Safeguarding is taken seriously by St. Columba’s United Reformed Church, Oxford. We acknowledge children’s and adults’ right to protection from abuse, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality or beliefs. We consider that the welfare of children is paramount. We will follow legislation, statutory guidance and recognised good practice in order to protect vulnerable people in our church.
We will seek to establish a caring environment in which there is an informed vigilance about the dangers of abuse.
We will implement, maintain and regularly review the procedures outlined in this policy, which are designed to prevent and to be alert to abuse.
We will appoint a Safeguarding Coordinator; a Safeguarding Officer and a Deputy Safeguarding Officer, who will have specific responsibilities for safeguarding, although we recognise that safeguarding is a whole church responsibility. The Safeguarding Officers are the people to whom all concerns or allegations should be addressed. Their contact details can be found in Key Contacts.
We will organise activities in such a way as to promote a safe environment and minimise the risk of harm to children and adults.
We will follow a safer recruitment process for the selection and appointment of people to work with children or adults at risk, whether voluntary or paid, lay or ordained.
We are committed to providing support, supervision, resources and training to those who work with children and adults.
We will use rigorous and careful supervision to protect people from the risks associated with known offenders within the congregation, including implementing contracts with known offenders and those who have been assessed as posing a risk.
We believe that domestic abuse in all its forms is unacceptable and inconsistent with a Christian way of living and recognise that it can affect both adults and children.
All concerns and allegations of abuse will be responded to appropriately, including referring to the statutory authorities if necessary.
We will co-operate with the statutory authorities in any investigation, will follow multi-agency decisions and will maintain confidentiality of any investigations to those directly involved.
We will refer concerns about staff – volunteers and paid, lay and ordained – that meet the relevant criteria to the Local Authority Designated Officer.
Our Safeguarding Policy Statement is attached as Appendix 1.
Aim and purpose of this policy
The aim of this policy is to provide procedures for promoting safeguarding, preventing abuse and protecting children, adults at risk and staff. This includes clear procedures for taking appropriate action when safeguarding concerns are raised involving children and adults within our church, or those who attend our activities and events.
Who this policy applies to
This policy is approved and endorsed by the Elders and applies to:
● all those who attend our church.
● our trustees and staff (both paid and voluntary).
● organisations who use or hire our building with the agreement to operate under the church safeguarding policy.
● This policy does not apply to hirers of our building. However, they will be asked to confirm that they have appropriate safeguarding measures in place as a condition of their hiring.
The policy and procedures should be interpreted in the light of the most recent URC good practice guidance. Children and parents/carers will be informed of this policy and our procedures.
The term ‘children’ refers to those under the age of 18 years.
Duty of care and confidentiality
We have a duty of care to all beneficiaries of the church, whether adults or children. We will maintain confidentiality at all times, except in circumstances where to do so would place the individual or another individual at risk of harm.
The church will appoint Safeguarding and Deputy Safeguarding Coordinator(s) for safeguarding children and adults. A job description is attached as Appendix 2.
Activities will be organised in accordance with URC good practice guidelines so as to promote a safe environment and healthy relationships, whilst minimising opportunities for harm, misunderstanding or false accusation. For each event, risk assessments will be carried out, appropriate consent forms will be used (for children’s activities), appropriate records will be kept and adequate insurance will be in place.
We are committed to safer recruitment and selection of paid staff and volunteers involved with activities with children and vulnerable adults and will ensure that these procedures are followed, which include:
● asking applicants to complete an application form.
● providing workers with job descriptions and person specifications.
● obtaining Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks wherever legally entitled to do so.
● taking up two references (not from family members).
● interviewing candidates.
Safeguarding training will be provided and volunteers and paid staff will be given support and supervision in their role.
All trustees, paid staff and volunteers will work within a code of conduct (code for workers, attached as Appendix 3) and understand that there may be action taken if this code is not followed, possibly involving suspension or termination of working with us.
If we become aware of someone within our congregation known to have harmed children or adults in the past, we will inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer and co-operate with them and the relevant statutory authorities to put in place a plan to minimise the risk of harm to children and adults.
Organisations wishing to hire our building for activities with children or adults must confirm in writing that they have appropriate safeguarding arrangements in place as a condition of their hiring.
What are we protecting people from?
The definitions of abuse differ between children and adults. A copy of the definitions relating to children is attached to this policy at Appendix 4. The definitions of abuse in relation to adults is attached as Appendix 5.
How to recognise abuse
It is important to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of abuse. Please see Appendix 6 for those relating to children and Appendix 7 for those relating to adults at risk. Some signs could be indicators of a number of different categories of abuse.
It is essential to note that these are only indicators of possible abuse. There may be other, innocent, reasons for these signs and/or behaviour. They will, however, be a guide to assist in assessing whether abuse of one form or another is a possible explanation for a child or adult’s behaviour.
What to do if there is a disclosure or allegation of abuse
If a child, young person or adult makes a disclosure that they are being abused and / or an allegation of abuse against someone, it is important that the person being told:
● stays calm and listens carefully.
● reassures them that they have done the right thing in telling.
● does not investigate or ask leading questions.
● explains that they will need to tell someone else if anyone is at risk of harm, in order to help them.
● does not promise to keep secret what they have been told.
● informs the church Safeguarding Coordinator as soon as possible (if they are implicated in the allegation, informs the Deputy or the Synod Safeguarding Officer).
● makes a written record of the allegation, disclosure or incident and signs and dates this record (using the template in Appendix 8). This should be given to the church Safeguarding Coordinator and stored securely in a locked filing cabinet.
Procedure in the event of a concern of abuse
If there is an immediate threat of harm, the Police should be contacted without delay. Where it is judged that there is no immediate threat of harm, the following will occur:
● The Synod Safeguarding Officer should be kept informed of any serious concerns, with a view to discussing what action is appropriate, which may involve alerting the police or other authorities.
● The concern should be discussed with the church Safeguarding Coordinator and a decision made as to whether the concern warrants a referral to the statutory authorities (see Key Contacts for the relevant statutory contacts).
● A confidential record will be made of the conversation and the circumstances surrounding it using the template at Appendix 8. This record will be kept securely, and a copy passed to statutory authorities if a referral is made.
● The person about whom the allegation is made must not be informed by anyone in the church if it is judged that to do so could place a child or adult at increased risk. If the statutory authorities are involved, they should be consulted beforehand.
If someone in the church is alleged or known to have harmed children or adults:
● We will inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer so that they can offer advice and support, and we will contact the relevant statutory authority.
● If the allegation concerns a church staff member or volunteer
● For any concerns relating to children, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) will if appropriate be contacted. The timing and method of any action to be taken will be discussed and agreed with the LADO. This will cover communication with the worker, suspension, investigation and possible strategy meetings.
● A decision will be taken by the LADO about when to inform the worker and the church will follow this advice. For LADO contact details, see Key Contacts.
● For concerns relating to adults, Adult Social Care will if appropriate be contacted. See Key Contacts for details.
● In accordance with the law, a referral will be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if the church withdraws permission for an individual to engage in work with children / adults at risk OR would have done so had that individual not resigned, retired, been made redundant or been transferred to a different position because the employer believes that the individual has engaged in relevant conduct, satisfied the harm test, or committed an offence that would lead to automatic inclusion on a barred list.
● In such cases, a report will also be made to the Charity Commission, as they deem such a referral to be a ‘serious incident’ and therefore require notification.
Concerns, Complaints and Compliments
Should anyone have any concerns, complaints or compliments, please contact:
Name: Ian Sinclair
Telephone Number: 01865 606 453
If would be helpful to have complaints in writing, as this avoids any possible misunderstanding about what the issue is. However, whether verbal or in writing, complaints will be acted upon. Any written complaint will be responded to within 10 days.
The Elders will review this policy annually, amending and updating it as required, and informing the Church Meeting that this has been done.
Date of the most recent review: 19th February 2023
Date of the next review: Q1 2024
Signed (on behalf of the church Elders): Adrian Moore and Gordon Woods (Church Secretaries)
Key Contacts: Sources of advice and support
● The church Safeguarding Coordinator should be made aware of all concerns or allegations should be addressed:
Name: Ian Sinclair
Telephone No: 01865 606 453
● In the absence of the Safeguarding Coordinator, the Deputy Safeguarding Coordinator can be contacted:
Name: Lucy Healey
Telephone No: 01865 606 453
● Synod Safeguarding Officer:
Name: Philip Ray (children) or Ruth White (adults and co-ordinating safeguarding)
Telephone No: 023 8067 8570
● Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS):
(This should only be used for urgent advice if you are unable to contact your Synod Safeguarding Officer.)
24 hour helpline: 0845 120 4550
● Local Authority Designated Officer:
Name: Jo Lloyd
Telephone No: 01865 810 603 (Safeguarding team)
firstname.lastname@example.org or LADO.SafeguardingChildren@Oxfordshire.gov.uk
● Statutory contact in the case of a child:
Emergency number: 0345 0507 666 (not to be used for no names procedure)
Immediate emergency dial: 999
Out of hours number: 0800-83340 (Emergency duty team)
Child sexual exploitation: 01865 309 196
To discuss whether a referral should be made without identifying the child:
LCSS Central: 0345 241 2705.
● Statutory contact in the case of an adult at risk:
To discuss whether a safeguarding concern: 01865 328 232.
In emergency call: 999