How do we become aware of those who pose a risk wanting to join our church community?
There are many ways in which a congregation may become aware of someone who poses a risk and who wishes to worship or join in other activities.
It is not uncommon for an individual who already attends worship to approach the minister or other trusted member of the congregation and disclose that they are a sex offender or have been so in the past. This individual may have been encouraged to do so by the police who monitor him or by the Criminal Justice professional who manages a licence that the offender must adhere to.
In such circumstances, the trusted member of the congregation who has been told this information should immediately share this with the minister or Safeguarding Coordinator.
For transparency, the minister or the Safeguarding Coordinator should speak to the individual and explain the Church of Scotland's policy in this area and how there will need to be a Covenant of Responsibilities agreed.
It should be clarified with the individual what information about their offending they are willing to share.
In common with other faith denominations, the Church of Scotland and Police Scotland have an established professional relationship and a protocol which means that the police participate in discussions and meetings with a Safeguarding Panel and the Safeguarding Service to agree appropriate risk-management measures which are encapsulated in the Covenant of Responsibilities.
It is common for police officers to contact the Safeguarding Service or the individual church itself to identify that a person of concern to them wishes to attend church in some capacity.
Criminal Justice Social Work
Similarly, a social work professional working with an individual will contact the Safeguarding Service or congregation seeking advice as to how a client that they work with can access worship or a church-based service or activity.
Prison Chaplaincy has a key role working with people who are in prison. The Prison Chaplains work with and provide Christian fellowship and worship for many sex offenders. They are an integral part of multi-agency working arrangements while that person is in prison.
Prison chaplains also contact the Safeguarding Service prior to that offender's release from prison so that arrangements can be made to facilitate that individual's continued relationship with the Church in an appropriate congregation or with a pastoral care team.
It is not uncommon that some communities, especially in smaller towns or in a rural setting, already have awareness around an individual who may have committed a sexual offence, often through reporting in local media.