What to do if Abuse is Suspected or Disclosed
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child or adult at risk. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child or adult by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children and adults at risk may be abused in a range of settings, by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. There are many ways in which people suffer abuse. For more information, please see Appendix 1.
Everyone has their part to play in helping to safeguard children and adults at risk within the life of the church:
- If the behaviour of a child or adult at risk gives any cause for concern
- If an allegation is made in any context about a child or adult at risk being harmed
- If the behaviour of any individual towards children or adults at risk causes concern
What to Do
- Listen to and acknowledge what is being said.
- Try to be reassuring & remain calm.
- Explain clearly what you will do and what will happen next.
- Try to give them a timescale for when and how you / the DPS will contact them again.
- Take action – don’t ignore the situation.
- Be supportive.
- Tell them that:
- They were right to tell you;
- You are taking what they have said seriously;
- It was not their fault;
- That you would like to pass this information on to the appropriate people, with their permission;
- Be open and honest.
- Give contact details for them to report any further details or ask any questions that may arise.
What Not to Do
- Do not promise confidentiality.
- Do not show shock, alarm, disbelief or disapproval.
- Do not minimise what is being said.
- Do not ask probing or leading questions, or push for more information.
- Do not offer false reassurance.
- Do not delay in contacting the DPS.
- Do not contact the alleged abuser.
- Do not investigate the incident any further.
- Never leave a child or adult at risk waiting to hear from someone without any idea of when or where that may be.
- Do not pass on information to those who don’t need to know; not even for prayer ministry.
Responding to Concerns
When there are concerns that a child, young person or adult is being abused, the following process must be followed. More detailed information can be found in Appendix 2.
STAGE 1 – The Worker
A worker/church attendee has a
concern about the welfare of a
child, adult at risk, or the behaviour of an individual.
The person who has the concern
has a duty to:
RECOGNISE, RESPOND AND
A hand-written record must be made of the concern using a standard incident report form (Appendix 3) and the concern must be passed on to the church DPS within 24 hours.
The written record should: be made as soon as possible after the event; be legible; include the name, date of birth and address of the child or adult at risk; include the nature of any concerns and description of any bruising or injuries that have been noticed; include an exact record of what the child or adult at risk has said, using their own words where possible; include any action taken; be signed and dated; be kept secure and confidential (available only to the DPS and others responsible for safeguarding).
STAGE 2 – The Designated Person
for Safeguarding (DPS)
The DPS receives the report of
concern and then has a duty to:
REVIEW AND REPORT
The report will be reviewed by the DPS with any other relevant information and a decision will be taken (often in liaison with others) as to what action should follow. See appendix 2 for examples of possible actions. Any formal referral to the police or Social Services should normally be made within 24 hours of receiving the report.
The Local Baptist Association Safeguarding Contact should be made aware of any referrals to the statutory authorities.
STAGE 3 – The Next Steps
After the decision has been made as to what action should be taken,
the DPS, Safeguarding Trustee and
the Minister may have a duty to:
SUPPORT AND REPORT
Support should be offered to all parties affected by any safeguarding concerns (this could be the church as a whole, but more specifically victims; alleged perpetrators; children; adults at risk; other family members; church workers; the DPS; Minister; members of the leadership team.
Where formal referrals are made, reports may need to be made to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and the Charity Commission.
If the DPS is not available, or is implicated in the situation, any reports or concerns should be passed to another member of the church Safeguarding Team.
If you think that anyone is in imminent danger of harm, a report should be made immediately to the police by calling 999.
Responding to Concerns Raised about Adults at Risk
When a concern is raised about an adult it should be treated in the same way as a concern about a child ie the church worker (paid or voluntary) should:
- Recognise that abuse may be taking place.
- Respond to the concern.
- Record all the information they have received.
- Report the concern to the DPS who may, in turn, report it to the statutory authorities.
It is not your role to decide whether someone has mental capacity and is therefore able to make decisions that impact on their safety and well-being. Decisions on mental capacity are best made by professionals with the relevant background information to hand. Always share your concerns with the DPS even if you do not have the consent of the adult to do so – in this instance, make sure the DPS knows that the person concerned has not given consent for the information to be passed on.
The Care Act 2014 provides helpful guidance on these situations:
If the adult has the mental capacity to make informed decisions about their safety and they do not want any action to be taken, this does not preclude the sharing of information with relevant professional colleagues. This is to enable professionals to assess the risk of harm and to be confident that the adult is not being unduly influenced, coerced or intimidated and is aware of all the options. This will also enable professionals to check the safety and validity of decisions made. It is good practice to inform the adult that this action is being taken unless doing so would increase the risk of harm.
The DPS will consider all the information to hand and decide whether it is appropriate for the information to be reported to the statutory authorities (see appendix 2 for further information). If there are any concerns about an adult’s mental capacity, the DPS will contact the Local Authority Adult Safeguarding Team for advice.
Allegations Against Workers
If you see another worker acting in ways which concerns you or might be misconstrued, speak to the DPS about your concerns as soon as you can. This includes the actions or behaviours of those in leadership positions in the church.
Church workers should encourage an atmosphere of mutual accountability, holding each other to the highest standards of safeguarding practice. The following procedure should be followed:
- When an allegation of abuse has been made do not approach the alleged perpetrator about it
- Follow the usual safeguarding procedure: Recognise, Respond, Record, Report
- Once the allegation has been reported to the DPS they can liaise with the relevant statutory authority and with the regional Baptist Association Safeguarding Contact if they need further advice.
- Whilst waiting for an outcome from the statutory authorities, the worker about whom concerns have been raised will be supervised as closely as possible, without raising suspicion
- Once the statutory authorities are involved, the church will follow their advice with regard to the next steps to take (for example suspension of worker, putting a contract in place)
- A written record of all discussions with statutory authorities or other parties should be maintained by the DPS and stored securely and confidentially, where only those directly involved in safeguarding (DPS, Safeguarding Trustee, Minister) can access them.
- No information about the allegation will be shared with people in the church other than those directly involved in safeguarding; not even for prayer purposes.
The suspension of a worker following an allegation is, by definition, a neutral act. Our priority as a church is to protect children and adults at risk from possible further abuse or from being influenced in any way by the alleged perpetrator.
It may be necessary, for the sake of the child / adult at risk or to satisfy the needs of an investigation, for the alleged perpetrator to worship elsewhere. In such cases the new church DPS will be informed of the reasons for this happening.
When concerns are expressed about the Minister
Any safeguarding concerns involving a Minister should always be reported immediately to the local Baptist Association Safeguarding Contact in addition to following the church’s usual procedures. Do not tell the Minister that a concern has been raised about them.
When concerns are expressed about the church DPS / Safeguarding Trustee
Any safeguarding concerns involving the DPS or Safeguarding Trustee should be raised with the Minister, they in turn should consult the regional Baptist Association Safeguarding Contact. Do not tell the DPS / Safeguarding Trustee that a concern has been raised about them.
Abuse of Trust
Relationships between children and adults at risk and their church workers can be described as ‘relationships of trust’. The worker is someone in whom the child or adult at risk has placed a degree of trust. This may be because the worker has an educational role, is a provider of activities, or is even a significant adult friend. It is not acceptable for a church worker to form a romantic relationship with a child or adult at risk with whom they have a relationship of trust.
While by no means restricted to young leaders, those who are in their early adult years will need to be particularly aware of the need not to abuse their position of trust in their relationships with other young people who are not much younger than themselves.
Allegations Made Against Children and Adults at Risk
Children and young people are by nature curious about the opposite sex. However, where a child is in a position of power, has responsibility over another child (as in a babysitting arrangement) and abuses that trust through some sexual activity, then this is abusive. Where one child introduces another child to age-inappropriate sexual activity or forces themselves onto a child, this is abusive. Such situations will be taken as seriously as if an adult were involved, because the effects on the child victim can be as great.
When such an instance occurs, they are investigated by the statutory authorities in the same way as if an adult were involved, though it is likely that the perpetrator would also be regarded as a victim in their own right, as they may have also been abused. It cannot be assumed that young people will grow out of this type of behaviour, as most adult sex offenders started abusing in their teens or even younger.
Allegations against adults at risk will be investigated by the statutory authorities. If the alleged perpetrator is unable to understand the significance of questions put to them or their replies, they can access support from an ‘appropriate’ adult whilst they are being questioned. This role can be filled by a range of people, such as a family member, carer, social worker, etc. In court, adults at risk may be allowed to be assisted by an intermediary or give evidence through a live link.
When an allegation is made against a child or adult at risk the following procedure should be followed:
- Do not approach the person about whom the allegation has been made or their parents / carers
- Follow the church’s safeguarding procedure: Recognise, Respond, Record, Report
- Seek advice from the DPS, who will speak to the police or social services about when to inform a parent. The DPS will also seek advice about what steps need to be taken to ensure the needs of both the victim and alleged perpetrator are met; this may include placing the child or adult at risk on a Safeguarding Contract or equivalent (see section 3.4: Safer Community / Working with Alleged or Known Offenders)
- Make sure there is pastoral support in place for the child or adult at risk throughout the process involved.
Following an allegation / suspicion
When an allegation/suspicion arises in the church, a period of investigation will follow, which will be stressful for all involved. The church will ensure that one person is responsible for dealing with the authorities, another offers support to the victim/s and their family, and another gives pastoral care to the alleged perpetrator, without compromising the alleged victims or their families. It may be necessary to appoint other people to support the families involved.
Where a statutory investigation is under way, this support will be provided with the knowledge of the statutory authority involved.
Where the perpetrator accepts some responsibility, they will be encouraged to seek specialised interventions/treatment to reduce the risk of re-offending. This may only be appropriate once the investigation and legal processes have been completed.
Supporting those who have experienced abuse
As a church, we are committed to caring for those who have experienced abuse and refer to the Baptist Union of Great Britain Supporting Those who have Experienced Abuse guide to ensure that we adhere to a model of best practice.
We recognise it is important that those who have experienced abuse:
- Are accepted for who they are, without being made to forgive or being put into a position of feeling guilty and responsible for what happened to them.
- Know that God loves them unconditionally, and that nothing can or will change this truth.
- Can be confident that those in the church community who know about the abuse are with them on their journey – no matter how long or difficult that journey may be.
It may be necessary to signpost individuals to specialist support.