Coronavirus – safeguarding considerations for Baptist churches
Written 17 March 2020
Updated 5 March 2021
The months ahead bring all sorts of challenges, and it is important that we don’t overlook the specific needs of those who are vulnerable or who may become vulnerable as revised measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus are changed and updated.
Children, Young People and Families
The government has now started the process of easing lockdown, however, as there remain significant levels of cases and risk posed to the community and given that the general ‘Stay at Home’ rule remains in place in England until 29 March 2021 and has no current end date in Wales, it is reasonable for churches to choose to stay closed at this stage. Equally we recognise this is a decision for the local church, and the value of churches meeting together will mean that you may choose to re-open for in-person worship. Whichever your decision, it is likely that any activities for children and/or young people take place in an online environment. In July 2020 we published guidance on using social media in relation to the children and young peoples’ work of your church.
We recognise that the social contact that these groups provide will be a lifeline for many families. If your church is using or planning to use live streaming or similar technology to run a Sunday service, then perhaps you could use it to deliver a children’s talk or update as well? Alternatively, there are plenty of Christian resources for children and young people that can be accessed through YouTube, but it important that you have reviewed them first before recommending them. You might like to look at the following links to materials:
This is a particularly vulnerable time for children and young people in households dependent on free school meals for a hot meal a day and for those families struggling to cope. Keeping in contact online or by phone and checking that food and basic supplies are reaching these households/family units is helpful, where you can. This may be an opportunity to speak with parents whose children attend church activities, but who do not normally engage with you, and to offer support.
Adults at risk
Please be mindful of households where you are aware of serious relationship difficulties between family members, and especially those where there are concerns about domestic abuse, for whom self-isolation will be a particularly stressful time. Ensure regular online or telephone check-ins with these households and make a prompt referral to social care and the police if you become concerned.
On a broader scale, we are likely to see that social isolation and increase in anxiety may raise tension levels in all households (not just those where there is an existing issue).
Where you are aware of people who live with serious mental health issues, agreeing a contact arrangement with them so that they know when to expect a call is important. Phone or Skype/FaceTime calls to encourage and listen will make a big difference at an anxious time. You may also be able to help by checking that they have supplies of any medication they take and that they feel able to maintain a regular pattern of taking such medication.
Leaders in all the statutory support agencies are working hard together to ensure that people within our communities in receipt of safeguarding or mental health service support/intervention, are deemed as a priority. These arrangements are designed to help ensure that vulnerable adults, children and families receive regular contact/support over the phone or via Skype, etc as required.
For those with complex, severe and enduring mental health needs, this is a time of increased anxiety. Mental health services ordinary phone lines are under increased pressure and therefore Mental Health Trusts, in partnership with NHS Direct, are arranging direct telephone support for their regular clients and will communicate those contact details directly to the clients who need this support and information. We recommend you signpost to these local support services.
DDC, our DBS checking service provider, have confirmed that they will continue to operate through the coming months and that they have emergency provisions in place to support this. They do not anticipate delays to the timescales for checking but have pointed out that they carry out checks for many NHS trusts and social care providers and will prioritise these if necessary.
Our normal checking regime, as part of safer recruitment, continues to apply to make sure that those who work directly with children, young people and adults at risk are suitable for the work they do.
The DBS have published new guidance on DBS checks relating to the current circumstances that means that ID documents can be checked by video link or by sending in scanned images. Please only use this method for urgent checks.
Applicants will still be required to present the original version of these documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role, which may be some weeks or months away in the current circumstances.
Dealing with allegations
It is likely that those who already feel vulnerable will feel increasingly so over the months ahead. We must recognise that the current social distancing requirements, the restrictions of self-isolation and the need to rely on others for help all present challenges and that there is also a risk of people being taken advantage of during times when they are worried and uncertain. Please remind all church workers and volunteers of your reporting processes in case they hear anything that concerns them, and to act promptly to report if concerns arise.
The association safeguarding lead in your regional area and the National Safeguarding Team are available to advise and support – please do contact them if you want to talk about how to work safely or if you have concerns.
All face-to-face safeguarding training events are suspended for the time being. If you have new volunteers, you can encourage them to make contact with your association lead so that they can arrange for you to watch the Interim Safeguarding Training video which has been especially designed as an interim measure to fulfil safeguarding training requirements until face to face training can resume post coronavirus restrictions.
Version 1 - produced on 17 March 2020
Updated on 19 March 2020
Updated on 24 March 2020
Updated on 5 March 2021