Safeguarding has a new name
Annette Williams is a Christian safeguarding advisor with the charity Thirtyone:eight (formerly the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service). Annette is the charity’s strategic lead on their work supporting BME churches in developing safer cultures. The charity was relaunched in July, and here Annette shares about God’s heart for protecting vulnerable people and the necessity of working together to create safer places.
At Thirtyone:eight we’re inspired by God’s call to ‘speak out on behalf of the voiceless and for the rights of all who are vulnerable,’ as described in Proverbs 31:8, and from where we get the new name for the charity. We care about vulnerable people because we believe that’s what God told us to do. It’s central to everything we do, and are, and we believe this call is relevant to everyone.
As an independent Christian charity we are here to help individuals, organisations, charities and faith groups to protect vulnerable people from abuse. We do this by providing a complete safeguarding solution, including a DBS service, training, policy support, consultancy, and a 24-hour helpline, making sure everyone is equipped and empowered with the tools they need.
Since qualifying as a social worker in 1993, I’ve been working in safeguarding ever since, supporting vulnerable children and their families. I’ve experienced first hand how many churches and faith groups working in diverse communities require special support and advice in dealing with issues relating to safeguarding in their setting. Sadly, many of these communities can be perceived as ‘closed communities’, and sometimes children and young people experience abuse due to a culture of dealing with matters ‘in-house’.
Over the last 40 years that the charity has been working, we’ve found that safeguarding can sometimes be seen as a burden, an enforced requirement that must be met, but it is so much more than that. At its heart, it is about having a real and active concern for people, especially the most vulnerable in society, and ensuring that we are all creating environments that are safe, nurturing and enable people to flourish.
Many faith groups in the UK, however, do not have a good understanding of what constitutes safeguarding or what being ‘vulnerable’ means, and that’s where we come in. We come alongside organisations to offer our expertise and in-depth knowledge of churches. At Thirtyone:eight, our vision is of a world where every child and adult can feel, and be, safe. It’s a big vision, but it’s what drives us because we believe that when a person or organisation shares this vision, transformation takes place, safer places are created, and people’s lives are impacted for the better.
In March, we had the great pleasure of hosting a groundbreaking consultation event, with leaders from BME churches from across the UK, to help develop plans to support and progress safeguarding structures in their church communities. Evidence has shown that many of these churches feel very isolated when dealing with these concerns, and the consultation looked at ways of keeping them informed of the latest developments and changes in safeguarding. We also looked at factors that exist in some of the more mainstream expressions of faith, and how to generate more appropriate responses to minimise discrimination and oppressive practice.
Bishop Joe Aldred, who is responsible for Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations at Churches Together in England, who participated in the consultation, shared that “the responsibility for creating and maintaining safer spaces for everyone – especially vulnerable children and adults – is a sacred one in every local church. It is by ongoing training and vigilance that this can be achieved. I was thrilled, therefore, to attend and support the recent day conference convened by Thirtyone:eight for church representatives.”
If safeguarding is a topic your organisation has been struggling with, or even if you’ve just started to become aware of its impact for your community, I’d love to talk to you about how we might work together, and tell you about some of the resources and support that are available.
Organisations that become members with us get all the help, resources and advice they need from Christian professionals who care and understand. Members also get discounts on selected training and other services, along with all the benefits of being part of a supportive community of over 9,000 like-minded organisations nationwide. Join us.”
Call us on 0303 003 1111, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: thirtyoneeight.org for more information.