Concerns About a Worker in the Church
Responding to concerns about the behaviour of fellow workers.
The basic three-stage process recommended by Safe to Grow should form the basis for responding to all concerns within the church regarding the welfare of children and young people. If anyone in the church believes that the behaviour of one of the workers is placing children or young people at risk of harm (whether that worker is paid or unpaid, is a relatively new volunteer or is a senior and experienced youth worker) there is a fundamental duty to RECORD and REPORT.
The nature of the behaviour of those who seek to harm children or young people is that they will rationalise their behaviour, they will make themselves extremely plausible and will be looking for ways in which it is possible to cross boundaries. It is therefore extremely difficult to tell the difference between the behaviour of someone who has inadvertently and innocently forgotten best practice for a moment and stepped over the line, and someone who is looking for the smallest opportunity to push at the boundaries. Consequently, it is important that all behaviour that crosses the line of what is acceptable or appropriate is challenged so that children and young people are never put at risk.
A worker takes a child into an empty room on their own to help get some equipment out of the cupboard.
A group of young people are making fun of one of their friends because of their ginger hair. A young youth leader joins in the banter, not realising that the smiles of the young person hide an underlying resentment at the constant teasing.
A group of young children have been misbehaving all evening. One of the children accidentally knocks over a pot of paint. The worker loses their cool and shouts at the child, calling them clumsy and useless.
It is probably not appropriate or necessary to report all of these incidents to the Designated Person – particularly if they are one-off events – but churches do need to develop a culture where there will be a proper and proportionate response to situations like this.
Workers need to be willing to point out to one another when their actions are inappropriate.
“Did you realise that you just took a child on their own into an enclosed room?”
It is good practice for workers to meet together for a short time to de-brief after each session. This can be an occasion when the leader might remind members of the team about following good practice and highlighting any inappropriate behaviour.
“It’s not a good idea to get involved in banter when N is being teased. He might appear to take it in good part, but you don’t know how he feels about being treated like that. We should be discouraging the other children from teasing.”
It is good practice following each session for the leader to make a note of any incidents such as the worker losing their cool about the spilled paint. This ensures transparency and also keeps a record that might be helpful if this turns out to be part of a recurring pattern of behaviour.
“The children were misbehaving all evening. X lost their cool when a pot of paint was tipped over and shouted calling N clumsy and useless.”
The leader of a group must take seriously their responsibility to supervise the behaviour of the workers in their group and encourage all workers to develop the highest standards in their conduct and in following the agreed code of conduct for workers. If a worker consistently ignores the code of conduct the leader should make arrangements for the worker to be more closely supervised until they can demonstrate that they are able to work within the framework of the church’s Safeguarding Children Policy.
What should trigger a report being made to the Designated Person?
All workers should feel able to make a report if they feel uncomfortable about the behaviour of any fellow worker
All occasions where a worker causes harm to a child or young person or where the actions and behaviour of a worker poses a risk of harm to children and young people should be reported
When a worker repeatedly breaches the code of conduct, whether or not it is thought to be willful, a report should be made to the Designated Person
When the Designated Person receives any report expressing concern about the behaviour of a worker, Stage 2 of the procedures for responding to concerns should be followed. All those working with children and young people should be aware that if an allegation is made against them that is referred to the statutory authorities, they will normally be advised or required to withdraw from their responsibilities while an investigation is carried out. They may even be asked not to attend church during this period. Whenever allegations are made against those working with children and young people, or action has to be taken because of the risk of harm to children and young people by workers, the Designated Person and the Safeguarding Trustee/Deacon should be aware of the church’s duty to report such matters to:
A girl comes home from the church youth club and says that one of the leaders attempted to kiss her. She told her mother about the incident, who then rang the minister. The girl’s mother thought that the minister should know what had happened but was also insistent that she wanted no action taken. The minister acceded to the mother’s request and did not report the incident.
A couple of years later allegations were made that the same youth leader had attempted sexual relations with a number of the girls from the church. These allegations were reported to the police. At this point the earlier story was revealed.
If such an allegation is reported to the Designated Person, how should the Designated Person respond to an alleged attempt to kiss?
Should the earlier allegation have been reported and if so to whom?
What weight should be given to the mother’s request that no action should be taken?
When the concern involves the Designated Person
The church must have procedures in place to cover the possibility of a concern being expressed about the behaviour of the Designated Person or a member of their family. If this eventuality were to arise, workers and others in the church must know to whom they should speak.
In those churches where the Designated Person acts as part of a small team, one of the other members of the team could be named as an alternative
The Safeguarding Trustee/Deacon could be named if this person is felt to be competent to respond to such reports
Alternatively reports could be made to the Minister
Each church’s procedures should make it clear who is responsible for receiving reports in these circumstances.
When concerns are expressed about the Minister
Whenever any concerns are expressed about the Minister the concerns must be taken as seriously as if they were being expressed about any other person connected to the life of the church. Any safeguarding concerns involving a Minister should always be reported immediately to the Regional Minister of your local Baptist Association in addition to following the church’s normal procedures.