Our "Safe to Grow" policy is based upon the guidelines given in the Safe from Harm 1993 document, written to support legislation that appeared in the 1989 Children Act. Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Northampton (MPBC) has sought to develop this into its own policy, to meet the needs of our specific situation. The Policy that MPBC adopted includes recommendations from the Baptist Union and the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS).
Additional legislation has been included in this document and revised policy to cover the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, The Protection of Children Act 1999 and the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.
This document is a guide to recommended practice at MPBC. It provides the framework for working with children, but clarification of policy and procedures should be addressed to the Youth and Children’s Deacons.
The Policy has the following aims: -
- To protect children from would be abusers.
- To protect workers and leaders from false accusations.
- To train workers and leaders to recognise abuse.
- To provide a reporting mechanism in cases of abuse.
Implementation of the aims
MPBC will: -
- Provide a safe environment for young people’s activity.
- Provide sufficient staff to ensure the overall safety of children and workers.
- Provide safe and well-lit access.
- Provide facilities and support for training where appropriate.
Workers should: -
- Treat everyone with the respect and dignity befitting their age.
- Set an example by their everyday life which encourages a Christ-like life style to the young people within their care.
- Respect the privacy of children and the young people, i.e. showering, toileting, separate sleeping accommodation etc where appropriate.
- Plan activities to ensure that, as far as possible, they are not alone or where the activity cannot be seen or heard by others.
- Take care how they speak to children and the young people i.e. Innuendo, ridiculing, suggestive remarks (even in fun), sarcasm, scape-goating and tone of voice.
- Ensure that bullying in all its forms is deplored and wherever possible prevented.
- Promote a trusting atmosphere where children and the young people feel that they can discuss problems.
- Exercise particular care in moments of sensitive counselling i.e. bullying, bereavement or abuse.
- Endeavour to be consistent in their approach to children.
- Not use any form of physical punishment or be involved in any inappropriate touching.
- Not join in with rough, physical or sexually provocative contact games.
- Not exaggerate, trivialise or jump to conclusions about child abuse.
- Not allow themselves to be drawn into inappropriate attention seeking behaviour or show favouritism.
- Not be complacent i.e. don’t rely on your good name and believe it could never happen to me.
3. Policy Statement
MPBC has formulated the following Policy Statement, which has been published and is displayed in the church, as a sign of the church’s commitment to this issue. We commit ourselves to the nurturing, protection and safekeeping of all within our care, especially the children and young people. It is the responsibility of each one of us to prevent the physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect of children and the young people.
4. Definitions and signs of abuse
Definitions of abuse
The following definitions of child abuse are recommended as criteria throughout England and Wales by the Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office in their joint document, Working together to safeguard children (1999).
Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes ill health to a child whom they are looking after. This is commonly described using terms such as "factitious illness by proxy" or "Munchausens syndrome by proxy".
Emotional abuse is persistent emotional ill treatment of a child that may cause severe and continuous adverse effects on the child's emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only so far as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmental inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. It may involve causing children to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape or buggery) 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 basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development. 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, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to a child's basic emotional needs.
Munchausen's syndrome by proxy
The Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry defines Munchausen's syndrome by proxy as "a form of child abuse in which the parents, or carers, give false accounts of symptoms in their children and may fake signs of illness (to draw attention to themselves). They seek repeated medical investigations and needless treatment for their child(ren)."
This relates to the degree of harm that triggers statutory action to protect a child. It is based on the individual child's health or development compared to that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child. E.g. severity of ill treatment, degree and extent of physical harm, duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, premeditation. Department of Health guidance suggests that "significant" means "considerable, noteworthy or important."
Linked with emotional abuse, spiritual abuse could be defined as an abuse of power, often done in the name of God or religion, which involves manipulating or coercing someone into thinking, saying or doing things without respecting an individual's right to chose for themselves. Some indicators of spiritual abuse might be a leader who is intimidating and imposes his/her will on other people, perhaps threatening dire consequences or the wrath of God if disobeyed. He or she may say that God has revealed certain things to them and so they know what is right. Those under their leadership are fearful to challenge or disagree, believing that they will lose the leader's (or more seriously God's) acceptance and approval.
The Home Office definition of domestic violence is "any violence between current or former partners in an intimate relationship, wherever and whenever the violence occurs. The violence may include physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse"
Organised or multiple abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abuser and a number of related or non related children and young people. The abusers concerned may be acting in concert to abuse children, sometimes acting in isolation, or may be using an institutional framework or position of authority to recruit children for abuse.
Children involved in prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation should be treated primarily as victims of abuse and their needs require careful assessment.
Signs and symptoms of abuse
The following signs may or may not be indicators that abuse has taken place, but the possibility should be considered.
Physical signs of abuse
- Any injuries not consistent with the explanation given for them.
- Injuries which occur to the body in places which are not normally exposed to falls, rough games, etc
- Injuries which have not received medical attention.
- Neglect - under nourishment, failure to grow, constant hunger, stealing or gorging food, untreated illnesses, inadequate care, etc.
- Reluctance to change for or participate in games or swimming.
- Repeated urinary infections or unexplained tummy pains.
- Bruises, bites, burns, fractures etc which do not have an accidental explanation.
- Cuts/scratches/substance abuse.
Indicators of possible sexual abuse.
- Any allegations made by a child concerning sexual abuse.
- Child with excessive preoccupation with sexual matters and detailed knowledge of adult sexual behaviour, or who regularly engages in age inappropriate sexual play.
- Sexual activity through words, play or drawing.
- Child who is sexually provocative or seductive with adults.
- Inappropriate bed-sharing arrangements at home.
- Severe sleep disturbances with fears, phobias, vivid dreams or nightmares, sometimes with overt or veiled sexual connotations.
- Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia.
Emotional signs of abuse
- Changes or regression in mood or behaviour, particularly where a child withdraws or becomes clingy. Also depression/aggression, extreme anxiety.
- Nervousness, frozen watchfulness.
- Obsessions or phobias.
- Sudden under-achievement or lack of concentration.
- Inappropriate relationships with peers and/or adults.
- Attention seeking behaviour.
- Persistent tiredness.
- Running away/stealing/lying.
Race culture and religion
Crucial to any assessment is a knowledge and sensitivity to racial, cultural and religious aspects. Remember also that differences exist not only between ethnic groups but also within the same ethnic group and between different neighbourhoods and social classes. While different practices must be taken into account, it is also important to remember that all children have basic human rights. Differences in child-rearing do not justify child abuse.
5. Policy and Processes
Implementation of Policy
(1) If the worker suspects a child is being abused, the worker should: -
- Record the Facts
- Inform the Church Advocates
(2) A child discloses to the worker abuse by someone else, the worker should: -
- Allow the child to speak - do not interrupt, and accept what is said
- Alleviate feelings of guilt and isolation - do not pass judgment
- Offer support - explain that the worker must pass the information on
- Record the Facts
- Inform the church advocates
(3) The worker receives an allegation about any adult or themselves, the worker should: -
- Record the Facts
- Inform the church advocates
- Ensure no-one is placed in a position that could cause further compromise
How to respond to a child wanting to talk about abuse
- As soon as possible write down what has been shared
- Above everything else, listen, listen, listen
- Show acceptance of what the child says (however unlikely the story may sound)
- Keep calm
- Look at the child directly
- Be honest
- Tell the child you will need to let someone else know - don't promise confidentiality
- Even when a child has broken a rule, they are not to blame for the abuse
- Be aware that the child may have been threatened or bribed not to tell
- Never push for information. If the child decides not to tell you after all, then accept that and let them know that you are always ready to listen
- You have done the right thing in telling
- That must have been really hard
- I am glad that you have told me
- It's not your fault
- I will help you
- Why didn't you tell anyone before?
- I can't believe it!
- Are you sure this is true?
- Why? How? When? Who? Where?
- Never make false promises
- Never make comments such as "I'm shocked, don't tell anyone else"
- Again reassure the child that they were right to tell you and show acceptance
- Let the child know what you are going to do next and that you will let them know what happens
- Contact the church advocates
- Consider your own feelings and seek pastoral support if needed
Make notes as soon as possible, preferably within one hour of the child talking to you. write down exactly what the child said and when s/he said it, what you said in reply and what was happening immediately beforehand (e.g. a description of the activity). Record dates and times of these events and when you made the record. Keep all hand written notes, even if subsequently typed. Such records should be kept for an indefinite period in a secure place.
Recording concerns and disclosures of abuse
When a child or young person tells you about abuse, or an incident takes place that gives rise for concern, a written record should be made. The record should:
- Be legible and state the facts accurately.
- Be made as soon as possible after the disclosure/incident.
Records of disclosures, incidents or concerns should include:
- The child’s name, address and date of birth.
- The nature of the concerns/allegations/disclosure.
- A description of any visible bruising or other injuries
- An exact record of what the child has said using the child’s words. A child’s behaviour and demeanour might also give some indication of what a child means to say and these should also be noted.
- What was said by the person to whom the concerns were reported.
- Any action taken as a result of the concerns e.g. who was spoken to and resulting action, including any contact with parents or the church advocate.
Records should be:
- Signed and dated.
- Kept secure and made available only to:
- The church advocate
- The ministers of the church so far as this is consistent with the welfare of the child or young person concerned and other children in the church.
- Representatives of the professional agencies as required by them.
Under no circumstances should the worker investigate the allegation or speak to the person(s) against whom the allegation is made. All incidents should be referred directly to the advocates for the following reasons: -
- The worker does not have enough expertise
- The worker may create difficulties for other professionals
- The worker may alert the abuser – who may try and silence the abused
In cases of sexual abuse we advise that the parents are not informed at all whether they are implicated or not.
Police and Social Services Involvement
The Police or Social Services may need to be involved but contacting them is the responsibility of the Child Advocates where they deem this appropriate, or after taking advice from CCPAS. The exception is where serious assault has occurred and immediate action is necessary, e.g. where forensic evidence may be obtainable. An immediate attempt should be made to contact the Child Advocates first, but if there is no response, time may dictate direct contact with the Police or Social Services.
Involvement of the Pastor(s)
There needs to be an awareness that Pastors must be free to exercise pastoral support should a situation develop, therefore a Pastor will not be involved in investigations nor direct liaison with statutory agencies. The Pastor will exercise good confidentiality and will at no time during an investigation share information from an alleged victim with an alleged abuser and vice versa. The Pastors must not compromise the advocates’ independent status. It is our practice that more than one person will share pastoral care. Wherever possible the person offering primary pastoral support to a victim or alleged victim of abuse should not be the same person offering primary pastoral support to the perpetrator or suspected perpetrator.
Helping victims of abuse
As a church we wish to support and encourage survivors of abuse and we will demonstrate this through offering a Christian listening service, prayer, practical support and pastoral support as well as referrals to agencies known to us.
Working with offenders
As a church we offer friendship and support to those who have offended against young people, whilst at the same time ensuring the protection of the young people, therefore offenders are required to agree to a contract outlining the boundaries they are expected to keep. Mount Pleasant operates such a policy and would liaise with the probation service as appropriate.
6. Appointment of Children’s workers
Age of a registered worker
This process is aimed at workers who are over 18 years of age. It is possible for a worker to be over 16 and have some individual responsibility, but helpers under 16 must be allocated and supervised by an approved worker at all times, as detailed in point 9 of the appointment process in detail .
The Appointment Process
The following process will be followed in all circumstances. The worker will not be able to have unsupervised involvement with children until CRB approval is received. A simplified diagrammatical representation of this process appears in the appendix.
The “Candidate” is the person seeking appointment as a new worker.
The responsible Deacon (Deacon) is the Youth Deacon or Children’s Deacon depending on the organisation applying for a new leader – see appendix.
The Interview Panel (Recruiters) are church appointed members, who will interview and appoint all new children’s workers at Mt.P.
The active Pastor is the pastor that is in charge at that point in time. This will usually be the Senior Pastor, but when he is on vacation or unavailable, the active pastor will be the individual who carries out his functions during that period of absence.
The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) maintains records on individuals that have had a complaint made about them with respect to child protection issue from the Police, Social Services and other agencies
The Interview Process
All new appointees will be interviewed by the Interview panel – the “Recruiters” - (minimum two and at least one being a deacon), who are themselves Police cleared for this purpose. Mount Pleasant will appoint and maintain no fewer than 4 recruiters who will be Police cleared. The Recruiters will be the Children’s Deacon and the Youth Deacon, plus other appointed members of the church. (See appendix.)
Although aimed at Safe to Grow issues, the interview will also ascertain whether a candidate is truly suitable for the position for which they have been approached. The interview should therefore seek to discern the candidate’s suitability for the role both practically and from the point of view of the children’s safety.
The interview should explore the persons past experiences of contact with children and young people. The Recruiters should be alert to any inconsistencies that might give rise to concern. These should be followed up by more searching questions.
The candidate must be asked directly if they have been asked to leave any posts working with children or young people, or whether children have been taken from their care.
Appointment Process in Detail
1. The leader of the organisation will complete the vacancy proforma, (see appendix). This proforma includes a short job profile and specifies the age range of the children that the applicant will work with.
2. The Leader of the appointing organisation will provide the name to the responsible Deacon.
a. The Deacon will advise whether the application can continue, dependant on confidential information that they may hold at that time. The Deacon should contact the Pastors in case they are privy to facts that may affect the application.
i. If the candidate is unsuitable the application will stop at this stage and the active Pastor will inform the candidate.
ii. If suitable the paper process can begin – step 3.
3. The Leader will give an application form (see appendix) to the candidate, along with a copy of the current Safe to Grow Policy document.
a. The leader will explain the Safe to Grow process.
b. The following will occur: -
i. The candidate may choose not to continue and the process will stop.
ii. The candidate will continue the process and the form will be passed back to the responsible Deacon
iii. The application form will be passed to the church office so that references can be obtained.
4. The Church office will inform the relevant Deacon that the references have been received then the responsible Deacon will organise the interview panel consisting of a minimum of two of the CRB cleared Recruiters. They will then set the interview date, time and venue. This is expected to occur within 2 weeks of receiving references.
a. The panel will meet with the candidate, and assess their suitability for the role.
i. If unsuitable, the active Pastor will explain to the candidate and the process will cease. All paperwork will be returned to the church office and stored.
ii. If suitable the formal Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) process will commence. A form will be given to the candidate who fills it in and returns it to a 'Recruiter'. The recruiter will check the candidate’s identity with original documentation and arrange for the form to be returned to CCPAS.
b. On return of the Disclosure form the Deacon will complete the churches declaration and send it with the applicants copy to CCPAS. CCPAS will countersign this application and apply for the CRB check.
c. The Volunteer Disclosure Form (see appendix) will be given to the applicant at this meeting, and if possible signed as part of the application. The applicant may need to take the form away to check details if necessary.
d. It is at this point that the candidate may commence working with children in a supervised capacity.
5. The CRB decision is received
a. The application is rejected by CRB. The active Pastor will approach the candidate and explain, and return all associated paperwork to the office where it will be stored. The Deacon will inform the Elders of the rejection.
b. The application is accepted by CRB. The Deacon will identify if it is for a position of helper or leader and take the following action:-
i. Leader. Inform the Elders that the application is successful. The Eldership will asses the suitability and either: -
1. Recommend worker to church meeting.
a. Church meeting accepts candidate and they are appointed (Go to Step 6).
b. Church meeting rejects candidate and they may still be appointed as helper (Go to Step 6), but not leader, or it may be decided not to pursue the appointment. The active Pastor will meet and explain to the candidate.
2. Reject the candidate for a leadership role. The active Pastor will explain to the candidate and offer role as helper (Go to Step 6) or to terminate application.
ii. Helper. Inform the relevant Elder that the application is successful.
6. The Church office will issue the covenant to the Candidate. The Deacon will appoint the candidate to their new role. All associated paperwork will be returned to the church office and stored in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
7. The candidate will attend a training session covering Safe to Grow policies and procedures, within 12 months of appointment.
8. The Candidate will attend refresher-training courses once every three years. Information concerning need for renewal will be scheduled by the church office, and training booked as necessary. Workers will be informed in writing when their training requires updating.
9. Any none CRB checked worker should never be left unsupervised in a room with children without the CRB checked worker being present. They will however be able to be counted in the numbers ratio of leaders for the group.
7. Handling of disclosure information
Storage and access
Disclosure information must never be kept on an applicant’s personal file. It must be stored separately in a secure, lockable, non-portable cabinet, with access strictly controlled and limited to those who are entitled to see it as part of their duties.
In accordance with section 124 of the Police Act 1997, Disclosure information is only passed to those who are authorised to receive it in the course of their duties. A record should be kept of all those to whom Disclosures and disclosure information has been revealed and it is a criminal offence to pass this information to anyone who is not entitled to receive it.
Disclosure information must only be used for the specific purpose for which it was requested and for which the applicant’s full consent has been given.
Once a recruitment (or other relevant) decision has been made, Disclosure information should not be kept for any longer than is absolutely necessary. This is generally for a period of up to six months, to allow for the consideration and resolution of and disputes or complaints. If, in very exceptional circumstances, it is considered necessary to keep Disclosure information for longer than six months, consultation should be made with the registered/umbrella body and/or the CRB. Advice can then be given to the Data Protection and Human Rights of the individual. The above conditions regarding the safe storage and strictly controlled access would still apply in these circumstances.
Once the retention period has lapsed, Disclosure information must be suitably destroyed by secure means, i.e. shredding, pulping or burning. Whilst awaiting destruction, Disclosure information must not be kept in any insecure receptacle (eg waste bin or confidential waste sack). No copies of the Disclosure information may be kept in any form. However, a record can be kept of the date of the issue of a disclosure, the name of the subject, the type of disclosure requested, the position for which the disclosure was requested, the unique reference number of the disclosure and the details of the recruitment decision taken.
All Children’s and Youth workers must attend training sessions at appointment. This will typically be a two-hour overview of policies and procedures. A minimum of three training events will be scheduled each year, and it is intended that attendance will be as soon as possible, but at a maximum duration of one year after the commencement of the application. If no training is undertaken within this period, the application will lapse.
Three training sessions will be held per year on different weekday evenings. The dates will be published and announced on a yearly basis. New appointees will be expected to attend the next convenient session.
Legislation and recommendations change on a yearly basis, and as such we need a format to present changes to procedures to the existing workers. We will do this through renewal training.
All Children and Youth workers must attend renewal-training sessions (1 evening of 2 hours duration) These are due every three years, and must be completed before the end of the three-year period. The same training package will be use for both initial and renewal training as they will not be run separately.
Three training dates will be published each year at the beginning of the year. These will be announced in Link-Up.
9. Maintaining the Register
Record of Workers
A yearly review of Safe to Grow policies will look at the current registration list, and any one not meeting the current criteria will be removed. All Ministers, Elders, Deacons and Advocates should be CRB checked and trained but will be exempt from point 3 and 5 below.
This review of children’s workers will be carried out during the first quarter of each year.
Removal from the register
It is the responsibility of the worker to ensure that they are adequately trained in Safe to Grow issues. Workers will be removed from the Mt.P register of approved workers under the following circumstances:
- The Child Advocate recommends the removal for child protection reasons.
- The training period or retraining period expires.
- The worker ceases to actively work with young people for a period exceeding two years.
- The worker dies.
- The worker asks to be removed.
If a worker is removed from the register they will need to start the application process from the beginning.
10. External Advice and information
MPBC will use CCPAS (Churches Child Protection Advisory Service) as our chosen agency for advice and help.
11. DBS Clearance
DBS clearance for all new workers will be necessary. We have the facility through CCPAS to clear any worker over 18 years old. This process is necessary, and any people allowing their current registration to lapse will need to obtain CRB clearance to continue when they return to young peoples work within the church. This will be non-negotiable.
DBS clearance will only highlight known cases of unsuitability to work with children. Where an offender is currently undiscovered it will provide no defence whatsoever. It should not be viewed as the only tool against appointing an unsuitable candidate. Best practice should always be followed when working with young people to minimise risk to both young person and worker.
DBS certificates from other agencies will be accepted providing they have been issued within the last 6 months. This does not exempt the worker from the rest of the appointment procedure.
The costs for a DBS check will be covered by MPBC.
MPBC should seek at all times to have four Children’s advocates trained and available.
The Role of the Advocates
Our children's Advocates are:
- Steve Merryshaw
- Ruth Osborne
- Aidan Preece
- Lianne Preece
The advocate is a role created to provide “a voice for the child” within the church. The advocate effectively speaks on behalf of all the children and young people, on issues that have a bearing on their protection and safety.
The Advocate is also a neutral contact in suspected cases of abuse. The Advocate should not be directly involved in youth work at MPBC. They will meet with the Youth and Children’s Deacon to assess policy and procedure, but are independent of the leadership of MPBC. This does not restrict the Advocates from being part of the leadership of Mount Pleasant.
Each advocate can act in isolation or in conjunction with one or more of the others. MPBC would recommend that at least two advocates are involved in any complaint.
The Advocates exist to do the following: -
- Accept complaints about abuse from anyone. This applies to both inside and outside the church.
- Consult files held in Church office or with the advocate.
- Consider concerns and seek advice from nominated professionals. The usual contact will be with CCPAS.
- Keep a detailed record of any complaint for future queries.
- Inform the active pastor or regional minister if necessary.
Dealing with Complaints
The advocate will assess each and every complaint on its own merits and decide to take one of the following courses of action: -
- Take no further action.
- Take no direct action, but continue to observe the situation
- Report to Social Services.
13. Discipline policy
Children at MPBC are valued and respected they are encouraged and rewarded for good behaviour. Therefore it is our policy never to punish our children physically. If the need arises we will discipline in the following way.
Children will be made aware of unacceptable behaviour, and if this continues the parents will be informed. If there was still no improvement there may be an exclusion made for a period of time. This period of time will be defined by the group leader in liaison with the appropriate Deacon. Discipline will be appropriate to the situation.
14. Abuse of trust
As a church we undertake to follow the principles found within the Abuse of Trust guidance issued by the Home Office. It will therefore be unacceptable for those people in a position of trust to engage in any behaviour which might allow a sexual relationship to develop whilst ever the relationship of trust continues
15. Other Publications
Safe to Grow
The Baptist Union have published the document “Safe to Grow (revised edition)” as a Guideline document for all youth workers operating in the Baptist Union churches. It is available for all workers to access this document from the Children or Youth Deacon.
Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS)
CCPAS publish a range of materials providing very specific advice for possible scenarios that a worker may come up against in youth work (i.e. taking children to camp, photos on the internet etc). The Youth and Children’s Deacons, and the advocates have access to this information and can advise, or provide copies as required.
A copy of this policy, the Safe to Grow document and the Safe to Grow Advocates details are available to reference in the Concourse. These must always be returned and kept on the Church premises.