Receiving and Managing Allegations
The Church has issued detailed and comprehensive Practice Guidance: Responding to, assessing and managing safeguarding concerns or allegations against church officers.
This guidance will be applied where there is a concern or allegation that a church officer, has:
- Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, young person and/or vulnerable adult, or may have harmed a child, young person and/or vulnerable adult;
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child, young person and/or vulnerable adult;
- Behaved towards a child, young person and/or vulnerable adult in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children, young people and/or vulnerable adults
Serious allegations of this kind are rare, but it is not for a church officer, whether ordained or lay, to attempt to investigate, manage or resolve an allegation. It must be reported to the DSA (or to the Police/Social Care if a child or vulnerable adult is at immediate risk). In consultation with Diocesan or Cathedral leaders, with experts in related fields such as Clergy Discipline, and with safeguarding agencies, the DSA will assess the need and risk and with the Bishop will put in place a proportionate structure to support an alleged victim, an alleged perpetrator and an affected church community.
We recommend that PSO’s are at least familiar with this guidance. For quick reference we have extracted and amended two key aide memoires:
- Responding to an Adult raising a Concern or making an Allegation
- Responding to a Child or Young Person raising a Concern or making an Allegation
Within this guidance (part 7) is a section addressing our duties in respect of those with criminal convictions for sexual and/or violent offences and other forms of abuse, as well as others who may pose a risk, who wish to attend a church or are members of worshipping communities, but are not church officers. Some of these individuals will pose an ongoing or potential risk of harm to other individuals who attend the church. The Church has a duty to minister to all, which imposes a particular responsibility to ensure that everyone who attends the Church is safe. This includes not only victims/survivors of abuse offences but all individuals who come to church.
Where people have such convictions, their position in a congregation or community will need to be carefully and sensitively considered to decide whether they pose a risk to others and to put in place arrangements to ensure that these risks are mitigated. This may include those convicted of offences linked to domestic abuse and people involved in drug or alcohol addiction. In addition, there may be those who do not have convictions or cautions but where there are sound reasons for considering that they still might present a risk to others.
The DSA will work with these individuals and their church communities and, where necessary, with criminal justice agencies to put the necessary agreements for protection and support in place.
The Church has also issued short revised guidance on responding to concerns that do not involve the behaviour of a church officer – Non-Church Officers Responding to Safeguarding Allegations that relate to Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults. This should be read alongside the guidance in respect of church officers.