Down and Connor Working Group on New NBSCCCI Seven Standards

Down and Connor Diocesan Working Group on the NBSCCCI Seven Standards

In March 2016, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland launched their revised Safeguarding Policy and Standards Document.( This was a replacement for the original standards document launched back in 2008. These new standards would set the direction of travel for safeguarding across the Island of Ireland for the coming years. They would also be the measuring tools against which safeguarding practices in Dioceses and Religious Congregations across Ireland would be measured.

Accompanying the new standards, the National Board also produced a substantive set of ‘optional guidance’ to assist dioceses and religious congregations to consider how best they might demonstrate and evidence the implementation of the new 7 standards.

The 7 integrated standards, collectively map out what needs to be in place to effectively safeguard children against harm and to promote their safety and well being within our parish communities. With the new standards issued, the aim is now to consider how best we can integrate the 7 standards into the work which the Church already has put in place over the last 13 years, in its strives to protect children and young people.

When faced with the challenge of updating our current practices in line with the new requirements, the Safeguarding Committee in Down and Connor suggested that the Safeguarding Office set to work to establish 7 ‘task and finish working groups’.

Each group, would take one of the 7 standards and ‘scope’ the work that the diocese was currently undertaking against the new indicators of compliance.

With 7 standards, 33 indicators, 60 ways of evidencing practice and 300 pages of guidance, this seemed like a mammoth task. Nonetheless, the exercise needed to be undertaken.

This was an opportunity to step back and examine what we have in place against what we are now being asked to consider to put in place in order to enhance our safeguarding practices.

To achieve this, the Safeguarding Office sought the help and support of a number of laity, professional staff, volunteers and clergy to join the newly formed task and finish groups. In total we had approx. 40 volunteers offering to assist with this task.

The groups were formally established at the beginning of July 2016, one month after the guidance was launched. It took to February 2017 to complete the task of examining all of our existing policies and procedures for safeguarding children against the new guidance.

The findings of all 7 groups were collated by the staff at the safeguarding office and amalgamated into the diocesan safeguarding three year strategic plan. This is currently in draft form awaiting final approval from the safeguarding committee and the diocese. Once completed it will be uploaded onto the safeguarding website.

In acknowledgement of the vast amount of work undertaken by the task and finish groups, Bishop Treanor hosted an information morning on Tuesday the 28 February. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together all involved in this work, to share the key outcomes and explore the direction of travel for safeguarding over the short to medium term within the diocese of Down and Connor.

It was an informative and productive morning, enabling all present to discuss and agree the priorities ahead for safeguarding.

Some of the key areas for development included:

  • Developing a ‘shared’ diocesan pastoral strategy for those who have been affected by trauma within our communities. It was commented upon by those clergy present that this key suggestion should be taken forward as a matter of priority.
  • Updating of our existing child protection policies and procedures. The main thrust of which will be to keep the finished product streamlined and focused on the needs of parishes who will be tasked to implement it.
  • Establishing a new Parish Resource Pack. This will be the tool to assist our Parish Safeguarding Committees to carry out their role and function.
  • Revising our existing Parish Self Audit Tool. The new tool will incorporate the recommendations contained in the independent report undertaken by Maria Maguire 2015/2016 and the helpful suggestions offered by parish volunteers during the audit process.
  • Redesigning of child protection training materials for delivery to clergy and volunteers. To meet this need the diocese recently agreed to fund 9 diocesan trainers to be re-trained by the NBSCCCI. Once the course is completed, hopefully by June 2017, the trainers will be delivering the new training materials to all clergy and group leaders. A new 90 min program will be rolled out to all remaining volunteers who minister to children and young people and will replace our existing Parish Information Sessions.

There is no doubt that safeguarding practices and the demands placed on all volunteers, staff and clergy is ever changing. There are always new challenges ahead, new ways of working and new ideas as to how we can achieve better safeguarding practice. Whilst the work can be demanding, we can never be complacent and think that it is complete.