News roundup: January 2021

31 January 2021, Thirtyone:eight

Here are our top safeguarding stories from January 2021. To access or view the full articles click on the link embedded in the title:

News headlines:

Safeguarding champion among Christians on New Year Honours List 

David Pearson, the founder and former CEO of Thirtyone:eight, has received an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List. David founded the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) 40 years ago, with the charity changing its name in 2018 to Thirtyone:eight. 

Church of England's child protection director quits after 18 months 

Justin Humphreys, CEO at Thirtyone:eight, spoke to BBC Radio 4 in December about the resignation of Melissa Caslake, the Church of England's first permanent Director of Safeguarding. The interview can be heard from 01:53- 7:00. 

Puberty blockers: Under-16s 'unlikely' to be able to give informed consent 

Children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs, three High Court judges have ruled. The landmark high court ruling has focused a spotlight on the work of the Gender Identity Development Service for Children and Adolescents (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust in London. The judgment in December concerned legal action taken by 23-year-old Keira Bell against the service – the only one of its kind for England and Wales. 

Encrypted messaging puts children at risk, commissioner warns 

Encryption of online messages, such as those on WhatsApp, could make it harder to police child abuse and grooming online, the children's commissioner for England has warned. End-to-end encryption is a privacy feature that makes it impossible for anyone except the sender and recipient to read messages sent online. Commissioner Anne Longfield said it also prevented police from gathering evidence to prosecute child abusers. But digital rights groups see it as an essential part of online privacy. They believe unencrypted messaging puts everyone at risk from hackers and police misuse.  

Independent scrutiny coming soon for National Safeguarding Team 

The National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England could be answerable to a fully independent body before March. The Archbishops’ Council voted unanimously in December in favour of a proposal that would establish independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and be put in place before the General Synod in February 2021. This would take the form of a safeguarding trustee board with a “majority of entirely independent members” and some clergy which would be responsible for bringing in fully independent oversight, perhaps including diocesan safeguarding officers, by February 2022. 

Guidance released on making churches vaccination centres 

The Church of England has released guidance around churches becoming vaccination centres in order to help the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines. The Church of England said it is admirable that many churches want to be vaccination centres but says churches need to think about the practical implications, such as potentially leaving the church unable to hold services for up to a year. The Royal College of Nursing has said: "Buildings with the capacity for large scale vaccination options such as sports and leisure centres, community centres and religious venues may offer the potential to facilitate a mass throughout of people." 

Burnley: ‘Children ripping bags open for food’ during pandemic 

A church in Burnley has seen ‘unprecedented demand’ for help during the pandemic. Millions of people watched Pastor Mick Fleming and Father Alex Frost on BBC News in December, feeding and clothing the poor in Burnley. Many were moved by their work, and since then they have received more than £250,000 in donations. As well as this, a report released in December from the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland revealed Churches in Scotland showed 212,000 acts of kindness during pandemic. 

IICSA: Child abuse inquiry hears from 648th and final witness

The inquiry into claims of child sexual abuse in England and Wales has finished its final public hearing after hearing evidence from 648 witnesses over four years. It is investigating claims against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions - as well as people in the public eye. The inquiry's final report will be published in 2022. Thirtyone:eight were active Core Participants during the summer, providing both information and giving evidence. 


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