Frequently Asked Questions

It's usual for people to have lots of questions when it comes to safeguarding practices.  We've tried to address some of the most frequently asked questions here, but if you can't find the answers you're looking for you can call our knowledgeable team on 0303 003 11 11 or speak to your own organisations safeguarding lead.

Working Practice

It would be preferable – children and young people may relate better to one sex rather than the other, particularly on swimming trips etc...

We advise that all workers should be at least 16 years of age. Some churches say 18. Certainly no one under 16 should be employed as a worker (either voluntary or paid). All workers should be recruited to the same standards following the principles laid down in the government document ‘Safe from Harm’ (outlined in the Thirtyone:eight safeguarding manual ‘Safe and Secure’). A criminal records check would be part of this process. Where occasional helpers are used, e.g. a 14 year old in a crèche (effectively as work experience) or say, an adult serving the orange squash at a holiday week, they should always be responsible to a named ‘approved’ worker and never left on their own with the children. They would not be included in the ratio of children to workers and would not need to undertake the same recruitment and selection procedure as a worker. They should, however, complete a basic information form with name, address, date of birth, phone number etc and this should include parental consent in the case of a young person. If the ‘occasional help’ becomes regular then, in the case of adults, the full recruitment policy should be applied.

In order to supervise activities safely, it is necessary to have sufficient adult leaders and helpers. There are legal requirements for certain activities involving children aged 8 or under. Even if there isn’t a legal requirement (see Legal queries Q:2) the ratios are nevertheless ‘good sense’ in terms of managing any group of children in this age group:

  • 0-2 yrs 1 adult to 3 children
  • 2-3yrs 1 adult to 4 children
  • 3-8yrs 1 adult to 8 children

Thirtyone:eight Frequently Asked Questions page 4 There are no legal requirements for older groups, but the Thirtyone:eight safeguarding manual ‘Safe and Secure’ provides guidance in this area based on numbers and the type of activity being undertaken.

If parents offer to help during a sleepover, it is important that the organiser’s expectations are made clear. A parent of one child in the group may be a complete stranger to others and should only be responsible for caring for their own child. So unless specifically asked by another parent they should not be involved in looking after other children and should not be left alone with them. Only approved workers (which could, of course, include a parent) should be involved in the care and supervision of the children. If the sleep-over is taking place in a family home the above still applies and parents of all participating children should be advised of the arrangements. Of course, if a sleep-over is being arranged between parents of children within the group, and nothing to do with the church, then they are responsible for the arrangements.

Developing safe practice in working with children and young people protects children and also minimises the risk of false allegations against workers. It’s a double-sided coin. Teamwork, with staff accepting a responsibility for and to each other is also vital. (See also question 1 “Abuse Issues”)

It would be reasonable (and common practice) to say that 'Father Christmas' should never be left alone supervising the children. If it was a grotto, then assume that the parents would be accompanying their children and they would remain the responsibility of their parents. In addition, for both safeguarding and health and safety reasons, it would be appropriate to have another adult present - this would ideally be an approved children's worker.

Often in children's party situations, Santa is accompanied by a children's worker dressed as an elf and there are other children's workers around. It is also advisable to ensure that the children would be sitting on a chair next to 'Father Christmas'; rather than on his lap.

The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations (1995) state that anyone who handles food or whose actions could affect its safety must follow the regulations. Where food is being sold, and this includes children taken away on camp where the food is included in the cost, then those with responsibility for it should possess the basic Food Hygiene Certificate and be aware of food safety (preparation, handling and storage, disposal of waste, etc). We suggest you contact your local Council Environmental Health Department to enquire about food hygiene courses. These courses are often provided free, or for a minimal charge.

Whilst there is no legislation which prohibits young or inexperienced drivers from transporting children/young people, some places of worship prefer to operate under the regulations set out for mini-bus drivers, that the driver should be 21 or over and have held a full driving licence for at least two years. We advise the following:

  • Consent for the trip must be obtained from the parents/carers who should be made aware of the transportation arrangements.
  • All those transporting children and young people must go through the church recruitment procedure, even if this is all they do. (i.e. they are not children’s or youth workers). The reason for this is that they will have substantial contact with the children and young people.
  • The vehicle being used for transportation must be roadworthy. The driver must produce a valid driving licence, MOT certificate (where applicable) and proof of adequate insurance. It is important that the driver is covered to transport other people in the car in their capacity as church worker/helper.

In relation to minibuses, all drivers must be over 21. The law no longer permits car drivers who passed their test after 1st January 1997 to drive a mini-bus without passing a PSV (Public Service Vehicle) driving test unless they are qualified under a section 19 permit. All minibuses that carry between 6 and 16 passengers must also have a Small Bus Permit. Not all driving licences automatically include a clause permitting an individual to drive a minibus, so it is important to check the potential driver’s licence. Remember, the maximum speed for a minibus is 50 mph on a single carriageway, 60 mph on a dual carriageways, and 70 mph on motorways (60 when towing a trailer). All mini-buses should be fitted with seat belts and used by the passengers! For further information see the Thirtyone:eight safeguarding manual, ‘Safe and Secure’.

It is important to find out if the child has any allergies. This information should be on a general consent and information form that the parent/carer completed and signed when the child started to attend the group/activity. If you haven’t been told anything of significance and the child, when asked, says there’s no problem then we can’t see one either. Consider the greater risk – a possible problem the child hasn’t told you about or the wound becoming infected because you didn’t take any action. An open, bleeding wound in a child who is HIV positive or has Hepatitis could pose a risk to others. If in doubt cover the wound with a dry dressing covered by a cotton bandage.

Abuse Issues

Although it is a difficult decision to have to make, your safeguarding policy should state clearly that any allegations of abuse must be reported to Children’s Social Services/Police to be properly investigated. The authorities have a duty to consider the ‘best interests of the child’, taking into account all the circumstances surrounding the allegation. A prosecution will not necessarily follow. Churches must be very careful to avoid appearing to ‘cover-up’ what may be a serious criminal offence. Many adults in contact with us, who were abused as children, feel that they were denied justice by a church cover-up and in so doing colluded with the abuser. For some it has also undermined their faith and their trust in the church. In not taking action, this child and others could continue to be abused. Legal proceedings by the young person who has alleged the abuse might also ensue on the grounds that the church has been negligent. There are additional responsibilities if the concern relates to a worker. Such matters should be reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). There may also be requirements in certain circumstances to report such matters to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Charity Commission, but we (or the LADO) will advise you further on this in relation to situations.

It is not always appropriate to take action in relation to safeguarding procedures, especially if the girl has not made any allegation that she is not a willing party. You might broach the subject with the young people involved, but remember this should be done sensitively and not in an accusatory way otherwise you run the risk of alienating them and other members of the group. You could consider what you can do generally in regard to your teaching programme on appropriate relationships.

Legal Queries

You will not be breaking criminal law if you do not have a child protection policy. However, the government’s statutory guidance – ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ 2010 - states that churches, other places of worship and faith-based organisations need to have appropriate arrangements in place for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children (anyone up the age of 18 years). The Charity Commission requires every organisation that works with children, including places of worship, to have a written safeguarding policy and charitable status will not be granted unless a policy is in place. Insurance companies also require written policies.

In addition Trustees providing services to children and vulnerable adults are required to inform the Charity Commission if they do not have a safeguarding policy in place and are not carrying out criminal records checks on Trustees (where legally possible) and workers (paid and volunteer). The Charity Commission would regard such a situation as a ‘serious incident’ and investigate. When filing their Annual Return, charity trustees are required to confirm that such policy and procedures are in place.

Insurance companies have similar expectations and failure to address these issues could mean that an organisation is in breach of their insurance policy.

No, it’s not against the law to leave a child unattended at any age but it is against the law to leave children in circumstances that put them in any kind of danger. So, for example, leaving a young child alone for several hours could place them in physical danger and emotional harm if they become fearful, distressed or lonely. Someone under 18 is legally a child and though you can leave children younger than that on their own, you must be sure that they can cope adequately and that you have guarded against all possible risks. Young children should never be left alone.

As stated above, someone under 18 is still legally a child. If anything goes wrong, you will be responsible for the babysitter as well as your own children. You should also question whether it is fair to place this kind of responsibility on a young person of this age. You must ensure that your babysitter knows your ground rules – for example, bedtime and your expectations over discipline. Make sure that your child is happy with the babysitter and don’t use the person again if they are not. You will need to consider very carefully how you choose a babysitter as children are abused by male and female carers in babysitting arrangements.

Government Guidance

If you contact CSS about the welfare of a child they will want to establish the nature of the concern, how and why it has arisen and as much information as possible about the family involved. If you make the referral by telephone, you should confirm the referral in writing to CSS within 48 hours. CSS should acknowledge a written referral within one working day of receiving it. If you have not received an acknowledgement within three working days then contact them again. An initial assessment will be made by CSS to determine whether a child is in need, and the nature of that need, and whether a more detailed assessment is required. The initial assessment should be made within 7 days of receiving a referral. At the end of this process it should be made clear to the referrer what will happen next, the contact person at CSS and the timescale of any action that needs to be taken. Where no further action is necessary, CSS should decide this within one working day and notify the referrer with the reasons for their decision. See: ‘What to do if You’re Worried a Child is Being Abused’: DoH 2003.

Parents’ permission or the child’s where appropriate, should be sought before discussing a concern with CSS (or any other agency), unless permission-seeking may itself place a child at increased risk of significant harm. The government guidance ‘Working Together’ is very clear that:

‘When responding to referrals from a member of the public rather than another professional, LA children’s social care [Children’s Social Services (sic)] should bear in mind that personal information about referrers, including identifying details, should only be disclosed to third parties (including subject families and other agencies) with the consent of the referrer.’

There may be legitimate reasons why you wouldn’t want your details shared e.g. that it may damage the relationship you have with the child or family and/or put the child at increased risk of significant harm. You may be concerned for the welfare of yourself or church members because of the reaction of the family concerned. Discuss these concerns with CSS and agree what personal information (if any) about the referrers will be shared.

In ‘What To Do If You’re Worried A Child Is Being Abused’ (DOH 2003) it states that a key factor in determining whether or not to disclose confidential information without the consent of the family is proportionality i.e. ‘is the proposed disclosure a proportionate response to the need to protect the welfare of the child.’

Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) replaced Area Child Protection Committees (ACPCs) in April 2006. Under the Children Act 2004 LSCBs are placed on a statutory footing. LSCBs develop policies and procedures for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the area of the local authority where they operate. They consist of statutory members (CSS, local government representatives, police, probation, Strategic Health Authorities / Primary Care Trusts, CAFCASS etc) and other members including the NSPCC, and local organisations. As a minimum, local organisations should include faith groups, state and independent schools, colleges and GPs and all other relevant local organisations.

We do refer to ‘Schedule 1 Offenders’ in Safe and Secure, as this is a common term used to describe those who have a conviction for an offence against a child listed in Schedule One of the Children and Young Person’s Act 1933. The government in ‘Working Together’ points out that committing an offence under Schedule One of the Act does not trigger any statutory requirement in relation to child protection issues and inclusion on the schedule is determined solely by the age of the victim and offence for which the offender was sentenced, not by an assessment of future risk of harm to children. Therefore the term ‘Schedule One offender’ is no longer going to be used. It will be replaced with ‘Risk to Children’ indicating a person has been identified as presenting a risk or potential risk of harm to children.

Policy Matters

We no longer ask churches to send us their policies. We are happy for you to use the information from Safe and Secure but please do not place on your website for copyright reasons.

For our members, if the policy is based on our current model, all the essential areas will be covered. If you are unsure about any point, then you can always ring our helpline on 03 03 003 11 11 option 2. Once this has been completed please you should send an electronic version to policy@thirtyoneeight.org along with our Policy Checklist so that we can log and acknowledge safe receipt.

If you are not currently a member joining us will allow you to gain further information on the preparation and submission of a safeguarding policy and give you access to our model safeguarding policy. Also, as part of the Specialist Safeguarding Services we offer, we can undertake a bespoke policy development and review.

Every organisation working with children needs a policy relevant to their circumstances and range of activities. Our model policy can be adapted for special events. Parents, young people and the sending organisation must be made aware of the safeguarding policy and who they should contact if they have concerns. With some joint events it might be sufficient to act under the policy of one of the participating churches or organisations. Where several groups are involved together in an activity it will be important to work within one set of policy guidelines and this should obviously be agreed by all participating groups before the event takes place.

Much of the advice about keeping records for an indefinite period originates from insurance companies policies. The reason behind this is that many allegations of abuse are of an ‘historic’ nature. It can be years after an alleged incident that an adult makes a police statement. A church can be asked for information about something that may have occurred ten, twenty, or even thirty years previously. Any records from that time could be helpful to a police/children’s services investigation. This information could also be helpful to the church if legal action were then pursued on the grounds of negligence.

There is no time limitation on the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters. For a civil claim any action will generally have to be brought within three years of the alleged incident and where a child is concerned, by the age of 21 (i.e. within three years of becoming an adult). Having said this, courts can and do waive this requirement, in recent cases by as much as 30 years! The possibility of a negligence claim can never be ruled out, and it follows that any records maintained by the church could be an important part of a defence. In particular records need to be kept concerning any allegation of abuse and the action that was taken by the workers involved. It will be helpful to retain old copies of the church’s child protection policy because producing such a document could be evidence of good intentions, even if it might have fallen short in practice. The more information on record that a church has about the child protection process, training, details about workers etc, in existence at the time, the more helpful this will be for all those involved. It is important not to try to cover up inadequacies. If a church is found to be culpable then the due process of law must run its course, but in exercising good sense child protection and complying with insurance policies, this offers the best protection for both a child and the church/organisation involved.

This is not something to which we can agree. The policy is copyright material and we have, in the past, received serious complaints where, for example, a church has copied another church’s policy making subtle changes which conflict with good child protection practice. Such a policy, which ‘appears’ to be based on the Thirtyone:eight model, could bring this organisation into disrepute. It is also important to remember that working practice is changing all the time and it is essential that churches and groups are using our latest recommendations. Contact should be made directly with us so that we can supply the manual direct to the organisation/place of worship.

Finally, every church or organisation is unique. A policy that has been prepared specifically for a certain group, by necessity will miss out or include areas that are not relevant to another. This is why each policy must be group specific.

All policies produced with the help of our model either directly or indirectly should contain the following statement:

‘This document is based on a Model Safeguarding Policy supplied by the Thirytone:eight. A copy of the policy and all amendments will be filed with Thirytone:eight. This Policy must not be copied by other churches/organisations without the written agreement of Thirytone:eight.’

For the reasons already given in an earlier question, we are unable to agree to requests of this nature. It is important for your church or organisation to make general statements to the effect that you take child protection seriously, there is a detailed policy in place following recommended good practice and a copy is available for inspection in the church office. You could state that the policy is based on Thirtyone:eight model policy and provide a link to our website.

Whilst we understand Children’s Social Services’ reasons for making this request, there is no obligation to do this if you prefer to use the Thirtyone:eight model policy as it stands.

Children’s Social Services could be unaware of the professionalism and expertise of Thirtyone:eight and apprehensive about referrals being made to a non-statutory child protection agency. They may well need reassuring about our role and the basis on which we deal with such concerns.

We the lead Christian child protection agency. The model safeguarding policy in our manual, ‘Safe and Secure’ is recommended by the Department for Education in ‘Working Together’ 2010. Our organisation employs social workers experienced in child protection, and who have worked for local authorities for many years. All our advice will be confirmed in writing.

Sometimes, it will be apparent that a child could be at risk of significant harm and you will have no doubt about the need to contact either Children’s Social Services or the Police. In other cases, such as poor parenting, the situation is less clear, and you may wish to take advice. Sometimes individuals are reluctant to contact the authorities direct and this is where Thirtyone:eight can be of help because we offer independent advice. Social Services departments have received a bad press (sometimes quite unjustifiably), and it’s not always easy therefore to make that first call. This is particularly true if it means contacting them without consulting the parents (as is often necessary) and perhaps in circumstances where the individuals involved are part of a church community. There is evidence that, without our advice, some calls would just not be made.

Another reason people contact us is because we provide an out-of office hours service. Although in theory Children’s Social Services offer the same, it is not always as accessible with less staff to deal with referrals. We have been able to reassure callers on the action they should take, either waiting until the Children’s Social Services Department offices are open again or if immediate action is required giving advice on what they should do.

The important thing is that workers are able to respond promptly to concerns, whether or not they phone Children’s Social Services, Police or Thirtyone:eight in the first instance, being assured of our support whichever agency is contacted.

If you are including a quote of up to 50 words, then we are happy for you to do this without prior permission, on the proviso you acknowledge the source and quote Thirtyone:eight contact details. We also ask that you send us a copy of the publication when produced. Prior consent is needed for longer passages and full articles. We will normally agree to this because we want our information to be circulated to as wide a readership as possible, though please bear in mind that sometimes the copyright may belong to another organisation. The model policy and forms contained in ‘Safe and Secure’ are designed to be adapted for use but please observe the conditions set in the manual and ensure these are respected in any document produced. Applications should be made in writing (not by email) to the Executive Director (Operations), Thirtyone:eight, PO Box 133, Swanley, Kent, BR8 7UQ.

From 25 May 2018 the Data Protection Act 1998 will be replaced by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) across the UK.  This applies to all organisations including churches and faith settings. Each organisation needs to consider its own responsibilities regarding this important change, including security of information, retentions, destruction and consent.

As a Safeguarding specialist, we cannot provide specific detailed advice on GDPR.  We are signposting people to the website of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The Church of England's Parish rules information also has some helpful information which may be of use to a wider church audience.

We do have some information concerning data specifically relating to safeguarding which our members can access via Safe and Secure in Standard 5.3, but for more general or specific enquiries we recommend you contact the ICO.

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