With the closure of our Churches and many if not all parish activities either ‘pausing’ or taking place virtually, safeguarding is adapting to changing activities in parishes. I hope the following information and advice will be helpful at this time.
Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Service
Or telephone 0141 332 7177 and chose Option 1. This will take you directly to my mobile.
Safe Recruitment: Training
Safeguarding Training is a key element of our nationally agreed and mandatory safe recruitment process. All safeguarding training has been cancelled or postponed until later in the year. This is in line with Government health advice. As there should be no activities continuing in a parish which involve groups of children or vulnerable adults, safe recruitment is on hold at present.
Safe Recruitment: PVGs
The Disclosure Services (who process the PVG forms after they leave SCSS) are limited in what is possible for their team during remote working. They are also, quite righty prioritising those who are ‘frontline workers’. This will include those who are helping the NHS at present. So, we are currently not processing any PVGs. Any which arrived towards the end of March are being held securely until Disclosure Services inform us that they can return to work from their office in Stirling.
Current Parish volunteering
There has been a call from the Government for people to join volunteer services to assist with those who are particularly vulnerable at this time. If any parishioners decide to do so then the recruitment and safeguarding responsibilities lie within the remit of the local authority or charity and would not be covered by any PVG certificate issued to cover parish activities.
Some Conferences continue to work in a limited way and in line with Government health advice. Distributing shopping vouchers, shopping and medicines is being managed appropriately. Please refer to the Acting National President of SSVP for further advice.
Some parishes have asked for parish volunteers to assist in shopping and collecting and delivering medicines for those who are unable to do so for themselves. This is happening in areas where there are no, or limited, SSVP Conferences. This will make a real difference for those parishioners who because of health and/or age will be confined to their homes. This activity should only involve delivering shopping or medicines to the front door of a property and not going into the residence itself. Full compliance with Government health advice about hygiene etc is a requirement in such situations.
Community Resilience Groups
Some parishes are also forming Resilience Groups who are engaged in similar volunteering to the SSVP. Please ensure that the usual restrictions in place are followed: if someone has not been allowed to volunteer in the parish or is Listed and Barred then he/she cannot be allowed to volunteer. For further information and guidance on Community Resilience Groups please visit: www.readyscotland.org/get-involved/creating-a-community-emergency-plan/
Some parishes have established telephone support systems to help those who feel particularly isolated and anxious. We have provided both advice to potential befrienders and a template letter which you might wish to use to ensure that, if you are setting up a system or already have one in place, it operates as safely as possible. Both documents are available on the SCSS website: www.scsafeguarding.org.uk All those who are involved in this work should be mindful that safeguarding applies particularly to this activity in the following ways:
▪ Any disclosures of non-recent abuse. The isolation, anxiety and inevitable loss of those known to us will lead to a more significant period of self-reflection than at other times. This might lead to victims disclosing for the first time.
▪ Disclosure of domestic abuse: an increase in domestic abuse is inevitable for some whilst living in close proximity.
▪ Current abuse: children and the vulnerable are at risk of abuse now when they are isolated within family or other settings and might not have access to the care normally provided for them.
▪ Physical and mental health problems: these are likely to deteriorate with the impact of social distancing and limited access to healthcare.
▪ Suicidal thoughts: there is a significant risk of suicidal thoughts in our current context.
For all the above potential situations, our well-established safeguarding procedures must be applied. Confidentiality cannot be held and the mandatory reporting to Police Scotland about allegations of abuse applies. Any disclosures of abuse should be referred to the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. Contact details for your Safeguarding Adviser can be found on your Diocesan website. If you cannot find this, please call 0141 322 7177 or visit https://www.scsafeguarding.org.uk/Contact-us. Any concerns relating to the health and safety of anyone who is being supported requires immediate contact with emergency services. Please then inform the local Parish Priest.
Safe Use of Social Media
Social Media platforms help so many to feel connected at this time. While there are many good resources online, there are also risks, particularly to our children and those who are vulnerable. Please be vigilant about the use of social media and other platforms to communicate. While many children and young people will be accessing their school education online, vigilance is still required regarding the use of other sites which they might visit or ways in which those who seek to do harm might make use of poor security systems.
National Safeguarding Coordinator