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Safeguarding children and young people in faith–based work

The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland’s inter–faith sub–group is preparing to set up a discussion forum and host a regional conference on the role of the Churches in safeguarding as it moves into its second year of operation.  The group is running its regional conference on Thursday, 2nd June, and 30 delegates will be attending on behalf of the Church of Ireland.

The Churches and the Safeguarding Board have a shared vision for protecting and promoting the welfare of children and young people.

Members of the Safeguarding Board's inter-faith sub-group at its recent meeting in Assembly Buildings, Belfast.
Members of the Safeguarding Board's inter-faith sub-group at its recent meeting in Assembly Buildings, Belfast.

Members of the Safeguarding Board’s inter–faith sub–group at its recent meeting in Assembly Buildings, Belfast. 

Formed in May 2015, the group acknowledges the important and central role which faith communities play in the safeguarding of children and young people throughout the region. The group’s main aims for 2016 are:

– to develop partnership working within faith groups, the Safeguarding Board and others concerned in safeguarding children in Northern Ireland;

– to develop and share good practice arrangements and safeguarding resources suitable for use within this sector and encourage use across any faith group;

– to review the Safeguarding Board’s wider policies and procedures for their applicability across the faith group sector and to seek to ensure the dissemination and encourage adoption of the same;

– to identify local issues and develop safeguarding initiatives within faith groups and share these across the wider Safeguarding Board membership; and

– to support the promotion within faith groups of appropriate safeguarding messages at an operational level.

Membership of the inter–faith group comprises staff with a safeguarding role who work within the four main Churches: Mr Lindsay Conway (Presbyterian Church), Dr Peter Hamill (Church of Ireland), Mr Nicky Blair (Methodist Church) and Mrs Barbara McDermott (Catholic Church).  The group is assisted and advised by Mr Colin Reid, Policy and Public Affairs Manager with NSPCC, and Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, who co–chairs the group alongside Mrs McDermott.

Barbara McDermott states that the establishment of the sub–group recognises the “tremendous progress and ongoing commitment” of all Churches across to the safeguarding of children within wider society.

She adds: “Working in collaboration with the statutory authorities, the various Church communities in their ministry and pastoral outreach provide a unique platform from which to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. As Churches together, we are dedicated to ensure that the highest standards of child safeguarding will become embedded within society to facilitate all those who have suffered abuse to get the support that they need.”

One of its main tasks is to provide a formal arrangement for the faith community to meet regularly and share their knowledge, skills and experience of best practice, including policies, procedures and training materials.  Most of all, it enhances effective communication and co–operation about safeguarding matters across faith groups in partnership with the Safeguarding Board’s statutory and voluntary agency members. Working together helps to standardise practice.  All Churches, for example, are responding to the challenge of the arrival of social media and the group will help to develop relevant regional best practice.

This article was first published in the Church of Ireland Gazette.