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Child Protection

Updated 2021

This is Grace Community Church’s child protection policy. It applies to all activities that take place including, but not limited to, Sunday Mornings, Rock children’s church, Rock Tots preschool group and Youth club.

Founding Principles

All children have a fundamental right to be respected, nurtured, cared for and protected. This right is embedded in Biblical values, best practice guidelines and statutory legislation.

Everyone who comes into contact with children and families in their everyday role, including people who do not have a specific role concerning child protection, have a duty to safeguard and promote the well being of children.

Child protection is everyone’s business. Staff and volunteers in Grace Community Church are committed to practices that promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.

We wish to ensure that all children, without discrimination, participate in an enjoyable and safe environment in which they can have fun and feel valued.

Staff and volunteers in this organisation accept and recognise our responsibilities to develop an awareness of the issues which cause children to be harmed and establish and maintain a safe environment for them.

We are committed to reviewing our policy, procedures and practice at regular intervals; at least every three years.

Every part of the church must be committed to taking the necessary steps to:

  • Demonstrate that the right of the child to protection from harm is paramount;
  • Cherish and safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults;
  • Foster best practice;
  • Demonstrate accountability through establishing effective structures
  • Establish safe vetting practices aimed at preventing those who may pose a risk to children from holding positions of trust;
  • Maintain codes of behaviour – having clear guidelines that set out what is and is not acceptable behaviour as an essential part of keeping children safe;
  • Operate safe activities for children, helping ensure they can play and learn in a safe environment.
An illustration of an equals sign with letters and numbers, representing definitions.

Definitions

Child abuse occurs when a child is neglected, harmed or not provided with proper care. Children may be abused in many settings – in a family, residential, hospital or institutional setting or a community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. 

There are different types of abuse and a child may suffer more than one of them.

Physical

The deliberate physical injury to a child, or the wilful or neglectful failure to prevent physical injury or suffering.

This may include hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, confinement to a room or cot, or inappropriately giving drugs to control behaviour.

Emotional

The persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.

It may involve conveying to a child that he is worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as he meets the needs of another person. It may involve causing a child frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of a child. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may occur alone. Domestic violence, adult mental health problems and parental substance misuse may expose a child to emotional abuse.

Sexual

Forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities.

The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Neglect

The persistent failure to meet a child’s physical, emotional and/​or psychological needs, likely to result in significant harm.

It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment, lack of stimulation or lack of supervision. It may also include non-organic failure to thrive (faltering growth) 

An illustration depicting someone following instructions in a manual.

What to do when you become aware of an abuse

So how might you become aware that a child is suffering harm?

  • A child may tell you.
  • Someone else may tell you that a child has told them or that they strongly believe a child has been abused.
  • A child may show some signs of physical injury for which there appears to be no satisfactory explanation.
  • A child’s behaviour may indicate to you that it is likely that he or she is being abused.
  • Your awareness of, or suspicion about, abuse may come about as a result of something disclosed to you as a third party (parent, friend, co-worker) who suspects or has been told of the abuse.
  • Something in the behaviour of one of the workers or in the way they relate to a child alerts you or makes you feel uncomfortable in some way

The difficult issue of confidentiality arises particularly when abuse is disclosed but the fundamental principle is that the welfare of the child is paramount.

It’s important to

  1. Listen
  2. Accept
  3. Reassure
  4. Explain
  5. Act immediately
  6. Record
  7. Get support
Child protection reporting

How to react and what to do

There is not one simple set of rules to follow in responding to these situations. However, the actions of your staff and volunteers who are told of abuse should be guided by the following key points.

Do…

  • Stay calm.
  • Listen and hear. 
  • Give the person time to say what they want 
  • Reassure that they have done the right thing by telling someone.
  • Record in writing what was said as soon as possible
  • Report to Designated CPO
  • Record your report.

Don’t…

  • Do not make a child repeat the story unnecessarily.
  • Do not inquire into details of the abuse.
  • Do not promise to keep secrets.
  • Do not ask leading questions.
  • Do not panic.

Under no circumstances should any individual member of staff or volunteer or the organisation itself attempt to deal with the problem of abuse alone.

It is not the responsibility of the person who first encounters a case of alleged or suspected abuse to decide whether or not abuse has occurred.

That is a task for the professional agencies following a referral to them regarding a concern about a child.

The primary responsibilities of the person who first suspects or is told of abuse are to report it and to ensure that their concern is taken seriously.

A report of concerns about a child should be assessed promptly and carefully and consideration is given to the best action to take. 

This may mean:

  • Clarifying or getting more information about the matter;
  • Where there is any doubt or uncertainty, consulting initially with a statutory child protection agency such as the Gateway Team in the Southern Health & Social Care Trust to test out the concerns and views about the situation;
  • Making a formal referral to a statutory child protection agency or the police.

The central telephone number for the Gateway Team for all new referrals or information about the service is 028 3741 5285

Learning of historical abuse

In the case of a volunteer or staff member receiving information that abuse has occurred in the past, even when the alleged or suspected victims are now adults, this information should be passed to Social Services as there could continue to be a risk for other children and young people.

Recording – why and how?

In all situations, including those in which the cause of concern arises from a disclosure made in confidence, it is extremely important to record the details of an allegation or reported incident regardless of whether or not a referral is subsequently made to a statutory agency. All concerns, disclosures and allegations should be recorded on the Recording Allegation or Suspicions of Abuse form in the Child Protection folder.

An accurate note should be made of the date and time of the disclosure, the parties who were involved, any action taken within the organisation to clarify or get more information about the matter and any further action. For example, suspension of a worker. Where there is no referral to a statutory agency, the reasons why should be recorded. Where a discussion has occurred with Social Services, whether or not any action was taken, the outcome of this discussion should be recorded.

The record should be clear and factual since any information you have may be valuable to professionals investigating the incident and may be used as evidence in court. This kind of information should only be shared with those who need to know about the incident or allegation. 

Reporting

The sort of information likely to be asked for would include:

  • The name and address of the child who is the subject of the concern;
  • The nature of the harm;
  • The need for medical attention (if any);
  • The reasons for suspicion of abuse;
  • What has been done already;
  • Any practical information, such as the name of the child’s GP, school etc.

The Designated Officer (or the person making the initial referral) may be contacted at any stage of an investigation about a child who is involved.

Social Services will then share this information with the police and agree on a strategy to investigate the concerns or allegations which may include one or both agencies.

Social Services and police will undertake their checks concerning the child and/​or the adult. This may lead to a decision to interview the child/​children by Social Services or police.

In most cases, this is undertaken with the knowledge and consent of the child’s parents or carers. Both agencies will take the necessary action to ensure the child is protected.

The legal principle that the welfare of the child is paramount means that considerations of confidentiality should not be allowed to override the right of children to be protected from harm.

Everyone, including children, must be aware that they must never promise to keep secrets. However, information of a confidential nature will only be communicated on a need-to-know basis. 

Recruiting, Training and Vetting Policy

Grace Community Church is committed to establishing safe vetting practices aimed at preventing those who may pose a risk to children from holding positions of trust. 

Recruitment and selection procedures must be applied equally to all staff and volunteers and this includes:

  • Anyone taking up a new role with children.
  • Those who turn 18 and have become staff members or volunteers in a group where they have been participants.
  • Those who are 16 or 17 and wish to continue as helpers or take up a role as a helper in a group.

The process is the same for both volunteers and paid staff. 

All staff will have an Access NI Check completed before starting their role and a minimum of three-yearly following commencement of the position.

Any volunteers that are in a main position of responsibility in caring for children or are volunteering more than once a month in any capacity involving working with children will require an Access NI Check before commencement and three-yearly. In addition staff and volunteers may be asked to provide a reference.

Training

Child protection training for new staff and volunteers will place take before the individual begins their role.

A review and refresher training for all staff and volunteers will take place every September. 

Depending on the nature of the ministry being undertaken, individuals will receive all or some of the following:

  • Induction training to familiarise new volunteers or staff with the children’s ministry in our church. This will outline the expectations and requirements for working with children in our church( Receiving a copy of the Volunteer code of conduct). Health and Safety issues will also be addressed.
  • Child Protection Training via the Trust will be given to raise awareness about abuse, reacting and responding to concerns and dealing with confidentiality.
  • All of the Children’s Ministry volunteers and staff will receive a copy of the Child Protection booklet, as well as procedures for reporting allegations and Child Protection Policy, which will outline guidelines for good suspicions of abuse.
  • Special skills training, as necessary for individuals as they carry out their responsibilities, e.g. training for the designated persons, first aid training, etc.
An illustration of a badge with a checkmark in a circle.

Code of Behaviour

To reduce likely situations for abuse of children and help protect staff and volunteers from false accusations you should avoid:

  • Spending excessive amounts of time alone with children away from others
  • Taking children alone in a car on journeys
  • Taking children to your home.

When it is unavoidable, this should only occur with the full knowledge and consent of someone in charge of the organisation and/​or the child’s parents/​guardians.

You should never…

  • Engage in rough physical games including horseplay — apart from structured sports activities;
  • Engage in sexually provocative games;
  • Allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any form;
  • Allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged;
  • Make sexually suggestive comments about or to a child even in fun;
  • Let allegations a child makes go unchallenged or unrecorded;
  • Do things of a personal nature for children that they can do themselves.

It may be necessary for your staff and volunteers to do things of a personal nature for children, particularly if they are very young or are children with disabilities. These tasks should only be carried out with the full understanding and consent of parents. In an emergency that requires this type of help, parents should be fully informed, as soon as reasonably possible.

In such situations, you must ensure that all staff are sensitive to the child and undertake personal care tasks with the utmost discretion

If the code of Behaviour is not followed the disciplinary policy will come into force.

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Disciplinary Policy

All children attending any of the activities with GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH have the responsibility to:

  • Show respect for adults, other children and their property;
  • Listen Carefully to one another and follow instructions from their leaders;
  • Ask permission before leaving the room, or to use the toilet;
  • Support each other by example and encouragement.

Staff and volunteers have the responsibility to:

  • Promote a happy and safe environment;
  • Be consistent in their approach to discipline;
  • Be a positive role model;
  • It is not volunteers responsibility to manage or deal with challenging behaviours. For the safety of volunteers and other children, the adult with parental responsibility will be asked to deal with the behaviour.

Guidelines for dealing with discipline: 

  • Never reject a child, just behaviour;
  • Be proactive. Separate children who tend to be disruptive when together;
  • Never shout. Talk to the child and explain what they have done wrong;
  • Remind the child what is expected of them and encourage them to adapt their behaviour accordingly;
  • Reinforce positive behaviour with praise. 
An illustration of a camera.

Photography Policy

We cannot allow volunteers or staff to take photographs of the children on their mobile phones. 

If there are times it is deemed necessary for photographs to be taken a camera will be provided and appropriate parental consent obtained.

An illustration of a video camera and broadcast waves.

Livestreaming of services

It is a best practice that only the stage area is visible on screen and care should be taken to avoid filming of any child or young person.

If they are taking part in the service, appropriate parental consent should be obtained. It should be made known to those present that the service is being live-streamed and streaming has started and ended.

Care should be taken to ensure microphones are muted when not in use to avoid picking up background conversation.

In illustration depicting prayer

Prayer

At Grace Community Church we actively encourage prayer as part of all our ministries. 

This is no different when it comes to children. However, there are some things to be aware of.

We encourage you to pray with the children collectively: as part of a group or the whole group. But if you are praying for a child on their own make sure you are in an open space where there are other people around.

Sit down with the child as standing over them can be intimidating. Always have either another adult present. 

In illustration of a minibus

Transport

It is not good practice to take children/​young people alone on car journeys.

Leaders should try not to put themselves alone in a car with a child.

Encourage parents to organise transport.

Regular transport runs should always involve more than one leader or at least avoiding leaving the same child home every week.

Parents and other leaders should always be made aware of transport arrangements.

Legal requirements for transport

Children should always be securely strapped in and no overloading or travelling with inadequate insurance is acceptable. Volunteers should check that their passenger liability insurance is adequate.

Grace Community Church will not take any responsibility for driving offences or prosecutions relating to negligence in any of these areas.

Coaches and Minibuses

Generally, coaches and minibuses are a safer and more effective way of transporting large groups than using leaders or parents cars. Overcrowding is dangerous and will invalidate insurance cover each passenger should use a seatbelt.

Ratio rules still apply during the transport of children and young people.

An illustration of a smartphone.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones can be a distraction and so during programmes, it is recommended that volunteers do not use their phones and do not take photographs of the children (see Photography Policy)

Specific Guidelines:

It is a best practice that no member of staff/​volunteer should text a child or young person.

We encourage all staff and volunteers to have any communication via parents and not directly with children or young people. If it is deemed necessary to communicate directly with young people over the age of 11 it is a best practice that this should take place within a group message, preferably WhatsApp with at least 2 two leaders in each of these groups. Within these forums, young people should be discouraged from sharing images and inappropriate conversations.

If a child sends you a personal message it should be suggested to them that you meet up to talk face to face in an appropriate and safe place with another safe adult present rather than getting into a text conversation. All volunteers should be aware that text messages are open to interpretation and even the best-intentioned text message can be taken out of context.

If a young person sends an inappropriate photo to a volunteer it is recommended that you report and delete the image.

Social media

No member of staff/​volunteer should be connected on social media with any young people in Grace Community Church. If a young person sends you a request do not accept it. Explain to them in person if you feel it is appropriate, that it is not a personal decline of friendship, but is part of Grace Community Churches Child Protection policy.

Under no circumstances should you initiate a conversation with a young person online. If a young person does make contact online, keep a record and tell your Designated person If you believe the young person is making contact because they are in immediate danger contact appropriate emergency services and also your designated person when deemed appropriate to do so.

Be mindful that any communication you make with a young person online is open to interpretation and by sending one message you are putting yourself at risk.

An illustration of a no-smoking sign.

No Smoking Policy

Grace Community Church has a no smoking or vaping policy within the Building. No smoking on the premises or on-site (including Church Carpark) will be permitted for Children and young people under the age of eighteen. Adults volunteering with children and youth within Grace Community Church will be discouraged from smoking/​vaping while undertaking these activities.

Planned activities

Making arrangements for the proper supervision of children is one of the most effective ways of minimising opportunities for children to suffer harm of any kind whilst in your care.

It is good practice when organising journeys/​visits/​trips that the following should be adhered to.

  • The organisers of journeys/​visits should plan and prepare a detailed programme of activities undertaking a risk assessment beforehand if necessary
  • Organisers are responsible for the welfare and safety of the children for the whole time they are away from home;
  • Young people should not be left to their own devices in, for example, a town for the evening or shopping expeditions;
  • All children should be adequately supervised and engaged in suitable activities at all times;
  • In circumstances when planned activities are disrupted, e.g. due to weather conditions, then organisers should have some alternative activities planned;
  • Organisers should obtain, in writing, parental consent to children joining an organised trip;
  • Parents should be given full information about a trip, including details of the programme of events, the activities in which the children will be engaged and the supervision ratios.
An illustration depicting supervision

Supervision of children

  • Leaders in charge must be satisfied that those workers and adults who accompany group parties are fully competent to do so.
  • Children must be supervised at all times.
  • Children must not be left unsupervised at any venue whether it be indoors or out of doors, workers should know at all times where children are and what they are doing.
  • Any activity using potentially dangerous equipment should have constant adult supervision.
  • Children will be safer if supervised by two or more adults.
  • Dangerous behaviour by children should not be allowed.
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Confidentiality Statement

All sensitive and personal written information submitted to Grace Community Church is treated with care and dealt with responsibly. However, the legal principle of the Welfare of the Child is paramount means that confidentiality cannot override the right of a child to be protected from harm. Information of a confidential nature will be disclosed on a need to know basis. 

Significant information

The sharing of information is important in ensuring that children are safe and in assessing whether a child or children are at risk. It is essential that significant information”, that is, information about behaviour which may put children or young people at risk of harm, is shared with personnel and agencies whose role it is to protect them, such as police or Social Services.

While what constitutes significant information may vary from case to case, the following offers some guidance on the information of sufficient significance to warrant sharing. The list is not intended to be definitive and each case should be considered on its merits.

  • Sexual offences including interference with children, assault or exhibitionism;
  • Organising prostitution or procuring;
  • Attempting or planning to corrupt a child;
  • A history of physical violence, including domestic violence and assault occasioning risk to children;
  • Stealing from children;
  • Selling, using or possessing dangerous drugs illegally;
  • Repeated drunkenness in work contexts or untreated alcoholism;
  • Repeated inappropriate use of sexual language outside the normal boundaries of acceptable behaviour;
  • Repeated inappropriate touching outside the normal boundaries of acceptable behaviour;
  • Failure to provide the required level of care and attention to children, including emotional abuse and neglect;
  • Failure to comply with procedures where this puts the welfare of children at risk;
  • Showing pornographic videos, internet images/​publications/​to children/​vulnerable adults;
  • Posting or accessing child pornography on the internet.

A decision as to whether there is cause for concern should be based on the balance of probabilities, rather than conclusive proof.

Decisions should be based on opinions formed reasonably and in good faith.

Sharing information with other organisations

You may be aware that a person suspected of abuse within your organisation, also works in a paid or unpaid capacity in another organisation. It is important to seek advice from Social Services concerning what information is shared, to whom and how it is communicated.

It is important that staff and volunteers who make reports of suspected child abuse, whether within or outside the organisation, are fully supported by the organisation.

Under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure (NI) Order 1998, which came into effect in 1999, employees (staff and volunteers) are protected from suffering detrimental effects from their employers for discussing information (in good faith and the reasonable belief that it is substantially true) about the conduct of private or public bodies or individual employees (protected disclosure).

Adult/child ratios

Levels of supervision must be adequate whether at the organisation’s venue or on a journey/​visit. Therefore, when deciding how many adults are required to supervise, leaders must take into consideration a range of practical matters.

  • The number of participants in the group.
  • The nature of the site/​venue.
  • The activities to be undertaken. If the activity is one of a hazardous nature, e.g. mountain climbing, then there are specific ratios of adults to children, which must be adhered to. This can be verified by contacting relevant sporting bodies or the SELB Youth Service.
  • Each supervisor must know the responsibilities they are expected to bear.

It is recommended that no journey/​visit should be undertaken without a minimum of two adults in attendance, one of whom must be a worker. Bus drivers should not be considered supervisors.

  • It is for the leader in charge to exercise his/​her professional judgement in deciding the level of supervision taking into account the guidance as stated above.
  • Where a party consists of children of both sexes, both male and female supervision should be provided unless otherwise agreed.

Where an activity involves swimming and the children are under eight years of age then the ratio must be one adult to one child.

Recommended ratios

No. of staff

No. of children
02 years13
23 years14
37 years18
8 years and over2*20

*Preferably one of each gender

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Complaints and grievances

Any complaints or grievances brought to volunteers must be directed to the team leader. All complaints or grievances related to activities must be recorded on the complaints form and filed appropriately. The complaint must be signed by the designated person and the person reporting the grievance. It is important to remember that in the event of an investigation after the incident such notes will show whether they/​you were negligent.

Contact details

Designated Child Protection Officer

Neil Dawson

Deputy Child Protection Officer

TBC

Social Services

The central telephone number for the Gateway Team for all new referrals or information about the service is 028 3741 5285.

PSNI

Emergency: 999
Non-emergencey: 101

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