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Americana dreaming: Standing up for safeguarding

The other night, my wife and I went to a house concert. If you are wondering what that is, it’s a gathering of 25-30 people in someone’s (large) front room, who are all there to listen to a singer or small band. You have to have the right connections to get a band whose next local gig is headlining at a 2,000 capacity venue in West London to play in your lounge. The organisers have just that since they have been arranging such gigs almost monthly for the past five or six years. Crucially you also have to be on the e mail list that gets the concert details.

In exchange for a tenner and a bottle of wine we enjoyed an hour and a half of glorious folk-Americana music from a four piece band, a mid-point cup of soup and a hunk of homemade bread.

In the convivial pre-concert and interval chatter there is the usual checking up on how things are going, and what you are up to just now. It’s that moment when you reveal (again) what you do for a living and as you do, perhaps you try to anticipate the response. Is this going to be the polite interest and move on, the opportunity to share a story, or the political correctness gone mad version? You never know until you open your mouth.

On this occasion, and probably because the gathering included a number of folk who help to run a youth arts charity, the couple of people we spoke with really got the agenda, so for me it was a safe space in which to talk briefly about the job without getting drawn into an argument about the principles and purposes of safeguarding activity.

But one question often comes up and it did again on this occasion. It’s the one about the proportion of false allegations, and for this enquirer, he had a particular and current interest in the light of the American Supreme Court hearings about Brett Kavanaugh. My usual response is to quote the research evidence that is set out in the Creating Safer Space training material that suggests a very small single figure proportion. But the events across the Atlantic, and how they have played out, probably require us to develop a more sophisticated and nuanced reflection that enables us to deliver a confident response when we are challenged about what we do and believe in.

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