Guidance for URC local church activities in private dwellings
It has been normal practice in many churches for some organised church activities to take place in private dwellings (the homes of church people). This guidance is to remind churches of the risks to be aware of and take into account, for the safety of the people who live in the dwelling and for those visiting. Although a manse is normally considered a place of work, for the purposes of this guidance and to ensure good practice, it shall be considered a dwelling.
Private dwellings can raise particular issues in relation to safeguarding: for example the presence of bedrooms and bathrooms; the potential for individuals to use private spaces within the venue unobserved; and the presence of other people not part of the activity. The recent Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings September 2021 report highlighted these issues.
Private dwellings can raise issues of accessibility and health and safety. Private dwellings can also raise issues around maintaining professional and personal boundaries for children’s, family and youth workers, CRCWs and ministers among others.
Therefore any activity that is part of the life of the church which is hosted in private dwellings or manses, and their gardens or outbuildings, (for example a home group, children’s group, youth group, coffee morning, repair workshop, garden party etc) comes under the church’s Safeguarding Policy. Whoever is responsible for the activity needs to know, understand and comply with this policy, and ensure the steps below are in place:
- A separate risk assessment is required for all venues and activities. This needs to include, health and safety and safeguarding risks for those who live in the dwelling and those visiting for the activity.
- Whoever is responsible for the activities must have the appropriate level of safeguarding training if under 18s or adults at risk are involved (see General Assembly 2021 Paper T5 Safeguarding Training Framework – PDF | 68kb) and any other appropriate training for the type of work involved.
Please refer to Good Practice 5 especially Section 8 ‘good working practice’, A3 (PDF | 294kb) and A4 (PDF | 374kb) codes of conduct, J model risk assessment form (PDF | 156kb), and your local church Safeguarding Coordinator.
Note on Youth Groups
The National Youth Agency (NYA) latest version of the Covid 19 Guidelines for youth work in England (Green), effective from 06 Sep 21, available from the NYA website is extremely helpful. However, it includes a statement that has been in the Guidelines from version 6b onwards: The use of private dwellings (including trusted adults’ homes and gardens) for the delivery of youth sector activity is not permitted.
This is not the legal position since the lifting of lockdown restrictions, it reflects the NYA’s concerns about the issues highlighted above. The URC recognises the value of work and ministry taking place in a range of settings, and this may include private dwellings providing that the guidance given here is adhered to, to ensure best practice.
 A public place is where the public have access upon payment or otherwise.
 A manse, while deemed a place of work, is not a public place and so needs to be treated as a private dwelling for these purposes. A minister’s DBS or PVG includes a home check to cover anyone living at the address.