Aim and purpose of this policy
The aim of this policy is to ensure that protecting people from abuse, harm or neglect is central to our culture. It provides procedures for promoting safeguarding, preventing abuse and protecting children, adults at risk and staff. This includes clear procedures for taking appropriate action when safeguarding concerns are raised involving children and adults within our church, or those who attend our activities and events.
Who this policy applies to
This policy is approved and endorsed by the Elders and applies to:
- all members of our church
- all those who attend and serve our church/place of worship and its services
- our trustees and elders
- paid staff (both internal and external, such as consultants)
- organisations and groups which hire our building with written agreement to operate under the church safeguarding policy.
The values and safeguarding principles within the United Reformed Church are described in Appendix A1. The policy and procedures should be interpreted in accordance with these principles and the most recent URC good practice guidance. Children, parents/carers, adults at risk and those responsible for safeguarding them will be informed of this policy and our procedures.
The term ‘children’ refers to those under the age of 18 years.
The term ‘adult at risk’ refers to any adult aged 18 or over who, by reason of mental or other disability, age, illness or other situation, are permanently, or for time being, unable to take care of themselves, or to protect themselves against significant harm, abuse or exploitation.
Duty of care and confidentiality
We have a duty of care to all beneficiaries of the church, whether adults, children or young people. We will always maintain confidentiality, except in circumstances where to do so would place the individual or another individual at risk of harm or abuse.
The church will appoint a Safeguarding and Deputy Safeguarding Coordinator for safeguarding children and adults. A job/role description is attached as Appendix A2.
Activities will be organised in accordance with URC’s safeguarding policy and guidance to promote a safe environment and healthy relationships, whilst minimising opportunities for harm, misunderstanding or false accusation. For each event, risk assessments will be carried out, appropriate and accessible consent forms will be used (for children’s activities or activities for people with special needs), appropriate records will be kept, and adequate insurance will be in place.
We are committed to safer recruitment and selection of all paid staff and volunteers with emphasis on those in regulated activities. We will treat applicants who have a criminal record fairly and do not discriminate because of a conviction or other information revealed and ensure that all safer recruitment-related procedures are followed, which include:
- asking applicants to complete an application form
- providing workers with job or role descriptions and person specifications
- completion of self-declaration forms
- obtaining Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) / Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme (PVG) checks for eligible roles and positions
- taking up two references (not from family members)
- interviewing candidates
- providing workers/volunteers with written contracts/agreements.
All trustees, paid staff and volunteers will work within a code of conduct (attached as Appendix A3) and understand that there may be action taken if this code is not followed, possibly involving suspension or the termination of people’s service.
If we become aware of someone within our congregation known to have harmed or harm children or adults, we will inform the Church Safeguarding Coordinator or Synod Safeguarding Officer within 24 hours and co-operate with them and the relevant statutory authorities to put in place a plan to minimise the risk of harm to children, young people and adults.
When any church premises are let to an external, informal group or individual, those hiring the premises should hold and abide by their own safeguarding policy. If a hirer does not have a policy, they must abide by the church’s own safeguarding policy, a copy of which should be made available. Each hiring body is required to ensure that children and adults at risk are always protected by taking all reasonable steps to prevent injury, illness, loss or damage occurring.
How to recognise abuse
It is important to be aware of possible signs and symptoms of abuse.
Appendix A6: Signs and Symptoms of Abuse provides definitions of different forms of abuse and further help and guidance. Some signs could be indicators of several different categories of abuse.
It is essential to note that these are only indicators of possible abuse. There may be other, innocent, reasons for these signs and/or behaviour. There might be domestic abuse that requires a different approach
(please see Appendix R: A Guide to domestic abuse).
The indicators will, however, be a guide to assist in assessing whether abuse of one form or another is a possible explanation for a child or adult’s behaviour.
Church workers and members will also pay attention to online safety and their electronic communications with children and adults. Grooming and abuse of any form can occur offline (both physically and verbally) and online.
What to do if there is a disclosure or allegation of abuse
If a child, young person or adult makes a disclosure that they are being abused and have been abused, it is important that the person being told:
- stays calm and listen carefully
- reassures them that they have done the right thing in telling
- does not investigate or ask leading questions
- explains that they will need to tell someone else if anyone is at risk of harm, in order to help them
- does not promise to keep secret what they have been told
- informs the church Safeguarding Coordinator within 24 hours
(if they are implicated in the allegation, inform the Deputy or the Synod Safeguarding Officer)
- makes a written record of the allegation, disclosure or incident and signs and dates this record (using the template in Appendix A5). This should be given to the church Safeguarding Coordinator or the Synod Safeguarding Officer and stored securely in a locked filing cabinet.
Procedure in the event of a concern of abuse
If there is an immediate threat of harm, the Police should be contacted without delay.
Where it is judged that there is no immediate threat of harm the following will occur:
- The concern should be discussed with the Church Safeguarding Coordinator or the Synod Safeguarding Officer within 24 hours and a decision needs to be made as to whether the concern warrants a referral to statutory authorities
- A confidential record will be made of the conversation and the circumstances surrounding it using the template at Appendix A5. This record will be kept securely, and a copy passed to statutory authorities if a referral is made
- The person about whom the allegation is made must not be informed by anyone in the church if it is judged that to do so could place a child or adult at further risk. If the statutory authorities are involved, they should be consulted beforehand
- The Synod Safeguarding Officer should be kept informed of any serious concerns and referrals to police and statutory authorities.
Prior to any referral to children’s services, the child’s wishes and rights should be considered when determining what action to take. There should also be a verbal consultation with local authority’s children’s services to ensure that making a referral is an appropriate action. The parent/carer will normally be contacted to obtain their consent before a referral is made. However, if the concern involves, for example alleged or suspected child sexual abuse, domestic abuse, Honour Based Violence, fabricated or induced illness, or the Synod Safeguarding Officer has reason to believe that informing the parent at this stage might compromise the safety of the child or a staff member, nothing should be said to the parent/carer ahead of the referral, but a rationale for the decision to progress without consent should be provided with the referral.
In the case of referrals to adult social care or other services for adults at risk, information should be shared with consent if the adult has capacity within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act and if this does not place the referrer, them or others at an increased risk. A person’s right to confidentiality is not absolute and may be overridden where there is evidence that sharing information is necessary to support an investigation or where there is a risk to others. (See section 14 of Good Practice 5 for further advice and guidance.)
If the allegation is regarding a church staff member or church volunteer
If someone in the church is alleged or known to harm/have harmed children or adults, it is essential to inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer so that they can offer advice and support.
For any concerns relating to children, the Designated Officer (previously known as LADO) or the equivalent in Scotland and Wales will be contacted. The timing and method of any action to be taken will be discussed and agreed with the DO. This will cover communication with the worker, suspension, investigation and possible strategy meetings. A decision will be taken by the DO about when to inform the worker and the church will follow this advice
For concerns relating to adults, Adult Social Care will be contacted.
In accordance with the law, a referral needs to be made to the DBS / PVG for consideration of barring to share information about any individual in regulated activity where for safeguarding reasons the organisation has either terminated the employment, failed to appoint, or would have terminated the employment had the individual not moved on through resignation, retirement or re-deployment. In such cases, the synod safeguarding officer needs to be advised/informed.
Depending on the seriousness of incidents or allegations, a report to the Charity Commission will also need to be considered at the elders/trustees’ meeting, as they deem such a referral to be a ‘serious incident’ and require notification.
Managing those who may pose a risk to the welfare of people
The use of rigorous and careful supervision is paramount to protect people from the risks associated with known offenders within the congregation, including implementing safeguarding contracts with known or alleged offenders and those who have been assessed as posing a risk.
Where it is known that someone has a caution or conviction for committing a sexual offence, the church can play an important role in the prevention of further abuse by helping the offender to live an offence-free life.
If anyone is made aware that a person attending their church has been convicted of an offence against a child or has had an allegation of this nature made against them at any time, we immediately inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer and Minister or Interim Moderator.
It is important to provide known or alleged offenders with a group of people who will offer support, friendship and supervision. Following advice from the Synod Safeguarding Officer, when appropriate, a formal safeguarding contract will be drawn up between the church, the person who is considered to pose a risk to the welfare of people in the church, and any statutory agencies when involved.
Safeguarding training will be provided and volunteers and paid staff will be given support and supervision in their role. All relevant staff members and volunteers will receive appropriate safeguarding training delivered by the synod. The Safeguarding Coordinators should ensure that trustees/elders and people involved in regulated activities with children or adults (including Ministers, staff and volunteers) have undergone safeguarding training, as recommended by the URC.
Concerns, Complaints and Compliments
Should anyone have any concerns, complaints or compliments please contact:
Name Jenny Avery
Telephone No 01732 461243
If would be helpful to have complaints in writing, as this avoids any possible misunderstanding about what the issue is. However, whether verbal or in writing, complaints will be acted upon.
Any written complaint will be responded to within 10 days.
Key Contacts: Sources of advice and support
- The church Safeguarding Coordinator is the person to whom all concerns or allegations relating to children, young people or adults should be addressed:
Name Jenny Avery
Telephone No 01732 461243
- In the absence of the Safeguarding Coordinator, the Deputy Safeguarding Coordinator can be contacted:
Name Diana Jones
Telephone No 07823 406802
- Synod Safeguarding Officer
Name Belinda Nielsen
Telephone No 07716 640596
- URC Safeguarding Office (This should only be used if you are unable to contact your Synod Safeguarding Officer)
Name Ioannis Athanasiou
Telephone No 020 7520 2729
- ThirtyOne: Eight (This should only be used for urgent advice if you are unable to contact URC)
24 hour helpline: 0845 120 4550
- Designated Officer (DO)
Name Sue Unwin
Telephone No 01622 696366
- Statutory contact in the case of a child
- Call 03000 41 11 11 (text relay 18001 03000 41 11 11)
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Out of hours and in an emergency call 03000 41 91 91.
- Statutory contact in the case of an adult at risk
- Call 03000 41 61 61 (text relay 18001 03000 41 61 61)
- email email@example.com
- Out of hours and in an emergency call 03000 41 91 91.
If you think someone is in immediate danger, the best thing to do is call 999 for the emergency services.