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Safeguarding Policy

Safeguarding Policy for Children and Adults - May 2024


Thames North Synod agrees that children, young people and adults have a right to live in a way that does not cause them harm or impede their human rights. We therefore acknowledge their right to protection from abuse regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. We consider that, in accordance with legislation, the welfare of children is paramount. We will follow legislation, statutory guidance and recognised good practice. We believe that domestic abuse in all its forms is unacceptable and inconsistent with a Christian way of living.

In July 2021, General Assembly adopted the new safeguarding policy statement (T4 – Safeguarding policy statement, Resolution 47) and commended it to church meetings, Elders’ meetings and Synods for consideration and implementation. This policy sought to underpin safeguarding through all councils of the Church and provided an important reference point in its governance. Safeguarding is taken seriously by Thames North Synod and this document aligns directly with the United Reform Church Good Practice Guidance (GP6).

  • We will take all necessary powers and actions positively to promote implementation of good practice in accordance with the safeguarding policy statement adopted by the General Assembly in local churches within the Synod.
  • We will seek to establish a caring environment in which there is an informed vigilance about the dangers of abuse.
  • We will appoint a Synod Safeguarding Officer to advise churches and Synod, whilst recognising that safeguarding is everyone's responsibility.
  • We will organise activities in such a way as to promote a safe environment and minimise the risk of harm to children and adults.
  • We will follow a safer recruitment process for the selection and appointment of people to work with children or adults at risk, whether voluntary or paid, lay or ordained.
  • We are committed to providing support and supervision, resources and training, to those who work with children and adults.
  • We will use rigorous and careful supervision to protect people from the risks associated with known offenders within the Synod.
  • We will have oversight of, and to support, monitor and report safeguarding related activities and issues within local churches, and amongst Ministers, Officers and staff of the Synod.
  • All concerns and allegations of abuse will be responded to appropriately, including referring to the Police and Social Care and if necessary, the Charity Commission or Designated Officer.
  • We will co-operate with the Police, Children’s and Adult’s Services in any investigation, will follow multi agency decisions and will maintain confidentiality of any investigations to those directly involved.
  • All concerns or allegations concerning Thames North Synod activities, staff or volunteers should be addressed to the Synod Safeguarding Officer.

Synod Safeguarding Officer

Name: Belinda Herbert
Contact phone number: 07716 640 596
Email address: [email protected]

Aim and Purpose of this policy

The aim of this policy is to ensure that protecting children and adults from abuse, harm or neglect is central to our culture. It provides procedures for promoting safeguarding, preventing abuse and protecting children, adults at risk and staff both in Synod activities and in local churches within the Synod. This includes clear procedures for taking appropriate action when safeguarding concerns are raised involving children and adults within our Synod, or those who attend our activities and events.

Who this policy applies to

This policy is approved and endorsed by the Synod Trustees (the Synod Executive) and applies to:

  • Synod Trustees
  • All members of the church
  • All those who attend and serve our churches/place of worship and its services
  • Our trustees and elders
  • Paid staff (both internal and external, such as consultants)
  • Volunteers and those who supervise them
  • Organisations, groups or individuals who hire our buildings on a one off basis with written confirmation to operate under the Synod, or respective local Church Safeguarding Policy.

The policy and procedures should be interpreted in accordance with these principles and the most recent URC good practice guidance. Children, parents/carers, adults at risk and those responsible for safeguarding them will be informed of this policy and our procedures.

Duty of care and confidentiality

We have a duty of care to beneficiaries of the Synod, either adults or children. We will maintain confidentiality except in circumstances where to do so would place the individual or another individual at risk of harm or abuse.


The term ‘children’ refers to those under the age of 18 years.

The term ‘adult at risk’ refers to any adult aged 18 or over who, by reason of mental or other disability, age, illness or other situation, are permanently, or for time being, unable to take care of themselves, or to protect themselves against significant harm, abuse or exploitation.

Promoting Safeguarding in local churches

Thames North Synod will encourage all local churches to adopt and implement good practice policies for safeguarding children and adults, in line with the latest edition of the United Reformed Church's Good Practice Guidelines.

The rationale for encouraging all churches to do this is as follows:

  • Churches actively working with children or adults should do this in order to Safeguard people at risk, reassure parents / carers and partner organisations, and protect leaders from false allegations.
  • Churches not currently working with children should still have a policy which applied to children and adults so that they are ready as and when children get involved in the church.
  • In order to keep up the reputation of Thames North Synod and United Reformed Church as a whole, and therefore its member churches, is a body which takes safeguarding seriously and is seen to do so.
  • To implement the General Assembly Safeguarding Policy Statement.

Good practice in the Synod will be monitored. This will be overseen by the Synod Safeguarding Officer and reported to the Synod Executive annually. Churches will be asked to answer questions in the Annual Church and Safeguarding Returns and from this a database of Safeguarding Coordinators will be maintained.

Once the questionnaires have been returned and collated by the Synod Safeguarding Officer, a meeting will take place in the Synod Safeguarding Group meeting between the Synod Safeguarding Officer, Synod Moderator and any other group members to consider the findings and agree what action needs to be taken. The Synod Safeguarding Officer will report annually to Synod Executive.

Preventing abuse

The Synod will appoint a Synod Safeguarding Officer for safeguarding children and adults. A job/role description is found in the Good Practice guidance under Safer Recruitment resources SR4.

Activities will be organised in accordance with URC’s Good Practice guidance to promote a safe environment and healthy relationships, whilst minimising opportunities for harm, misunderstanding or false accusation. For each event, risk assessments will be carried out, appropriate and accessible consent forms will be used (for children’s activities or activities for people with special needs), appropriate records will be kept, and adequate insurance will be in place.

We are committed to safer recruitment and selection of all paid staff and volunteers with emphasis on those in regulated activities. We will treat applicants who have a criminal record fairly and do not discriminate because of a conviction or other information revealed (see Good Practice 6 Policy and Procedure resources P4 for the template policy statement on the recruitment of ex-offenders) and ensure that all safer recruitment-related procedures are followed, which include:

  • asking applicants to complete an application form
  • providing workers with job or role descriptions and person specifications
  • completion of self-declaration forms
  • obtaining Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for eligible roles and positions
  • taking up two references (not from family members)
  • interviewing candidates
  • providing workers/volunteers with written contracts/agreements.

All trustees, paid staff and volunteers will work within a code of conduct (code for workers in the Good Practice resources C1 and C2) and understand that there may be action taken if this code is not followed, possibly involving suspension or the termination of people’s service.

If the Synod become aware of someone known to have harmed or harm children or adults, we will inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer within 24 hours and co-operate with them and the relevant statutory authorities to put in place a plan to minimise the risk of harm to children, young people and adults.

When any Synod premises are let to an organisation, group or individual, those hiring the premises should hold and abide by their own safeguarding policy unless they are a one- off hire and where expressed agreement has been given for the use of the Synod or Church Safeguarding Policy- whichever applies to the circumstances.

Only in such cases of one- off hiring agreements and where the hirer does not have their own policy, the hirer must abide by the Synod’s or the respective Local Church’s own safeguarding policy (which ever applies). Please refer to the Synod Hiring Agreement template which identifies safeguarding clauses which apply to these circumstances. Where applicable, a copy of the Synod or the respective church Safeguarding policy should be made available at the establishment of the agreement. Each hiring party is required to ensure that children and adults at risk are always protected by taking all reasonable steps to prevent injury, illness, loss or damage occurring whilst using the premises.

How to recognise abuse

It is important to be aware of possible signs and symptoms of abuse. Good Practice 6 Supplementary information S5: Signs and Symptoms of Abuse provides definitions of different forms of abuse and further help and guidance. Some signs could be indicators of several different categories of abuse.

It is essential to note that these are only indicators of possible abuse. There may be other, innocent, reasons for these signs and/or behaviour. There might be domestic abuse that requires a different approach (please see Guidance leaflet G3: A Guide to domestic abuse). The indicators will, however, be a guide to assist in assessing whether abuse of one form or another is a possible explanation for a child or adult’s behaviour.

Church workers and members will also pay attention to online safety and their electronic communications with children and adults. Grooming and abuse of any form can occur offline (both physically and verbally) and online. Good Practice Policies and Procedures P3: Model church online safety policy includes an acceptable use policy in relation to the use of church computers by both workers and children and provides sample forms which children and workers could be asked to sign.

What to do if there is a disclosure or allegation of abuse

If a child, young person or adult makes a disclosure that they are being abused and have been abused, it is important that the person being told:

  • stays calm and listen carefully
  • reassures them that they have done the right thing in telling
  • does not investigate or ask leading questions
  • explains that they will need to tell someone else if anyone is at risk of harm, in order to help them
  • does not promise to keep secret what they have been told
  • informs the church Safeguarding Coordinator within 24 hours (if they are implicated in the allegation, inform the Deputy or the Synod Safeguarding Officer)
  • makes a written record of the allegation, disclosure or incident and signs and dates this record (using the template in Good Practice 6 Forms F1). This should be given to the Synod Safeguarding Officer and stored securely in a locked filing cabinet or securely electronically.

Procedure in the event of a concern of abuse

If there is an immediate threat of harm, the Police should be contacted without delay.

Where it is judged that there is no immediate threat of harm the following will occur:

  • The concern should be discussed with the Church Safeguarding Coordinator or the Synod Safeguarding Officer within 24 hours and a decision needs to be made as to whether the concern warrants a referral to statutory authorities.
  • A confidential record will be made of the conversation and the circumstances surrounding it using the template F1. This record will be kept securely, and a copy passed to statutory authorities if a referral is made.
  • The person about whom the allegation is made must not be informed by anyone in the church or Synod if it is judged that to do so could place a child or adult at further risk. If the statutory authorities are involved, they should be consulted beforehand.
  • The Synod Safeguarding Officer should be kept informed of any serious concerns and referrals to police and statutory authorities.

Prior to any referral to children’s services, the child’s wishes and rights should be considered when determining what action to take. There should also be a verbal consultation with local authority’s children’s services to ensure that making a referral is an appropriate action. The parent/carer will normally be contacted to obtain their consent before a referral is made. However, if the concern involves, for example alleged or suspected child sexual abuse, domestic abuse, Honour Based Violence, fabricated or induced illness, or the Synod Safeguarding Officer has reason to believe that informing the parent at this stage might compromise the safety of the child or a staff member, nothing should be said to the parent/carer ahead of the referral, but a rationale for the decision to progress without consent should be provided with the referral.

In the case of referrals to adult social care or other services for adults at risk, information should be shared with consent if the adult has capacity within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act and if this does not place the referrer, them or others at an increased risk. A person’s right to confidentiality is not absolute and may be overridden where there is evidence that sharing information is necessary to support an investigation or where there is a risk to others.

If the allegation is regarding a Synod Staff, church staff, member or volunteer

If someone is alleged or known to harm/have harmed children or adults, it is essential to inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer so that they can offer advice and support.

For any concerns relating to children, the Designated Officer (previously known as LADO) will be contacted. The timing and method of any action to be taken will be discussed and agreed with the DO. This will cover communication with the worker, suspension, investigation and possible strategy meetings. A decision will be taken by the DO about when to inform the worker and the church will follow this advice. As noted, DO contact details, should be included in the Key Contacts section of this model policy.

For concerns relating to adults, Adult Social Care will be contacted. Likewise, their contacts details should be included in the Key Contacts section of this model policy.

In accordance with the law, a referral needs to be made to the DBS for consideration of barring to share information about any individual in regulated activity where for safeguarding reasons the organisation has either terminated the employment, failed to appoint, or would have terminated the employment had the individual not moved on through resignation, retirement or re-deployment. In such cases, the synod safeguarding officer needs to be advised/informed.

Depending on the seriousness of incidents or allegations, a report to the Charity Commission will also need to be considered at the elders/trustees’ meeting, as they deem such a referral to be a ‘serious incident’ and require notification.

Managing those who may pose a risk to the welfare of people

The use of rigorous and careful supervision is paramount to protect people from the risks associated with known offenders within the congregation, including implementing safeguarding contracts with known or alleged offenders and those who have been assessed as posing a risk. Where it is known that someone has a caution or conviction for committing a sexual offence, the Synod can play an important role in the prevention of further abuse by helping the offender to live an offence-free life.

If anyone is made aware that a person attending their church has been convicted of an offence against a child or has had an allegation of this nature made against them at any time, we immediately inform the Synod Safeguarding Officer and Minister or Interim Moderator.

It is important to provide known or alleged offenders with a group of people who will offer support, friendship and supervision. Following advice from the Synod Safeguarding Officer, when appropriate, a formal safeguarding agreement will be drawn up between the church, the person who is considered to pose a risk to the welfare of people in the church, and any statutory agencies when involved.


Safeguarding training will be provided to staff members and volunteers (Workers) by the Synod and volunteers and paid staff will be given support to manage safeguarding concerns. The Church Safeguarding Coordinator(s) should ensure that trustees/elders and people involved in regulated activities with children or adults (including Ministers, staff and volunteers) have undergone safeguarding training, as recommended by the URC.

Thames North Synod will offer and publicise safeguarding training opportunities to those in local churches who work with children or adults around the Synod, encouraging them to undertake safeguarding training every 3 years. Church Safeguarding Coordinators, Volunteers and Ministers will be offered training and encouraged to attend at least every 3 years in line with the URC Safeguarding Training Framework.

Concerns, Complaints and Compliments

Should anyone have any concerns, complaints or compliments please contact:

Name: Colleen Fraser
Telephone: 020 7799 5000 (option 1)
Email: [email protected]

Should anyone have any concerns or complaints about safeguarding in Thames North Synod please contact the Synod Moderator:

Name: Revd. George Watt
Telephone: 07596 954 503
Email: [email protected]

If would be helpful to have complaints in writing, as this avoids any possible misunderstanding about what the issue is. However, whether verbal or in writing, complaints will be acted upon.

Any written complaint will be responded to within 10 days.

Key Contacts: Sources of advice and support

The Synod Safeguarding Coordinator is the person to whom all concerns or allegations relating to children, young people or adults should be addressed:

Name: Belinda Herbert
Telephone: 07716 640 596
Email: [email protected]

The URC Safeguarding Office (This should only be used if you are unable to contact your Synod Safeguarding Officer)

Name: Sharon Barr
Telephone: 07776 178 246
Email: [email protected]

The Designated Officer (DO) in the Local Authority area concerned.

The local MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) or Children’s Social Care Department in the Local Authority area concerned.

The local Adult Social Care Department, Local Authority area concerned.

NOTE: A list of useful contacts for children and adults can be found in resource L1 of the Good Practice guidance.


This policy should be reviewed by Synod Executive (as Synod Trustees) annually, amending and updating it as required in the light of such changes as: Synod safeguarding personnel and contact details; changes to URC Good Practice guidance; changes to statutory safeguarding requirements; changes to procedure arising from review of safeguarding cases.

It should also be re-adopted by Synod annually.

Date of the most recent review: 11th May 2024
Date of the next review: 11th May 2025
Signed: Thames North Synod Executive.

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