOT CONTACT’. In the case of telemarketing – the fundraiser will not continue to ask the person to donate to CARE Australia.

In the case of temporary vulnerability, we will not continue making the request for a donation. However, temporary vulnerability does not necessarily mean that the person does not want to be contacted again. Therefore, their record will still be flagged as ‘Vulnerable’, but if they are a CARE Australia supporter, they will be asked if they are happy to receive calls/mail/emails in the future and their mailing/solicitation preferences updated accordingly. The staff member will then add an action in their record to review/remove the ‘Vulnerable’ flag for a later date. In the case of telemarketing – the fundraiser will not continue to ask the individual to donate.

We may also be alerted to a supporter being vulnerable by a family member or carer. Where we have been given this information we act upon this, asking what kind of communication, if any, is acceptable. Our database is then updated to reflect their wishes.

Staff Training

Our Supporter Care Coordinator is required to undertake training in identifying and responding to vulnerable persons by Fundraising Institute Australia. All staff in the Fundraising & Marketing team who speak to supporters regularly are also required to undertake similar training. This policy is included in the induction checklist for all new F&M staff to review upon commencement of employment.

External Suppliers Fundraising on Our Behalf

We ensure external suppliers fundraising on our behalf (i.e. Telemarketing agencies) have a Vulnerable Persons Policy aligned with this policy and our Fundraising Charter. Consideration will also be given to suppliers who are members of the Fundraising Institute of Australia, in which case the supplier will also be committed to following the FIA’s Code of Conduct which includes fundraising to vulnerable or potentially vulnerable persons.

Complaints relating to matters involving vulnerable persons

CARE Australia values and encourages all forms of feedback and complaints and is committed to fairly, responsively and efficiently handling complaints or concerns about CARE Australia. You can read more about our Complaints & Feedback Policy here.

We believe that all our stakeholders can help hold us to account and that their feedback and voice will improve the quality of our work. CARE Australia strives to excel in all that it does but recognises that this may not always be the case. When there are concerns or complaints about the way we do things, we want and need to be informed. We will use the information to improve the way we do things.

Any CARE Australia employee or volunteer, partner, vendor, program participant, or any other person, may use the below channels to report complaints or provide feedback.

Email: donorsupport@care.org.au or complaints@care.org.au

Phone: 1800 020 046 

Mail: Supporter Care, PO Box 372, Collins Street West, Melbourne VIC 8007

Or contact our dedicated CARE Line