What is Safeguarding

Every human being has a value and dignity which we as Catholics acknowledge as coming directly from God’s creation of male and female in his own image and likeness. We believe therefore that all people should be valued, supported and protected from harm.

In the Catholic Church this is demonstrated by the provision of carefully planned activities for children, young people and adults; supporting families under stress; caring for those hurt by abuse in the past; ministering to and managing those who have caused harm.

It is because of these varied ministries that we need to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe environment for all which promotes and supports their wellbeing. This will include carefully selecting and appointing those who work with children, young people or adults at risk and responding robustly where concerns arise.

The main Government guidance setting out duties and responsibilities for all agencies and organisations who work with Children and Families is ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ which was published by the Department for Education in 2013; it provides guidance under the Children Acts 1989 and 2004.

‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ refers directly to Faith Communities and sets out the responsibilities and expectations of all churches and faith communities in safeguarding children and promoting their welfare.

It recognises that churches provide a wide range of services for children; and that religious leaders, staff and volunteers have an important role in safeguarding and supporting children and families.

Children may be in need of protection from abuse or maltreatment in their own home or in other environments including the church itself. Wherever a child is at risk or concerns are raised about a child, all adults have a duty to act to safeguard that child and promote his or her welfare.

The need to safeguard children is not confined to any particular age group or groups in the community and all concerns should be responded to equally, always bearing in mind that the welfare of the child is paramount.

In all research and in reviews where a child has died or been seriously injured as a result of abuse, the same messages to all organisations come back time and again – namely, the importance of adults responding promptly to concerns, listening to children with respect and most importantly, communicating effectively with one another within and between organisations and agencies.

All churches and faith communities are expected to have in place arrangements which include:

  • Procedures to respond to and report concerns
  • Codes of practice
  • Safe recruitment procedures

In the same way arrangements must be in place to respond to concerns about any form of abuse or maltreatment of a vulnerable adult.

The principles contained in ‘No Secrets ‘(DoH 2000) and ‘Safeguarding Adults : A National Framework for Good Practice (ADSS 2005)’ must be followed with the acknowledgement that the Catholic Church in England and Wales must not act alone but in partnership with all other agencies to combat the abuse of vulnerable adults.


The term ‘child’ is used to include all children and young people up to the age of 18. Someone who has not yet had their 18th birthday.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment;
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health and development;
  • Ensuring that children are growing up with safe and effective care;
  • Enabling children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.

Child Protection

Is a part of safeguarding and refers to the activities undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering or are at risk of suffering Significant Harm.

Significant Harm

‘Harm’ means ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development, including for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another;

‘Development’ means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;

‘Health’ means physical or mental health; and

‘Ill-treatment’ includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical.

Child 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 and developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. 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.

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 e.g. rape 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, sexual online images and photos, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. We are becoming increasingly aware of the offence of viewing or downloading abusive images of children from the Internet. This is not a’victimles’ crime but is both evidence of abuse taking place and is a criminal offence. It should be referred on in all cases.


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, or at any age, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate carers);
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

The above definitions are from Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013.

Domestic Violence

This term is used to describe the physical, sexual or emotional (including verbal and financial) abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This form of abuse effects both the victim, who by the very nature of the offence is a vulnerable adult in this context, and any children in the household. In 2005, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 extended the legal definition of harming children to include harm suffered by seeing or hearing ill-treatment of others, especially in the home.

Adults at Risk

‘Abuse is a violation of a person’s human and civil rights by another person or persons’

‘Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It may be physical, verbal or psychological, it may be an act of neglect or an omission to act or it may occur when a vulnerable person is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented or cannot consent. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to or exploitation of the person subjected to it.’ (‘No Secrets’, DoH 2000).

An adult is defined as ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ when they are in receipt of a ‘regulated activity’ in relation to vulnerable adults.

It is important to recognise however that any adult can be subject to abuse and that they do not have to be defined as ‘vulnerable.’ Any adult could be subjected to domestic abuse; financial abuse; physical, emotional, sexual abuse etc.

Within the Church context, it is important to recognise therefore that abuse can be perpetrated against adults who are not ‘vulnerable’ according to the statutory definition.

Where these incidents of abuse are substantiated they should be dealt with either as a criminal matter (e.g. sexual assault) and/or misconduct with the Church disciplinary structure.

A consensus has emerged identifying the following main different forms of abuse:

Physical abuse

Including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint, or inappropriate sanctions.

Sexual abuse

Including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not consented, or could not consent or was pressured into consenting.

Psychological abuse

Including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.

Financial or material

Including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Neglect and acts of omission

Including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.

Discriminatory abuse

Including racist, sexist, that based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.

Any or all of these types of abuse may be perpetrated as the result of deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance.

Neglect and poor professional practice also need to be taken into account. This may take the form of isolated incidents of poor or unsatisfactory professional practice, at one end of the spectrum, through to pervasive ill treatment or gross misconduct at the other. Repeated instances of poor care may be an indication of more serious problems and this is sometimes referred to as institutional abuse.

Who may be the abuser? Vulnerable adult(s) may be abused by a wide range of people, including relatives and family members, professional staff, paid care workers, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends and associates, people who deliberately exploit vulnerable people and strangers.

Applying these definitions to different circumstances may not always be easy. Many situations may involve combinations of these elements. If there is difficulty in defining a situation this should be discussed with the Safeguarding Co-ordinator.

Regulated Activity

This is defined as:

  • The provision of health care treatment in any setting by a health care professional, or by a person acting under the direction or supervision of a health care professional such as a health care assistant in a hospital or care home. This includes first aid provided by organisations such as St John’s Ambulance, as is the case for children;
  • The provision of relevant personal care in any setting to a person who needs the care because of age, illness or disability. Relevant personal care is defined at new sub-paragraph (3B) of Schedule 4 to the SVGA and includes physical care such as assistance with eating, drinking, toileting, washing and dressing; prompting, together with supervision, for those activities, where such prompting and supervision are necessary for their execution; and any training, instruction, advice or guidance necessary for those activities (for example, a person given training on how to manage successfully their own chronic illness or disability);
  • The provision of relevant social work by a social worker to clients or potential clients;
  • The provision of assistance, in relation to general household matters, to a person who requires it because of age, illness or disability. This is defined as day to day assistance with paying bills, shopping or managing the person’s cash;
  • The provision of assistance to a person where there is a formal arrangement in place which allows a person to make welfare and/or financial decisions on behalf of another person;
  • The transportation of individuals where that transport is provided because of age, health or disability. The Government has stated that regulations will set out the specific circumstances when this subsection applies, but broadly it is intended to cover ambulance services, transport to and from day care services where the transport is arranged by (or on behalf of) the day care provider, hospital porters and patient transport.