A street sign near where I live tells me that the average council taxpayer’s contribution to safeguarding children in our borough is 43 pence a week. So that’s £22.36 per annum from my annual council tax payment that’s around £2500. The sign told me that the council ‘could not protect children at risk without you’.
I don’t think I’ve seen this type of advert before, and so I found it intriguing. Should I be proud that my council is spending this amount of money, or should I be concerned that it’s not enough? How does this figure compare with other nearby local authorities or the national average? What are the safeguarding services that this sum pays for? Are children in my borough any safer as a consequence of this level of spending? Is just under 1% of my council tax being spent in this field about right or should it be more? Is this good value for money?
Because I used to work for my local authority, and still have some access to journals and know where to look for relevant reports, I can probably find out the answers to my questions. But since the simple poster at first glance raised more questions than provided re-assurance I think I’ll embark on some municipal detective work.
So of course it got me thinking about our Church’s level of spend on safeguarding work. Our structures of local church, circuit, district and the Connexion probably make it difficult to aggregate all the financial details so as to arrive at any indicative weekly amount per member, and besides, most local safeguarding effort is delivered by volunteers anyway, making such a calculation virtually impossible. Each level of the Church has its own budget that covers a myriad of vital lines of expenditure, and in these difficult times we know these are under pressure.
But, in recent years, certainly at a district level, there has generally been a pattern of extra investment to pay for more professional safeguarding officer time. Some circuits have started to employ circuit coordinators to manage local training and safe recruitment processes. As we start to think collectively about our financial and safeguarding plans for 2021/22, in whatever place, are we content with the level of our investment in safeguarding work that aims to protect children and vulnerable adults in our churches? Its a useful question to ask.