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If you’re a church youth worker, you’ll know the challenge of finding a suitable venue to host your activities – whether that’s a summer BBQ for the youth group, a youth Alpha or Bible study course, or a home group for young people. If someone has a home or garden big enough it might seem like a good solution. But there are risks. As a consultation is launched by the National Youth Agency (NYA) in England on their latest guidance about the use of private dwellings in youth and children’s work, what do you need to know, and how can you add your insight into this important area?
Hospitality is one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith and inviting young people into a welcoming space where they feel like they can belong is key. Youth work supports some of the most vulnerable young people in society, helping them find safety, care and an understanding space. Doing everything you can to promote the safety and wellbeing of the young people in your care is another expression of your Christian faith. How can you help young people feel safe and welcome while following best practice in safeguarding?
What you need to know
Any regulated activity with children and young people should ideally take place in a neutral/public space or venue as far as possible and this should be seen as a starting point in finding a suitable location for your children's or youth activities.
Several safeguarding risks are heightened if you host a youth group in someone’s home or private garden. Professional boundaries are not only important to keep for the safety of the young people in leaders’ care, but also for individual leaders’ reputation and the integrity and reputation of the organisation and faith community and the services they provide. More recently, similar lessons have been highlighted by the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
As with any activity, carrying out a risk assessment before you begin can help you think through and mitigate any risks that may arise.
Risk assessment for youth work in private dwellings
Hosting a youth group in a private dwelling space for youth work should be considered only as an exception as opposed to as a rule. Beyond the usual considerations such as safer recruitment and the training and management of workers and helpers, you’ll need to think about:
- Whether your home has sufficient space, facilities, and separation to host the activity safely, with limited contact with other members of the household.
- Ensuring young people are aware of areas they can’t enter in that space and the toilet facility they can use.
- Drop off/pick up times are clear to ensure workers are not left alone with young people.
- Your insurance providers are satisfied with the arrangements and will cover the activity. It’s advisable to contact both organisation and home providers to ensure coverage.
- Other adults and children present in the house but not involved in the activity are not mixing with the group.
- Appropriate consent from parents/carers.
Take part in the Consultation
Guidelines issued by The National Youth Agency (NYA) restrict holding youth groups in private dwellings (applicable in England; guidance by the NYA does not apply in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales).
They've recently launched a consultation to draw thoughts, ideas and feedback on how different types of youth groups (faith and non-faith) operate and where they take place.
If you’re a Youth Worker, Youth Pastor/Minister, Safeguarding Officer or Designated Lead in your church, you have a unique perspective and valuable insight to help build an understanding around church youth settings. Lend your voice to this important conversation by taking part in the NYA survey, which is open until 24 August 2022: https://www.nya.org.uk/consultation-launched-on-use-of-private-dwellings-in-youth-services/
Together, we can create safer places for all.
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