In a recent article, published on safeguarding and in light of the recent Oxfam and Haiti scandal, Karl Wilding stated that “Abuses of power…may not happen in our name, even if they happen on our watch.”
How, then, do faith institutions protect children from abuse of power? What measures should be taken when cases of abuse do take place? And, how do you draw a balance between custom faith traditions and safeguarding laws to protect against behavioural misconduct before it occurs?
The recent revelations concerning behavioural misconduct in the charity sector has shone a light on the importance of ensuring that all organisations that work, or come into contact, with children are regularly updating safeguarding procedures.
Safeguarding, according to the NSPCC, is the active efforts taken to “promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.” To implement safeguarding, three key measures must be taken.
- Policies and procedures, including safe recruitment, must be established, implemented and followed at all times.
- All staff and volunteers must be made aware of these rules, and measures must be put in place to ensure that they are being followed.
- Finally, all staff and volunteers must receive child protection training.
For the UK guidelines on safeguarding,click here.
When cases of abuse do occur, accountability and transparency is imperative. Working openly and honestly is the only way that lessons can be learnt moving forward. All faith institutions, and voluntary organisations have a legal obligation to cooperate with the the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), whose role is to give advice and guidance to employers and voluntary organisations; liaise with the Police and other agencies, and monitor the progress of cases to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process.
Faith based organisations and institutions are at the heart of many local communities and are run on a grass root level. Therefore, there is an implied trust as close and informal relationships will be fostered with its members. With this comes trust, and a legal duty and responsibility to ensure that all children are safe.
For example, a local faith institution offers counselling sessions and one-to-one or private group worship involving children. In this example, the NSPCC advise that the following safeguarding steps should be taken:
- Have another adult nearby, within sight and hearing. If this is inappropriate, inform another adult of the session. Acquiring consent from the young person’s parent or carer is ideal. if, however, you are unable to do so prior to the event, do so as soon as you are able to.
- Ensure that you have the appropriate contact details in case of an emergency, and that you are aware of any specific needs the young person may have.
- Physical contact should be avoided.
- If you become aware that the young person is uncomfortable with the situation you should end the session and make a record of your meeting with a detailed account of what happened. This record should include a time and date. You should also make this event known to the relevant persons.
The Strengthening Faith Institutions team works with grass root communities and faith institutions to deliver training sessions on the importance of safeguarding across the England.
The above is intended as guidance to assist faith institutions and communities on safeguarding children, based on the UK’s guidelines on safeguarding and team’s knowledge and experience, gained during our work with Strengthening Faith Institutions.