Exchange Church Shepparton Inc

Safe Church Policy

Safe Church Commitment

 

Background & Governance

This policy outlines the underlying principles that direct our approach to safeguarding children and vulnerable people involved with Exchange Church It applies to all staff, leaders, pastors, coordinators, volunteers, trainees and anyone working on behalf of Exchange Church (“Relevant Leaders”). The Board of Exchange Church take responsibility for ensuring these principles are reviewed regularly and embedded in the organisation culture at all levels.[1] [2]

This policy and supporting systems factor into consideration the size, scope and scale of operations of the Church and the limit of exposure to children and vulnerable people.

Exchange is a relatively small/medium sized church, currently some 130 people call exchange home and our children’s church has some 30 to 40 children registered. The exposure to children is for a short time each Sunday morning during our Kids’ Church program. Procedures are in place to ensure that children are protected and safeguarded during these times. Other Church activities such as small groups and camps are open to family groups and generally do not have children and vulnerable people in the responsible care of the Church.

1. Commitment to Safeguard Children and Vulnerable People

We are committed to the Biblical call to care for children and vulnerable people by actively preventing harm and abuse, and by seeking to provide safe programs.[3] We are also responsible and accountable fulfilling our obligations under State and Federal law to protect children and vulnerable people.

We are committed to ensuring that children and vulnerable people (including, families, the disabled and elderly) are informed and involved in decisions that considerably affect them. We recognise the diverse needs of children and vulnerable people should be taken into account and that their concerns be taken seriously.[4] We are committed to embedding this care into all levels of our Leadership and culture.

2. Commitment to Screening and Training Relevant Leaders

We are committed to ensuring all Relevant Leaders are screened, appropriately supported and trained through the process outlined below.[5]

  1. All Relevant Leaders must be regular participants at Exchange Church. They will have their potential roles and responsibilities clearly outlined for them as they start their role,
  2. All Relevant Leaders must provide referees who can confirm the proposed is suitable to work with children and vulnerable people and that there is no reason the proposed Leader should not be appointed in such a role,
  3. All Relevant Leaders must complete an Ansvar approved Safe Ministry Training Course (SafeMinistryTraining.com.au) which outlines appropriate behaviour including how to minimise the chances of harm and abuse, as well as training in how to identify and report cases of abuse,
  4. Relevant Leaders will have committed to the Leader’s Code of Conduct and behave as followers of Jesus and be willing to be held accountable for their behaviour, and
  5. If a Relevant Leaders is working with children & youth, they must have their State “Working with Children Check” or “Victorian Institute of Teaching” status verified.

Only people with current WWC or VIT are eligible to work within children’s or youth ministry.

3. Commitment to Providing Safe and Accessible Programs

We are committed to ensuring that our programs and events are safe and appropriate for those attending. Careful consideration must be given to the activities chosen, the venue, safe ratios of supervision, appropriate toileting practices, transportation, work health and safety, parental or guardian permission and confidentiality of records kept.

To help maintain appropriate standards, we will give all relevant Leaders access to ongoing training and adequate supervision in their roles and responsibilities.

4. Commitment to Appropriately Respond to Concerns and Complaints

We are committed to creating a culture where people feel safe to speak out about inappropriate behaviour without fear of being rejected or ridiculed. We are committed to listening and responding appropriately to concerns and complaints about behaviour and safety at Exchange Church. Throughout this process we are committed to protecting the confidentiality, dignity, health and well-being of all individuals involved. Any child-related issues will be managed with a focus on the interest of the child and will be reported to the relevant State Child Protection body.[6]

All reports will be managed by the Safe Ministry Supervisors.

Safe Ministry Supervisors:

  • Doug Andrews, Safe Ministry Leader
  • Todd Hall, Lead Pastor
  • Tom Briggs, EC Board Member
  • Hannah Gibbs, Children’s Church Leader

The Safe Ministry Supervisors will follow a Safe Ministry Issue Management Process.[7] This includes reporting any criminal activity to Police, and the possibility of reporting allegations of abuse to the State Ombudsman and the insurer of Exchange Church. In certain incidents (as outlined in the Issue Management Process) the Safe Ministry Supervisors have appointed an Independent Ministry Investigator to investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Independent Ministry Investigator

Robert Hough (ex-Church of Christ Minister) 0408 374 823

5. Commitment to Victoria’s Child Safe Standards

We are committed to complying with all aspects of the eleven child safe standards that commence 1 July 2022.

  1.  Standard 1

All children are valued regardless of cultural background. Exchange Church actively supports and facilitates participation and inclusion of all children from all cultures including Aboriginal children, young people and their families in a culturally safe and inclusive environment.

  1. Standard 2

Exchange Church continues to meet the requirement of this Standard through its public commitment, culture, governance arrangements, code of conduct and risk-management strategies of this policy.

  1. Standard 3

Children are encouraged, at an age-related level, to express their views and to participate and provide input regarding their rights, safety and decision making.

  1. Standard 4

The family unit is a highly valued, foundational component of Christian living. Families are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.

  1. Standard 5

The diverse nature of all people is acknowledged within this policy. Equity, as defined by this Standard is a valued Christian tenet. All people, from all walks of life, are welcomed and valued at Exchange Church.

  1. Standard 6

A screening process, background checking including references and verification of Working with Children Checks is detailed in clause 2 of this Policy.

  1. Standard 7

Clause 4 of this Policy adequately satisfies the requirement of this Standard

  1. Standard 8

Clause 4 of this Policy adequately satisfies the requirement of this Standard.

  1. Standard 9

No on-line environment exits to which children are exposed. The risks to child safety in the physical environment have been assessed and minimised.

  1. Standard 10

Regular reviews of this policy and supporting procedure are conducted. All leaders and volunteers meet with representatives of the Eldership on a regular basis to discuss continuous improvement. Reports on any findings of relevant reviews are conveyed to all leaders, volunteers, families and children.

  1. Standard 11

Policy, procedures, environment and culture are under constant examination to ensure that

  • Policies and procedures address all Child Safe Standards.
  • Policies and procedures are documented and easy to understand.
  • Best practice models and stakeholder consultation informs the development of policies and procedures.
  • Leaders champion and model compliance with policies and procedures.
  • Leaders and volunteers understand and implement policies and procedures.

.

Leader Commitment (Code of Conduct)

Personal Leader Commitment

  1. I commit to conducting myself in a manner consistent with the Safe Ministry Training “Leadership Training Course” when serving at Exchange Church;
    1. I will treat adults, children and young people with respect and value, without favouritism.
    2. I will behave appropriately, being faithful to my appointed tasks, being an example to others, and being careful in how I physically interact with others.
    3. I will never use physical punishment or abusive language – even as a form of discipline.
    4. I will act transparently, as far as possible, ensuring that another adult is present or within eyesight when I am with a child or vulnerable person.
  2. I commit to ensuring that the spaces and activities I’m responsible for are safe and do not put people at risk of significant harm.
  3. I commit to including children and vulnerable people (and/or their carers/significant other) in discussions about decisions that will significantly affect them.
  4. I commit to encouraging openness by listening to people’s concerns with a willingness to support them and help them.
  5. I commit to reporting any concerns or suspicions about harmful behaviours and significant risks to the Safe Ministry Contacts without bias or partiality.
  6. I will submit to the leader screening process to ensure I’m a suitable person to work with vulnerable people.
  7. I will submit to disciplinary steps if I am found to violate these commitments or act in an otherwise inappropriate or illegal manner at Exchange Church.

 

Issue Management Process

 

Any allegations must be reported, within 3 business days, to the Victoria Reportable Conduct Scheme Commission.

Within 30 days the Commission must be provided with detailed information about the reportable allegation and any action take.

The Commission must be advised of the investigation findings and any disciplinary action taken.

If there are reasonable grounds to suspect a child has been or is suffering abuse, the Senior Pastor, nominated representative, police, and the church’s insurer will be contacted immediately.

 

Reasonable grounds can be assumed when:

  1. A child discloses that he or she has been abused, and/or
  2. Someone close to a child (e.g. sibling, relative, close friend) discloses on behalf of that child, and/or
  3. Formed the belief that symptoms give concern for abuse (e.g. bruising or other physical signs)

The police will also be notified if a child discloses an incident of abuse that has occurred somewhere other than the church (e.g. home or school).

If a disclosure of abuse is made, the person who receives the disclosure will maintain appropriate pastoral care to the one making the disclosure.  This will include:

  • Treating each allegation seriously and not attempting to deny the allegation or minimise its impact on the alleged victim. The matter should not be swept under the carpet.
  • Not pushing the child to disclose details of the alleged assault or attempting to investigate the allegation.
  • Assuring the child that they are understood: that their disclosure is being taken seriously; that what has happened is not their fault, and that they are correct in disclosing the incide
  • Reporting the abuse to the Senior Pastor, nominated representative, Police and the Church’s insurer.
  • Not making contact with the alleged perpetrator. If the leader is already providing counsel to the alleged perpetrator, it may be advisable for another person to assume this responsibility for the duration of any investigatio
  • If the alleged assault has taken place recently, clothing worn by the child should be retained and handed to the police for forensic examination.
  • Maintaining confidentiality.

 

Any disclosures by a child, reports of suspected abuse and all details of the subsequent investigation will be documented promptly and the documents will be held in a secure location where a breach of privacy cannot occur.

The Church reserves the right to carry out church disciplinary procedures in accordance with the constitution of the Church.

Where an allegation is made the accused Leader will be removed from all children’s ministry pending the outcome of all investigations.

Date Instituted by the Board:            13 June 2022

Date of Last Review by the Board:    11 September 2023

 

 

 

[1] This policy is in accordance with the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 No 157

[2] As per Point 1 of the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations

[3] Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Matthew 18:1-6; Mark 10:13-16

[4] As per Points 2, 3 & 4 of the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations

[5] As per Point 5, 7 & 8 of the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations

[6] As per Point 6 of the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations

[7] As per Point 10 of the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations