What you need to do to keep your church safe

What you need to do to keep your church safe

Rev. Bronwyn Murphy, Rev. Tara Curlewis, and Anne Empson are the new Synod Safe Church Unit. This team helps congregations to meet their requirements and keep everyone in our the Uniting Church safe. Read on for everything you need to know about Safe Church compliance.

What’s new in the work of the Synod Safe Church Unit?

New Polices and resources

A range of new policies, guidelines and templates have been created or updated to reflect changes in the current child protection legislation.

A new website

The team have been working on a new website which is designed to equip congregations and church councils with the information they need to be compliant with NSW and ACT legislation. Each key topic has a dedicated page of information including templates and links to useful information. The website will be a living document and further resources will be developed. If your church has any suggestions please contact the safe church unit.

National Safe Church Awareness training online

We have been working with the UCA National Safe Church Unit to create a national curriculum for Safe Church Awareness training which will be delivered online, at a time that suits the learner. This will be available in the second half of 2021. As every person who has a working with children or working with vulnerable people check is required to complete Safe Church Awareness Training every three years. The curriculum covers everything you need to know about your responsibilities as a leader within the church.

Special Religious Education

The Synod Safe Church Unit is also responsible as the Uniting Church Provider of Special Religious Education in Department of Education schools across the Synod. Every teacher  is required to be authorised by the Synod before entering a school. We ensure that all teachers meet the Department of Education requirements for training and minimum standards.

What do I need to know about Safe Church compliance?

Legislative Changes

Legislative changes have increased compliance responsibilities for church leaders and volunteers. It is now obligatory in NSW and the ACT to make a report if there are concerns about the wellbeing of a child. In NSW, holders of Working with Children’s Checks are defined as ‘employee’ whether they are paid or not as part of the Reportable Conduct scheme. In the ACT all employees and volunteers are subject to the ACT Reportable conduct scheme. Because of this it is especially important that everyone is aware of, and complies with the appropriate code of conduct.

Changes to Synod requirements

The Synod of NSW and the ACT is strengthening its approach to ensuring all leaders are child safe now requires all church council members to hold a Working with Children’s Check (NSW) or Working with Vulnerable People Check (ACT). Legislation makes it mandatory for any people who are involved with children within a church context to hold one but we have extended this to church Council members to ensure that council members are fit to serve in this role.

The Child Safe Principles in NSW

The National Child Safe Principles have been developed drawing on the findings of the Royal Commission, extensive research and consultation about what makes organisations child safe.

In NSW these principles will be legislated in May or June as the NSW Child Safe Standards. These standards are an important element in the culture of safety shaping the Church. There are 10 standards that work together emphasising the importance of adopting multiple strategies to address child safety and avoiding an over-reliance on any one strategy.

They provide a framework so organisations and churches can keep children safe from harm.

The Synod Safe Church Unit webpage provides planning tools designed to assist congregations in developing a plan to implement the national child safe principles. The plan and its actions will form part of the annual report the National Safe Church Unit makes to the National Office of Child Safety.

Safe Church Contact Person

Every Uniting Church congregation must have at least one Safe Church Contact person. This person is responsible for a number of safe church compliance activities including ensuring that all volunteers have a valid and up to date WWCC or WWVP check and up-to-date training. It is important that any activities which involve children have a risk assessment done beforehand. We have created a role description for the Safe Church contact person to assist church councils.

What’s Next?

The Safe Church Unit will be working on building strong relationships with Presbyteries and Congregations throughout the Synod and working on ways to ensure the church continues to live out its commitment to keeping all people who engage with our church, safe.

For more information, visit the new Safe Church Unit website here.

The Safe Church Unit

 

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