Safeguarding in Faith Organisations: Another form of Support

Faith organisations share a desire to care for people and make their religion and religious buildings open and welcome for everyone to share their beliefs. This blog explores why faith organisations should be implementing safeguarding practices and how faith organisations can use safeguarding to add another level of care and support to those in their congregations.

For many, faith is something that we are born into and grow up with. Eventually, some of us will also introduce our children to our beliefs and values.

Therefore, faith organisations and faith-based groups play vital roles in the lives of many children, young people, and adults all around the world. Many members spend a significant amount of their time outside of work and school, in religious, social, and cultural activities within a religious setting.

Faith organisations and faith-based groups can be set up in different ways. Some organisations are run by members of the faith that volunteer their time, and others have a paid clergy. But no matter the faith or how the organisation is set up, there is always the responsibility of those in leadership roles to keep those in their care safe.

Why is safeguarding in

faith organisations necessary?

Unfortunately, even though people view places of worship as safe spaces and the leaders as trusted adults, this is not always the case. Just like any other organisation, such as schools, sports clubs or workplaces; religious organisations can experience safeguarding issues such as:

  • Bullying
  • Online bullying
  • Grooming
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Forced marriages
  • Honour-based violence
  • Peer-pressure
  • Extreme pressure to uphold religious values

Some people believe that having safeguarding policies and procedures in faith organisations can be seen as an admission of guilt, that if there are concerns and issues occurring within your organisation then it is the fault of the faith organisation.  When really it only shows that you are taking extra measures to make sure you are supporting and protecting those in your care. The idea that having safeguarding policies in place reflects badly on an organisation, no matter the setting, is wrong. Safeguarding policies and procedures are there to help prevent the worst from happening. All organisations should have them in place whether they have safeguarding issues or not. Not having policies in place opens an organisation up to more opportunities for safeguarding problems to arise. Being an active safeguardian will help more people, than being a passive onlooker.

It is important for faith organisations to make safeguarding a priority and to learn and develop their safeguarding practices. It is essential for everyone to take appropriate action when it comes to a safeguarding concern. If there are no procedures in place it’s easy for safeguarding issues and concerns to slip through the cracks, which puts the people in your care at risk.

Supporting and caring for others is where safeguarding and faith ­overlap. However, when the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse examined faith organisations in England and Wales, they found that despite guidance being available, there is a significant variation in the levels of compliance among religious organisations and settings. They also found that despite serving large congregations, some organisations do not even have a basic child protection procedure in place.

How to implement safeguarding in

faith organisations

The IICSA Report clearly states that religious bodies and organisations are still subject to general law and that freedom of religion and belief can never justify the ill-treatment of a child. Therefore, faith organisations should be taking steps to integrate safeguarding practices and procedures into the everyday running of their organisation.

All faith groups need to:

  • Follow relevant national legislation and guidance
  • Ensuring children are properly supervised
  • Make sure all adults understand how to share concerns about the safety or welfare of a child or young person
  • Have a safeguarding and child protection policy
  • Have a nominated child protection/safeguarding lead
  • Provide safeguarding resources to all those working with children or families

However, some faith-based groups can be quite small or locally based. This can make it hard for them to have the necessary resources to develop robust policies and procedures. But there are small things these groups can do to ensure they improve their safeguarding practices, such as:

  • Having the correct adult-to-children ratio
  • Making the environment as safe as possible for children and young people.
  • Have appropriate conversations with children about child protection and safe practice

If all faith organisations can take small steps to implement safeguarding within their organisation it will improve the safety and support, of thousands of people all around the world.

For more information:

 

Author
Kelly Ofasi
Marketing Executive

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