Child Abuse and Faith Issues
Understanding Safeguarding and Church communities
The new National Action Plan for tackling child abuse linked to faith or belief, published on the 14 August 2012, brings together actions agreed between central government and local statutory partners, faith leaders, voluntary sector organisations and the Metropolitan Police.
This training proposal takes into account this new Action Plan for tackling child abuse linked to faith. The plan proposes stronger training and information for social workers, Police and other frontline practitioners working with children among other things. Ministers are concerned that while there has been progress in recent years, abuse linked to faith is still misunderstood, hidden and largely unreported. The Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton is supporting the plan and has said “there has been only very gradual progress in understanding the issues over the last few years – either because community leaders have been reluctant to challenge beliefs which risk leading to real abuse in their midst; or because authorities misunderstand the causes or are cowed by political correctness”.
Outside of schools Christian Churches (and other Faith organisations) are the biggest provider of direct and indirect services to children and young people, an important and often unrecognised resource.
Sadly, while mainly providing a positive and nurturing environment for children, young people and vulnerable adults, the Church is also associated with child abuse linked to faith or belief (e.g. witchcraft, possession etc.).
In addition, the Church also has a particular calling to work with and offer a hand of friendship to the most ostracised and excluded members of society. Inevitably this includes many sex offenders and there is a higher proportion of sex offenders within church congregations than normal population samples.
Church communities therefore need to have robust and transparent safeguarding policies which are understood by those within the Church and by the statutory agencies.
In the last 20 years mainstream Christian denominations have introduced comprehensive training for workers and policies that seek to minimise the likelihood of child abuse occurring. However, there is always learning from child protection Inquiries and reports and the Church is not immune to both current and past cases coming to light. Sometimes these highlight good and effective safeguarding practice, in other circumstances they demonstrate failings at all levels within the Church structures and where practice has to improve.
The new government guidance in Working Together places emphasis on local arrangements for safeguarding by health, police and social care agencies with voluntary sector agencies.
This is an appropriate moment therefore, to offer a clear and informative review of how Churches undertake their responsibilities in this area and key things that external agencies need to take into account when engaged in safeguarding investigations with Church communities.
Purpose of the training:-
- to understand how safeguarding responsibilities are dispensed within Christian denominations
- to appreciate differing legal and belief (faith and theological) structures
- to consider recent high profile cases of sex offending within the Church and how these are dealt with
- to raise awareness of issues of child abuse linked to faith or belief
- to consider practice issues for social workers, police officers and other staff in statutory agencies
Jane is currently the Safeguarding Co-ordinator for the Clifton Diocese and recently spent two years training with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and the University of Central Lancashire. She was awarded a Post Graduate Certificate in Forensic Behavioural Psychology and is an Advanced Forensic Interviewer.
Jane is a qualified Social Worker and has worked in the Safeguarding field for more than 23 years as a practitioner and manager, both in Local Authority Social Work and the Voluntary Sector. Jane is experienced in working with and managing sex offenders in the community and is trained to conduct the assessments of sex offenders.
Bristol Methodist Safeguarding team, qualified social worker with over twenty five years’ experience across community development, children and families child protection practice, local authority management and strategic planning and currently Assistant Director with Barnardo’s, South West.