Churches, other places of worship and faith based organisations provide a wide range of activities for children and young people. They are some of the largest providers of children and youth work, and have an important role in safeguarding children and supporting families. Religious leaders, staff and volunteers who provide services in places of worship and in faith based organisations will have various degrees of contact with children.
Like other organisations that work with children, churches, other places of worship and faith based organisations need to have appropriate arrangements in place for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. These arrangements should include:
- Procedures for staff and others to report concerns that they have about the children they meet that in accordance with Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB) procedures for protecting children. See the child protection section of these procedures.
- Appropriate codes of practice for staff. Particularly those working directly with children, such as those issued by the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) or their denomination or faith group
- Recruitment procedures in accordance with Safe from Harm (Home office, 1993) principles and NSCB procedures, alongside training and supervision of staff (paid or voluntary)
Churches and faith organisations can seek advice on child protection issues from CCPAS and Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board, who can help with policies and procedures
CCPAS operates a national 24 hour telephone helpline for churches, other places of worship and faith based groups and individuals, providing advice and support on safeguarding issues.
As appropriate, churches, other places of worship and faith organisations should report all allegations against people who work with children to the local authority Designated Officer (LADO), and notify the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) of any relevant information so that those who pose a risk to vulnerable groups can be identified and barred. In addition where they are a charity all serious incidents need reporting to the Charity Commission.
It is essential that faith communities have in place effective arrangements for working with sexual and violent offenders who wish to worship and be part of their religious community. This should include a contract of behaviour stipulating the boundaries an offender would be expected to keep. Faith communities should consult the MAPPA Guidance (2009) issued by the National Offender Management Service Public Protection Unit which specifically addresses ‘Offenders and Worship’.