Have yourself a safer Christmas

11 December 2018, Matt Cooper, Thirtyone:eight

The Christian church is unique in many ways but especially in the way that it opens its doors to all, and Christmas is the perfect example of that.  During this special season churches will invite their community to join them to celebrate the 'reason for the season' at various festive events including fairs and Carol services.

Many of those attending will not be church regulars, and it will often mean a higher number of visitors passing through your doors. Some of these may be at events hosted on your usual premises but it could also be in the context of community activities in places such as care homes, or schools.  Your church may also be involved in running soup kitchens or support for homeless or other vulnerable groups of people.

All these factors have an impact on those working and volunteering for you, and may involve activities or situations that are new for your workers.  We've put together a list of five things to help you ensure that all who come through your doors have a safer Christmas:

  • Check your policy - Ensuring that your policies and procedures are fit for purpose and that everyone is properly aware of their responsibilities and expectations is really important.  A clear and effective safeguarding policy sends a powerful message to parents, children, and visitors a like (including those intent on harm) that safeguarding is taken seriously within the organisation. It also helps protect your workers by setting clear boundaries and expected ways of working.
  • Recruiter workers safely - Make sure you follow your processes for recruiting workers (including volunteers) safely and don't be tempted to cut corners.  Ensure all your workers have the right level of checks and sufficient training for them to complete their role safely.
  • Know who to contact - Find out who to contact within your local children’s and adult social care services in case situations arise that need you to take action.  Find out about the procedures of the relevant safeguarding boards in how and when to make contact especially holiday cover and out-of-hours. This will give you confidence should you need to report any concerns. 
  • Up-date your records - Ensure your record keeping is up-to-date and that accurate records relating to child/adult protection concerns are properly maintained.  Keeping records allows you to demonstrate accountability and ensures transparency. These records may include keeping a register and a log book where workers can write down unusual events or conversations that they witnessed, and an accident book to record all accidents, however minor.
  • Safe numbers of workers - Remember to have a sufficient number of adult leaders and helpers within activities. It is important to be aware about what ratios of adults to children are required. You should decide on appropriate ratios for your setting, which will depend on the children’s ages and needs, as well as the activity.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and we have plenty more ideas, training, advice and resources to help you build safe and healthy cultures for everyone. Don't forget, you can always ring our helpline for advice and guidance on 0303 003 11 11.

By being vigilant over Christmas, having policies and procedures in place, and ensuring that only suitable people are allowed to work with vulnerable groups, you will be instrumental in making your place of worship or organisation a safer environment for all over Christmas.


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