Guidelines for work with children, teenagers and vulnerable adults
Section 1 - Essential Information for Those Who Work With Children (0-18 years) and Vulnerable Adults
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Guidelines for Work with Children, Teenagers and Vulnerable Adults
- As far as possible, avoid working in one-to-one situations with children or vulnerable adults. Make sure there is a colleague within earshot. Try to have a man and a woman at each mixed-age activity. Leaders of activities should not use alcohol whilst on duty.
- Those undertaking one-to-one counselling or pastoral work must adhere to the highest standards of conduct, and should have received appropriate training. Know your own level of competence, and do not step beyond it; if a situation becomes difficult, seek advice straight away. Be clear at the start what you and the person you are working with are planning to achieve by meeting, and the limits of what you can offer. Meet at an agreed time, in a place that affords an ability to talk confidentially without being secretively ‘tucked away’, and let a colleague know that you are meeting, and why. If you are working with a child, make sure that the parent/carer is aware of the meeting.
- At the first meeting, explain that the conversation will be confidential unless there are exceptional circumstances. If the person is being harmed, if they are harming others or if they know that a child or vulnerable adult is being harmed, the information will have to be passed on. If this level of confidentiality is not acceptable, try to arrange access to an appropriate anonymous telephone helpline; do not be tempted to promise absolute confidentiality.
- When working in sensitive situations or 1:1, keep a written record of the session, properly dated (including year). Where there are potential safeguarding issues, make a written record (include date, time and signature), and seek advice.
- Socially acceptable physical contact in a public place is quite proper and appropriate where it can be readily seen by others and is not hidden away. Physical contact should be:
- Intended to meet the needs of the receiver rather than the giver
- Understood and welcomed by the receiver
- Open to the scrutiny of others
It is important to respect each individual’s sense of personal space. Avoid playing rough games or making provocative or ‘teasing’ comments, even in fun.
It is equally important not to be paranoid about responding to someone who is clearly in need of physical contact eg when injured or distressed. Use cautious common sense, keep contact minimal, and create an ethos of shared scrutiny and support in the workplace.
- In childrens work, keep an up-to-date register of all children attending a group: home address, telephone number and names of parents/carers should be included. The register should be taken for each session, and the record of attendance should be kept on file for a minimum of three years.
- The ratio of adults to children must be sufficient to ensure safety and comply with the requirements of current Government policy and legislation. These requirements are particularly relevant to work with children under the age of eight. For the latest guidance and registration requirements, you can call Ofsted’s helpline on 0845 601 4771, or speak to the Diocesan Children & Families Adviser.
- All U18s (except where an U18 is married) need to provide a parental consent form when they join a group or activity. A specimen form is provided in Section 3.
- Children may attend worship or other activities unaccompanied by an adult. Where this is the case, try to establish if parents know where the child is and what time s/he is expected home. If necessary, encourage the child to leave at the appropriate time to get home for this deadline. If a child is joining a regular activity, record his/her name, age, and address on a registration form and ask the child to bring it back signed next time. Make every effort to establish contact with the parents, particularly of a younger child, by sending information home or providing a church telephone number or email address for them to call. No child can be taken on a trip away from the church site without a parental consent form.
- With vulnerable adults, if there is a carer or key-worker, try to establish a line of communication with them. Keep a note of those who have responsibility for the vulnerable adult and who can give advice where necessary about how to include the adult’s individual needs in church activities.
- The premises used should be safe and well maintained. Seek advice if necessary on the latest Health and Safety regulations, including appropriate risk assessments for activities and outings. Keep a suitably stocked First Aid kit always accessible. Where children’s activities are offered, obtain a special children’s First Aid kit in addition to the standard adult one. Ideally, one or more of the workers on the premises should be trained in First Aid (for children and adults). Make sure that all planned activities, on or off site, are covered by an adequate insurance policy.
- Workers must be prepared to listen attentively and supportively to those for whom they have a duty of care. If someone makes a complaint or an allegation about the behaviour of someone within the church or the community, listen carefully without making a judgement on how plausible what you are hearing might be. If a complaint is made about someone in the church, this must ALWAYS be referred outside the church for advice about how to proceed. Contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser or Diocesan Safeguarding Officer for help.