When working with children the following recommended minimum ratios of workers to children apply:
|Age Range||Recommended minimum ratio for INDOOR activities||minimum ratio for OUTDOOR activities|
|0-2 years||1:3 (minimum 2)||1:3 (minimum 2)|
|3 years||1:4 (minimum 2)||1:4 (minimum 2)|
|4 – 7 years||1:8 (minimum 2)||1:6 (minimum 2)|
|8 – 12 years||2 adults for up to 20 children (preferably one of each gender) with an extra adult for every 10 additional children||2 adults for up to 15 children (preferably one of each gender) with an extra adult for every 8 additional children|
|13 years and over||2 adults for up to 20 children (preferably one of each gender) with an extra adult for every 10 additional children||2 adults for up to 20 children (preferably one of each gender) with an extra adult for every 10 additional children|
This does not take into account special circumstances such as behavioural issues, developmental issues, disability and so on, which may mean an increase to the recommended ratios. In calculating the ratios of workers to children, young helpers who are under the age of 18 should be counted as one of the children, not one of the workers. A married couple or other directly related people should be counted as one adult for the purposes of the recommended ratios rather than two workers.
Children with Special Needs
Children and young people who have a disability can be at greater risk of abuse. They will often require more help with personal care, such as washing, dressing, toileting, feeding, mobility, etc. Some children may have limited understanding and behave in a non-age-appropriate way. It is good practice to speak with the parents/carers of children/young people with special needs and find out from them how best to assist the child or young person.
Visiting Children or Young People at Home
It is unlikely that workers will need to make pastoral visits to children and their families at home on behalf of the church. If a situation occurs where it is needed then it should be done in pairs, and with the prior agreement of the Minister.
Children with no adult supervision
When children turn up to and want to join in with church activities without the knowledge of their parents/carers, workers will:
- Welcome the child and try to establish their name, age, address and telephone number.
- Record their visit in a register.
- Ask the child if a parent/carer is aware of where they are. Where possible, phone and make contact.
- Without interrogating the child, find out as soon as possible whether they have any specific needs (eg. medication) so that you can respond appropriately in an emergency.
- Give the child a consent form and explain it needs to be filled in and brought back next time.
If a worker is working with a young person as part of the recognised church mentoring programme:
- The parents of all young people involved in mentoring are required to sign a letter to say they are aware that the mentoring is happening and who it is with.
- Mentoring meetings should only be held in agreed places, and should be in view of other people.
- A mentoring meeting should have an agreed start and end time and someone should be aware that a meeting is taking place and where it is being held.
- A basic record should be kept of dates of significant meetings and any text messages or emails.
- Appropriate boundaries should be put in place in regard to times and demand, ie not phoning or texting late at night, etc.
- A written record should be kept of issues/decisions discussed at meetings.
Peer Group Activities for Young People
All youth activities will be overseen by named adults who have been selected in accordance with safer recruitment procedures. It is accepted that groups aged 16+ may benefit from being led and run by peers. In this situation, adult leaders will contribute to programme planning and reviews and will always be present to oversee any peer-led activities taking place.
- Keep everything public. A hug within a group context is very different from one behind closed doors.
- Touch should be related to the child’s needs, not the worker’s.
- Touch should be age-appropriate and generally initiated by the child rather than the worker.
- Workers should avoid any physical activity that is, or may be thought to be, sexually stimulating to the adult or the child.
- Children are entitled to privacy to ensure their personal dignity.
- Children have the right to decide how much physical contact they have with others, except in exceptional circumstances such as when they need medical attention.
- When giving first aid (or applying sun cream, etc), workers should encourage the child to do what they can manage themselves but consider the child’s best interests and give appropriate help where necessary.
- Team members should monitor one another in the area of physical contact. They should help each other by constructively challenging anything which could be misunderstood or misconstrued.
- If a team member is unsure about whether the actions of another volunteer or worker constitutes a concern, they should raise this with the Designated Person for Safeguarding.
Electronic Communications – Cyber Safety
(Current SBC preference will be to communicate with parents and carers of those under 18years of age.)
Modern Technologies and Safe Communication
A worker’s role description will include an acknowledgement and approval of technologies such as email, social networking and mobile phone communications as a legitimate means of communicating with young people. It should also include the expectations of the church in relation to their use. On the general consent form, parents/carers sign to agree that the young person can receive such communications.
Young people also need to be aware of the protocols that workers follow in relation to electronic communications. It is important to remember that as well as the parent/carer, young people have a right to decide whether they want a worker to have their contact details and should not be pressurised otherwise.
It is not appropriate to use these communication methods with children aged 11 years and younger. For more information on cyber safety, please refer to the Baptist Union of Great Britain Cyber Safety Guide, which can be found on their website as well as the Guide to using Social Media to Communicate with Young People, which is also available on their website.
Email should be limited to sharing generic information, for example, to remind young people about meetings. If email is being used, workers will ensure that they are accountable by copying each message to a designated email address. It is important workers use clear and unambiguous language to reduce the risk of misinterpretation, for example, avoiding inappropriate terms such as ‘love’ when ending an email.
Communicating using Instant Messaging (e.g. Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram)
Instant messaging should be kept to an absolute minimum. Workers should save significant conversations and keep a log stating with whom and when they communicated.
Workers need to take care in using mobile phones to communicate with young people:
- Mobile phone use should primarily be for the purposes of information sharing.
- Workers should keep a log of significant conversations/texts.
- Any texts or conversations that raise concerns should be passed on to the worker’s supervisor.
- Workers should use clear language and should not use abbreviations like ‘lol’ which could mean ‘laugh out loud’ or ‘lots of love’.
- Paid workers will be issued with a mobile phone under a contract that provides itemised billing.
- Workers should not take photos of children, young people or adults at risk unless permission is sought in advance and should not store such photos on personal phones.
- Workers should have a site that is used solely for children’s / youth work communications and is totally separate from their own personal site. This is to ensure that all communication with children and young people is kept within public domains.
- Workers should not send private messages to children on social networks. Workers should ensure that all communications are transparent and open to scrutiny.
- Workers should not accept ‘friend’ or ‘following’ requests from children on their personal site, nor seek to be ‘friends’ or a ‘follower’ of any child known to them in a church context.
Taking Videos and Photographs of Children
Since the introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998, churches must be very careful if they use still or moving images of clearly identifiable people. Previous legislation was reinforced through the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018. There are several issues to be aware of:
- Permission must be obtained, via the consent form, of all children who will appear in a photograph or video before the photograph is taken or footage recorded.
- It must be made clear why that person’s image is being used, what you will be using it for, and who might want to look at the pictures.
- If images are being taken at an event attended by large crowds, such as a sports event, this is regarded as a public area and permission from a crowd is not necessary.
- Many uses of photographs are not covered by the Data Protection Act 1998, including all photographs and video recordings made for personal use, such as a parent/carer taking photographs at school sports days or videoing a church nativity play.
- Children and young people under the age of 18 should not be identified by surname or other personal details, including email, postal address or telephone number.
- When using photographs of children and young people, it is preferable to use group pictures.