On Saturday the 9th of March, we were visited by a Diocese of Southwark Safeguarding trainer, Jean Cooper as she led us in a Foundation in Safeguarding Course at Minstead Gardens Church.
Safeguarding is all about ensuring the health, wellbeing and rights of all adults and children linked to the church, protecting them from harm, abuse or neglect. This event was jointly aimed at parish officers with a specific need for the training (e.g. Sunday School teachers, safeguarding team and PCC members), but also any church member who wanted to update their skills and awareness. Although we have had a safeguarding policy in place for some years, there is no better time to have as many of us as possible aware of what makes for a secure and safe church.
Jean took us through a series of slides and video clips, explaining different types of abuse and neglect, including sexual, physical and emotional, and the more recent phenomenon of online bullying or stalking. We learned about what structures we should have in place to help guard against such behaviour and what procedures we should follow if an incident were to occur, or any concern arise for an individual.
It was striking how many of us felt as the course began, that this “will never happen to us”, but as the day unfolded, and with plenty of time for discussion, a few things became clear.
First, there is no room for complacency. Truly “good” churches have been caught out in this area. Secondly, a culture of positive interest in everyone, noticing how they are, or when anyone is absent is of great value in promoting a culture of care. Finally, there were many illustrations of hidden problems in society at large, where the difficulty is really going on at home, school or work, but where we in Church might be the first to spot something seems wrong. In this sense, safeguarding could be seen as an extension of ordinary church life, and in the latter case, of our mission and call to be a force for good in our local community.
As we thanked Jean for an excellent course (for which we all got splendid C1 “Foundation in Safeguarding” certificates), we were also able to welcome our new Church safeguarding officer, Yvonne Craine. Yvonne is a mature student at the University, sings in our choir, and comes to us with extensive experience as a former member at Truro Cathedral. Yvonne will help oversee our systems and provide regular reports for the PCC.
Thanks again to all who came, and for those who helped in any way with a successful day.