We all have a responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people; even if we don’t have a specific safeguarding role. It can be an easy mistake to think that, because parents and carers are present when you hold a group or an activity, safeguarding isn't really necessary. To some degree, you will be viewed as being in 'a position of trust'.
The majority of Messy Churches operate under the authority of a local church, and therefore should be covered by the safeguarding policy of that church or denomination. Check this with your church or denomination to make sure. You will need to identify the appointed safeguarding officer of your church or denomination, make yourself known to them and share their contact details with those involved with running/leading your Messy Church. It is a good idea to ask if they could arrange some safeguarding training for anyone supporting or working with families.
Messy Churches need to comply with legislation and government expectations with regards to safeguarding. Where abuse is disclosed, witnessed or suspected, it needs to be reported to the statutory authorities (Children's Social Care or the police). However, you should discuss this with those responsible for safeguarding, either at your church or within your denomination.
- Be prepared to challenge unsafe practice or inappropriate behaviour by adults.
- Record your concerns and share them with relevant people as soon as you can.
- You may need to act/respond within a short timescale – think about whether a child may be at risk of immediate harm.
- Have a list of contact names and numbers for people to report any concerns to.
- Trust your judgment. If something doesn’t seem right, then act appropriately.
It is our responsibility to provide a safe place for our families to meet, where children should not knowingly be put at risk of significant harm.
If you need to respond to a concern quickly, without the opportunity to speak to your designated safeguarding officer, then contact your local authority Children's Social Care Services, the police or NSPCC Child Protection Helpline 0808 800 5000 (24 hrs).
For more information, talk to the person responsible for safeguarding in your church or denomination (your minister should be able to advise how to get in touch with them).
Another valuable source of help and information is CCPAS - visit the CCPAS website.