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Are churches keeping our children and vulnerable adults safe?

February 2019

Paul and Sue Harrison
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Safeguarding practices have been an important part of churches since the late 1990s, but as society has changed, has the way we safeguard our children changed?

Paul and Sue Harrison, who started Christian Safeguarding Services (CSS), are concerned that some churches are ‘stuck in a time warp’ when it comes to this area.

‘As we started to work with churches’, said Paul, ‘we realised that there were some significant gaps in safeguarding knowledge and practice’.

Many churches established safeguarding systems in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and have continued at the same level; assuming that they are still in line with legislation and guidance, but, the Harrisons say, in reality many churches have failed to keep up with subsequent changes.

CSS was started by the Harrisons after they were approached by a number of churches for help. Paul and Sue combine a unique mix of professional experience, in-depth understanding of the local church, and a passion for the gospel.

Paul ran a specialist training and consultancy company supporting organisations working with children, young people and adults at risk of abuse to effectively safeguard their clients.

Sue manages a Local Authority’s training service providing professional development to the children’s workforce; including managing the training and professional development of social care staff.

All this, coupled with Paul and Sue’s experience volunteering within a church context for decades has lead them to CSS.

Sue says: ‘We believe that if we as churches think through our biblical beliefs and allow our gospel principles to shape our approach to safeguarding, we will far exceed the standards that secular authorities set for us’.

Speaking about the changing landscape of safeguarding, Sue explained: ‘Since the early 2000s we have seen many significant changes in the world of safeguarding.

‘Many lessons have been learned from Serious Case Reviews and practice has developed as a result. We have come to see something of the reality of historic abuse and its impact on the victims.

We are facing many new challenges in keeping vulnerable people safe; including the world of the internet, social media and mobile technology.

‘We are also growing in our understanding of emerging methods of abuse such as Child Sexual Exploitation, Female Genital Mutilation, criminal exploitation of children and adults, gang related abuse etc.

‘And we are also becoming increasingly aware of peer abuse (particularly around sexual harassment and harmful sexualised behaviours), private fostering, disguised compliance etc.

‘In addition to these, we are seeing significant shifts in our culture and the dominant beliefs and values that our society endorses.

‘As our society becomes increasingly secularised, we are seeing increasing challenges and we need to respond to these with godly wisdom’.

The couple say the aim of CSS is to support, equip and empower churches and other faith-based organisations achieve best practice in safeguarding; developing their approach in a biblically faithful way that is honouring to God.

If you would like more information about CSS or help with your church’s safeguarding systems please visit www.thecss.co.uk