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Why Duty of Care is So Important in Humanitarian Work

By James Veysey

All employers carry a Duty of Care towards their staff: a moral or legal obligation that ensures the safety and wellbeing of those in their employment.

For humanitarian workers, whose roles come with unique and elevated risk factors, a specialised Duty of Care is required – from providing reliable insurance and easy access to quality mental health resources to emergency assistance for the most remarkable of circumstances.

Why Duty of Care matters to CTG

As a leading provider of staffing solutions for humanitarian and development projects, CTG recruits, manages, and deploys experts in their fields to conflict-affected zones and other complex environments. These workers could be drivers supporting international aid and development agencies by delivering food in Ethiopia, ex-military personnel deployed to help demine Sudan, or doctors sent to West Africa to tackle the Ebola epidemic head-on. While they work to support the wellbeing of the communities in the areas where they serve, it’s CTG’s role to always honour their Duty of Care by safeguarding staff.

CTG’s swift response to the Ebola outbreak: An Emergency Medical Team (EMT) on the ground in Liberia within a week.

Holistic Duty of Care: Physical and mental wellbeing

CTG believes that true Duty of Care provides for both physical safety and mental wellbeing; as well as strong support systems, comprehensive training, and risk management strategies.

With more than 20 years’ experience overseeing operations in high-risk environments, James Veysey, COO of CTG and CEO of Assist360, offers his insights into the realities of Duty of Care in the challenging context of humanitarian work.

What does Duty of Care look like in high-risk environments?

One of the most significant challenges when working in high-risk environments is the prospect of uncontrolled movement. “Our role as a third-party contractor is extremely challenging because we don’t have full control over the staff or even always have visibility of what they’re doing and where they’re going,” says James.

One of the most significant challenges when working in high-risk environments is the prospect of uncontrolled movement.

To overcome this, CTG employs Account Managers as key roles in its staff body – assigning one Account Manager to every 50 staff members to ensure these individuals’ wellbeing and fulfil the organisation’s Duty of Care. Account Managers build close relationships with the staff members to whom they’re assigned, supporting their safety while serving in hostile locations. James describes the Account Managers as, “Almost like a shepherd with a flock of sheep, walking around looking after you.”

Technology and procedures that drive Duty of Care

To fulfil the basic Duty of Care that is knowing the whereabouts of all employees in high-risk regions, staff movements are planned and monitored in real-time through CTG’s innovative Tayo app and its SafeTrip process.

One of our expert consultants experienced a harrowing situation when they were kidnapped in Southern Libya after arranging their own transport with a taxi. The driver unexpectedly put them in grave danger. Thankfully, CTG’s negotiation efforts, supported by some dedicated local networks, saw the consultant’s safe return, but this incident highlights the critical importance of CTG’s safety procedures and the close monitoring we maintain to protect our staff.

Tayo

The Tayo app provides safety support for CTG’s on-the-ground staff no matter where they are.

Ensuring safety and support through rigorous due diligence

CTG’s commitment to Duty of Care includes rigorous due diligence to ensure the safety and support of staff in the field. By thoroughly vetting local partners, suppliers, and service providers, CTG creates a reliable network that minimises risks and enhances security. “This meticulous approach means we can anticipate and respond to unexpected challenges effectively,” James explains. Through these robust procedures, CTG not only protects its staff but also maintains the highest standards of operational integrity and effectiveness.

Providing Duty of Care to women in Afghanistan

When delivered well, Duty of Care has a powerful ripple-effect beyond staff members alone. For example, “We have hundreds of women staff in Afghanistan”, says James. “When the de facto government took over, women’s access to work was restricted. We arranged for access to internet connections and solar power so our staff members could continue working from home to keep their livelihood going.” As working women are more likely to spend their salary on healthcare and education for their families, being able to keep them working is a particularly meaningful task.

This is one of the reasons why 97% of CTG’s staff are local to their regions of operation. “A lot of organisations send people or employ people but they’re hands-off,” says James. “If you’re living in a camp that is being shelled, we’re living in that same camp with you.” In these worst-case scenarios, which feel so frightening to most, CTG is equipped to meet and mitigate danger with minimal disruption.

A lot of organisations send people or employ people but they’re hands-off. 97% of CTG staff are local so we’re there with you.

CTG cares for more than 10,000 staff members deployed in 28 different countries, and its understanding of the intricacies of each location, from cultural norms to trusted routes, is invaluable. “You can know what’s going on at a country level, a political level, but that’s not going to keep you safe,” James tells us. But what does help – and what enables CTG to fulfil their Duty of Care – is having knowledge and context of local intricacies around navigating specific spaces safely.

Onboarding and ongoing education for safety

Beyond the skills needed for the job itself, humanitarian workers need the right type of personality, and qualities of tolerance, mental resilience and cultural awareness. CTG’s staff complete a rigorous onboarding process, including a series of online courses, before beginning any work – with a focus on how to conduct oneself in a humanitarian setting.

Are you the right fit for a humanitarian role? Take CTG’s pre-deployment readiness questionnaire here to understand what it takes.

Campaigning for Duty of Care around the world

CTG Sudan Senior Account Manager, Wafa Basha, wears her seatbelt every trip every time.

The focus on safety and compliance is driven at every level, not just by leadership. The well-received Every Trip, Every Time campaign emphasises the importance of wearing a seatbelt, as car accidents are one of the leading causes of fatalities in humanitarian workers. It was gratifying to see the reception the campaign enjoyed among staff: as they answered the call to share images supporting the campaign’s message, it became clear that, around the world, CTG’s staff are invested in Duty of Care and regard it as a shared responsibility to one another. Other campaigns have focused on sustainability, gender equality and tropical diseases.

Advanced emergency response with Assist360

In scenarios in which urgent medical attention is needed, CTG has an advantage: Assist360, its own medical and emergency response company. Assist360 is an extension of CTG’s Duty of Care efforts – an area in which the company has long succeeded and excelled. It was formed so these valuable services can be accessed not only by CTG employees but by anyone travelling to and working in high-risk regions around the world, 24/7/365.

Building on the global reach of CTG and the Chelsea Group, the Assist360 team has mapped the nearest centres of medical excellence so that staff are never more than a four-hour helicopter journey away from expert medical care.

Seeking emergency support? Contact Assist360’s Global Response Centre on +27 (0) 213 004 356.

The power of flexibility and collaboration in Duty of Care

The key to CTG’s Duty of Care is also a flexible and collaborative team. “Our team works because everyone can step into each other’s roles,” says James. With a flat structure and a multidisciplinary approach, the team can quickly deploy to the field and tackle challenges that arise. “Adaptability ensures we can support and protect our staff in any situation.”

Assist360’s incident management team has representation from all the key functions: someone from finance in case the team needs to move money somewhere quickly, someone from legal to address factors such as unlawful detainment, and someone from communications to communicate with the client as well as their next of kin

Our team works because everyone can step into each other’s roles, ensuring we can support and protect our staff in any situation.

Insurance is covered by Assist360, who are available around the clock to assess medical situations quickly and correctly, mitigating any corruption or unethical practices. “Some insurance policies have exclusions for things like war and terror, so you need to be backed by insurers who are comfortable with high-risk.”

Layers of protection for comprehensive Duty of Care

CTG also prioritises supporting their staff’s mental health. CTG Wellbeing offers free, anonymous counselling and support to all its staff globally – all our professional psychologists are experienced in treating humanitarian workers. For the organisation, says James, educating teams is as much about ongoing wellness as it is about efficient responses to emergency situations. 

ctg-wellbeing

CTG Wellbeing provides staff with free and confidential counselling sessions to support their journey to wellbeing.

“Whenever we talk about Duty of Care, it’s about providing layers of protection. We have a three-pronged approach: inform, respond, and prevent, which involves thorough planning, detailed information sharing, and strong response capability. This allows us to understand and assess potential threats to CTG staff and mitigate the risk of intended harm and violence, helping to strengthen the protection of all our staff.”

To learn more about Duty of Care and download CTG’s Duty of Care information booklet, click here.