Safeguarding requires collective effort

ioannis athanasiou webThe United Reformed Church is committed to creating a safe environment for all and has in place a robust safeguarding policy to ensure everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve regardless of their circumstances. Ioannis Athanasiou, the URC’s new Safeguarding Officer, talks about the collective effort required in ensuring the wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults.

There is such a wide spectrum of human conditions and circumstances to consider in the process of ensuring adequate and appropriate safeguarding measures, yet it is a significant aspect of serving people, churches and local communities.

In the media, children are often referred to in relation to safeguarding, but safety matters for adults too, especially those who are vulnerable. Here at the URC we have established systems for protecting adults as well as children and young people.

The measures for supporting vulnerable adults can be found in the Safeguarding Adults at Risk document. Not only does this guidance look at how to prevent harm and what to do if you think someone might be at risk, it also looks at ways to empower those in need so that they can maintain independence, wellbeing and choice.

In December 2017, the Charity Commission issued a regulatory alert to charities across the country following a number of serious incidents. The commission’s updated strategy makes clear that safeguarding should be a key governance priority for all charities, not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk.

It reminds us of the importance of setting an organisational culture that prioritises a safe and trusted environment – one that is safe for those affected to report incidents and concerns with the assurance that they will be handled sensitively and properly.

Jesus welcomed children and helped vulnerable adults during his ministry, and so does the URC. It requires courage to be vulnerable. We want anyone who comes into contact with our churches to experience a safe and trusted environment.

As said in Romans 15:1-2: ‘We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.’

I see this ‘we’ as the collective effort of all of us to safeguard our brothers and sisters from abuse, harm or neglect.