Keeping the vulnerable safe in our Archdiocese

Diocesan Safeguarding team enforce standards

"Our parishes and communities must be a place of welcome." These words come from the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service and help to sum up the purpose of a small, but significant, department of people working under the auspices of Liverpool Archdiocese.

The four-strong team in our Diocesan Safeguarding department do a job which did not exist 20 years ago, a job which has come into being only in recent times yet which is no less important for it. Their task, after all, is to ensure that our parish clergy and volunteers take responsibility for making their communities safe places and keep sight at all times of the value of children and vulnerable adults’ lives.

They are a cog in a sizeable machine which has been assembled by the Church in England and Wales to make sure that clergy and volunteers, through training and application of safeguarding policies and procedures, take a best-practice approach in their parish work with children and vulnerable adults and know what to do if a concern about any vulnerable person surfaces.

It is all geared towards putting into practice the aforementioned principles of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, which are fully expressed as follows: "The Catholic Church in England and Wales is striving towards a culture of safeguarding where all are safe from harm and abuse and where every person is encouraged and enabled to enjoy fullness of life in Jesus Christ through the prayerful, caring, nurturing, supportive and protective endeavours of the Catholic community, both individually and collectively.

"Every human being has a value and dignity which we, as Catholics, recognise as coming directly from God's creation of male and female in his own image and likeness. Our parishes and communities must be a place of welcome, where each person is respected and loved, and in which everyone receives and shares their unique gifts. Parishes must be communities where we support and protect each other. We must take particular care of those who may be vulnerable because of age, illness or disability or who may be vulnerable because of current or past life experiences." 

The history of safeguarding work dates back to 1995 when the Catholic Church in England and Wales produced its first document on the subject of child abuse, 'Child Abuse Pastoral and Procedural Guidelines'. Three years later, in 1998, the Archdiocese of Liverpool appointed a child protection officer and published its own set of guidelines titled 'Protecting Our Children'.

The next step nationally was the review of the Church's child protection arrangements undertaken by Lord Nolan which led, in 2001, to a 'Programme for Action' document. This contained 80 recommendations for the Church to act on, forming the basis of initial national policies and procedures for use in all dioceses across England and Wales. It also prompted the creation of  a national child protection office, the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA).

In 2007 a review of  Nolan's recommendations was conducted by Baroness Cumberlege, whose 'Safeguarding with Confidence' report made recommendations on improvements to existing arrangements. This precipitated another change as COPCA morphed into the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS). This move from child protection to safeguarding was effected to embrace the needs of all vulnerable people.

Today the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations are seen as a key provider of safeguarding arrangements by statutory agencies. This brings a respect towards our organisation, but also an expectation of high standards within our practice and work carried out in partnership with Local Children and Adult Safeguarding Boards.

Our Diocesan Safeguarding department is staffed by Des Bill, the safeguarding coordinator, who is also a deacon of the Archdiocese, along with administrators Sylvia Cawley and Claire Newton, and John Lynch, the safeguarding adviser.

All clergy and volunteers have access to training opportunities to facilitate their work, and the Church’s safe recruitment procedures require that everybody working with vulnerable groups must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check as well as supplying references. The department is now able to make DBS Check applications electronically, speeding up the process for applicants.

Looking nationally, the national safeguarding structure involves a chain of bodies:
• National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC)
• Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS):
• Diocesan Safeguarding Commissions
• Diocesan Safeguarding Departments
• Local Parish Volunteer Safeguarding Representatives (parish reps)

To explain the links in the chain, the NCSC oversees the development, implementation and review of policies and procedures. The CSAS then supports these policy developments and their implementation in dioceses.

The Diocesan commission, in turn, oversees the work of Diocesan Safeguarding departments. The chair of our commission is Dr Margaret Goddard, a GP with experience of safeguarding issues and involvement with a number of safeguarding and health forums. There are also members from the police and national probation services, as well as professional safeguarding expertise from professionals from Alder Hey Hospital, the Catholic Blind Institute and Nugent Care, and lay representation including a parish rep and clergy representative.

The Safeguarding department, as already mentioned, handle documentation and processes around safe recruitment and the DBS process. The team also respond to concerns or allegations, whether current or historical, and liaise with professionals involved in allegation management and those who may be directly involved from  a parish perspective. What's more, the team are often a contact point for an alleged victim and, on a daily basis, give advice on any number of queries about best practice or safe recruitment.

Parish reps are another key component in the safeguarding structure and administer policy implementation in every parish. There are nearly 300 in our diocese and the Safeguarding department are appreciative of the selfless work they undertake. A range of activities take place with children and vulnerable adults in parishes on Sundays and throughout the week, ranging from Children’s Liturgy of the Word on Sundays to midweek youth groups.

All volunteers are required to undergo the safe recruitment and DBS process, and once appointed receive a safeguarding booklet offering advice on what steps to take should a problem arise, plus a code of conduct card. For further advice, go to: www.liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/safeguarding

Visitors to the website will also find details of a programme of E-Learning Safeguarding Awareness Training. This includes modules on child protection; child protection in education; child exploitation and online safety; safeguarding adults; and mental capacity. The training is free and open to all members of the Catholic community. Those interested can email the Safeguarding department on safeguarding@rcaol.co.uk or call 0151 522 1043

Face-to-face training is available also to parishes, delivering the Church’s nationally developed policies covering safe recruitment, responding to allegations and concerns, and creating a safe environment.

For any further information on policies and procedures, go to:
NCSC: www.catholicsafeguarding.org.uk
CSAS: www.csas.uk.net

Celebrate the Child
The Safeguarding department organises an annual mass for children, their familes and parish volunteers to celebrate the gift of children and those who care for them at home and in church. The 2016 mass will be in south Liverpool and further information is available from the department.