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Church Child Protection Policy

Contents

Founding principles

All children have a fundamental right to be respected, nurtured, cared for and protected. This right is embedded in Biblical values, best practice guidelines and statutory legislation. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families in their everyday role, including people who do not have a specific role in relation to child protection, have a duty to safeguard and promote the well being of children. Child protection is everyone’s business. Staff and volunteers in Grace Community Church are committed to practice which promotes the welfare of children and protects them from harm.  We wish to ensure that all children participate in an enjoyable and safe environment in which they can have fun and feel valued. Staff and volunteers in this organisation accept and recognise our responsibilities to develop awareness of the issues which cause children harm, and establish and maintain a safe environment for them. We are committed to reviewing our policy, procedures and practice at regular intervals; at least every three years

Every part of the church must be committed to taking the necessary steps to:

  • Demonstrate that the right of the child to protection from harm is paramount;
  • Cherish and safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults;
  • Foster best practice;
  • Demonstrate accountability through establishing effective structures
  • Establish safe vetting practices aimed at preventing those who may pose a risk to children from holding positions of trust;
  • Maintain codes of behaviour – having clear guidelines that set out what is and is not acceptable behaviour as an essential part of keeping children safe;
  • Operate safe activities for children, helping ensure they can play and learn in a safe environment.

Definitions

Child abuse occurs when a child is neglected, harmed or not provided with proper care. Children may by abused in many settings – in a family, residential, hospital or institutional setting or in a community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. 

There are different types of abuse and a child may suffer more than one of them.

Physical: the deliberate physical injury to a child, or the wilful or neglectful failure to prevent physical injury or suffering. This may include hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, confinement to a room or cot, or inappropriately giving drugs to control behaviour.

Emotional: the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to a child that he is worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as he meets the needs of another person. It may involve causing a child frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of a child. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may occur alone. Domestic violence, adult mental health problems and parental substance misuse may expose a child to emotional abuse.

Sexual: forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s physical, emotional and/or psychological needs, likely to result in significant harm. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment, lack of stimulation or lack of supervision. It may also include non-organic failure to thrive (faltering growth) 

Knowing what to do if you're told of abuse

So how might you become aware that a child is suffering harm?

  • A child may tell you.
  • Someone else may tell you that a child has told them or that they strongly believe a child has been abused.
  • A child may show some signs of physical injury for which there appears to be no satisfactory explanation.
  • A child’s behaviour may indicate to you that it is likely that he or she is being abused.
  • Your awareness of, or suspicion about, abuse may come about as a result of something disclosed to you as a third party (parent, friend, co-worker) who suspects or has been told of abuse.
  • Something in the behaviour of one of the workers or in the way a worker relates to a child alerts you or makes you feel uncomfortable in some way

It is important to:

  • listen
  • accept
  • reassure
  • explain
  • act immediately
  • record
  • get support

The difficult issue of confidentiality is one which arises particularly when abuse is disclosed but the fundamental principle is that the welfare of the child is paramount.

How to react and what to do

There is not one simple set of rules to follow in responding to these situations. However, the actions of your staff and volunteers who are told of abuse should be guided by the following key points:

Do Don't
Stay Calm Do not make a child repeat the story unnecessarily
Listen and hear Do not inquire into details of the abuse
Reassure that they have done the right thing by telling someone Do not promise to keep secrets
Record in writing what was said as soon as possible Do not promise to keep secrets
Report to the designated CPO Do not ask leading questions
Record your report Do not panic

Under no circumstances should any individual member of staff or volunteer or the organisation itself attempt to deal with the problem of abuse alone. It is not the responsibility of the person who first encounters a case of alleged or suspected abuse to decide whether or not abuse has occurred. That is a task for the professional agencies following a referral to them regarding a concern about a child. The primary responsibilities of the person who first suspects or is told of abuse is to report it and to ensure that their concern is taken seriously.

Child Protection Reporting

What to do if an issue is reported

A report of concerns about a child should be assessed promptly and carefully and consideration given to the best action to take. This may mean:

  • clarifying or getting more information about the matter;
  • where there is any doubt or uncertainty, consulting initially with a statutory child protection agency such as the Gateway Team in the Southern Health & Social Care Trust to test out the concerns and views about the situation;
  • making a formal referral to a statutory child protection agency or the police.

The central telephone number for the Gateway Team for all new referrals or information about the service is 028 3741 5285

What if…

In the case of a volunteer or staff member receiving information that abuse has occurred in the past, even when the alleged or suspected victims are now adults, this information should be passed to Social Services as there could continue to be a risk for other children and young people.

Recording

In all situations, including those in which the cause of concern arises from a disclosure made in confidence, it is extremely important to record the details of an allegation or reported incident regardless of whether or not a referral is subsequently made to a statutory agency. All concerns, disclosures and allegations should be recorded on the Recording Allegation or Suspicions of Abuse form in the Child Protection folder.

An accurate note should be made of the date and time of the disclosure, the parties who were involved, any action taken within the organisation to clarify or get more information about the matter and any further action, for example suspension of a worker. Where there is no referral to a statutory agency, the reasons why should be recorded. Where a discussion has occurred with Social Services, whether or not any action was taken, the outcome of this discussion should be recorded.

The record should be clear and factual since any information you have may be valuable to professionals investigating the incident and may at some time in the future be used as evidence in court. This kind of information should only  be shared with those who need to know about the incident or allegation.

When reporting

The sort of information likely to be asked for would include:

  • the name and address of the child who is the subject of the concern;
  • the nature of the harm;
  • the need for medical attention (if any);
  • the reasons for suspicion of abuse;
  • what has been done already;
  • any practical information, such as the name of the child’s GP, school etc.

The Designated Officer (or the person making the initial referral) may be contacted at any stage of an investigation about a child who is involved. Social Services will then share this information with the police and agree a strategy to investigate the concerns or allegations which may include one or both agencies. Social Services and police will undertake their own checks in relation to the child and or the adult. This may lead to a decision to interview the child/children by Social Services or police. In most cases this is undertaken with the knowledge and consent of the child’s parents or carers. Both agencies will take the necessary action to ensure the child is protected. The legal principle that the ‘welfare of the child is paramount’ means that considerations of confidentiality should not be allowed to override the right of children to be protected from harm. Everyone, including children, must be aware that they must never promise to keep secrets. However, information of a confidential nature will only be communicated on a ‘need to know’ basis. 

Code of Behaviour

To reduce likely situations for abuse of children and help protect staff and volunteers from false accusations as a general rule, it doesn’t make sense to…

  • spend excessive amounts of time alone with children away from others;
  • take children alone in a car on journeys, however short;
  • take children to your home.

When it is unavoidable that these things do happen, they should only occur with the full knowledge and consent of someone in charge of the organisation and/or the child’s parents.

You should never…

  • engage in rough physical games including horseplay - apart from structured sports activities;
  • engage in sexually provocative games;
  • allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any form;
  • allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged;
  • make sexually suggestive comments about or to a child even in fun;
  • let allegations a child makes go unchallenged or unrecorded;
  • do things of a personal nature for children that they can do themselves.

It may sometimes be necessary for your staff and volunteers to do things of a personal nature for children, particularly if they are very young or are children with disabilities. These tasks should only be carried out with the full understanding and consent of parents. In an emergency situation which requires this type of help, parents should be fully informed, as soon as reasonably possible.

In such situations, it is important that you ensure that all staff are sensitive to the child and undertake personal care tasks with the utmost discretion

Photography

We cannot allow volunteers or staff to take photographs of the children on their mobile phones. If there are times it is deemed appropriate for photographs to be taken a camera will be provided.

Prayer

At Grace Community Church we activity encourage prayer as part of all our ministries. 

This is no different when it comes to ROCK. However there are some things to be aware of. We encourage you to prayer with the children collectively.  But if the situation arises where you are praying for a child on their own make sure you are in an open space where there are other people around.  Sit down with the child as standing over them can be intimidating.  Where possible have either another adult present or one of the other children. 

What is significant information?

The sharing of information is important in ensuring that children are safe and in assessing whether a child or children are at risk. It is essential that “significant information”, that is, information about behaviour which may put children or young people at risk of harm, is shared with personnel and agencies whose role it is to protect them, such as police or Social Services.

While what constitutes significant information may vary from case to case, the following offers some guidance on information of sufficient significance to warrant sharing. The list is not intended to be definitive and each case should be considered on its merits.

  • Sexual offences including interference with children, assault or exhibitionism;
  • Organising prostitution or procuring;
  • Attempting or planning to corrupt a child;
  • A history of physical violence, including domestic violence and assault occasioning risk to children;
  • Stealing from children;
  • Selling, using or possessing dangerous drugs illegally;
  • Repeated drunkenness in work contexts or untreated alcoholism;
  • Repeated inappropriate use of sexual language outside the normal boundaries of acceptable behaviour;
  • Repeated inappropriate touching outside the normal boundaries of acceptable behaviour;
  • Failure to provide the required level of care and attention to children, including emotional abuse and neglect;
  • Failure to comply with procedures where this puts the welfare of children at risk;
  • Showing pornographic videos, internet images or publications to children or vulnerable adults;
  • Posting or accessing child pornography on the internet.

A decision as to whether there is cause for concern should be based on the balance of probabilities, rather than conclusive proof.
Decisions should be based on opinions formed reasonably and in good faith.

Sharing your information with other organisations

You may be aware that a person suspected of abuse within your organisation, also works in a paid or unpaid capacity in another organisation. It is important to seek advice from Social Services with reference to what information is shared, to whom and how it is communicated.

It is important that staff and volunteers who make reports of suspected child abuse, whether within or outside the organisation, are fully supported by the organisation.

Under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure (NI) Order 1998, which came into effect in 1999, employees (staff and volunteers) are protected from suffering detrimental effect from their employers for discussing information (in good faith and in the reasonable belief that it is substantially true) about the conduct of private or public bodies or individual employees (protected disclosure).

Planning trips

Making arrangements for the proper supervision of children is one of the most effective ways of minimising opportunities for children to suffer harm of any kind whilst in your care. It is good practice when organising journeys/visits/trips that the following should be adhered to:

  • Planned Activities
  • The organisers of journeys/visits should plan and prepare a detailed programme of activities for the children who are involved in the project;
  • Organisers are responsible for the welfare and safety of the children for the whole time they are away from home;
  • Young people should not be left to their own devices in, for example, a town for the evening or shopping expeditions;
  • All children should be adequately supervised and engaged in suitable activities at all times;
  • In circumstances when planned activities are disrupted, e.g. due to weather conditions, then organisers should have a number of alternative activities planned;
  • Organisers should obtain, in writing, parental consent to children joining an organised trip;
  • Parents should be given full information about a trip, including details of the programme of events, the activities in which the children will be engaged and the supervision ratios.

Supervision of children

  • Leaders in charge must be satisfied that those workers and adults who accompany group parties are fully competent to do so;
  • Children must be supervised at all times;
  • Children must not be left unsupervised at any venue whether it be indoors or out of doors, workers should know at all times where children are and what they are doing;
  • Any activity using potentially dangerous equipment should have constant adult supervision;
  • Children will be safer if supervised by two or more adults;
  • Dangerous behaviour by children should not be allowed.

Adult / child ratios

Levels of supervision must be adequate whether at the organisation’s venue or on a journey/visit. Therefore, when deciding how many adults are required to supervise, leaders must take into consideration a range of practical matters.

  • The number of participants in the group;
  • The nature of site/venue;
  • The activities to be undertaken. If the activity is one of a hazardous nature, e.g. mountain climbing, then there are specific ratios of adults to children, which must be adhered to. This can be verified by contacting relevant sporting bodies or the SELB Youth Service;
  • It is important that each individual supervisor knows the responsibilities s/he is expected to bear;
  • It is recommended that no journey/visit should be undertaken without a minimum of two adults in attendance, one of whom must be a worker. Bus drivers should not be considered as supervisors;
  • It is for the leader in charge to exercise his/her professional judgement in deciding the level of supervision taking into account the guidance as stated above;
  • Where a party consists of children of both sexes, both male and female supervision should be provided unless otherwise agreed;
  • Where an activity involves swimming and the children are under eight years of age then the ratio must be one adult to one child.

Standard recommended ratios

Age No of Staff Per No of Children
0 - 2 years 1 3
2 - 3 1 4
3 - 7 1 8
8+ 2 < 20

There should be one additional staff member for every 10 extra children and/or young people.

Contact details

Designated Child Protection Officer:

Julie Liggett 07779666946

Deputy Child Protection Officer:

Judith Dawson 07877611107

Social Services:

The central telephone number for the Gateway Team for all new referrals or information about the service is 028 3741 5285

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