Churches and places of worship reflect society as a whole, with children and adults coming together to share in the services and activities that go on there.
We need to ensure that children, young adults and adults at risk of harm or abuse (often referred to as ‘vulnerable people’) are safeguarded, cared for and protected too. Generally, unless specified in particular legislation
Safeguarding has developed over the years, as people have become more aware of how vulnerable people may experience harm, whether in institutions, in their own homes or in the community.
Work in this area has been framed by government guidance (No Secrets, Department of Health, 2000). Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007.
Places of worship and faith based organisations provide many activities for their congregations and communities. These may pose risks in different ways to the church. To remove or minimise harm risk assessments should be put in place in the following common areas:
Safeguarding vulnerable people against the risk of significant harm, abuse, bullying, harassment, mistreatment or exploitation is part of each church members responsibilities. Amnon let his sister down instead of protecting her 2 Samuel13v1-22. Reaching a certain age or having a particular disability does not mean they are the only vulnerable people, we are all vulnerable in certain situations.
Various pieces of legislation give different definitions of who is a vulnerable person for children and adults.
Abuse maybe defined as the mistreatment and violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by another person or persons. Such abuse can take many forms, from treating someone with disrespect so as to significantly affect his or her quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering.
Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It may be physical, verbal or psychological; it may be an act of neglect or an omission to act; or it may occur when a vulnerable person is persuaded or coerced to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent.
Abuse can occur within any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it. See No Secrets act.
Abuse can take many forms:
Churches and faith communities should be safe places for all, both children and adults, where everyone is made to feel welcome, are valued, respected and cared for. We can promote this by ensuring that our buildings are accessible, recognising the limitations that the design of some buildings cause and addressing them, together with the acoustics and lighting. It should be borne in mind that negative and uncaring attitudes are also a major barrier to access. We should also be careful to use appropriate language and suitable vocabulary, which can often reflect people’s attitudes towards others.
Churches should have safeguarding policies – for both children and vulnerable adults – which should cover the following:
website – www.ccpas.co.uk
Safer recruitment and safer organisations Legislation and best practice
The first opportunity to safeguard vulnerable people is by protecting the entry point to churches or organisations by staff and volunteers by carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service checks. Anyone is accepted is accepted in church.
It is important that all places of worship and faith-based organisations working with vulnerable people are clear about the status of their work, or whether it is “regulated activity” or not. This status will determine precisely what sorts of checks should be undertaken for staff and volunteers (including criminal background checks).
Regardless of what checks are required for certain posts and activities, the responsibility remains to ensure that every appropriate measure has been undertaken in both the recruitment and ongoing management of staff and volunteers. This is to ensure that those who are unsuitable to work with vulnerable people are not given the opportunity to do so. These measures range from the appropriate use of job adverts, role descriptions, application forms, interviewing processes and the taking-up of references, through to providing appropriate support, supervision and training for new workers.
More positively, churches and faith-based organisations have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding and setting an open, positive culture through their employment/ selection practices. Open doors, Open mind, Open hearts.
It is important that anyone seeking pastoral care should know exactly what to expect in terms of good conduct, that those caring for them are accountable and that any boundaries set are respected at all times.
Those providing pastoral care should avoid any behaviour that may give the impression of anything negative.