Making churches safer for children and vulnerable adults

Safe church credit Cartoon Mini ShutterstockHow can churches become safer for children and vulnerable adults? Ioannis Athanasiou, Safeguarding Adviser for the United Reformed Church, shares his tips.

Safeguarding is a growing issue for Christian churches and all faith communities. As disciples of Christ, we journey alongside those who have been abused, we safeguard the integrity of creation, and we all work together as one body to protect the wellbeing and welfare of all children, young people and adults.

In the United Reformed Church (URC), the completion of the past case review last year enabled us to learn and instigate a range of developments and initiatives to standardise good practice in all aspects of child and adult protection procedures and safeguarding practices throughout the URC.

One of these developments is the safeguarding strategic plan which came before Mission Council, the executive body of the URC’s General Assembly, in May. Other measures include standardising safer recruitment procedures and the production of ‘Good Practice 5: Safeguarding for children and adults at risk’, which will be published by the end of this year.

In the light of these major improvements in our safeguarding policies and practices, let me share my top tips to help local churches strengthen their journey of delivering best practice on safeguarding.

• Recognise possible signs of abuse.
• Make sure that staff and volunteers are trained to discern the symptoms of abuse and to identify those who might pose a risk to others.
• Do not make assumptions and always remain inquisitive, trusting the wishes and voices of those who may need help and support.
• Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, it is not only for those who are appointed to regulate work with children and adults.
• Respond and act in a timely way. Refer cases crossing statutory thresholds to statutory agencies without delay and ensure that records are clearly made and securely stored …

This is an extract from an article that was published in the May 2019 edition of Reform. Subscribe here.

Picture: A woman holding a child in a church.Cartoon Mini/Shutterstock
Published: 28 May 2019