Welsh churches unite in forum to safeguard children and vulnerable adults

Posted Mar 23, 2016

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church in Wales has joined with other Christian denominations in the country as well as expert and survivor organisations in a new forum to safeguard children and vulnerable adults and to ensure that all churches in Wales are safe places for them.

The Welsh Christian Safeguarding Forum brings together the safeguarding officers from churches throughout Wales and has been established to share and develop best practice and to give Christian organisations a stronger voice on safeguarding issues in Wales.

In addition to the churches’ safeguarding officers, the forum includes representatives from the group Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MASCAS), as well as the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS). A CCPAS Associate, Simon Plant, will chair the new forum.

“The Church in Wales is doing all it can to ensure churches are safe places for children and all vulnerable people and we welcome the Forum as a chance to strengthen our work and share good practice with other denominations – particularly in how we respond to survivors of abuse,” the Church in Wales’ head of safeguarding, Elaine Cloke, said, “All the safeguarding officers have shown enthusiasm and commitment to the Forum and we all hope it will give us a stronger voice to lobby the Welsh Government on those areas of safeguarding which are devolved – the quantity and complexity of which have increased rapidly over the past few years.”

In order to ensure it is fully representative of Christians in Wales, the Forum has begun an engagement project with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) churches and communities throughout the country. It is also seeking to develop strong links with the Inter-faith Council for Wales, the Welsh Assembly Cross Party Working Group on Faith and, in a wider UK context, with the Churches Forum for Safeguarding.

Simon Plant, the chair of the new forum, said: “We are delighted that the WCSF has been established with a fantastic commitment from all major denominations, the engagement of BAME churches being a main priority. Especially significant is its co-ordinated approach to safeguarding across the country, including promoting and sharing best practice in every major denomination.

“This will, I am sure, make a major contribution to keeping potentially at-risk children, vulnerable adults and abuse survivors much safer, both in the churches they attend and within other Christian bodies and communities.”

The WCSF has two main objectives. Firstly, it seeks to provide a co-ordinated, unified approach and voice from Christian organisations to devolved safeguarding issues in Wales. Secondly, it desires to improve safeguarding in Christian communities by developing and sharing evidence-based best practice.

The British government has established a statutory Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by New Zealand High Court Judge, Dame Lowell Goddard. An investigative strand of the “broad and unprecedented” inquiry will explore The Church in Wales and the Church of England are the subject of an investigative strand of the Inquiry, which will “assess the appropriateness of safeguarding and child protection policies and practices in the Anglican Church” and “the adequacy of the Past Cases Review of the Church of England and the Historic Cases Review of the Church in Wales.”

A preliminary hearing was held at the Royal Courts of Justice last week in which a number of people applied for “core participant” status. Full hearings are expected to begin in the Autumn.