Our research

Developing evidence-based advice, training and resources

A learning organisation

We are committed to being a learning organisation. In our pursuit of this, we participate in and commission academically rigorous and timely research to assist in the development of best practice relating to safeguarding within the faith sector in the UK and overseas.

Developing best practice

We partner with academic institutions to research aspects of safeguarding practice in order to inform the development of our training, practice guidance and the quality of the advice we provide to individuals and organisations via our professional helpline.  We are constantly striving to improve the quality of our services as well as facilitate the development of best practice amongst those that use our services.

Read more about our past and current research projects below:

For our latest research project, we asked the University of Chester to conduct a study into the role of safeguarding leads in Christian faith organisations before, during and post COVID-19 to help us better understand the impact the global pandemic has had on safeguarding in these settings. Find out more about the research here.

Through our work helping organisations to implement safeguarding we have identified a rapidly growing need for support with safeguarding in an international context.  Both larger and smaller missions, charities and NGOs are becoming more aware of the importance of developing good safeguarding policies and procedures and are seeking advice and support to do this well.

Currently there is minimal research in the area of safeguarding and international Christian mission/development work. The history of response to allegations of abuse in mission contexts, has been poor with a pattern of being responsive, rather than proactive. Although there have been recent and welcome developments in terms of policy, what is not clear is how the policy works in practice. Therefore, there is a need for good quality empirical research in this area to help develop the right support.

This research was commissioned by thirtyone:eight and conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Chester with a focus on safeguarding policy and practice from application stage to being ‘on mission’ - that is working in mission/development contexts abroad. It explored the challenges and training needs with regards to safeguarding for sending organisations and those being sent. In addition, it examined how Christian Charities and NGOs might work effectively with partners overseas to develop a shared understanding of good child protection practice. It provides a foundation on which to develop training, policy and practice.


  • To explore current safeguarding policy, training and practice in UK-based organisations which deploy individuals to mission/international aid situations overseas.
  • To explore the challenges faced by those implementing safeguarding practice whilst in host countries and identify additional training needs.
  • To understand the challenges of seeking to work with host organisations to develop a safeguarding culture.
  • To identify the basis for best practice toolkits and resources to support organisations working internationally from a UK base.

The final report of the research can be read and downloaded here.

During 2017, we undertook this research in collaboration with the National Centre for Post-qualifying Social Work & Professional Practice (NCPQSW) at Bournemouth University. The project was led by Dr Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys (Chief Executive at thirtyone:eight).

This significant and much-needed research has now concluded, having gained the participation of over 1,500 individuals. The summary findings are presented in a short, accessible document.  A copy of the summary findings can be downloaded here.

The findings will be used to continue the work in understanding this form of abuse and will inform the development of policy and practice guidance and training.  Contact details concerning the latest research can be found in the summary document and you can read our full position statement on the use and definition of the term spiritual abuse here.

In 2014, together with the Metropolitan Police we launched a film resource educating professionals about the largely unknown issue of Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief (CALFB). The launch of this training material was accompanied by the book ‘Child Witches and Trafficking’ published by Thirtyone:eight. Since then we have been an active member of the government’s National Working Group on Child Abuse Linked to Faith and Belief where we join with a number of other organisations (including the Victoria Climbie Foundation) campaigning and working in this area of practice towards the National Action Plan.

Building on this work, in 2016 we partnered with the Victoria Climbie Foundation (VCFUK) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to undertake a unique piece of research on behalf of the National Working Group exploring understandings of child abuse linked to faith and belief. The ultimate aim of the research was to broaden our knowledge and build a toolkit that can be used to aid work in this area. Dr Lisa Oakley and Dr Kathryn Kinmond at Manchester Metropolitan University were the academic leads for this research alongside Justin Humphreys (Chief Executive of Thirtyone:eight) and Mor Dioum (Director at VCFUK).

The summary findings of this research study are available to download here.

A peer-reviewed article based on the research was published in Child Abuse Review Vol. 28 in February 2019 which can be viewed here.

Following the research, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on safeguarding in faith settings launched its first inquiry in 2018 into ‘Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief: An Exploration of multi-agency responses to Children in Need’, which seeks to explore the characteristics of those cases that were registered in the children in need census in 2017 and 2018 under the category ‘child abuse linked to faith or belief’.

During 2014 we partnered with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to conduct the first and largest ever research study into understandings of safeguarding adults in the Christian faith community.

This research gathered over 3,000 participants from all over the UK and produced the largest-ever data sample looking at this issue.

As a result of this initial study, we have been able to draw out a huge amount of learning about vulnerability and safeguarding adults in Christian contexts. The first of a series of studies from this data has resulted in a peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of Adult Protection. 

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Who we are

We're an independent Christian charity which helps organisations protect vulnerable people from abuse.  Find out more about who we are and how we can help you.

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