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Conference challenges to complacency and cloth ears

Last minute preparations are underway for our annual Connexional Safeguarding Conference which is being held at Eastwood near Nottingham at the end of this week. It seems quite strange for me as the coordinator again to be planning food choices, supplying travel instructions, making sure the presenters have submitted their PowerPoints, checking sound equipment and whether there is a lectern, alongside providing assurance about Covid protection measures. It’s felt a bit like getting on a bike again after a lengthy lay-off, slightly wobbly but hopefully gaining confidence all the time. Next week’s blog will aim to provide a summary of what we focussed on.

In the real world we can’t escape Ukraine, but tucked away in the other news items in my weekend newspaper was a lengthy report about the appalling prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment in Football Federations the world over. Investigators had discovered instances from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, across all continents, with the world governing body FIFA coming under fire for not taking a firmer line or providing sufficiently robust rules and guidance. It was a shocking report, and of course the UK has been no stranger to this phenomenon. The evidence spoke of brave individuals who have tried to take a stand or bring matters to wider attention, but persuading FIFA to listen in the first place, seems to have been one of the key complaints.

Hearing without listening and failing to see what’s in plain sight continue to be major concerns for all organisations who have safeguarding responsibilities. This can be at any level and in any corner, and so the struggle to get the voices of victims and survivors clearly heard, and responded to, will always be a top priority even if policies and procedures are exemplary.

Our conference has a focus on ‘The Inclusive Church and Safeguarding’. A key aspect of this is listening with care to the experiences of those who find themselves, for whatever reason, on the margins of church life, and maybe society itself. The Church has made some good progress since our Past Cases Review was published in 2015. We hope that the conference will offer fresh ideas to challenge us to do even better.

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