Last week we spoke of the new Child Safeguarding Policy adopted by the Church in Ireland and the new Garda Vetting requirements for all adults working in groups and activities involving children. To ensure the safety and wellbeing of children the Church now insists on the following requirements for all parish activities involving children and young people.
- All adult leaders and volunteers must undergo Garda Vetting before they take up their role.
- A Joint Guardian / Child Consent Form is required in order to take part.
- Codes of Conduct for Adults and Children are in place.
- Appropriate supervision ratios of adult leaders to children, as laid down by Church guidelines, must be adhered to.
- An attendance record is kept of all group activities and meetings
- Each group/activity carries out a Hazard Assessment in advance to identify and minimise any potential risks or dangers.
- A report of all accidents / incidents is maintained and is available to parents and guardians.
- Media Permission Forms must be signed before any photos or videos related to the activity are published either in hardcopy or online.
- Parents and Guardians are made aware of the complaints procedures for parish groups and the reporting procedures for any allegations, suspicions or concerns they may have about the welfare of a child.
Sometimes when trying to understand the need for these new guidelines I find it useful to think of the example of safety-belts in cars. Many of us are old enough to remember when cars didn’t have safety belts. Even if they did, they were often little more than ornaments. When wearing a safety-belt was made compulsory some people found the change hard. Hopefully however none of us would now dream of travelling in a car without our safety-belt, not because we are afraid of getting caught by the Gardaí but because we now understand that we are far safer with our safety-belt secured. It is for our own good. It protects us. It keeps us safe. Too many people suffered terrible injuries in the past because they weren’t wearing a safety belt. Likewise many children suffered unspeakable hurts in our Church in the past because we didn’t have robust safeguards in place. I invite you to think of these new guidelines as our ‘safety-belt’. They are designed to keep children safe and ensure that they come to no harm. They are about creating a safe environment for all Church activities so that all children can safely and confidently partake in the life of our parish. Fr Seán