Safeguarding people in the midst of coronavirus - update

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The Coronavirus (Covid-19) threat continues to emerge in the UK and throughout the rest of the world. At these difficult times, we would like to help churches not only promote everyone’ wellbeing but also consider actions for those who are more vulnerable in the next weeks and months.

While churches follow relevant government guidance, everyone needs to keep safeguarding a priority even if not meeting and ensure care for the more vulnerable through phone calls, messages and WhatsApp groups.

Latest guidance for England can be found on the GOV.UK website.  

In Wales, Government has now published revised Regulations that cover the re-opening of places of worship following the firebreak lockdown. An overview of the provisions can be seen on the GOV.Wales website. 

Scottish government guidance to help churches safely re-open for permitted purposes can be accessed at website.

There are many initiatives to help people connect via the internet, though streaming and other measures. There is a range of advice in our Church Information guides.

Download the URC safeguarding guide as a PDF or as a Word document

Home visits

If you have to undertake home visits for any purpose, you are advised to take precautions, or to consider alternative ways of keeping in touch.

The Methodist Church shares top tips for those receiving visits as well as for those who are undertaking them. It is paramount to ensure that the elderly, impoverished families and the vulnerable have food and essential provisions and access to support relevant to their needs during these challenging times.

Under current circumstances, it is also essential that Elders, ministers, CRCWs, church safeguarding coordinators and those with pastoral responsibilities need to make sure that communication with under 18s and vulnerable people is kept within government and health guidance about social distancing and wearing of masks.

Children and young people

Churches in England can open only for formal childcare and where the place of worship is used as part of a school (if this is provided by a person registered on the Early Years Register under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006). Out-of-school settings (including wraparound childcare) can continue to operate if it is primarily for the purpose of enabling parents to work or other essential purposes as outlined in the guidance for education and childcare settings: new national restrictions from 5 November 2020.

Provide information to and educate children and young people about coronavirus and enable parents/carers to discuss the situation with them. The charity Save the Children provides valuable guidance on this. 

Adults at risk

The government already identified adults who are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. This includes those who are pregnant, those who are aged 70 or older, with or without health conditions, and other groups who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

  • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication.

  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment.

  • people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets).

  • people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis).

Those who fall into above categories need to be at the centre of our care and support in the upcoming weeks along with people who are living with mental health issues, disabilities and learning difficulties and any person who rely on others ‘personal assistance' to meet their basic needs.

Regular contact and texts over the phone will be a valuable source of help for those who require a reminder of medication or need someone to order food supplies. Our duty to safeguard individuals does not stop during the epidemic. We can identify key services in our local area and signpost vulnerable people who are at risk or might be at more risk due to coronavirus outbreak to local support services.

Support groups 

Essential voluntary and public services can be delivered by churches in England. These will include the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions, or support in an emergency. See COVID-19 guidance for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.

To ensure support for the most vulnerable during this period, support groups in England that provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support can take place with up to 15 people attending, if the support group is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body. Examples include support to:

a) victims of crime (including domestic abuse)

b) those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour

c) new parent

d) those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable

e) those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender

f) those who have suffered bereavement

g) vulnerable young people, including to enable them to meet youth workers.

Anyone working is not included as part of the 15-person limit.

The following activities are examples (but not an exhaustive list) of what is not permitted in a place of worship in England:

  • worshippers present to partake in communal, congregational or corporate worship (led devotions/worship/service/prayer by a Minister of Religion or lay person, e.g. Evensong, informal prayer meetings, Jummah, Mass or Kirtan)

  • weddings (with the exception of those in the exceptional circumstances of someone not expected to recover from a serious illness), baptisms or other ceremonies which mark significant life cycle moments (except those that celebrate the life of a person who has died as above)

  • study groups

  • lifestyle and leisure/recreational groups such as craft groups or exercise groups

  • food that is served to be consumed on the premises

  • amateur choir practice or group bell ringing

  • tourism and shops contained within the place of worship.’

 Access to specific advice and support

Some individuals might need specific help depending on their personal wellbeing and life circumstances. Below it is a list of specialist advice issues by different organisations.

Domestic abuse

Incidents of domestic abuse have been dramatically since the outbreak of the virus. If you are aware of risks of domestic violence against children, men and/or women, remain in contact with the family on a regular basis, provide affected members the contact details of local services and agencies that can help. If you consider the domestic violence situation being serious, do not hesitate to make a prompt referral to children’s or adult case services in your local area.

The safeguarding team has produced a recent guidance on Domestic Abuse which includes a list for available help services and agencies for women, young people, men, BAME, LGBT and other groups. Download GP5 Appendix R ‘A guide to supporting those affected by Domestic Abuse’ (PDF) 


We also need to be careful about fraud. There are warnings about Covid-19 fraud and scams to be aware of. Action Fraud is informing the public of how to protect themselves from investment fraud, after reports spiked following the first national lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Read their advice on protecting yourself from investment fraud.

In any case or situation, speak to Church Safeguarding Coordinator or the Synod Safeguarding Officer who can be of valuable help at these moments. Also, print and share the Appendix U (PDF) of our recently updated safeguarding policy of the URC, which includes useful contacts for supporting people affected by different forms of abuse.

Helping others

Churches and their partner organisations might plan forward with the view to minimise, suspend and/or find alternative ways to run services for the benefit of the vulnerable groups. Another source of help can be advice provided by support organisations.

The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) have produced a simple guide (PDF) on how you can support foodbanks during the coronavirus pandemic.

We are currently seeing a rising tide of poverty in the UK. Churches can support in different ways. The Trussell Trust has also issued guidance on how churches can support volunteer supported charities. 

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland  has a list of options for funding for charities and Christian organisations and community projects.


Here is a list of funding schemes available as a response to Covid 19 in Wales. There are specific funds available to Christian charities and groups in need.


Supporting people with the virus

If a member or church attendee has been found infected by the virus, the church needs to take up all measures not to isolate this person from emotional or other support.

A telephone contact per day will be enough and very important for those who will be worried about their health and their unavoidable quarantine. In any case, the government’s guidance has to determine any action and contact with this person.

Mental health 

The epidemic of Coronavirus brings uncertainty, anxiety, even feelings of fear and panic. While it is normal to feel worried, if someone is starting to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and share with someone they trust.

Charity Young Minds has issued advice for anyone feeling anxious about the virus. Mind has information on what to do if you are worried about your wellbeing.


  • NHS Wales provides a range of services and helplines 

  • Mind Cymru offers help and support to those who are experiencing mental health problems


Updated: 20 November 2020 


















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