The care and protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults involved in Church activities is the responsibility of the whole Church. Everyone who participates in the life of the Church has a role to play in promoting a Safer Church for all.
This document sets out the safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults policy of the Church of England. It has been informed by the Joint Safeguarding Statement between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, with whom we work jointly on many aspects of safeguarding policy on a covenant basis.
The Church of England safeguarding policy statement is based on 5 foundations and offers 6 overarching policy commitments:
This policy applies to all Church Bodies and Church Officers . Full understanding of, and adherence to, this policy should lead to a deepening in the understanding of, and respect for, the rights of children, young people and vulnerable adults as people of faith in the life of the Church.
1. The phrase “young people/person” means any individual(s) aged 14 to 17 years old
2. Section 6 Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 defines a vulnerable adult as a person aged 18 or over whose ability to protect himself or herself from violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation is significantly impaired through physical or mental disability or illness, old age, emotional fragility or distress, or otherwise and for that purpose, the reference to being impaired is to being temporarily or indefinitely impaired. The full text of the 2016 Measure can be found here: jtecc/79.pdf
3. Church Bodies includes PCCs, diocesan bodies, cathedrals, religious communities, theological training institutions and the National Church Institutions. This policy will apply to the whole of the provinces of Canterbury and York (including the Diocese in Europe subject to local variations/modifications). There is also an expectation that the policy will apply to the Channel Islands and Sodor and Man unless there is specific local legislation in a jurisdiction that would prevent adoption.
4. A “Church Officer” is anyone appointed/elected by or on behalf of the Church to a post or role, whether they are ordained or lay, paid or unpaid.
Under section 5 of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 , all authorised clergy, bishops, archdeacons, licensed readers and lay workers, churchwardens and PCCs must have due regard to safeguarding guidance issued by the House of Bishops (this will include both policy and practice guidance). A duty to have ‘due regard’ to guidance means that the person under the duty is not free to disregard it but is required to follow it unless there are cogent reasons for not doing so. (‘Cogent’ for this purpose means clear, logical and convincing.) Failure by clergy to comply with the duty imposed by the 2016 Measure may result in disciplinary action.
This Policy Statement is supported by more detailed Practice Guidance and Reference documents which can be downloaded from: https://www.churchofengland.org/clergy-office-holders/safeguarding-children-vulnerable-adults.aspx
Building on this, Church bodies may provide additional local procedures and guidance in line with the House of Bishops policy and practice guidance.
The Church of England, its Archbishops, Bishops, clergy and leaders are committed to safeguarding as an integral part of the life and ministry of the Church.
Safeguarding means the action the Church takes to promote a safer culture. This means we will promote the welfare of children, young people and adults, work to prevent abuse from occurring, seek to protect those that are at risk of being abused and respond well to those that have been abused. We will take care to identify where a person may present a risk to others, and offer support to them whilst taking steps to mitigate such risks.
The Church of England affirms the Whole Church approach to safeguarding. This approach encompasses a commitment to consistent policy and practice across all Church bodies, Church Officers and that everyone associated with the Church, who comes into contact with children, young people and adults, has a role to play.
The Church will take appropriate steps to maintain a safer environment for all and to practice fully and positively Christs Ministry towards children, young people and adults, to respond sensitively and compassionately to their needs in order to help keep them safe from harm.
In developing and implementing the Safeguarding Policy, the Church of England, is guided by the following foundations:
The Church is called to share the good news of Gods salvation through Jesus Christ. The life of our communities and institutions is integral to how we address this task. The good news speaks of welcome for all, with a particular regard for those who are most vulnerable, into a community where the value and dignity of every human being is affirmed and those in positions of responsibility and authority are truly trustworthy. Being faithful to our call to share the gospel therefore compels us to take with the utmost seriousness the challenge of preventing abuse from happening and responding well where it has.
5. The Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 applies to the whole of the provinces of Canterbury and York (including the Diocese in Europe subject to local variations/modifications), with the exception of the Channel Islands and Sodor and Man. In order to extend the 2016 Measure to the Channel Islands or Sodor and Man legislation will need to be passed by the relevant island jurisdictions in accordance with section 12 of that Measure.
The Church recognises the personal dignity and rights of all children, young people and adults, as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998 and the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Safeguarding work is undertaken within a legislative framework supported by government guidance which sets out a range of safeguarding duties, responsibilities and best practice.
The following key principles underpin the Churchs approach to safeguarding practice:
The following key features will help Church bodies promote and maintain a safer culture that protects and promotes the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults. These features are:
6. In the event of any perceived or potential conflict of interest the welfare of any children and young people involved will always take precedence over all adults.
7. These are based on Safe from Harm Home Office, 1993, and the statutory guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004.
8. It is acknowledged that the level and depth of arrangements that meet these key features will be dependent on the size and resources available to an individual church body.
In the July Synod 2013 Archbishop Justin Welby stated:
“The reality is that there will always be people who are dangerous and are part of the life of the Church. They may be members of the congregation, we hope and pray that they will not be in positions of responsibility, but the odds are from time to time people will somehow conceal sufficiently well. And many here, have been deeply affected, as well as the survivors who have so rightly brought us to this place. Many other people here have been deeply affected and badly treated. So we face a continual challenge and reality. … There has to be a complete change of culture and behaviour.
And in addition, there is a profound theological point. We are not doing all this, we are not seeking to say how devastatingly, appallingly, atrociously sorry we are for the great failures there have been, for our own sakes, for our own flourishing, for the protection of the Church. But we are doing it because we are called to live in the justice of God, and that we will each answer to Him for our failures in this area. And that accountability is one that we must take with the utmost seriousness.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote in their joint forward to Safeguarding: Follow-up to the Chichester Commissaries Reports, June 2013:
“We cannot overestimate the importance of responding appropriately today. Sadly for many this comes far too late. History cannot be rewritten, but those who still suffer now as a result of abuse in the past deserve this at least, that we hear their voices and take action to ensure that todays safeguarding policies and systems are as robust as they can be. This work is an essential and prior Gospel imperative, for any attempts we make to grow the Church, to seek the common good, and to reimagine the Churchs ministry.”
The statutory reports and independent reviews into abuse that have involved the Church of England and other faith organisations highlight past errors and significant lessons to be learnt to improve safeguarding.
As a Church we continue to commit to a journey of truth, healing, learning and abuse prevention.
Based on the foundations outlined above the Church of England commits to:
1. Promoting a safer environment and culture
All Church Officers will respect all children, young people and vulnerable adults and promote their well-being.
The Church will strive to create and maintain environments that are safer for all, that promote well-being, that prevent abuse, and that create nurturing, caring conditions within the Church for children, young people and vulnerable adults. It will work to continue to strengthen and review these environments. This will be done by training, support, communication, learning, governance and quality assurance processes.
The Church will strive to support all Church Officers to adhere to safer working good practice and to challenge the abuse of power. It will ensure that processes are in place that listen to and advocate on behalf of children, young people and vulnerable adults within the knowledge that they will be cared for.
2. Safely recruiting and supporting all those with any responsibility related to children and vulnerable adults within the Church.
The Church will select and vet all those with any responsibility related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within the Church, in accordance with the House of Bishops safeguarding policy and practice guidance
It will train and equip Church Officers to have the confidence and skills they need to care and support children, young people and vulnerable adults and to recognise and respond to abuse. This will be done by supporting the roll-out of consistent and accessible safeguarding training in accordance with House of Bishops safeguarding policy and practice guidance.
3. Responding promptly to every safeguarding concern or allegation.
Anyone who brings any safeguarding suspicion, concern, knowledge or allegation of current or non-current abuse to the notice of the Church will be responded to respectfully and in a timely manner, in line with statutory child and adult safeguarding procedures and the House of Bishops safeguarding policy and practice guidance.
All safeguarding work will be recorded in line with the House of Bishops safeguarding practice guidance.
All suspicions, concerns, knowledge or allegations, that reach the threshold for reporting to the statutory authorities, will be reported via the diocesan safeguarding adviser or designated safeguarding adviser/officer in another church body to the appropriate statutory authorities. This will be done irrespective of the status of the person.
All Church Officers will cooperate with the statutory authorities in all cases.
In responding to concerns or allegations of abuse relating to Church Officers, the Church will act in accordance with the requirements of criminal, civil and ecclesiastical law, and so will respect the rights and uphold the safeguards afforded in these, both to the victim/survivor and the subject of concerns or allegations.
4. Caring pastorally for victims/survivors of abuse and other affected persons.
The Church will endeavour to offer care and support to all those that have been abused, regardless of the type of abuse, when or where it occurred.
The Church is committed to continuing to learn how to respond in a supportive and healing way to the needs of those who have suffered abuse.
Those who have suffered abuse within the Church will receive a compassionate response, be listened to and be taken seriously. The Church will respond to any disclosure of abuse in accordance with House of Bishops policy and practice guidance. This will be done in collaboration with the relevant statutory agencies in accordance with criminal, civil and ecclesiastical law. They will be offered appropriate pastoral care, counselling and support - according to the agreed need.
An appropriate pastoral response to the family, parish, congregation or order will be considered, with due regard to the right of privacy of those directly involved, and to the administration of justice.
5. Caring pastorally for those who are the subject of concerns or allegations of abuse and other affected persons.
The Church in exercising its responsibilities to suspicions, concerns, knowledge or allegations of abuse will endeavour to respect the rights under criminal, civil and ecclesiastical law of an accused Church Officer including the clergy. A legal presumption of innocence will be maintained during the statutory and Church inquiry processes. As the process progresses additional assessment, therapy and support services may be offered.
The Church will take responsibility for ensuring that steps are taken to protect others when any Church Officer is considered a risk to children, young people and vulnerable adults. This will be done by working to mitigate any identified risks according to a safeguarding agreement.
Church Officers who are the subject of concerns or allegations of abuse belong to families, congregations and church communities. The Church will be mindful of the need to provide support to members of families, parishes and congregations affected by the Church Officers in such situations.
6. Responding to those that may pose a present risk to others.
The Church, based on the message of the gospel, opens its doors to all. It will therefore endeavour to offer pastoral care and support to any member of the church community whom may present a known risk.
The Church will ensure that any risk has been assessed and is being managed in a safeguarding agreement in accordance with House of Bishops policy and practice guidance. This will be done in collaboration with the relevant statutory agencies in accordance with criminal, civil and ecclesiastical law.
All parts of the Church of England must adopt or take account of this Policy Statement within their own safeguarding policy . The Policy Statement must actively underpin all safeguarding work within the Church and the drive to improve safeguarding practice. All Church bodies should ensure that:
Latest versions of the Church of Englands Safeguarding documents can be found here:
If you are concerned that someone you know is at risk of, or is being abused, or presents a risk to others please seek advice from a Safeguarding Adviser or if necessary report the matter to the Local Authority Social Care Services or the Police without delay
11. A shortened "at a glance" version of this Policy Statement will be prepared for Parish, Dioceses, Cathedrals and other church bodies and be available on the national website.
12. This may be access to a Parish or Diocesan website and/or a hard copy A4 Policy statement.