Adult safeguarding – Guide Launched at ‘Taking Care Of All’ Conference
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) launched its Guidelines on Adult Safeguarding at the ‘Taking Care Of All’ conference in Belfast on 15th March 2018. They sent out the clear message that they have a ‘zero tolerance approach’ to all forms of harm, abuse and exploitation and that adult safeguarding is ‘everybody’s business’.
Guidelines for adult safeguarding – a pocket-sized guide is launched at the recent PCI ‘Taking Care Of All’ Conference.
Over 300 people from congregations across Ireland came together for the ‘Taking Care Of All’ conference. As well as raising the awareness of safeguarding those over 18, the conference was also an opportunity to launch a handy pocket-sized guide of its new adult safeguarding guidelines.
Opening the one-day conference, Rev. Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said that as a denomination, safeguarding ‘should be in our DNA.’
“At the very heart of what it is to be a Church, is that clear priority to be people who look out for one another. And that’s not an optional extra – the Lord Jesus calls us to love one another – it is a gospel imperative. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans to ‘Be devoted to one another in love [and] honour one another above yourselves.’
At its best Adult Safeguarding is just that: it is about the one another, it is about looking out for one another and it is especially about all of us striving to prevent harm to adults from abuse, exploitation or neglect. It is at the very core of what it is to live in community as everyday disciples of Jesus Christ.
Today will help all of us in that calling, as our speakers raise awareness of potential harm to adults at risk, define what harm is and most importantly help us understand how we should respond. As we look out for one another, we need to promote a zero tolerance of adult harm.”
The policy and guidelines launched today, together with PCI’s well-established child protection guidelines ‘Taking Care’ which were brought in in 1996, will ensure that the Church reduces the risk of harm, abuse or exploitation for all within the denomination.
Those attending heard from a range of speakers including Jill Robinson of Flourish NI. They provide support to survivors of human trafficking. Also Veronica Gray of Action on Elder Abuse NI, a specialist charity working to protect older people from all forms of abuse and neglect. The keynote speaker was Joyce McKee. She is an elder in Hillsborough Presbyterian Church and programme manager (Adult Services) for the Health and Social Care Board. She gave an overview of adult safeguarding and a practical application of the guidelines in a number of everyday settings. Quoting Martin Luther King Jnr, Joyce McKee told the conference,
“A Church that has lost its voice for justice is a Church that has lost its relevance in the world. PCI has a significant role to play in identifying abuse and preventing exploitation and abuse from happening in the first place. It is out there and we need to be standing up for and supporting those who are suffering.”
To illustrate the kinds of abuse that adults suffer, she brought real life stories to the conference of people who had needed adult safeguarding intervention. In 2016, she said that 6,579 referrals to Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland had taken place, where there was a concern that an adult was suspected of suffering some kind of abuse.
“There is a significant role for members of our Church to play in adult safeguarding. With our congregations and the social networks in each, the reach of PCI is considerable. This can be utilised, especially in terms of befriending those in our churches and those who don’t come to church, but could be at risk in the community, to prevent abuse occurring in the first place.”
Speaking about the new guidelines, Joyce McKee said that they were based on the Northern Ireland Executive’s 2015 Adult Safeguarding Policy: Prevention and Protection in Partnership and were rooted in a Human Rights based approach to safeguarding that is in keeping with the values and ethos of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
“It is vital that individuals and congregations know how to recognise the signs of abuse, how and when to refer someone to social services for support and assistance. As Christians we need to reach out, we need to listen, understand and act when needed. We need to think about how we voice our concerns to prevent abuse and exploitation from happening. PCI’s new policy and guidelines are practical and demonstrate a genuine commitment to vulnerable members of our community who are at risk.”
The conference was organised by the Church’s Council for Social Witness, which has overall responsibility for child and adult safeguarding training and policy across the denomination. Council secretary Lyndsay Conway told the conference,
“Adult safeguarding is based on fundamental human rights and on respecting the rights of adults as individuals, treating all adults with dignity and respecting their right to choose. It involves empowering and enabling all adults, including those at risk of harm, to manage their own health and well being and to keep themselves safe. It extends to intervening to protect where harm has occurred, or is likely to occur and promoting access to justice. All adults at risk should be central to any actions and decisions affecting their lives.
Today is the start of a new journey for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in the whole area of Taking Care of All – lets journey together, as we implement these guidelines and policy.”
Read more PCI news on their website here.