Safeguarding Report to Sheffield District Spring Synod – April 16th 2016

To learn more about how the safeguarding work is carried out in the District and what’s involved, the annual report to Synod detailing recent safeguarding activity and future plans is available to read here.

Synod Safeguarding Report April 2016 – PDF version to download and print

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to update Synod members about Safeguarding activity in the District in the past year.  For the Methodist Church as a whole, the key event in this area was the publication in May 2015 of the Past Cases Review, which described in summary the scale and experience of victims and survivors of church context abuse and then set out a series of far reaching recommendations to change the culture of the Church so it can be a much safer space for all.  The PCR report has set the agenda for much of the development work that has been undertaken in recent months, and therefore this report aims to provide assurance to Synod members that Sheffield District is making good progress towards achieving the goals that it has been set.

At the same time, this report summarises key aspects of ongoing Safeguarding work that is taking place across the District.

PCR recommendations – application in Sheffield

The PCR report set out 23 recommendations which were approved at Conference in June. Many of these have a national policy dimension but locally we have addressed issues about improving recording practice and rolling out new safeguarding training:

  • Recording workshops – we have delivered 5 recording workshops across the District since June 2015 and 2 more are planned in Sheffield Circuit.  Around 80 people including ministers, pastoral secretaries and local safeguarding officers have attended these workshops to date which are designed to introduce Church policy and identify best practice
  • Foundation Module training – Sheffield was selected as a pilot District to deliver a new course designed for those who had attended the FM over the last five years and who need their knowledge to be refreshed. Bolsover and Staveley and Chesterfield Circuits offered to pilot and have delivered 4 courses to date.  A further course took place in Rotherham. There will be a broader roll out across the whole District from September and it will be a mandatory course for all those who completed the original FM Course. The basic course for new entrants has also been updated.
  • Re-orientation for existing FM trainers – the Connexion has asked District to arrange events for existing trainers so that they can be briefed on PCR findings and be prepared to deliver the new and revised courses. We have arranged for this to take place on April 26th at 7.30pm at High Street MC, Rawmarsh, Rotherham.

In addition, Sheffield has been asked to supply, on a pilot basis, details of current Covenants of Care for the proposed national register which was a further PCR recommendation.

Casework

A key aspect of the Safeguarding Officer’s work is to provide advice, guidance and practical support and leadership in the event of churches identifying issues of concern whether within churches themselves or in the communities they serve. Whilst the details of these must remain confidential, since January 2015 there have been 15 cases of varying type and level of seriousness that have required attention.  There are no over-arching themes, but an emerging issue has been an increased number of concerns relating to vulnerable adults.

Training and support

With the issue of vulnerable adults in mind, the Annual Safeguarding Conference held in November 2015 at Victoria Hall, explored how we can improve our safeguarding practice in respect of this group. Delivered in partnership with Sheffield City Council, 40 colleagues braved wet and windy weather to learn about the new Care Act, examine key issues of capacity and consent, reflect on spiritual aspects of working with vulnerable adults and explore what holistic well-being might mean.  Feedback from delegates was very positive and another event is being planned for October, although there are current discussions with regional colleagues as to whether this should be a regional event instead.  A possible theme being mooted is a focus on work with survivors and making our churches safer spaces.

In September we held our first Practice Seminar for our District Safeguarding Group (DSG) and a wider group of invitees. The principal aim of this was to provide those who serve on the DSG with an opportunity to have some fellowship and then explore in depth a specific topic. Our chosen subject was Spiritual Abuse and our thoughts were led by Dr Lisa Oakley, from Manchester Metropolitan University, who is a national expert in the field.  This was a very useful and thought-provoking session, and we plan to run similar events for about 20 people at a time in the future. Sadly the seminar due to have been held in March, to have been led by Jane Stacey, PCR project manager, was postponed due to Jane having the flu, but we plan to re-schedule in May.

Leadership Module training has continued to be offered on a regional basis to all who are mandatorily required to attend, and District data suggests that we have virtually achieved that goal.  The Foundation Module continues to be rolled out via circuit structures as required.

Safer Recruitment

The Connexion published revised guidance about DBS eligibility and the application process in August 2015. This was distributed through circuits, but where there is any uncertainty about its application, I can be contacted to advise.  Methodist Church policy does expect that progress is being made to draw up brief role profiles for jobs in churches, and that the recruitment process includes a simple application form and the taking up of references. Again I am available to advise if this expectation seems burdensome in some cases, to ensure proportionality is applied.

Church Audits

Through the Circuit Safeguarding Co-ordinator network, we have sought volunteers to pilot a church safeguarding audit process, which will increasingly become an expectation as the Church nationally tries to measure how far it is changing its culture.  The Crossing in Trinity Circuit was the first to undertake this task in February 2016, and there are discussions about completing one in Peak Circuit at the moment.  Since the process needs an enabler at the meeting to help ask the right questions and challenge as necessary, some DSG members have agreed to carry out this task along with myself.  More details will be published after the next meeting of the group on May 3rd

Conclusion

The DSG and the network of circuit co-ordinators both meet regularly to consider policy and practice issues at both District and more operational levels.  I am grateful for the support members of these groups give me which enables the District to deliver to a good standard on this complex agenda. For the future however, the DSG wishes to recruit a number of new members who can offer different dimensions to its work, perhaps from a law enforcement perspective and also as a chaplain. Any interested parties are invited to have a preliminary conversation with Hilary Murden our independent chair or myself.

The Methodist Church has not yet been identified in the first wave of organisations asked to appear before the Independent inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – there is a suggestion that the PCR process helped in this regard – but it will be very important to make sure that all our policies and procedures, as well as local practice arrangements, are fully in place should we be summoned to provide evidence of our commitment to making our churches safer places for all. Through liaison with Anglican colleagues at a national and local level, who have been summoned to appear as reported in the national press, we will aim to ensure that Sheffield District is well prepared to respond to any requests made of it.  In this way, too, we can ensure that our day to day practice is as sound as it can be.

Grahame Snelling – Executive Officer for Safeguarding, Sheffield District
March 21st 2016

 

Synod Safeguarding Report April 2016 – PDF version to download and print