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Forging links and strengthening communities

We won’t talk about the football so move on. The news this week is about re-opening churches and the guidance that sometimes runs to catch up with announcements. Are we all ready and comfortable with the prospect? I’m not even going to try to summarise the current (well, today’s) church guidance, nor make any comment about the practical details, but it’s still important to hear some important safeguarding messages that are emerging in our communities.

I continue to sit on a local Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB), and in this privileged position I receive reports about patterns of safeguarding referrals. Current headlines point to a 300% increase in referrals to the local authority between March and May that have a domestic violence aspect. There is also concern about a growth in reported cases of self-neglect. I singled out these areas when I wrote in this column in April and sadly the figures have confirmed that these are indeed the critical ones. As our local churches re-open our ministers, pastoral teams and safeguarders would do well to keep a close eye on vulnerable individuals now starting to venture out.

The SAB I sit on has also asked me to lead on an initiative to better engage faith groups in the general field of Adult Safeguarding, recognising the significant contribution such groups can make. I’ve written on this theme before, but the present crisis has shown that mobilising community activism is critically important, and that safeguarding concerns may well be identified through churches, mosques, synagogues and temples participating in these activities. If you’d like to think more about how your church can become involved get in contact with your local SAB. Each borough or county council will have one and each will have a website to ‘google’.

The other area that I’ve been briefed on is the situation in care homes. The Prime Minister’s remarks yesterday have not been received well in a sector that has worked incredibly hard to keep people safe, with staff often making immense personal sacrifices to prevent the risk of infection. There is a complex story to tell in this sector and again, given our church demographic, it is likely that some of our members already live in care homes or other forms of supported living. If you have an interest in this area, for either personal or church pastoral interest, it is likely that your local Healthwatch can give you an update and explain some of the responses that local authorities are making. Again ‘google’ Healthwatch and the name of your local authority to see what’s going on.

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