Ecumenical Safeguarding Seminar
Over sixty people from across the four main Christian denominations from the Island and from further afield in the UK gathered at Elim Pentecostal Church, Onchan for an inaugural Ecumenical Safeguarding Seminar.
Tony Connell the Ecumenical Safeguarding Adviser who facilitated the event commented, ‘the aim of today is to bring people together from different denominations to discover what safeguarding issues they have in common, what works well and what new approaches they might want to try. Essentially it is about working collectively within a Christian context to keep the Isle of Man safe.’
Chris Staples, from Living Hope Church gave the opening address with a narrative about sheep from a farming friend which he used to illustrate importance of caring for each other collectively and working together to ensure that is happening within the churches of the Island.
Ruth Walker, from Scripture Union Ministries Trust then addressed the seminar talking about being the church together rather than being individual churches and highlighted this with a short film about ‘Lifepath’ where many come together, to work together and learn from each other and provide an excellent teaching resource for primary school children across the Island.
The first of two group sessions that followed identified three key common issues across all the denominations present:
- That there were a number of common frustrations and fears
- The enormity of the implemention of safeguarding whilst also recognising the necessity and need for best practice to be drawn upon
- The corporate need and mutual benefit of learning and working together
Tony Connell summarised these issues faced and then commented on his first impressions since taking up his post in September last year with what he saw as some of the collective emerging themes on the Island.
He shared some of his career to date as background and talked about his unique role as an Ecumenical Safeguarding Adviser, which is to develop and promote robust safeguarding arrangements to all denominations, manage high risk cases and undertake risk assessments and to act as a professional resource for leaders, officers and volunteers within denominations on all aspects of safeguarding,
The emerging themes were that the most prevalent abuse committed was physical abuse and neglect much of which takes place in peoples own homes and sadly in residential care settings, both places were the expectation of safety were highest. Physical abuse came next but a much lower level of sexual abuse seems to the case.
Tony stressed that safeguarding is 'proactively caring for every member of every church community where everyone feels they have a safeguarding role', and that 'the Island is a safe place and that churches are safe places full of overwhelmingly good people.'
A short film clip was shown to illustrate the point of where responsibilities lie…
The second group session looked at how the principles of safeguarding can be integrated into the 'day-to-day' life of the church and very much stressed the application of common sense. This included:
- The importance of strong relationships and caring rather than structures and forms to be filled in
- The debunking of some of the safeguarding myths
- The need for caring for one another
- The importance of safeguarding being more generic across denominations
- And instilling the culture that safeguarding is the responsibility of all inolved in the life of the church
- Safeguarding in its simplest form is just asking someone how they are, listen and engage with what is heard
The social aspect of caring in each community became very apparent and elicited the new term of 'Safecaring' and as the Island has the highest church attendance in British Isles at 10% of population the church here is in a strong position to take the lead on this.
Det Inspector Michelle McKillop from the Isle of Man Constabulary began her session by stating that there is a strong commitment from the the statutory sector to work with the church on safeguarding.
Some statistics presented included the fact that there are 220 police officers for the 85,000 population of the Island and that there is a strong police community presence here and that this is likely to be strenghthend as operational procedure change to reflects the needs of the community.
She went on to describe and give an interesting overview of the multi-faceted role of Multi Agency Public Protection Unit (MAPPU) and the integration of public sector team involvement across the whole community
One shocking statistic was that on average a victim of domestic abuse will have been so 33 times before reporting it to the police.
Michelle also provided useful contact information:
- In an emergency always 999
- General police number 24/7 – 631212
- Visit – 3rd Floor of the Old Police Station on Lord Street, Douglas
- Individual officers
- MAPPU can be contacted through 631212 or by email policeearlyactionteam.DHA@gov.im or publicprotectionunit.DHA@gov.im
The theme of caring in the community was continued by Alexandra Koyfman from Firstpoint Community Portal who introduced the project which has been developed by PDMS in partnership with some of the Island’s charities and emergency services to provide additional support to members of the Island community who experience day to day difficulties, for example those living with dementia or the older generation living alone, who may find themselves in emergency situations.
Chris Staples completed the session with his closing address in which he stated that:
- There is much to be reassured by
- Safety is about having care and compassion
- It is important to know about and understand the risks
- It is vital knowing where the expertise is
- Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding
- Safeguarding can be embraced with much faith and less fear
- And the final reminder that anyone can be vulnerable at some time and that there is a need for self care
Chris Staples, Michelle McKillop, Tony Connell, Alexandra Koyfman