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Safeguarding our young people’s future at a tipping point?

Well this was supposed to be the upbeat new year one, lifting eyes to the sunlit uplands of a less Covid-impacted world. A short-lived expectation, that, to be frank, was probably doomed despite the vaccine rollouts.

This hardly seems the time for forecasting but, for Methodist Church safeguarding, 2021 will be an important year as we draw lessons from the IICSA report about historic child abuse in faith communities and how it’s now being tackled. This is due to be published in the late spring. Likewise, our commitment to meeting better the needs of survivors of church-context abuse will become very real this month as the study guide and information leaflet is distributed to every church in the Connexion. We have also started to work on an ambitious plan to deliver more topical webinars to the wider safeguarding community in the Church following successful events in November that focussed on Domestic Abuse and other adult safeguarding issues. So watch this space!

But Covid cannot be ignored. Our approach to safeguarding will need to continue to be nimble and creative, as the issues we are concerned with will not diminish even if we are not meeting as church in the way that we usually know it. In fact as we enter 2021 our need for vigilance and being responsive is probably greater than ever.

Domestic abuse, financial abuse, neglect, self-neglect and on line safety have been highlighted in much of our published and posted guidance and I recommend re-visiting this as churches plan their work for the next few months.

But I want to draw attention to the plight of young people whose future plans today again lie in some doubt. The Methodist Church has a proud history of youth work – many of us owe a debt of thanks to MAYC for helping us come to faith and live on a large map of broad horizons. But the national press reported at the weekend that 2/3 small youth projects won’t survive the present crisis and this will have a significant impact on young people’s health and emotional wellbeing. The weekend also saw the murder of a 13 year old boy in Reading and it’s been reported that several other teenagers are being questioned about it. Sadly serious youth violence remains a key and critical issue, and later this year we will be focussing on this area of safeguarding policy and practice that is now termed ‘Contextual Safeguarding’. Covid makes tackling this even more of a challenge, but there is perhaps an opportunity here for churches and their safeguarding champions to restate their commitment to young people by looking for as many safe and possible ways of engaging with young people in their communities.

Oh, and by the way, happy new year and take every care.

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