Directory: Churches and People

Topical advice from the Bishop's Safeguarding Adviser

The Bishop's Safeguarding Adviser, Debbie Johnson, writes... 

Listening to this week’s reporting on the sexual abuse allegations in football, these devastatingly awful disclosures being made public has taken such courage on the part of the survivors and yet again brings the safety of our children to the fore. I have noted in coverage today (25th November 2016) and yesterday that discussion is revisiting the debate on the introduction of mandatory reporting. Individual professionals being mandated to report abuse would not have provided protection to these young boys. So what would have and what do we need to do today to demonstrate that we have learned lessons from these and previous deeply troubling revelations about the sexual abuse of children? Having safe people children can talk to; being prepared to take action to break the abuser’s power to silence victims and speaking out to break down the stigma attached talking about abuse, are the only ways to increase the chance of protecting children today.

Three key points to make today
Building resilience in our children by equipping them with the belief that they have the right to feel safe all of the time, and helping them to identify safe adults and safer behaviour is the key to preventing them coming to harm. No topics should be off limits for discussion and adults need to take time to understand the world that their children are growing up in.

Ensuring that any organsiations, either our local churches or other children’s and community groups, have got their safeguarding policies in place and train their staff and volunteers effectively will create a culture where it is easier for children to feel safe and to talk to someone they can trust.

Every organization, from local sports activity groups to your PCC, to holiday clubs and play places, should adhere to strict safer recruitment checks and to safe working-practice guidelines.

Things you can do today to ensure your children, grandchildren and all children are safer:
Ask your local parish church, sports clubs, Beavers, Brownies, Scouts, Guides, Cadets, play place, activity centre, etc what their safeguarding arrangements are. Ask for examples. By doing this you keep organisations alert to their responsibilities and help to hold them to account. If you are not satisfied with their responses then report your concerns to their umbrella organization; to the local safeguarding children’s board or to Penny or myself at the diocesan office.

Talk to your children about how they are. Really make time to listen. If there are aspects of their life with their friends that you don’t understand then make time to find out. Ensure that you are part of their online world as well.

Any time you enrol your child for an activity or club make sure you demand to know how the people who are going to be around your children are recruited and supervised. Ask for sight of their safer working-practice guidelines. Do not leave children in circumstances where these are not available and where you are not entirely happy with the arrangements for their safety. Any reasonable organisation will respond well to these questions.

In relation to specifically building resilience in our children, check out the NSPCC resources. Some are fun; for example:

Also check out:

If you are involved in your local parish church, keep safeguarding on the agenda by asking about their work in this area. All Church of England churches work to House of Bishop’s guidance and links to these can be found at

25th November 2016