Diocese of Chichester Safeguarding

These are the basic principles, drawn from the Church of England's guidance document Safer Environment and Activities, which you should always follow when running activities in church with children and young people:

Avoid lone working:

Those working or volunteering with children on behalf of the church should avoid situations where they are on their own with a child. This includes ‘formal’ situations such as youth groups, choirs and bell-ringing, and so on, and less formal setting such as before and after those groups, giving lifts home, and so on.

Observe an appropriate age gap:

A five-year age-gap between children and those working with them is highly advisable. This may not always be possible with, for instance, trainee youth-workers, but in that instance the group should be led by other adults who are at least five years older than the young people in the group. For young helpers this should also apply; a 17 year-old helping in the children’s work should help with those 12 years old or younger.

Follow the Code of Safer Working Practice:

The Code applies both to running activities safely and to recruiting people safely. It has its own page on this site, therefore (see the list on the left). In general terms, you must make sure that all those involved in any activities in your church with children and young people are following that Code. 

Safer Touch:

Given what we know about how abusers groom victims, it is particularly important to highlight one section of the Code of Safer Working Practice, namely around the safe use of touch when working with children. Research shows that many child sexual abusers regularly initiate touch and then gradually sexualise that touch, conditioning the child to accept this as normal. It is our responsibility to work with young people in a way that helps them learn how safe adults behave around them. Letting them know that it is not normal for adults who work with children to initiate touch with them helps them to develop expectations that will keep them safe in settings beyond church, and helps to equip them to know something is wrong if an adult does start to initiate touch in activities in church. 

Good Behaviour:

Ensuring children are safe in church activities includes thinking about the behaviour of children towards each other. Most safeguarding standards for organisations working with young people include anti-bullying as a specific area of focus.

As with adults who work or volunteer with children, codes of behaviour are a good way to make expectations clear. Best practice is to work with children and young people to come up with an agreement of ‘How we treat each other’ amongst themselves. You may wish to ask young people how they feel they should speak to each other, how they should relate when in disagreement, what they should say about each other on social media, and so on. An exercise such as this is more likely to produce something meaningful to the young people in your church than a set of standards handed down by leaders.

Keeping Records:

Contact details for parents of children attending groups in church should be kept by the group leader. The leader should record each child’s name, address, date of birth, contact number for their parent or carer and parental consent for activities. They should be readily availability for leaders and helpers in the event that, for instance, a referral needs to be made to the safeguarding authorities. They should be regularly updated so that personal data is only kept for as long as needed.

Records of children attending each event/activity should be kept by activity leaders. These records do not need to be stored indefinitely, but it is good practice to retain them for up to twelve months.