Volunteer Support across the Diocese

Over the years the Diocese has been fortunate enough to have had a significant number of trained parish volunteers who have willingly and generously given their time and experience to help build robust safeguarding structures throughout the Diocese. At parish level there are two sets of committees who help deliver and maintain safeguarding practices, ourParish SafeguardingCommittees and our Vicariate Safeguarding Facilitators. A total of 500 parish volunteers support these two Diocesan structures. Other volunteer support is provided by the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee and the Advisory Panel.

ParishSafeguarding Committees (PSCs)

In order to ensure that the key safeguarding messages and best practice in child protection and safeguarding vulnerable adults are in place at parish level, PSCs were created throughout all of our 88 diocesan parishes. The main role of these newly created PSCs (between 5-8 members) was to identify who in the parish works alongside children, young people and vulnerable adults and which of our volunteers require to be both vetted and trained. The Diocese has made a strong commitment to support parish volunteers in their work by offering training and the development of best practice guidelines. Keeping volunteers safe and up to date with best practice, keeps children and young people, and vulnerable adults, safe in their parish activities. In total some 480 volunteers make up our strong 82 PSCs. These committees have clearly defined roles and functions and receive advice guidance and support to carry out their vital role.

Vicariate Safeguarding Facilitators (VSFs)

A new addition to the diocesan safeguarding structure is the restructuring of the VST Teams and the creation of Vicariate Safeguarding Facilitators. As of 1 May 2014 our Vicariate Support Teams have been dismantled and we now have a pool of VSFs who will facilitate sessions across the diocese. This decision was based on a number of things, including a reduction in the number of people within the diocese requiring training and the availability of VSFs to deliver one or both Sessions, interms of their knowledge, skill and expertise.

Again these are parish volunteers who willingly give their time to facilitate Sessions,  (the Parish Information Session- aimed at those clergy, staff and volunteers who work closely with children and the new programme, Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Information Session- aimed at those clergy, staff and volunteers who work closely with vulnerable adults). VSFs have a range of experience and expertise in Child Protection and working with vulnerable adults, and have been trained to deliver both information Sessions

The Safeguarding Office now hold bi-annual Joint Vicariate Safeguarding Support Meetings, involving VFs, VSFs PSC Chairs and these are chaired by the Safeguarding Office Training and development consultant. At these meetings a number of key areas are addressed, the training needs of parishes are identified and training events for the following 6 months are planned and agreed.

Each of the sessions is 2½ hours in duration and the aim is to raise awareness, in participants, and designed to share with them the key messages from the Diocese of Down and Connor Child Protection Policy and Procedures, 2008, and the Policy and Procedures for Clergy, Staff and Volunteers in Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults in the Diocese of Down and Connor, 2012, respectively.

It is important to recognise that the Diocese of Down and Connor safeguarding parish structures comprise of some 500 volunteers who themselves are vetted and trained. These dedicated volunteers maintain a unique and robust safeguarding structure designed to ensure that best practice is driven and maintained at parish level where children and young people participate in parish activities.