Over recent years ‘Safeguarding’ has acquired a very high profile within the Church of England. It combines ‘child protection’ with ‘safeguarding vulnerable adults’. Anyone can be vulnerable at some time during his or her life. Safeguarding recognises a legal and moral responsibility to care for everyone, and to make sure that everyone, of whatever age, is able to flourish, enjoy and be served by what we do through our ministry, worship and care. Churches should be places where there is the highest level of concern for the welfare of all with whom we come into contact, because we believe that everyone is loved by God.
A Carlisle Diocesan Safeguarding Policy was produced. Some aspects of the policy are requirements: all churches were required carefully to consider and adopt the policy in order to be able to demonstrate that they are operating properly in these areas. Some aspects are by way of guidance: for example, the policy includes a Code of Practice for all working in pastoral situations with adults, young people or children, particularly those who may be vulnerable. Some aspects are simply fact: for example, what to do when convicted offenders want to attend church or join church activities, or how PCCs need to operate so that users of our premises and church groups are properly insured. Some aspects are sound common sense and wisdom, informed by experience within our diocese and elsewhere.
Sadly, over recent years, weaknesses in the Church’s approach to safeguarding have been exposed in the media, and there have been reports where the Church has let people down and not offered the highest levels of care and support. The Church has sought to learn lessons and change the way it operates. It seeks to prevent further hurt, but also wants to give all who are served – and, indeed, serve - a good, fruitful, life-enhancing and life-supporting experience, and so enable young and old to know the ‘life in its fullness’ that Jesus offers.
Here at St Cuthbert’s we have adopted the Carlisle Diocesan Policy, and have written one personal to our people and their needs. We have a Safeguarding Group on which are representatives of many of our organisations and facilitators of our premises. I lead the group, and with the co-operation of group leaders ensure that our high expectations are met, and policy and strategies adhered to. We now have seventeen members of our church vetted and authorised by the Disclosure and Barring Service to work within our church groups, I am currently awaiting one more authorisation. We have compiled various forms, including registration and risk assessment, which are requirements for the proper running of our activities. Several of us have attended intensive training sessions provided by the Diocese. There is further training available in the autumn. It is an expectation that all those involved continue to update their knowledge and expertise regularly. Those involved have to be very committed. I was delighted to learn that the Diocese now has Robert Parks leading the strategy. I have worked many times with Robert over the years in his capacity as Safeguarding Officer responsible for those within Cumbria County Council establishments. His knowledge and experience are invaluable.
We all, every one of us here at St Cuthbert's, have a responsibility to be vigilant and aware that we must protect ourselves and those around us, and should we be concerned that anyone is at risk, be aware that it is essential that we share those concerns confidentially with our Safeguarding Leader or the Vicar, who together will subsequently decide on any further action. We must ensure that everyone who uses our buildings or participates in any of our activities is safe, secure and comfortable. We must recruit leaders and helpers in a safe and careful way; the suitability of all those leading and helping with our church's organisations have to be vetted by the government’s Disclosure and Barring Service; it used to be called the Criminal Record Bureau known as the 'CRB'. All the resultant information is held securely in church and is strictly confidential.
Thankfully, we have many good people here at St Cuthbert's who willingly contribute to the richness of the lives of those in our church organisations, such as  the Toddler Group, the Choir, the Sunday School, the Home Communion Team, the Baptism Team. All of these volunteers totally understand that we must act effectively within the parameters of the law, and indeed the expectations of the Diocese. We have had many meetings, attended several training conferences, written our own policy, defined our practice, scrutinised many documents and completed many forms. It was, and remains, a mammoth task. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our policy is properly reflected in our practice throughout the church at all times, and that we can be assured that everyone is safe and secure.
There has recently been a Diocesan update released. The new procedures do give a key role to safeguarding coordinators in confirming that safeguarding procedures and checks have been completed before volunteers are appointed in parishes to work with children or vulnerable adults as well as explaining  the DBS check process as simply as possible. In addition to the main leaders of each organisation being legally authorised by the Disclosure and Barring Service everyone who is involved in a church group or activity which deals with children, young people or vulnerable adults must attend Foundation Training. There is currently a programme being delivered locally and across the diocese between September 2014 and April 2015. Please contact me on 01228 541635 for further details. The Diocese is also beginning to embark on developing guidance for parishes on how to communicate with children and young people safely using social network sites etc.
If anyone needs support, any further information, or to share a concern, please contact me. You can be assured of confidentiality.
Thank you
Irene Roberts-Green, Safeguarding Officer, 2014