As ever in this strange year, it’s difficult to know quite where to start another piece about the safeguarding agenda. Our churches and groups are not meeting normally and if you straddle two tiers in terms of your church and home addresses, it’s difficult always to know where things stand in terms of what’s OK/not OK. Yesterday on a lengthy autumnal walk in Surrey, we came to a pub that sits exactly at the point where two Tier 2 local authorities and one Tier One authority meet. They had decided to go with the London rules so my son and I from different households had to eat outside. London District has strongly recommended that churches consider closing again.
One newspaper today leads on the concern expressed strongly by Prince William about a looming mental health crisis. My own conversations with friends over the last couple of weeks have begun to show me that this is something that concerns them too. Our churches, too, have also begun to highlight this issue and no doubt we will soon be getting more familiar with the signs and symptoms we will be asked to spot.
It’s timely then that the Connexional Safeguarding Team is planning a short course for District Safeguarding Officers to equip them to respond with confidence when churches approach them for advice and guidance about a safeguarding concern where there is a perceived mental health dimension. Mental Health was the subject of our annual training conference in 2019 and so this course and potentially some other webinars to come will build on the work we started then. In so doing we must give a shout out to our friends the Quakers who have done some pioneering work in this area to support their local meetings. Our own approach is designed to ensure that the learning about best practice cascades down to local churches.
Talking of shout outs, last week’s piece about children’s use of zoom, I should stress, was very much prompted by a colleague’s particular interest and concern about the issue which in turn led to the active consideration of what was going to be safe practice at 3Generate. Safeguarding needs individual champions to take an issue, explore it and then take steps to make sure it is given due regard. Without this spirit of activism we may never get to know what we need to adapt and develop. Mental Health champions are really going to be needed.