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The numbers tell the real story

One hundred colleagues attended the London District Safeguarding Conference on Saturday 16 March. It was a good number in itself but it helped our keynote presenter to demonstrate quite graphically a series of statistical percentages about, for example, how many people self-identify as happy or anxious. If we were a reasonable cross section of London Methodist folk then getting groups of 5 to stand up brought a human aspect to the academic research findings. Clearly some of the findings would also have been true for some people in the room at the time.

Our theme was ‘Emotional Wellbeing and Safeguarding’ and our thoughts were led by Professor Malcolm Payne, a renowned expert in the field who doubles as a circuit safeguarding coordinator in South London. This was an attempt to explore an area of our work where we have perhaps less certainty and working knowledge, and yet we know that all abuse has an element of emotional abuse as an integral part. Through a stimulating presentation and reflective group work, we edged towards a deeper understanding of the topic and tried to apply our new learning to our own situations. In a further session we used a slimmed down version of the Quakers’ Boundary Game, which is a training exercise that looks at a series of church-based scenarios relating to wellbeing, to see how we as safeguarders or church leaders can respond appropriately and with proportionality.

There was so much to consider on the day that we could have done with twice the time, not least because a section in the presentation about the relationship between wellbeing and spiritual abuse raised a number of theological questions that really merited further conversation.

I was, and no doubt others were, left with a chance to mull over my own life experience to date, and what has shaped my own general emotional state. Times of great happiness can be matched with incidents that provoked feelings of anxiety, uncertainty or fear. The physical and emotional journeys and life experiences of many in the room will have no doubt contributed to their general sense of wellbeing. Faith of course will also be a factor in how we see ourselves. The final message of the day was about how we should always be vigilant about each others’ emotional wellbeing and try to understand if the cause of any anxiety or fear results from an adverse set of circumstances where good safeguarding practice can be applied.

Randomly standing up in a group of one hundred to demonstrate a statistic may have felt uncomfortable for some, but as an illustration of the power of numbers and the story they tell, it was a sobering and yet revelatory experience.

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