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A Procedure for Responding to Concerns

It is important that everyone is aware of clear procedures that should be followed if any concern arises about the welfare of a child or young person or about the behaviour of an adult with children or young people.

If any concerns arise regarding the safeguarding of children or young people:

  • Do not dismiss your concerns - in particular, do not ignore or dismiss concerns about a professional or a colleague

  • Do not confront the adult about whose behaviour you have concerns

  • Do not take responsibility for deciding whether or not child abuse is actually taking place

  • Do not investigate allegations

  • Do not act alone

  • Do not take sole responsibility for what has been shared or any concerns you may have (always work through the church's procedures)

  • Do follow the church’s procedures for responding to concerns

We recommend a three-stage process for responding to concerns:


STAGE 1 – Record and Report
STAGE 2 – Review and Refer
STAGE 3 – Report and Support

STAGE 1 – RECORD AND REPORT


A worker has a concern about the welfare of a child/young person or the behaviour of an adult. The person who has the concern has a duty to:
RECORD AND REPORT

A written record must be made of the concern using a standard incident report form and the concern should be reported to the Designated Person within 24 hours. If a child is in imminent danger of harm, a referral should be made to the police or Social Services without delay.


The duty of the person who receives information or who has a concern about the welfare of a child or young person is to RECORD their concerns in writing and to REPORT their concerns to the Designated Person. The report to the Designated Person should be made within 24 hours of the concern being raised.

The Duty to RECORD


As soon as possible after a child or young person tells you about harmful behaviour, or an incident takes place that gives cause for concern, a written record should be made. The record should:
  • be made as soon as possible after the event

  • be legible and state the facts accurately

    • if hand-written notes are typed up later, the original hand-written naotes should be retained

  • include the child’s full name, address, date of birth (or age if the date of birth is not known)

  • include the nature of the concerns/allegation/disclosure

  • include a description of any bruising or other injuries that you may have noticed and the demeanour of the child

  • include an exact record of what the child said using the child's words

  • include what was said by the person to whom the conerns were reported, including any questions asked

  • include any action taken as a result of the conerns

  • be signed and dated

  • be kept secure and confidential and made available only to:

    • the Designated Person

    • the church minister as far as this is consistent with the welfare of the child/young person concerned and possible pastoral responsibilities to any others involved

    • representatives of the professional agencies

Download a template of an incident report form.

The Duty to REPORT


If anyone has a concern about the welfare of a child, that concern should be reported to the Designated Person without delay (within 24 hours). The report can be made in the first instance either in a face-to-face conversation or by telephone, but should always be followed up by submitting a written incident report.

If a child or young person is considered to be in imminent danger of harm a report should be made immediately to the police or Social Services. If such a report is made without reference to the Designated Person (because it was not possible to contact the Designated Person immediately), the Designated Person should be informed as soon as possible after the report has been made.

It should be clear that the duty remains with the worker to record and report their concerns to the Designated Person. If a concern is brought to the attention of a group leader by one of the workers, the leader should remind the worker of their duty to record and report, and will also themselves have a duty to report the concern to the Designated Person.

Case study

A child discloses to a youth worker that her father becomes violent when he gets drunk and sometimes beats both her and her mother. She knows that her father has gone to the pub that evening and she is afraid to go home because she doesn’t know what mood he will be in. The Designated Person is not available. The youth worker speaks to the leader of the group and they agree that because the child is potentially in imminent danger Social Services or the police should be contacted immediately. If circumstances had prevented the youth worker from talking to the leader of the group this is one of the rare situations when it would be appropriate for the youth worker to act alone and report their concerns to the Social Services or the police.

If concerns arise in the context of a children’s or young people’s group, the worker who has the concern may in the first instance wish to talk through their concern with their group leader. However, such conversations should not delay a report being made to the Designated Person.

STAGE 2 – REVIEW AND REFER


The Designated Person receives the report of concern. The Designated Person has a duty to:
REVIEW AND REFER

The report will be reviewed by the Designated Person with any other relevant information and a decision will be taken (often in liaison with others) as to what action should follow. Any formal referral to Social Services should normally be made within 24 hours of receiving the report. If a child is in imminent danger of harm a referral should be made to the police or Social Services without delay.

The duty of the Designated Person on receiving a report is to REVIEW the concern that has been reported and to REFER the concern on to the appropriate people. If a child or young person is considered to be in imminent danger of harm a report should be made immediately to the police or Social Services.
 

The Duty to REVIEW

In reviewing the report that is received the Designated Person:

  • should take account of his/her own experience and expertise in assessing risk to children and young people

    • a person who works professionally in safeguarding children and young people will be more competent in making balanced judgments about reports

    • a person without professional expertise will need to take more advice from others with expertise in reviewing reports

  • must take account of other reports that may have been received concerning the same child, family or adult

  • may speak with others in the church (including the Minister) who may have relevant information and knowledge that would impact on any decision that will be made

  • such conversations should not lead to undue delay in taking any necessary action and should be fully recorded

  • may consult with their Regional Minister in order to seek guidance from their Association (see 11.13, p43 in the 2011 edition of Safe to Grow). Click here for more information.

  • may seek advice from the local Social Services department or police in knowing how to respond appropriately to the concerns that have been raised.

  • Social Services will be willing to discuss a case with the Designated Person without the need to divulge names or identities in order to offer guidance to the local church, however without sharing names or identities, information about that child or family vital to the decision making process may not be considered. If the advice of Social Services or the police is to make a formal referral, this advice should be followed.
     

The Duty to REFER

In reviewing the reported concern the Designated Person must decide to whom the report should be referred. The Designated Person may:

  • refer back to the worker who made the initial report if there is little evidence that a child or young person is being harmed, asking for appropriate continued observation

  • refer the concern to others who work with the child/children in question asking for continued observation

  • speak directly to the adult about whom the concern has been raised

    • This may be the parent/carer of the child or it may be one of the children or young people’s workers. If there is any question at all of possible sexual abuse or serious physical abuse the Designated Person should never address the adult directly but should refer their concerns to the police or Social Services. In these circumstances, to take the concern to the alleged perpetrator may place the child or young person at more risk, or could make any statutory investigation difficult to pursue because the child or young person may be intimidated.

  • make a formal referral to the local Social Services Department.

The Designated Person should keep a written record of all actions taken in reviewing and referring a concern. A template of an incident report form that can be used by a Designated Person can be downloaded.

All original reports should be retained safely and securely by the Designated Person.

STAGE 3 – REPORT AND SUPPORT


After the decision has been made as to what action should be taken
The Designated Person, the Safeguarding Trustee/Deacon and the Minister may have a duty to
:
SUPPORT AND REPORT

Support should be offered to all parties affected by any safeguarding concerns and where formal referrals are made reports may need to be made to the local Association, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Charity Commission.

Responsibilities in stage 3 of the process are shared by the Designated Person, the Safeguarding Trustee/Deacon and the Minister.
 

The Duty to REPORT

Whenever a formal referral is made to Social Services or the police the Designated Person should

  • report the referral to the Safeguarding Trustee/Deacon

  • report the referral to the Minister

  • report the referral to the Regional Minister of the local Association


In certain circumstances the Safeguarding Trustee/Deacon acting on behalf of the trustees may also need to make further reports.


If an allegation is made against someone who works with children or young people the allegation should be reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). The LADO is located within Social Services and should be alerted to all cases in which it is alleged that a person who works with children or young people has:

  • behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child or young person

  • possibly committed a criminal offence against a child or young person, or related to a child or young person

  • behaved towards a child or young person in a way that indicates they are unsuitable to work with children or young people

(Please note that the procedures for making referrals to LADO’s only applies in England.)

If a worker has been removed from their post or would have been removed from their post (had they not resigned or left the church) because of the risk of harm that they pose to children and young people there is a statutory duty to report the incident to the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Referral forms are available from the ISA website.

If a worker in the church has been accused of causing harm to children or young people this would be classed as a serious incident that should be reported to the Charity Commission in the annual return by those churches that are registered with the Charity Commission.

A record should be kept of all safeguarding incidents and should be considered in the annual review of the church’s safeguarding policy.
 

The Duty to SUPPORT

Once concerns, suspicions and disclosures of abuse have been addressed, the church continues to have a responsibility to offer support to all those who have been affected. Even when formal referrals to the statutory authorities are not made, those who make reports will feel uncertain and vulnerable and support will need to be offered to them.

Child/Young Person
For the child/young person concerned, Social Services and other agencies may provide support and services. However, the church will have a role to play in complementing this support. The Designated Person should seek to work in partnership with other agencies, clarifying with them how best the church may be able to support the child/young person and to ensure that consistent help and support is being offered.

Other Family Members
The church may similarly be in a position to offer pastoral and practical support to family members who may find they are trying to cope with a variety of feelings.

Church Worker/Volunteer
Support and counseling should also be offered to those within the church who are involved in the incident. This could be the person who the child or young person shared their concerns with and the Designated Person. Consideration should be given within churches to ensure that no one person is responsible for dealing with safeguarding issues without the support of others.

Ministers/Deacons
Ministers and deacons should know to whom they would turn for support, advice and help when facing the pastoral demands of addressing a safeguarding issue. The local Baptist Association may be particularly helpful in this regard, which is why we recommend that whenever a referral is made to the police or Social Services that a Regional Minister should be informed.

 
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