From Christian togetherness in CYTUN (Churches Together in Wales) and New Wine Cymru to the secular ‘Together Stronger’ Welsh football campaign in Euro 2016 and the latest Six Nations Rugby campaign, where we come together, we are stronger.
There are plenty of examples in safeguarding where working together is more effective and protective. Working Together to Safeguard People has become the focused title of Welsh Government guidance. The Wales Safeguarding Procedures are the product of all statutory authorities across 22 Local Authority areas working together towards more consistent practice. This accessible set of procedures has much of relevance for Safeguarding in all organisations including within a Christian Context.
The same focus on togetherness around creating safer places in Christian contexts to create can only achieve better outcomes for those who worship in, fellowship in, or otherwise come into contact with, our organisations.
The Welsh Christian Safeguarding Forum (WCSF)
The WCSF recently met again after a year of focusing on Covid and safeguarding in a pandemic both of which has required much time, energy, and adaptation. Being together for support, discussion and finding some solutions to ongoing practice issues was very much welcomed by all members.
The WCSF is an inter-denominational network meeting of Safeguarding Professionals in Christian Organisations. Our vision is for Christian organisations within Wales to provide safe organisations for children, young people, vulnerable adults, and survivors of abuse in line with evidence and research-based best practice.
"The WCSF aims to provide a unified voice on safeguarding matters. This includes speaking with a united voice in response to Welsh Government and National Safeguarding Board policy and strategy consultations. This unified voice is also useful where shared practice issues are highlighted, and solutions need to be found."
A key focus in future will be in developing stronger, more effective links with statutory authorities, Welsh Government, Safeguarding Boards on both a regional and national level, enabling more effective working together to seek solutions to shared practice issues and informing practice within statutory authorities where this relates to Safeguarding in Faith.
The importance of creating safer places and doing so together.
Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to create a safer place for the community. Nehemiah 3 details how each family made repairs to the wall in front of their houses. Whilst this offered some protection for that area of the community there were areas of vulnerability between the sections of the wall that had only been partially completed. Together the community created a safer place, first at the full completion of the wall and then safer still once the gates and doors had been hung.
Experience within Wales has shown that those who are intent on harm can exploit the vulnerable areas of the walls. This experience strengthens the need to create safer places but also to do this together. We all must be vigilant and share concerns and allegations as soon as they arise. It is vital that this information is only shared with those who need to know, i.e., a member of your safeguarding team or statutory organisations.
"It is imperative that as organisations we continue the continual and ongoing work of creating safer places. It is equally important that we join up our safer places through effective communication with statutory authorities where we become aware of those in our communities who have caused harm or are a potential risk of causing harm."
Much excellent work has been done in creating safer places within Christian contexts within Wales but there is much still to be done. Some of the wall is rebuilt stronger and higher in some areas and in other areas especially between our organisations there are still gaps where if a fox stood on it, it would crumble. This will require all of us to be intentional about the work that is still needed.
It would be useful for all organisations to refresh their memory in relation to best practice in managing those who may pose a risk and in responding to concerns about professionals.
The key here is that if you have a concern about a professional or volunteer, you need to communicate with the LADO or professional concerns lead in the relevant local authority, as soon as possible. Similar timely communication with Probation or Police around those who may pose a risk within your organisation is needed to enable you to risk assess and manage any risk posed. Statutory organisations can then communicate appropriately with other organisations to ensure we can all create and maintain safer places.
If you are in doubt about any of the action needed in these situations or just want to talk things through, do ring the thirtyone:eight helpline for advice and support. The thirtyone:eight helpline 0303 003 11 11 is available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and as an emergency outside these hours.
Here are 5 areas where all organisations can continue to build to create safer places:
- Appoint and support a Safeguarding Lead to co-ordinate and promote Safeguarding in your organisation
- Ensure your Safeguarding Policy is regularly reviewed and specific to the context of your organisation and Wales legislation, guidance, procedures.
- Ensure you are up to date on best practice in our Online Safeguarding Manual especially around Safer Recruitment, responding to allegations about professionals and managing those who may pose a risk. Download the Wales Safeguarding Procedures App
- Ensure your Safeguarding Lead has contact details for your Local Statutory Authorities such as Social Services, LADO/Professional Concerns lead, Probation and Police.
- Ensure that those who work with children, young people and adults with care and support needs have regular training.
In summary, where concerns arise, we need to work together, communicating effectively, appropriately in a timely way with those that need to know, internally and with statutory organisations. These statutory organisations can in turn communicate safely and with clear purpose with other organisations that need to know, so we can all create safer places in Wales. Together.