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Safeguarding Question and Answers

I am worried that a child or adult may be at risk of abuse or neglect by someone in a family, household or community.  What should I do?

Report the matter to the Local Authority Social Services department or Police.  See contact details here.

I am worried that a child or vulnerable adult may be being abused by a member of the clergy, or by an employee or volunteer within the Church.  What should I do?

Immediately inform the Parish Safeguarding Officer.  If you are unable to contact him/her, inform the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor. 

I am being abused by someone in the Church.  What should I do?

Tell someone as soon as possible.  What you say will be taken seriously.  You can choose to whom you talk. You can either contact the local Police or the local authority Local Authority Social Services child or adult protection team in your area and/or the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor or Parish Safeguarding Officer.

Alternatively, you may prefer to tell someone in the Church whom you already know.  That individual will work to try and ensure that you can get the requisite help.  He/she will need to contact one of the people mentioned above and inform them that a child or adult protection matter has occurred.

It is the policy of the Church to inform statutory authorities (Police and Local Authority Social Services) that abuse has been alleged, if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse and to make sure that past abuse is properly dealt with.

I have suffered abuse by someone in the Church in the past.  What should I do?

Understandably, many people find it difficult to tell anyone about the abuse they have suffered.  It may be many years after the event before a disclosure is made, perhaps when the victim and/or Survivor is an adult.  Even if the abuse occurred many years ago, the Church will still act.  Tell someone about the abuse.  You will be listened to and what you have to say will be taken seriously.

You can choose to whom you talk. You can contact the local Police or the Local Authority Social Services child or adult protection team (the telephone numbers for these will be in your local telephone directory or websites) and/or the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor or Parish Safeguarding Officer.

Alternatively, you may prefer to tell someone in the Church whom you already know.  That individual will work to try and ensure that you can get the appropriate help.  He/she will need to contact one of the people mentioned above and inform them that a child or adult protection matter has occurred.

It is the policy of the Church to inform statutory authorities (Police and Local Authority Social Services) that abuse has been alleged, if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse and to make sure that past abuse is properly dealt with.

How does the Church support those who have suffered abuse?

In the past there have been people who experienced abuse within a Church context and who found the response of the Church to be inadequate and uncaring.  The Church is committed to continuing to learn how to respond in a supportive and healing way to the needs of those who have suffered abuse.

The Church has a number of roles that are available to support victims and survivors. This includes Parish Safeguarding Officers, Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors, Authorised Listeners, trained pastoral workers and, in some dioceses, qualified counsellors and support workers. 

The Church will endeavour to ensure support to victims and survivors is kept separate from but in consultation with any potential investigation of concerns/allegations. This is to ensure that no ongoing Police investigation is compromised or prejudiced in any way.

Details of independent support groups are available here.

What will happen when I inform someone that a child or adult at risk of abuse or neglect may be being abused by someone working for the Church?

It is the policy of the Church to ensure that all allegations of abuse are referred immediately to the Police and Local Authority Social Services departments (statutory authorities). We do this in the interests of the vulnerable. To make sure that all information available is shared with those with the legal and professional responsibilities to investigate. In cases where the statutory authorities decide that they will not, or cannot investigate, but concerns remain about the safety of children or adults at risk of abuse or neglect, enquiries will be made by those with responsibility for safeguarding within the Church.

In all cases, the safety and welfare of the child/ren or adult/s at risk of abuse or neglect is the first consideration.  Where allegations of abuse are made, the Church, where possible, will suspend the person accused from the role that brings them into contact with children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect, while investigations or enquiries are going on. These are neutral actions to ensure that cases can be investigated dispassionately and to protect all parties involved.

What about confidentiality?

The Church will treat all information connected with a safeguarding matter as confidential between the agencies working together to protect children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect.   In very broad terms, information will be shared with the relevant authorities where there is a concern that a person may be suffering harm or in order to prevent another person suffering harm.

When the Church is told about abuse, the victim is supported in order that he/she can tell the Police and Local Authority Social Services what has happened.  The reason for sharing information with the statutory authorities is to prevent further abuse and to try to make sure that something is done about the abuse that is alleged to have happened.

If the person who has suffered abuse does not want to tell, or cannot tell the Police or Local Authority Social Services him/herself, the Church will do so if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse.

An alleged abuser does not have an automatic right to access information that is held about him or her. The Church will not automatically let an alleged abuser know who has made allegations about them. However if a complaint is raised against a member of the clergy under the Disciplinary procedures (commonly called the clergy discipline measure), the victim and/or survivors name will be shared, but not their contact details. This is to ensure that the disciplinary process is conducted in a fair manner.

What happens to people working in the Church who are accused of abuse?

All concerns and allegations are taken seriously by the Church, regardless to whom they relate to.  The precise circumstances differ from case to case, but the following information gives an indication of what happens when an allegation is made:

Information about the alleged abuse is shared with the Police and Local Authority Social Services as they have a statutory responsibility to investigate.

After consultation with the Police and Local Authority Social Services, if the person accused of abuse is a member of the clergy, or is a paid worker or a volunteer, that person will, where possible, be suspended from the role that brings them into contact with children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect.  It is important to acknowledge that these are neutral actions. They are precautionary to ensure that cases can be investigated dispassionately and to protect all parties involved.  The final decisions are made following the completion of enquiries.  It is possible that someone accused of abuse may be re-instated, depending on the circumstances of the case, once the matter is concluded.

Enquiries will be made to find out if there is evidence to support the allegation.  Sometimes people accused of abuse are arrested and after full investigations, some may be prosecuted.

The Church supports all its members and considers what support a person accused of abuse may need.

In seeking to meet the support needs of people accused of abuse, the Church will strive to minimise risks to others. The Church will use a written agreement (known as a 'worship safeguarding agreement') to make clear what conditions and restrictions apply to the accused person (e.g. he/she may have to worship in another Church, avoidance of specific activities), as well as what support will be made available.

Please see' Responding to Serious Safeguarding Concerns' Practice Guidance

What if the person accused of abuse is dead?

Even if information about abuse in a Church setting relates to an accused person who is dead, the Church will take this seriously and follow it up.  It is still important for such information to be shared with the Police and Local Authority Social Services as it could be relevant to other enquiries.

How can people who have abused within the Church be prevented from carrying out further abuse?

When the Church receives information that someone has abused a child or adult at risk of abuse or neglect within a Church setting, it will help prevent that person from abusing in other organisations.  The Church will make sure that Police and Local Authority Social Services are informed about alleged abuse.  In some cases, abusers will be prosecuted.

The precise circumstances differ from case to case, but the following information gives an indication of what may happen following an outcome of an investigation:

For all clergy, whether or not there is a conviction in the criminal courts, consideration can be given to whether enough evidence exists to raise a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. If a member of the clergy is found to have committed an offence of misconduct under the measure  there are a number of penalties that could be imposed, including prohibition for life from Church of England ministry. 

For clergy with the Bishop's Permission to Officiate, Licensed Lay Ministers and those commissioned/licensed by the Bishop, the Bishop may withdraw his permission, commission or licence for that person to continue in his/her role.

If a member of the clergy is found to have committed a misconduct offence and a penalty is imposed under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, his or her name and other relevant particulars will be included on the Archbishops' List.  The information on the list will be available to diocesan bishops, diocesan registrars and the President of Tribunals in relation to clergy discipline, (it is not open to the general public). It can, for instance, be checked if a member of the clergy wishes to move jobs or is accused of a disciplinary offence.

For non-clergy paid employees disciplinary processes will be considered at the conclusion of a criminal investigation. The services of volunteers may be terminated.

In every relevant circumstance, following the completion of disciplinary processes, the Church will consider referring the names of people accused of abuse within a Church setting to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly Criminal Records Bureau (or CRB)) for consideration for barring from work with children and/or adults.  Volunteers as well as employees and office holders are reported in circumstances where they have been dismissed or have resigned due to a safeguarding concern.

When someone applies for a job or volunteer position working with vulnerable groups, the organisation that is recruiting must make appropriate criminal record checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service before a person can be appointed.  It is important to note that a criminal record check is only one part of the safer recruitment process. For instance, it is essential that references are taken up, gaps in employment are checked. 

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