Every human being has a value and dignity which we as Catholics acknowledge as coming directly from God’s creation of male and female in his own image and likeness. This implies a duty to value all people and therefore to support them and protect them from harm.
In the Catholic Church this is demonstrated by the provision of carefully planned activities for children, young people and adults; supporting families under stress; caring for those hurt by abuse in the past; ministering to and managing those who have caused harm.
It is because of these varied ministries that we need to provide a safe environment for all which promotes and supports their wellbeing. This will include carefully selecting and appointing those who work with children, young people or vulnerable adults and responding robustly where concerns arise.
Everyone has a responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the wellbeing of vulnerable people. In England & Wales overall responsibility sits with the Bishops Conference and the Conference of Religious.
Following the release of “Safeguarding with Confidence,” the report of the Cumberlege Commission in 2007, a National Catholic Safeguarding Commission was established. This reports directly to the Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Religious.
The Commission also oversees and manages the work of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service. This (CSAS) is the National Office with responsibility for developing and supporting the implementation of National Policies and Procedures. It has a primary role in supporting and advising Diocesan Safeguarding arrangements. The National Office meets regularly with Safeguarding Co-ordinators and Officers from the Dioceses in order to improve consistency of practice and identify learning and development needs.
The Bishop is responsible for safeguarding issues in his Diocese. He delegates responsibility via the Trustees to the Safeguarding Commission. The Safeguarding Commission, together with the Bishop, appoint a Safeguarding Co-ordinator, and Safeguarding Officer. The Commission is accountable to the Bishop and advise him on policy implementation and best practice. The Co-ordinator and Officer report to the Commission and are accountable to the Bishop via the Commission.
It is a group of independent professional people, appointed by the Bishop, to oversee the implementation of Safeguarding Policies. The membership is made up of people with specific experience and expertise in safeguarding issues and includes representatives from the Police, Safeguarding Organisations, Social Work, the Probation Service and the clergy. The Commission meets regularly to discuss policies and procedures, receive reports from the Co-ordinator and Officer and when necessary to discuss investigations and other case work and prepare reports for the Bishop.
The Co-ordinator manages the safeguarding function within the Diocese. This includes management of the Safeguarding Officer. In smaller Dioceses there may not be a Safeguarding Officer in which case the Co-ordinator carries out the responsibilities listed for them.
The Officer carries out the routine administration of the Safeguarding Office which includes the maintenance of Parish files, identity verification and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for all employees and volunteers within the Diocese who may have contact with children, young people and/or vulnerable adults. They keep a database for the Diocese and also maintain information on the National Database which is held by CSAS. They are also responsible for training Parish Representatives in the procedures they must follow when volunteers are appointed in the Parish, in best practice in dealing with situations where children and vulnerable adults are present and in what to do if they are concerned about a particular situation or person. They are responsible for referring all abuse allegations to the Statutory Authority (Police) and for working closely with them on such cases to ensure the safety of the public. They report to the Diocesan Safeguarding Commission which then makes recommendations to the Bishop.
The Parish Safeguarding Representative is responsible for: making sure the Parish is aware of the importance of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults; promoting good and safe practice, including what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour; with their Parish Priest and the Safeguarding Co-ordinator/Officer decide how to administer the National Safeguarding Policies and Procedures within the Parish.
There is a wide range of “volunteer” roles within the parish, including Parish Safeguarding Representative, Extraordinary Minister of Communion, Youth Group Leader, Catechist, Drama Group Leader, Altar Server, Driver etc.. etc..
You should speak to your Parish Safeguarding Representative and Parish Priest. You will have to complete a number of forms and discuss the reasons for wanting to be a volunteer. You will not be able to commence voluntary work until you have completed the application procedures and received a letter of appointment.
NEVER discuss this with the person who you think is the abuser. If you have witnessed abuse or received an allegation of abuse where a child is in immediate danger you must inform the Statutory Authorities (Police/Social Services). You should then inform the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator/Officer that you have done this. If you think there is no immediate danger you must report the allegation to the Co-ordinator/Officer immediately, who will then inform the Statutory Authorities.
If you think that someone is being groomed, discuss the issue with the Diocesan Safeguarding Co-ordinator or Officer who will agree with you what action to take.
“Grooming” is a process undertaken by those seeking to perpetrate sexual abuse. This can take months, sometimes years, and will almost inevitably involve grooming of parents/carers. In its early stages, grooming may be misinterpreted as kindness or helpfulness, while latterly it tends to become increasingly coercive and manipulative.
The composition of the Commission satisfies the level of professional expertise laid down by Lord Nolan and the more recent Cumberlege Report:
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Safeguarding Office, St Edmund's House, Bishop Crispian Way, Portsmouth, Hampshire. PO1 3QA, tel: 02392 816 396