Last month we highlighted the importance of “togetherness” between churches, communities, and statutory authorities in creating safer places in Wales. This month’s blog also talks about the importance of togetherness but this time internally within our organisations.
To create safer places everyone in the organisation needs to be involved. The eternal adage within Safeguarding is that “Safeguarding is Everyone’s Responsibility” – a message that is heard at every safeguarding training attended and every safeguarding conversation held!
Whilst this will always ring true, it is worth digging a little deeper. Whilst Safeguarding is Everybody’s Responsibility not everyone has the same level of responsibility nor are they responsible for the same aspects of safeguarding.
Corinthians 12 12:27 talks about the church being one body and many parts. Each of these parts has a different part to play. Safeguarding should be a central part to the life of an organisation, and we therefore need to be clear what the role and responsibility of each part of the body has in relation to safeguarding. For everyone taking some time to reflect on our practice is a valuable exercise and should be done regularly.
“But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" Corinthians 12: 12 -27
God (through Jesus) as the head.
The first and most important is that God should be the head in Safeguarding as He is within the Church.
Psalm 68 talks of God being “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families” and there are numerous other scriptures that point to God’s heart for safeguarding.
A few challenging questions are worthwhile asking of ourselves here.
- How often are we praying for our organisation to be a safer place?
- How often are we communicating safeguarding messages from the front with the context of God’s heart for safeguarding?
- How closely is our safeguarding linked to God’s heart for the oppressed and vulnerable, the widow (and widower), the fatherless (and motherless), those who have been harmed, the orphans, the lonely and isolated, in fact the safeguarding of all who attend our organisation?
- Is God therefore truly the head of our safeguarding body?
The leaders of the church and the messages they give regarding safeguarding is vital in creating safer places. Together.
A key role of leadership is around setting an example, creating healthy culture within the organisation, and ensuring oversight of the care of the flock.
“To the Elders and the Flock
5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.” 1 Peter 5 1,2
Again, some key questions to be asked.
- As a Leader or Elder what example and messages am I giving around safeguarding?
- How often is safeguarding on the agenda for Elders or leadership in a meaningful way?
- How often am I giving messages from the front about safeguarding?
- How well is our safeguarding co-ordinator/lead supported in their challenging work?
- What example am I setting in healthy safeguarding culture within the church?
The safeguarding co-ordinator or lead is a vital role in creating safer places. It is also a challenging role with lots of responsibilities. Whilst confidentiality is important, it is equally important that the safeguarding co-ordinator also receives support. This is something that the leadership should understand and agree to provide.
There are three main aspects and responsibilities to the role, which is to:
- Act as an advocate (i.e., someone who speaks for and on behalf of children and adults at risk).
- Act independently in reporting concerns of abuse to the statutory authorities, that is Children’s or Adult Social Care (formerly Social Services) or the Police. NB Children’s Social Care is otherwise known as Children’s Services in England. Other names will apply elsewhere in the UK.
- Oversee the preparation and implementation of the Safeguarding Policy (children and/or adults at risk), ensuring it is regularly reviewed.
Further information on the role of Safeguarding Co-ordinator can be found here.
Some key questions to consider:
- How well supported am I in my role?
- Am I aware of what is expected in reporting concerns within Wales Safeguarding Procedures?
- Are all members of the congregation aware of my role and that they can report concerns to me? Have I been introduced to the church?
- Is the Safeguarding Policy accessible? Are the details of who to report concerns to visible in the church building, on our website? Are these in accessible language for children, young people, adults with learning difficulties, those with visual impairments?
- Am I aware what children, young people and adults with care and support needs want from the organisation so they can feel and be safe? How do I gather feedback from the congregation as to how safe they feel?
- Are the congregation aware of their responsibilities for safeguarding?
Members of the Church/Organisation
All members of the church/organisation have responsibilities in relation to safeguarding. The more eyes and ears an organisation have the better! The more people who can spot and raise concerns appropriately with the safeguarding co-ordinator or lead the more likely it is that a safer place is created.
Members of the congregation must receive regular messages from the front about the need to raise concerns, who to raise these with and how to raise concerns appropriately.
Some key questions:
- Do I as a member of the church/organisation know who to report concerns to?
- Am I aware of the Safeguarding policy and what this says about how to report concerns appropriately?
- Are there any barriers to me raising concerns? How can I be supported in these areas? Who can I talk these barriers through with?
- Do I know what is expected of me in relation to keeping others safe? What are the rules for safeguarding for all members? E.g., not being near the children’s work if I do not need to be.
- How willing would I be to challenge some breaking safeguarding rules or guidance?
In summary Safeguarding is Everybody’s Responsibility but we all have different responsibilities within this.
Creating Safer Places is not a one-off task. It requires us to continually reflect on how we can make things safer, it is an ongoing and reflective pursuit. A key responsibility for all of us is to reflect on whether we are sure what our safeguarding responsibility is and how we can build on the good practice and effort that is being made in creating safer places. If you are not sure what your responsibility is. Ask the safeguarding lead or a leader.
Are we all playing our part?