Independent and Christian
As a charity, the fact that we are both independent and Christian is extremely important, not just for us, but for those we work with, and the vulnerable people we seek to protect. But what does this actually mean for us as a charity, and how do we ensure we maintain both our independence and our Christian distinctiveness?
The definition of independence is 'someone or something that is free from outside control by another or subject to their authority'. Being independent for us is about preserving 'independence of mind' and the capability to maintain objectivity, while exercising professional judgement without fear of undue influence from elsewhere.
This is important in preserving the quality of the support we give, so that those who come to us for help can get advice that is impartial, unbiased, and free from any undue influence or conflict of interest. This is especially important given the vulnerability of those who are impacted by our advice, and the sensitivity of the situations and circumstances that we advise on.
Independence for us means maintaining our freedom to do the right thing for vulnerable people, to always speak the truth, and to have the financial, professional and strategic flexibility to initiate and encourage change for the better.
Every organisation, including charities, is dependent to some extent on somebody, for example: their members, donors, staff, volunteers, trustees, and beneficiaries. There is, in reality, no such thing as complete independence. It is important to ensure that no source of influence, power or funding is allowed to become dominant or controlling over the activity and functioning of the charity and to potentially undermine the credibility of the professional advice that we give. This is something that we guard jealously.
As a charity, we work with central government departments, statutory agencies, local churches and church denominations, other faith groups, charities and businesses, as well as victims of abuse, survivors and their families. We also provide the secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Communities, and have memberships and partnerships with a number of relevant professional bodies. Independence is about ensuring that all the important relationships that we need to fulfill our mission and vision effectively, are appropriately managed so that we are not beholden to any vested interest.
At thirtyone:eight we actively review the external requests we receive and will turn down any requests or partnerships which have the potential to tip the balance of our independence. All members of our senior leadership team and trustees are required to declare where they have an interest in other organisations to avoid any conflict of interest and, where possible, we seek scrutiny from external bodies to review our internal processes and the standard of our support to help us to maintain the right balance.
We are a Christian organisation, inspired to 'speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable' as it says in Proverbs 31:8. Our faith is the foundational pillar of all our work. As a charity we look to the Apostles’ Creed as our statement of faith which underpins all that we do.
Because we are a Christian organisation, inspired and motivated by our faith, it is important that we are able to demonstrate this; not only through our work with other Christians, but also in our work with people of other faiths and those of no faith. Being Christian gives us an overriding interest and commitment to actively help churches and other faith communities become places that are safer for everyone. As part of this we’ve developed a theology of Safeguarding which gives a theological basis for our work.
Our Christian distinctiveness is one of our core organisational values and remains our most important characteristic as a charity. We expect this to be shown in all aspects of our working practices, regardless of whether our faith is shared by any particular organisation with whom we are working.
With over 40 years' experience working at grass roots level with churches and faith-based organisations, we are recognised for our specialist knowledge and understanding of churches, Christian organisations and faith-based communities. It is important that we are not affiliated to any church denomination, expression or tradition. Our core team are drawn from a wide variety of Christian traditions and denominations, which give us a unique insight and perspective into the specific challenges that faith communities face when it comes to safeguarding.
Our fluency in the structures, culture, traditions and terminology of faith groups, enables us to challenge when necessary, also offering advice which is sensitive to and which takes into account the very specific issues and themes which a more generalised approach may miss. Faith settings are one of the very few settings which are open to provide pastoral and spiritual support to those who may pose a risk to others, those that are vulnerable or at risk and the families of both. This makes a thorough working knowledge of the challenges this represents of vital importance when it comes to advising or any course of action to be taken.
Coupled with our independence, all this enables us to do our work in a professional and trustworthy way and allows us to help bridge the gap between faith-based and secular organisations and, where needed, to act as a trusted intermediary fostering mutual understanding and closer working to protect vulnerable people
Whist defining what we mean, it's also important that are clear on we do not mean.
Being independent does not give us any statutory or regulatory powers. We are not a ‘safeguarding inspectorate’ for churches or other settings. We have no authority to compel organisations to work with us, or to close or limit the activity of organisations or individuals that we may come across in the course of our work. Neither can we initiate or carry out reviews and investigations without specific invitation and agreement. We can only undertake work at the request of an organisation and in line with a very specific and agreed scope of operation.
Where we come across any area of potential risk or harm to individuals, we provide clear and timely advice and, where necessary under law and according to our duty of care, we may report our concerns to the relevant authorities. Any work we undertake, although part of an agreed scope, is always done to the highest possible professional and ethical standards and in line with best practice and our organisational values. Therefore, where possible, we always strive to work together, in collaboration with others who may need our assistance.