The Metropolitan Police have just released figures which show that they raise 700 safeguarding concerns for children and adults every day. That’s a staggering 1.3 million records over the last five years. The figures were included in a Freedom of Information response requested by the Guardian newspaper. The full report is available on the paper’s website and describes graphically the figures for different types of concerns, including forced marriage, sexual exploitation and bullying.
At the same the investigative resources at the Police’s disposal have been reduced and the capacity of local authorities to respond to reports has also been impacted by year on year savings targets. The Local Government Association meeting in Bournemouth this week is making the point that without an injection of extra funds, core services for children and vulnerable adults will have to be cut in the near future. It already feels that some aspects of the system are stretched to a risky level. No wonder members of the public are sometimes mystified when a concern about a child is not followed up by a hard pressed council as the matter may not, at least initially, be deemed serious enough.
Our Advanced Level training shows how referrals can be made to local councils when a concern is spotted, but we know from our Past Cases Review, and other more recent case evidence, that we need to overcome any reticence or uncertainty we might have about making a referral. Even if we think that nothing may happen as a consequence it’s still important to log that concern, and of course your DSO is the primary go to person to help local churches frame their concern in a way that is going to be noticed.
At the Methodist Conference on Monday, the Safeguarding Report was presented and accepted. There was a focus on the work of the Survivor Advisory Group and our partnership with the Church of England in particular in the short debate that followed the moving of the report. This was followed by consideration of two memorials questioning local preacher and worship leader involvement in the Advanced Module course. Both were declined and there was some moving testimony from a couple of speakers about why those who represent the church at the front, as preachers and worship leaders, should continue to be included. Key to this was a sense that a preacher may be the person chosen by a survivor that day to hear a story and that they needed to know what to do.
Feedback shows that the Advanced Module can inspire confidence and encourage local leaders to think more about what their churches are doing to create safe spaces. The course also emphasises that we must work in partnership both within and outside the church to protect children and vulnerable adults. Passing on our concerns to the right place is an essential part of our mission.
We should not then be fearful about making a referral, nor adding to the unbelievably large numbers of cases that come to notice in London, and no doubt around the country, every day. If these statistics make you sit up and you have a real sense that the responding services are overwhelmed, then it’s also right to take every opportunity to ask the right and searching questions of our local and national leaders. Before it’s too late.