Definition: throughout the policy the use of ‘children’ is shorthand for ‘children and young people’.
Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility:
Quest is an association established to offer support and fellowship to LGBT+ Catholic adults. Quest members typically meet in private homes or public venues such as churches or conference centres. The organisation does not exist to offer services to, or work with, children. As such, Quest believes that it is unlikely that the provisions of this policy will ever have to be implemented. Quest also recognises that many of its members may have little or no knowledge of safeguarding issues.
However, it is of course the case that some of Quest’s members have children or that children may contact Quest from time to time. Moreover, Quest recognises that everyone has a responsibility to safeguard children and promote their welfare. Therefore, we aim to raise such awareness among the membership by sharing this policy with them.
Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. This refers to the activity which is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering or are at risk of suffering significant harm. As Quest recognises, safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children – and in particular protecting them from significant harm – depends upon effective joint working between agencies and professionals that have different roles and expertise.
Individual children, especially some of the most vulnerable children and those at greatest risk of social exclusion, often need co-ordinated help from health, education, children’s social care, and quite possibly the voluntary sector and other agencies, including youth justice services.
For those children who are suffering, or at risk of suffering significant harm, joint working is essential, to safeguard and promote welfare of the child(ren) and – where necessary – to help bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against children. All agencies, charities and professionals should:
- be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
- be alert to the risks which individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
- share and help to analyse information so that an assessment can be made of the child’s needs and circumstances;
- contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare;
- take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans; and
- work co-operatively with parents unless this is inconsistent with ensuring the child’s safety.
Definitions of abuse and neglect:
Note: The term ‘Children and Young People’ covers the unborn baby and 0-18 years age range.
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. They may be abused by an adult or adults or another child or children.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (eg: rape, buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts.
They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food and clothing, shelter including exclusion from home or abandonment, failing to protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger, failure to ensure adequate supervision including the use of inadequate care-takers, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
Quest Members’ awareness
All Quest members will be made aware of this policy when they join Quest and there will be updates as and when required. In addition, Quest will ensure that at least one member of the organisation has the role of Safeguarding Officer.
Where necessary or practicable, certain members (for example those on the Quest Committee or who convene local groups) may also be supported to attend appropriate training courses.
Given that Quest events are focussed exclusively on adults, the organisation regards it as very unlikely that a member will encounter any situation arising during such events to lead him or her to have concerns about a child. However, this is not impossible of course. For example, a member may have such concerns because of something seen or overheard. Or, a child attending a non-Quest event, but in the same venue (a conference centre for example) could disclose information to a member. In all cases the following steps should be taken:
- Do not promise confidentiality, as you have a duty to share this information and refer to Children’s Social Care Services.
- Listen to what is being said, without displaying shock or disbelief.
- Accept what is said.
- Reassure the child, but only as far as is honest, don’t make promises you may not be able to keep eg: ‘Everything will be alright now’, ‘You’ll never have to see that person again’.
- Do reassure and alleviate guilt, if the child refers to it. For example, you could say, ‘You’re not to blame’.
- Do not interrogate the child; it is not your responsibility to investigate.
- Do not ask leading questions (eg: Did he touch your private parts?), ask open questions such as ‘Anything else to tell me?’
- Do not ask the child to repeat the information for another member of staff.
- Explain what you have to do next and who you have to talk to.
- Take notes if possible or write up your conversation as soon as possible afterwards.
- Record the date, time, place any non-verbal behaviour and the words used by the child (do not paraphrase).
- Record statements and observable things rather than interpretations or assumptions.
Whatever the nature of your concerns, discuss them with the Quest convener of the event or your group or contact any member of the Quest National Committee (in particular the Safeguarding Officer). See the diagram on the next page for the process to follow.
If you still have concerns, you or the convener/Committee member should contact the nearest appropriate safeguarding organisation (e.g. Local Authority social services department and/or the police).
What information will you need when making a referral?
You will be asked to provide as much information as possible. Such as the child’s full name, date of birth, address, school, GP, languages spoken, any disabilities the child may have, details of the parents. Do not be concerned if you do not have all these details, you should still make the call.
You should follow up the verbal referral in writing, within 48hrs.
Allegations involving a member of Quest
In the unlikely event that, during participation in a Quest event, a member of Quest comes to believe that another member has been involved in the abuse of a child, the following procedure should be applied in all situations where it is alleged that a member has:
- Behaved in a way which has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
- Behaved towards a child or children in a way which indicates that he/she is unsuitable to work with children.
The allegations may relate to the person’s behaviour at a Quest event, at home or in another setting.
The person making the allegation should raise it with the convener of the Quest event and the Safeguarding Officer of Quest who will discuss the matter to determine what steps should be taken and where necessary obtain further details of the allegation and the circumstances in which it was made. Some allegations might be so serious as to require immediate referral to Social Services and the Police, but common sense and judgement must be applied in reaching a decision about what action to take.
If the allegation is not patently false and there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, the Safeguarding Officer and/or Quest member by agreement will immediately refer the matter to the appropriate Social Services and the Police.
Some allegations may be less serious and at first sight might not seem to warrant consideration of a police investigation or enquiries by Social Services. However, it is important to ensure that even apparently less serious allegations are followed up and examined objectively by someone independent of Quest. Consequently, the Safeguarding Officer should be informed of all allegations that come to the attention of Quest conveners and appear to come within the scope of this procedure so that he or she can consult Police and social care colleagues as appropriate.
Where such allegations are made, consideration must be given to the following three strands:
- The police investigation of a possible criminal offence;
- Enquiries and assessment by Children’s Social Care Services as to whether the child is need of protection or in need of services;
- Consideration by an employer of disciplinary action in respect of the individual.