Even in the short time between preparation of the update published in The Ringing World issue of 21st May, 2010 and the Central Council meeting, information was received on further developments regarding Safeguarding which are the subject of this piece.

The Church of England jointly with the Methodist Church issued in May a two page summary of their expectations regarding the operation of new procedures for safeguarding within the church. The document entitled “Your church and the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS): A basic introduction” was published by the National Safeguarding Adviser and incorporates advice which had already started to be spread through area “Roadshows” and, more locally, via Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers. Encouragingly the advice accords with our own understandings and moreover gives weight to some of ringers own concerns as to who should be checked, the key aspects of which are summarised below.

1.     Decisions on the need for checks should be in line with the concept of “Regulated Activity”.
2.     For ringing this should be “All tower captains, Ringing Masters and all Adults who train/teach children under 18”
3.     “Rank and file” members of mixed-age groups will not be able to get CRB checks or ISA registration.
4.     “PCCs and dioceses should neither obtain ISA registration nor request CRB clearance for those for whom it is not required. To do so may be acting illegally and could lead to prosecution”.

This is a clear statement of the central view of the Church and one which supports the CCCBR’s own guidelines on tower captains and deputies being CRB checked (2004 item 10). It also recognises that “blanket” checking of those carrying out activities which are not “Regulated” could place parishes or Dioceses as acting illegally.

The full document can be viewed on the websites:
cofe.anglican.org
safeguarding@methodistchurch.org.uk

House of Bishops

Whilst the foregoing document was being issued at the request of the House of Bishops, the latter body on 18th May approved the final draft of a new version of the booklet “Protecting All God’s Children” which will be published in the near future. This 4th edition will replace that issued in 2004 and covers the whole spectrum of Protection from parish policies through allegations of abuse to rehabilitation of offenders. The section on mixed-age groups is quite explicit stating that “it is not possible to request CRB checks or ISA registration for adults in those groups unless they have specific responsibilities
for children”.

A complementary document is to be issued entitled “Safeguarding Guidelines on the vetting and barring procedures as part of safer recruitment” and concentrates on legal aspects of the VBS and processes for the church. An appendix lists for guidance those roles within the church for which CRB checks and ISA registration are appropriate, the wording being the same as in the leaflet described above (item 2).

Whilst the ISA registration is being phased in for existing church workers up to 2015, the Church, understandably, intends that some repeat CRB checks may be necessary for those whose last check may already be several years old. It must be borne in mind that until individuals are ISA registered a rolling update will not be available for employers. However, there is a declaration that the necessity of repeat checks will be reviewed once the ISA registration is complete and this is in line with Government thinking.

Interpretation

The documents referred to above give the clearest indication yet of the intentions of the Church regarding the checking and registration of church workers whether paid or volunteers. Local interpretation is still the key issue and recent response from the Church indicated that it did not operate in a ‘command and control’ environment and that, because Dioceses are legally and financially independent, best practice cannot be enforced. Where parishes or Dioceses ignored rules and legal requirements they would have to face any legal consequences. Finally, there has been support expressed by the Church for flexibility of use of checks across a Diocese so that ringers could carry out a similar activity anywhere.

Way forward

The latest documents to emerge from the Church clarify, as far as is possible, their intentions for the time being although once ISA registration is totally implemented in 2015 there may be review. Such review would include repeat CRB checks and, possibly, whether ISA registration alone might be acceptable not only between roles but also from positions held outside the Church – i.e. true portability.

In the meantime it is suggested that where there is any dispute over CRB checking (particularly “blanket checking”) then ringers should get in writing any requests from the Parish/Diocese concerned and keep records of all exchanges. The PCC or Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser should be engaged and reference made to the guidelines clearly set out by the National body in the documents referred to above. Where there is a ringing association Child Protection person, they may be asked to assist in making due representations. Whether the outcome of such discussion is successful or not it would be most useful for details to be copied to the Council’s Tower Stewardship Committee so that further assistance may be given where possible.

Chris Mew
for Central Council
Tower Stewardship Committee

10th June 2010

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers