On Wednesday, 21 October, the Department for Education released non-statuary safeguarding guidance for providers running community activities, after-school clubs and tuition, which includes church-based youth and children’s work.

Keeping Children Safe consolidates all legislation and best practice that has come before from the government and informs safeguarding in churches and other faith-based organisations. For this reason, Paul Harrison of Christian Safeguarding Services (CSS), states this guidance will be a significant reference point for those seeking to keep children safe”. 

The guidance arrives as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse continues and displays the Government’s proactive desire to change the culture of safeguarding in light of significant past failings. The emphasis of Keeping Children Safe is on positive outcomes, rather than simply following policies and processes. Reinforcing this, the guidance has been published alongside two supplementary documents, one of which is directed at parents. The aim of this resource is to encourage parents to engage and assess the safeguarding environments they are allowing their children to enter into, and equip them with the right questions in order to do so. 

Keeping Children Safe is laid out in a clear and logical order, pointing the reader to the sections relevant for their activities. The guidance is broken down into four key sections and each section contains a checklist, example scenarios, legal requirements and questions parents may ask. The final section of Keeping Children Safe covers other requirements’, including the increasingly relevant outline of an online safety policy. It really feels as though this guidance is designed to be used, rather than a token piece to keep a target off the Government’s back. 

CSS welcomed the publication of the guidance, saying it sets out specific and proportionate guidance for churches and other faith-based organisations”, in a practical and accessible way. 

Paul Harrison said, Churches need to understand and act upon these recommendations. Most of us will want to go far beyond the bare minimum, but understanding this guidance is crucial for church leaders, safeguarding officers, and those working with children and young people.”

Keeping Children Safe follows a consultation in 2018 in which a voluntary code was proposed, and in turn this followed the abandonment of government plans to register and inspect out-of-school settings. The Evangelical Alliance spoke up against these original proposals to register out-of-school settings that teach for more than six to eight hours a week, advocating for the 75 per cent of responders who disagreed with this proposal. Along with a wide range of Christian, other faith and wider community organisations, the Evangelical Alliance was concerned that by involving Ofsted in out-of-school settings, religious freedom could come under threat. 

The Department for Education describe Keeping Children Safe as best practice for creating a safe environment for children”. As Christians we want to view best practice as our minimum standard. Knowing that we do all things for the glory of God, we want to go above and beyond to ensure children and young people are safe and able to thrive when in our care. In many ways, this guidance establishes a minimum standard, but does so in a clear and effective manner that will serve as a valuable resource. 

Christian Safeguarding Services have provided a free overview of the new guidelines which can be viewed online here.

Churches need to understand and act upon these recommendations