Good Practice in Dealing with Concerns

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Dealing with concerns about children abuse

Dealing with concerns about vulnerable adult abuse

Domestic Abuse

Someone wants to talk to me about abuse, how can I help?

How do I take and use photographs responsibly?



What is the Catholic Church’s policy on the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults?
The Church recognises the personal dignity and rights of all vulnerable people towards whom it has a special responsibility. The Church and its individual members will undertake all appropriate steps to maintain a safe environment for all and to practice fully and positively Christ’s Ministry towards children, young people and vulnerable adults, and to respond sensitively and compassionately to their needs in order to help keep them safe from harm.

The Church authorities will liaise closely with statutory agencies to ensure that any allegations of abuse are promptly and properly responded to and, where appropriate, survivors are supported and perpetrators held to account.

The Church wishes to ensure that its parishes and Religious Congregations have the confidence to enable vulnerable people to have peace of mind, knowing they will be cared for and loved by their Christian community.


What is safeguarding?
Safeguarding is the protection of children and vulnerable adults, who are suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm, ill treatment, the impairment of health or development, abuse or neglect. It involves proactively creating cultures of safeguarding to prevent abuse occurring in the first place and reacting to those who have been hurt by abuse to reduce any future harm.


Dealing with concerns about children abuse

Definition of a child
Anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.

The following criteria do NOT change a child’s status:
• They have reached 16 years of age
• They are living independently
• They are in further education
• They are a member of the armed forces
• They are in hospital
• They are in custody
The entitlement to services or protection from being defined as a child remains the same.

Definition of abuse
Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting, by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. They may be abused by an adult or adults, or by a child or children.

Please see the attached documents for more information on types of abuse and the indications of abuse.

All children should be safeguarded and their welfare should be promoted by:
• Protecting children from maltreatment
• Preventing impairment of children's health or development
• Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
• Taking action to enable all children to have the best life chances.
I am worried that a child may be being harmed by someone in a family or household.  What should I do?
If you have clear information or a disclosure, report the matter to the Police or local Social Care Department whose telephone number will be in your local phone book or on a Police or Local Authority website. You must also report it to the Safeguarding Co-ordinator in the Diocese in case information has already been reported, which needs putting together.
I am worried that a child may be being abused by a member of the Clergy or Religious, or by an employee or volunteer within the Catholic Church.  What should I do?
Inform the Local Safeguarding Co-ordinator Lisa Markham immediately. Do not discuss your concerns with the person you suspect. If you decide to take advice from someone within the organisation that is not an alternative to notifying the Safeguarding Co-ordinator.
Please report the issue to the Safeguarding Co-ordinator using the attached form, filled in as soon as possible.

What if a child tells me they are being hurt?
It can be hard to hear direct from a child.
The most important things to remember are:
• That you stay calm
• Do not promise confidentiality
• Convey that you take the child seriously
• Record the facts and information conveyed by the child as quickly as possible, in their own words or however they express themselves
• Get support for yourself as quickly as possible
• Report it

What if I am worried about something but it’s not clear cut?
All groups and activities within the Diocese should have a mechanism for sharing concerns. You can also talk to colleagues or call the Local Safeguarding Representatives and Commission Members Cath Ratcliffe on 0797 038 7178 or Dave Coefield on 0775 447 1052, if Lisa Markham and other colleagues are not available. It’s better to talk things through rather than worry on your own. You can always anonymise information you discuss in order to try and think it through, whilst protecting the privacy of the people concerned. Of course, if a safeguarding or child protection issue is highlighted in that discussion, then it cannot be kept confidential.

What will happen when I inform someone that a child is being abused by someone working for the Church?
It is the policy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to ensure that all allegations of abuse are referred immediately to the Police and Social Services Departments who are responsible for investigating those allegations.  We do this to make sure that all information available is shared with those with the legal responsibility to investigate and also to ensure that there can be no possible suspicion of a cover-up by the Church.  In cases where the Statutory Authorities decide that they will not, or cannot investigate, but concerns remain about the safety of children and young people, enquiries will be made by those with responsibility for safeguarding within the Church. 

The safety and welfare of the vulnerable is the first consideration. Where allegations of abuse are made, the Church has to consider the removal of the person accused from any role that brings them into contact with the vulnerable, while investigations or enquiries are going on. 
In all cases, detailed advice will be given about processes to be followed, and those who are subject of concerns are entitled to support and representation.

What will happen to me if I report something?
Your concerns will always be taken seriously and the Safeguarding Coordinator will ensure that you are supported during and after the process of you passing on information. Every situation is different but we know that it is hard to report something, especially if it is about someone you know and trust.
Remember that reporting a concern or passing on information is not making an accusation.
As far as possible, the details of the person reporting are kept confidential, and will only be shared with those who need to know. The Safeguarding Co-ordinator will share as much as possible with you about the matter that is being dealt with.

Dealing with concerns about vulnerable adult abuse

When we talk about vulnerable adults we are referring to adults in particular situations, receiving support and who may have specific needs, for example because of illness or disability.
Any one of us can be psychologically, spiritually or physically vulnerable at any time. We have an obligation always to care for each other, and we can usually do this without recourse to law or statutory guidance.
In some circumstances however, we have to be mindful of the guidance about vulnerable adults and take additional steps to protect the wellbeing of people designated as vulnerable by law.

A vulnerable adult is:

A person aged 18 or over who is receiving, or who is eligible for, community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age, or illness, may be unable to care for themselves or be unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.

Abuse is:
The violation of an individual’s human rights and civil rights by any other person or persons.
The abuse may consist of single act or be systematic. It may be intentional or unintentional, but will result in harm.

In the statutory guidance about vulnerable adults, there are more categories of abuse than for children. These include physical, psychological, sexual, neglect, financial, discriminatory and institutional.

It is important that in trying to protect people from abuse, we do not view people who fit the designation of vulnerable adult, as always needy and always vulnerable.
That would be contrary to the life affirming and enabling approach we take towards the safeguarding task, and is potentially discriminatory.

The law assumes capacity; in other words that a person who is vulnerable, for example because of age or disability, who has to rely on others for support, is still entitled to make decisions about how to live their lives, even if that is uncomfortable. This might mean that, for example, people sometimes choose to have someone support them who is unsuitable.

Our responsibility is to ensure that we do everything possible to promote wellbeing, to maximise opportunities to exercise choice and to be safe.

What if I suspect that a vulnerable adult is being exploited or abused?

If you suspect abuse, you become an alerter.
You cannot keep it confidential, even if you think or believe that the person has capacity.
It is rare to have information which suggests that a person is at immediate risk but if you do, for example if you are visiting someone who has an unexplained injury, you should use your common sense and get medical help to ensure immediate safety.
You should always report it to the designated person in your organisation and the Safeguarding Co-ordinator.

Please report the issue to the Safeguarding Co-ordinator using the attached form, filled in as soon as possible.

What if I’m told by a vulnerable adult that they are being abused or exploited and they ask me not to say anything?

It is possible that the person has capacity and is choosing to offload whilst not wanting to do anything about what is happening.
Sometimes people fear the consequences of reporting. However, that is not your decision to make.

You should follow good practice guidelines:
• Listen without probing, asking leading questions, making judgements about what is alleged to have occurred
• Clarify the bare facts
• Try to avoid expressing shock, disbelief, anger, taking sides
• Record as soon as practically possible, using the persons own words, recording also anything that you have seen; for example a bruise that concerns you
• Do not take any action which might alert the alleged perpetrator
• Obtain emergency assistance if required
• Do not discuss the incident/concern with anyone else without express agreement from the Safeguarding Co-ordinator
• You can say that you respect their right to confidentiality as far as you are able to, but you cannot keep disclosures secret
• Get support for yourself
• Report the matter to the Safeguarding Co-ordinator or Safeguarding Representative in your group/organisation

What happens to me if I’ve gone against someone’s wishes?

In reporting concerns about possible abuse you have acted responsibly. If you have acted in good faith then you have done nothing wrong.
More often than not, people reporting concerns and telling you something want you to know so that it can be sorted.
Where appropriate, the Safeguarding Office can meet with the persons and yourself at a later point to explain why you should have taken actions required of you. You are not liable to be sued, or open to formal complaint.


Domestic Abuse

In 2013, Bishop John Rawsthorne published a pastoral letter about the challenges posed by domestic abuse.
You can view the letter here.

Why is this important to the Church?
• Bishops of the Catholic Church state clearly and strongly that Church teaching shows that violence against another person in any form fails to treat that person as someone worthy of love.
Auxiliary Bishop G Stack 2007
• The equal dignity of man and woman is the true basis for a just and fair relationship. Marriage therefore needs to be presented more effectively as a covenant relationship, a partnership of life and love built on equality and mental respect.
‘Cherishing Life” 2004, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales
• Re-education of men and women as equal partners is necessary. Eradicating the roots of violence means facing the truth about patriarchal structures that maintain this violence. It means querying the subordinate position of women in the Church.
Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse, National Board of Catholic Women 2010

Some implications of research into domestic abuse are that:
• 6-10% of every parish’s women members may experience domestic abuse each year
• About a third of those women will have been abused 4, 5 or more times before they report it
• Sins (which in many cases are also crimes) are being perpetrated by a significant minority of Catholic men

We recognise that men experience abuse too and that although less frequent, the effects may be just as strong. All Domestic Abuse partnerships in our Diocese provide advice to men and women.

What to do if you are concerned about someone who has experienced domestic abuse or violence?

Firstly, if someone who is experiencing abuse tells you what is happening, try not to take over.
Enable the person to remain in charge of what they do.
People experiencing domestic abuse will have experienced someone taking over their lives or controlling them.
You should of course get advice if the safety of a child is compromised and follow good practice in reporting concerns about children.
The Diocese of Hallam has produced a simple guide to help a friend which you can view here.
You can also view our helpful list of support and advice organisations on our contacts page.

You could go to the Catholics Experiencing Domestic Abuse Resources website.

You could also look at the Diocesan “Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse” pamphlet, 29 pages of easy to read resource information by the National Board of Catholic Women 2010. Copies are available from the Safeguarding Office.

In your parish or organisation you could ensure that
• A member of your pastoral team is trained to specialise in domestic abuse
• Victims of serious violence are never encouraged to remain in the family home
• Domestic abuse is covered in marriage preparation courses
• Links are made with local women’s support groups
• Domestic abuse is talked about in appropriate settings (e.g. homily/service of reconciliation)
• As far as possible, all volunteers and workers realise they may encounter victims/survivors of domestic abuse and that they know to whom to refer.
• Local support group information is displayed
• Child and vulnerable adult safeguarding procedures are displayed and adhered to

Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DADS)

The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DADS), commonly known as Clares Law, is now implemented across South Yorkshire commonly known as Clare’s Law is now implemented across South Yorkshire.

The DADS scheme gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquiries about an individual who they are in a relationship with or who is in a relationship with someone they know and there is concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner.

Should police checks show that an individual has a record of violent offences or there is other information to indicate the victim is at risk, then the police will consider sharing this information via a disclosure meeting.

If you want further information, please contact the Safeguarding Office or check the Vida (formerly the Sheffield Domestic Violence/Abuse Forum) or any of your local domestic abuse services.

I have a dog and I am worried about leaving him, what can I do? 

The Dogs Trust runs a dog fostering service for families fleeing domestic violence called the Freedom Project. For more information, please click here.


If you would like to have some training about Domestic Abuse, please put in a request via the training page.

A simple message:
If you become aware that someone in your parish community is or may be experiencing domestic abuse, a response is invariably required.
What you do can make a difference.


Someone wants to talk to me about abuse, how can I help?

Please see the attached document for suggestions and guidelines on being supportive.


How do I take and use photographs responsibly?

Please refer to the guidance posters below.

Guidance on photos and recording for professionals

Guidance on photos and recording for non-professionals



Please refer to the guidance posters below

 Video Chatting and Webcams

 Supporting Young People Online

 Online Reputation Checklist

 Information and Online Resources

 Facebook Checklist

 Teachers and Technology Checklist


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