What to do when someone who poses a risk wishes to join the congregation
It does not matter how awareness of an individual who poses a risk comes to the attention of the congregation, the first thing to do is to speak to the Safeguarding Service in Edinburgh. The Church employs a Safeguarding Officer with a professional background in this area specifically to assist congregations in these situations.
Likewise, no matter if the concern is raised through gossip or hearsay information, always contact the Safeguarding Service. They can liaise with the relevant authority, allowing an initial assessment of the reported concern.
The role of the Safeguarding Officer
The role of the Safeguarding Officer is to advise and guide congregations through the process and subsequent management of the Covenant arrangements.
In addition, the Safeguarding Officer will contact and arrange all meetings between the police, criminal justice social work professionals, other relevant professionals, congregations and the individual offenders. Ordinarily the Safeguarding Officer will attend each of these meetings and provide a minute of what has been agreed. However, these meetings may also take place through videoconferencing technology.
The Safeguarding Officer will represent congregations in multi-agency meetings such as Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) or other professional meetings.
The Safeguarding Officer will contact the police and/or criminal justice social worker where it is known that a person wishes to worship or attend church-run activities or services. During this discussion, an assessment of risk decides whether it is safe for that individual to continue attending Church or activities until the arrangements are in place.
For many individuals there are no professional anxieties about this continuing for various reasons, but for others there will be a decision that no such attendance will be facilitated until the arrangements are in place.
In addition to communicating with a Safeguarding Panel, the Police and Criminal Justice Social Work, the Safeguarding Officer will also make initial contact with the subject as far as is possible. This contact will be done through an email, telephone call or by letter depending on what is the most suitable medium.
The role of the Congregation via its Safeguarding Panel
The Kirk Session of a congregation devolves responsibility for managing the arrangements described in this chapter to its Safeguarding Panel.
The Safeguarding Panel is usually made up of three or more members, many of whom have a professional background or experience in an area of public protection.
Any Covenant of Responsibilities or similar arrangements are between the congregation and the individual who is subject to them. However, the support and ongoing involvement of the Safeguarding Officer continues through the process and for the period of time that the arrangements are in place.
The confidential nature of Covenant of Responsibility arrangements mean that a congregation will not learn any details of anyone who is subject to the arrangements from the Safeguarding Panel or the Safeguarding Service.