Last updated 24th August 2020
This page includes advice from Sharon Hassall, our Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, sent by the Coronavirus Task Group
As we consider the changes taking place in society as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19), one thing does not change; the need to consider best practice in safeguarding is as important now as it has ever been.
As churches consider a wide range of alternatives for maintaining contact with each other and providing the much-needed support to those who may be vulnerable and/or self-isolating within their communities, we must not forget that we need to do all these things safely. It is particularly important at this time to remember the basic understanding of what safeguarding is, i.e. the measures which we put in place to protect the most vulnerable.
Please consider these things as you work in this new and everchanging environment:
This page on the national church website contains a series of FAQs in relation to Covid-19 for parishes to review and act upon where appropriate to do so.
As we see an increase in alternative methods of staying connected and communicating with each other, if you have someone who attends your church under a safeguarding agreement remember to be mindful of whom you are connecting them with via these mediums, especially WhatsApp where personal mobile numbers cannot be hidden. You could unwittingly be giving someone who poses a risk easy access to vulnerable members of your congregation. Please do stay connected with parishioners who have safeguarding agreements but do be mindful of doing this as safely as possible for all concerned.
As the providers of key services across the country look to use alternative and creative ways to support their communities during the Covid-19 lockdown, it is essential that safeguarding strategies continue to underpin those arrangements. A letter from the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements team can be found here.
The National Safeuguarding Team have provided an update here.
Parish returns. There are still a number of parish returns outstanding and it is a matter of utmost importance that these are completed and returned to the PCR2 email address ASAP firstname.lastname@example.org. Parishes have been offered help to complete their returns by the Bishop’s Chaplain and the Area Deans. Further work to encourage the returns and to offer help has been agreed with a final deadline for returns by 29 June, this will include the involvement of Area Deans to help vacant parishes.
One key thing to remember is that a separate return must be completed for all churches in a benefice, and the forms which were sent out must be used. An email reply is not sufficient. All of what is necessary to know and all resources can be found here.
Commencement of the review. The review of the blue files at Bishop’s House by the Independent Reviewer is due to commence on 1 July and it is important to have all the parish returns back by then.
Ensure you keep records of what activity is being undertaken that is outside your usual remit and by whom. A simple log of who is speaking to who, frequency of contact, and any issues that may arise will help you assess any potential risks. You may need to have someone coordinate this so that you can keep oversight of the activity that is being done and ensure the most vulnerable are being properly safeguarded. A single point of contact or short list of authorised contacts could be circulated with guidance on how to get in contact if help is needed.
One thing that has not changed is that If you have safeguarding concerns about a child or adult, contact your DSA within 24 hours. If a child or adult is in immediate danger or requires medical attention, call the police and/or social services immediately using the 999 emergency number.
Sadly, there will be those who take advantage of the current climate to cause harm (most likely financial) to our most vulnerable. There have been reports of cold callers, door knockers and scam emails offering money or support during the current crisis. Please be aware of these and make sure the most vulnerable in your care are supported and informed as much as is possible.
With families shut in together for long periods of time, there is evidence that this is becoming more of an issue. If you are dealing with an issue of domestic abuse, please note that regulations have been relaxed such that victims are now allowed to leave the house.
Bright Sky is a free to download mobile app providing support and information for anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know. The app is available to use in Polish, Punjabi and Urdu https://www.hestia.org/brightsky
We have cancelled all face to face safeguarding training in line with government advice for the time being. We appreciate that this may cause a problem for some clergy and church officers who need to complete it because the normal requirements mean that clergy and church officers are required to undertake various levels of training. Those in leadership positions are required to complete either the Leadership Module (C2) or the Senior Leadership Module (C4) which are face to face modules. People in roles which require C0 or C1 training will still be required to complete that training as usual, using the online modules. Please contact your parish safeguarding officer for more details as to how to do this.
The National Safeguarding team have advised us that where a member of clergy or church officer has not been able to undertake the appropriate safeguarding training because of cancellations due to the Covid-19 virus, this constitutes a cogent reason why the House of Bishops guidance to have due regard to the need for safeguarding training to be completed for certain roles, has not been followed. In other words, it is acceptable for clergy to continue to minister and church officers to undertake their roles, if they have either not done the training or not completed further training within the required time period, due to the impact of the virus. Records should be kept of who this applies to, to demonstrate the cogent reason, and they should attend the training as soon as possible when available.
The safeguarding team can be asked for advice about using volunteers to support the most vulnerable in our Churches who are affected by the restrictions that have been put in place to tackle Covid-19. The key here is accountability, openness and transparency.
Things to remember: