Frequently Asked Questions
This section will be regularly updated with the sorts of miscellaneous questions we get asked every week.
If you have a query about something specific, please look under the specific page. For example, if you want to know about roles in parishes that require a DBS, please check the Safe Recruitment page.
In England and Wales if you are volunteering in a group that works with children (that is young people from birth to the age of eighteen) who do not attend with their parents or with adults for whom your group provides services specified in the regulations you are undertaking a ‘regulated activity’. You must therefore undergo the due process of recruitment and checks demanded by national requirements before you begin any work within the group which involves contact with clients.
The reason is that: An organisation which knowingly allows a barred person to work in regulated activity will be breaking the law.
From: ‘Changes to disclosure and barring: what you need to know’ available on the web, using a search engine, or
Each body in England and Wales using volunteers working in ‘regulated activities’ uses the same procedures for recruitment and checks and the same manner of recruitment. The process must be completed successfully before you begin volunteering. If not the organisation which uses you would be considered to have broken the law. Why? Because the required checks that enable that organisation to be as sure as possible that you have not been barred from undertaking the role for which you have volunteered have not been made.
The Catholic Church regards prevention as the top priority and has policies and practices to minimise the opportunity for abuse.
The National Policy for Creating a Safe Environment for Vulnerable People in the Catholic Church in England & Wales, (available from www.csas.uk.net, section 4.1) contains detailed guidance based on the principles of “Safe From Harm”: A Code of Practice for Safeguarding the Welfare of Children in Voluntary Organisations in England and Wales” (Home Office, 1993) and provides the policy statements, a section on choosing employees and volunteers, training and managing them and managing the work of the organisation.
In addition to this policy, all those working with children and young people and those working with adults who may be vulnerable or at risk are required to undergo Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Disclosures through CSAS, which acts as a Registered Body.
The Policy and Procedure Safer Recruitment and Selection including DBS Checks (available from www.csas.uk.net, section 4.2) describes the process by which this is undertaken and the requirements of recruitment and selection under the DBS system for those who need Disclosures.
A lot of work has gone on over the past few years to try and develop a theology of safeguarding within the Safeguarding Teams of the Catholic Church.
Working with clergy and religious, we are promoting “Towards a Culture of Safeguarding”. This work requires us to look at the ethos of the Catholic Church and its teachings about justice and love and to see safeguarding, with all it entails, as part of living the gospels. You can find more information about this on the CSAS website. As time goes on we will be sharing our developing understandings about safeguarding as ministry and a theology of safeguarding.
It is our hope that the people of the church will see safeguarding as enabling and supportive of the church and its people.
All concerns and allegations are taken seriously by the Church, whether they relate to Clergy, Religious, lay employees, officials or volunteers. The precise circumstances differ from case to case, but the following information gives an indication of what happens when an allegation is made.
- After consultation with Police and Social Services, if the person accused of abuse is a member of the Clergy or a Religious Congregation, or is a paid worker or a volunteer, that person will be removed from the role. Such actions are precautions and therefore these actions are taken without prejudice – they do not automatically indicate that a person accused of abuse is guilty. Final judgements are made following the completion of enquiries. It is possible that someone accused of abuse may be reintegrated to their role, depending on the circumstances of the case.
- The Police and Social Services have a statutory responsibility to investigate abuse allegations.
- Enquiries will be made to find out if there is evidence to support the allegation. Sometimes people accused of abuse are arrested and after full investigations, some may be prosecuted.
- The Church has a responsibility towards all of its members and will consider what support a person accused of abuse may need.
- In seeking to meet the support needs of people accused of abuse, the Church will strive to minimise risks to others and will use a written agreement called a “Covenant of Care” to make clear what conditions and restrictions apply to the accused person, as well as what support will be made available.
- In cases where the allegation was malicious, an accused person can expect this to be publicly acknowledged to set the record straight.
Even if information about abuse in a Church setting relates to an accused person who is dead, the Church will take this seriously and follow it up. It is still important for such information to be shared with Police and Social Services as it could be relevant to other enquiries.
The Church also has a responsibility to respond to the support needs of anyone who has been abused as it may be possible to help them.
Some events, such as parish celebrations will be open to all. Others will have a specific activity to which certain people will be invited or required and others will be designated as leaders/facilitators or helpers. If you have a parish activity, being welcoming and open to all is an essential part of Christian life and part of being a Church which people will want to join.
Common sense should prevail here. It is perfectly reasonable to make contingency plans for managing people or situations which you know in advance could be challenging.
The Safeguarding Commission has arrangements for supporting and managing people identified to them who may pose a risk to others, and usually those arrangements include specific requirements that the Parish Priest and the person concerned speak with the Safeguarding Coordinator about the acceptability of joining activities in the parish – be that the summer fayre, the Christmas nativity play or parish bingo.
If you have information about a person which would make you worried about their participation in any activity, get advice or talk through your worries about this in confidence. The person may already be known to the safeguarding office and your concerns will always be taken seriously.
But we have to be realistic; as a faith community our doors are open to all.
If a group of adults come together for prayer, meditation, support or social gathering, it is important to be mindful of the possibility that anyone in the group may be temporarily vulnerable, experiencing distress or may be struggling with the aftermath of abuse.
You do not have to make special arrangements for these activities; but simply to operate in a state of mindfulness and care.
See particularly Common Sense in Safeguarding Adults and the Training page
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 defines a ‘vulnerable adult’ by the context and setting of the person receiving the service, for example those
- in residential accommodation provided in connection with care or nursing or in receipt of domiciliary care services
- receiving health care
- in lawful custody or under the supervision of a probation officer
- receiving a welfare service of a prescribed description or direct payments from a social services authority
- receiving services, or taking part in activities, aimed at people with disabilities or special needs because of their age or state of health
- who need assistance in the conduct of their affairs.
A person’s level of vulnerability may increase or decrease according to the circumstances they experience at any given time.
There are specific requirements on groups to follow good practice in recruiting volunteers or workers who are providing specified/regulated activity. Regulated activity means the following activities, which become specified activities, wherever they take place and might be on one occasion only.
Regulated activity with adults includes:
- Health care by professional or care provided under the direction of a care professional
- Personal care (includes help with eating but not cooking a meal for someone)
- Social work tasks (for advice contact the Safeguarding Coordinator)
- Assistance with household affairs (cash, bills etc)
- Assistance with the conduct of affairs
- Conveying an adult to health, personal, social care appointments
Bereavement support is usually not regulated activity (unless the person is needing help because of illness and you are helping them manage bills in an official capacity, e.g. if you are member of Society of St Vincent de Paul).
Bereavement counselling is regulated activity but providing transport to a person with a disability to get to Church isn’t.
The following checklist will help you think about all activities involving people who may be vulnerable or at risk. It is also important to ensure that you have the support of your parish or organization, and that the activity is integrated with the mission and vision of the Church.
More information can be found via https://www.csas.uk.net/
- Is your activity going to be supported?
- Has appropriate approval been obtained from the Parish Priest or his representative?
- Who is responsible for undertaking an appropriate risk assessment?
- Are existing insurance arrangements adequate for the activity/event?
- Have leaders been recruited and trained in accordance with National Policy?
- Have leaders and helpers been DBS checked and are they properly prepared for the activity/event?
- Is there a registration procedure for those who will be present at the event?
- If children are taking part, do those with parental responsibility understand the procedures for “dropping off” and “collecting” children?
- Is a consent form required for the activity/event?
- Are procedures for health & safety in place?
- Have you ensured appropriate ratios of adults to children
- Is the activity/event being held in a public place?
- Are appropriate measures in place if children, young people or adults at risk are to have access to computers as part of the activity/event?
- Are the appropriate safeguards in place if photographs are to be taken and consent forms signed?
- Is the event to include the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
You could also talk to the Safeguarding Coordinator or the person responsible for health and safety in your parish, who will have access to an online safety toolkit and can provide further advice about safe activities.
It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality.
In church ministry we must be open to the new, the unexpected and the challenging.
Common sense will help and there is a simple checklist that can be followed for all planned activities link.
Ensuring enough volunteers and personnel is important, as is having contingency plans. Risk assessments sound forbidding but they are an essential requirement of planning any activity. You can get guidance on this from your group leader or clergy, your Health and Safety Rep or Safeguarding Rep.
If we operate in a state of mindfulness and care, people might choose to share things with us which we are not expecting. For example, in situations where emotions are high it might be more likely that people choose to share information about things that have hurt or upset them.
To prepare for that eventuality, you could familiarise yourself with the guidelines on responding to disclosure on the Hurt by Abuse and Good Practice in Dealing with Concerns pages.
If the unexpected is an incident or accident, make sure that you record and report it as well as getting support for all who have been affected (including yourself).
There are lots of good examples of bereavement support in the Diocese. If you cannot find information through parish websites, contact Hallam Caring Services Tel: 0114 256 6407 or any of the bereavement charities (please see the attached for details).
Some aspects of bereavement support groups may constitute regulated activity, for which DBS checking is required. For advice about this aspect of setting up a Bereavement Group, contact Colette Hammill at the Safeguarding Office by phone on 0114 256 6454 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some things to consider:
- Will the group have a leader or facilitator? If so, what is their specific role? And if the role qualifies as regulated activity, how is that person recruited safely?
- Have you got access to someone who can support your group with spiritual reflections and guidance if necessary?
- Do you have appropriate prayer materials?
- Are the places you meet welcoming, safe and accessible to all who need it?
- Are you able to guarantee quiet spaces and privacy?
- Have you got some agreed guidance about appropriate/safe touch? When people are in distress a hug may be exactly what they need but this is a very personal thing and may not be appropriate for all.
Each Diocese has its own insurance arrangements. Advice is available from your Parish Priest, Tom Garrud (Property Manager) or Ed Whittaker (Secretary to the Trustees) at the Hallam Pastoral Centre. Questions about insurance should be covered in the planning phrase of any activity.
Key points for Parish activities are outlined here:
- All employees and volunteers participating in the activity / event must have been subject to proper vetting, e.g. references/DBS checks (where appropriate) etc.
- Before hosting an activity, event or taking a trip etc, the parish needs to check that the activity is covered by the diocesan insurance policy
- Standard parish activities taking place on parish property such as fetes or carol concerts should be covered, but it is always best to check
- It will usually be a condition of the insurance policy that activities, events and outings are properly risk assessed. This should include a careful check of the location of the event ensuring any hazards are made safe and equipment is tested etc. before the event takes place. Risk assessments should be properly recorded
- Parishes will certainly need to notify insurers if there will be any unusual or hazardous activities taking place, e.g. rock climbing or fairground rides, or if a trip abroad is planned, because these may require additional insurance cover
- If a third party is providing a service at the event, e.g. catering or supplying equipment such as a bouncy castle, the parish should ask for evidence of the company’s insurance
• When outside groups, for example a dance group, martial arts or weightwatchers etc. hire church premises they should have their own insurance cover in place. Groups should show evidence that they have their own Public Liability Insurance. A disclaimer should be provided to the lead person of the activity/event and/or a disclaimer placed in a prominent position stating that the activity/event leader/parents have responsibility for the care of and appropriate behaviour of people present
- Premises (and fire fighting equipment) should be regularly inspected to assess their condition and suitability. Fire fighting equipment should be in plain sight, readily accessible and clearly labelled
- Areas must be kept tidy. Any equipment used by a particular group should be stored away neatly or kept in a safe place when the premises are not being used by that group
- A First Aid Kit fully stocked for use in Public Places must be available, and its whereabouts must be clearly labelled
- Emergency exits should have clear signage
The same principles apply to other activities which are not parish based.
You are absolutely right. A DBS check only reveals certain information.
An enhanced check will record intelligence; that is, for example, information about whether or not you have been subject of an investigation into things which might be relevant to safeguarding, even if you haven’t been caught and convicted. Also when a check is done, information about the barred list is captured.
It is the case (and this is a good news story) that the vast majority of checks carried out by the church are clear.
However, sufficient numbers of unsuitable people are identified through the process as to justify it. In addition, there is evidence that the knowledge that volunteers and paid workers will have a DBS check is a deterrent to people who might seek weak points in organizations as a means to access to those who are or may be vulnerable. You can find further information in the Safe Recruitment section of the website.
- Planned activities with children and young people in our church settings require a minimum of two leaders (depending on the activity) who have been selected and DBS checked. It is fine for parents to join their own child in the activity but they cannot be relied upon to be a second leader.
- If parents choose another parent to support their own child – for example a child with a disability who needs help with toileting, there should be a clear agreement that this support does not extend to other children and that this is a private arrangement.
- All adults involved in organised activity with children, even if they are parents, should have access to information about what to do if they are worried about any child.
- If a group is regularly meeting with one leader and a parent who steps in, it is operating outside of safeguarding guidelines.
- In emergency situations, any responsible adult citizen will step in to do what is right; it is of course important that incidents and emergencies are recorded and reported as appropriate.
- Parents attending with their own children do not need a DBS check.
The feedback from most of our volunteers is that they are reassured that there is a process of “recruitment” – that is, making sure that a person is in the right role for their skills and capacity. This process need not be onerous. As with other aspects of safe environment practice it is one of the ways that the Catholic Church can demonstrate that it takes seriously its commitment to ensuring that everyone is as safe as possible.
There is no evidence locally that people have been put off “volunteering” (giving their time to ministry) nor is there any evidence that this happens on a national scale in other organisations. The Bishops and Safeguarding Commission requires us all to follow safeguarding good practice and if that is not done, we may be compromising the safety of others, breaching our insurance obligation and causing harm to others.
The role description and information about the role are available on the Safe Recruitment page and Meet the Team page of the Diocesan website.
LSRs are part of the infrastructure of safeguarding. The institution of the church could not do its work without them.
All external enquiries into the work of the church highlight the critical importance of our volunteer representatives.
All Local Safeguarding Reps have access to training, support and guidance from the Safeguarding Office. Their job is to be a point of contact with people in the parishes to facilitate good practice.
It’s important that you are aware of the new code of behaviour. You should also be aware of Diocesan guidelines or guidelines for your group.
Organisations such as SVP are clear that home visits must be done in pairs.
Extraordinary ministers visiting people in their own homes should also go in pairs. You should not handle money or take responsibility for personal affairs without explicit written agreement. You should be careful about touch and respectful of people’s privacy. You should know what to do if you are concerned about an adult.
It is extremely rare that it is justified to work on your own with a person who may be vulnerable or at risk. In any circumstances where you think working on your own is justified, advice must be taken. There should always be a risk assessment and a record as to why you are visiting on your own.
For further information attend one of the training sessions, contact your Local Safeguarding Rep or see the Creating a safe environment page.
There are occasions for example confession, which is by definition a private encounter, or when someone asks for a private word, when it would be wrong to run and insist on finding an observer. Judgement is called for.
The guidelines are clear;
- As far as possible and reasonable, make sure activity is observed.
- Note any concerns within appropriate guidelines
- At all times, respect the fact that on ministering to someone you are in a position of both power and trust.
- If you are unexpectedly alone and ministering with someone who is or may be vulnerable, make sure that you pass on details to your group leader.
Following guidelines protects you as a minister and the individual.
Although church roles are not the same as most roles in other organizations, the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales is committed to following good practice in safe recruitment. In the past, people with intent to cause harm have found their way into roles where they have access to those who are or may be vulnerable. Following good practice in recruitment is an important message that the Catholic Church takes seriously, its commitment to creating safe environments, and follows processes which may exclude those who are unsuitable.
The Recruitment process, which includes the Disclosure and Barring Check, is a neutral process. Asking you to cooperate does not mean that you are not trusted or that we suspect you of having done something. In the process, you have a chance to share any information which might affect your ability to complete your role. We do understand that if you have been doing a role for a long time, it can feel that your integrity is being questioned. It may be helpful to think of this process as something you can do to help the reputation of the church and to demonstrate a commitment to Safeguarding.
There is detailed guidance about touch in the Creating a Safe Environment Guidelines. This is a topic which is also covered in the Common Sense Training. It’s wrong to say that children should never be hugged or touched. Children and young people need appropriate physical contact in order to feel loved and cared for. However adults have to take responsibility for ensuring that touch is appropriate, that the context is appropriate and that touch is not because the adult wants it.