New study launched into safeguarding in Christian missions

03 September 2019, Matt Cooper, Thirtyone:eight

Thirtyone:eight, in partnership with the University of Chester, has launched a new research study into the current challenges involved in safeguarding children and young people in international Christian work.

The charity is calling on anyone who is or has been on mission in the last three years and all Christian mission sending organisations to complete an online questionnaire.

Safeguarding in an international context has come under increased scrutiny recently, following cases such as Oxfam in 2018. The responses of faith settings has also been under the spotlight with the current national inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Missions, charities and NGOs are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of developing good safeguarding procedures and there is an urgent need to develop better support for those operating overseas, especially in the areas of training, policy and practice, to ensure they are effectively protecting those they are working with from harm or abuse.

However, there is currently a lack of research needed to develop this support properly and from which to form a solid foundation of knowledge, to enable a full understanding of the challenges faced for agencies and individuals engaged in this work.

In order to respond to this need, thirtyone:eight is partnering with the Department of Psychology at the University of Chester to launch an academic study into the challenges and training needs for sending organisations and those being sent. In addition, it will examine how Christian Charities and NGOs might work effectively with partners overseas to develop a shared understanding of good child protection practice.

Justin Humphreys, CEO of Thirtyone:eight, said:"At thirtyone:eight we have a strong track record of conducting and commissioning research in order to help with the development of best practice in safeguarding within the faith sector in the UK and overseas. We are particularly excited about this study, which comes at a crucial time amidst growing scrutiny of organisations working with vulnerable groups overseas. We hope that this research will help inform the development of our training, practice guidance and advice and equip organisations working internationally with greater understanding of the issues".

The research will be conducted by Dr Lisa Oakley, Associate Professor in Applied Psychology at the University of Chester, and Prof Moira Lafferty, Deputy Head of the School of Psychology at Chester University. Dr Oakley said: “We are committed to helping organisations develop safeguarding awareness and practice based on research evidence. There is an absence of research in the area of safeguarding of children and young people in international Christian work. Literature that does exist tends to review past cases and demonstrates significant mistakes that have been made, which include protection of institutions, failure to recognise abuse and ineffective reporting mechanisms."

"Through this new research, we hope to build a current picture which can be used to inform the development of best practice and therefore support organisations further in safeguarding children and young people”.

Earlier this year, thirtyone:eight released a new International safeguarding audit tool specifically developed for charities working overseas, which was launched at an event jointly hosted by thirtyone:eight, Thrive Worldwide and Global Connections, on Safeguarding in an international context.

Speaking at the event in January, Eleanor Morgan, International Charities Engagement Manager at the Charity Commission, said: “We, and the public, expect charities to be places in which people feel safe and free from harm, so safeguarding should be a governance priority for all charities. We want charities to inspire trust so they are better able to make a difference to people’s lives, and so we welcome any efforts that help equip trustees to ensure they have appropriate safeguarding policies and practices in place.”

The study will begin with a questionnaire to explore the experiences of those agencies who support those involved in international children’s work and the experiences of the individuals who actually work with children overseas.

The deadline for completing the questionnaire is 31 October 2019.  An overview of what the research is about and how to take part can be found at: thirtyoneeight.org/missions

 

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