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The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Settings (for which Thirtyone:eight provides the Secretariat), has issued a call for evidence as it launches its latest inquiry focusing on whether there should be a change in legislation relating to ‘Positions of Trust’ within faith settings.

Under the current legislation, it is currently illegal for groups of professionals such as teachers, care workers and youth justice staff to be involved in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old under their supervision. However, other adults who hold similar positions of power within settings such as faith and religious organisations and sports teams, are not covered by the current provisions.

The objective of the Inquiry is to publish a report detailing current knowledge on whether there is a need for changes to be made to ‘Positions of Trust’ within the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 to ensure faith settings are sufficiently within scope to allow young people to be better protected from harm. The report will be published in November 2019 as the Ministry of Justice undertakes a review of the current government legislation.

The inquiry, which is the second of the APPG, includes a call for evidence inviting individuals and organisations to submit evidence in order to assess the need for any change in current legislation and its application.

Speaking to The Telegraph ahead of the launch of the Inquiry, Justin Humphreys, our joint CEO and Principal Advisor to the APPG said:

"In a world where so many children and young people are facing daily challenges in terms of keeping themselves safe from harm and abuse, it seems incredible to think that when opportunities present themselves to help strengthen the safety of the environments they live and learn in, that we would not take them."

"The current arrangements for 'position of trust' as identified within the Sexual Offences Act 2003, are totally inadequate to protect young people in the widest range of settings. The fact that there should be any difference in the protection afforded to young people in a school and what they are afforded in a faith-based setting makes no sense. That is why I have asked Sarah Champion MP and Michael Tomlinson MP, the co-Chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Safeguarding in Faith Settings to launch an inquiry to establish the evidence to support a change in the law, such that faith-based settings will be covered in such cases".

"If you were to ask the average parent or carer whether they thought it was against the law for a teacher to enter a sexual relationship with a 16/17 year old, I would imagine the majority would confirm that they would expect this to be the case. If you asked the same question regarding youth workers and ministers/faith leaders in religious settings, I imagine the same would be the case. What they would probably be amazed to learn is that the latter do not currently fall under the law in this respect. That is ridiculous and directly undermines the young person's right to freedom from harm and abuse in those settings".

"As the current Chair of the Christian Forum for Safeguarding (a national group consisting of the national-level leads for safeguarding in the majority of mainstream Christian denominations), I can confirm that we have been discussing the need for a change in this law for many months, with general support for this expressed around the table. This new inquiry will present an opportunity for the Church, other faith groups and those that work alongside them to stand up and be counted for making a positive difference to the safeguarding of young people in this country".

Written evidence can be submitted to the APPG by email to [email protected] no later than Friday 20 September.

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