Uncomfortable as this subject may be, protecting the vulnerable in our congregations is a priority, says Lynn Rees, Safeguarding Support Officer
EACH year, data is published in the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Annual Report, which includes the number of registered sex offenders who are required to register with the police.
A sex offender is an individual who has been convicted or cautioned for a sexual offence committed against an adult or a child.
Convictions for certain offences include a requirement for the offender to provide the police annually with information including their name, address and date of birth, giving rise to the term “Sex Offenders Register.”
In the MAPPA report for 2015-16, published in October 2016, there was a total of 52,770 registered sex offenders in England and Wales – a substantial increase from the 30,416 in 2006/07, and equates to 1 in every 1,000 people in England and Wales being currently required to register.
It is recognised that a significant number of sex offenders living in the community will attend church. The Church, as an organisation, is unique in that opens its doors to everyone and the Gospel message can be instrumental in
offenders turning their lives around.
However, the Church in Wales (CiW) has a duty of care to ensure the safety of all in our worshipping communities, especially those who are vulnerable, including children and adults at risk.
Section 17 of the CiW Safeguarding Policy focusses on “Working with suspected abusers and known offenders.’ The Provincial Safeguarding Officer works closely with the police, probation, and other authorities in managing the risk posed by any known offenders, however it is essential that they are notified of any new offenders in the congregation.
The Safeguarding Officer will put into place a Worship Agreement with the offender, setting out conditions such as only attending specified services, not to sit with families nor interact with children and not to take up any formal role
or position in the church.
Knowledge of a sex offender being part of a congregation can evoke a range of emotions and feelings, and information regarding an offender will only be shared
on a need to know basis. While offenders may seek repentance and forgiveness, and faith based initiatives such as ‘Circles of Support and Accountability’, have been successful in reducing reoffending; the overriding priority for the CiW is to work with statutory agencies to manage the risk posed by any offenders, and put into place conditions to achieve this objective
This article first appeared in the June 2017 edition of Pobl Dewi