Most parents want to protect their children, ensuring they thrive in safe environments. For many families, this extends beyond their homes and into the various clubs and church communities where their children participate. Whilst these places may offer growth, friendship, or spiritual development, parents need to be aware that safeguarding practices may differ from one context to another. For example, in schools safeguarding is taken extremely seriously. There are a number of clear policies and practices that most parents could identify as good safeguarding in school. But schools are regulated very differently to sports clubs, church youth groups, or specialist contexts such as the Scouts or Cadets. While recent changes to the ‘Positions of Trust’ law are a welcome amendment, (expanding the umbrella of positions of trust to include sports coaches and faith leaders), we cannot assume the safeguarding arrangements of these organisations. As parents, it is up to us to ensure our children will be protected. This means feeling equipped and empowered to ask the right questions and know what to do if you have concerns.

In this article, we’ll explore what safeguarding means in a club or group context, why it matters, and what questions parents can ask to ensure their children’s safety and well-being.

What is safeguarding?

If we don’t understand what safeguarding is, we can’t ensure it is being done well. Simply put, safeguarding is creating an environment and culture where people can feel, and be, safe. Safeguarding, whether in a Christian or secular context goes hand in hand with the teachings of Jesus, who emphasised the importance of caring for the vulnerable and protecting the innocent. It encompasses not only physical safety but also emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being.

Can I see your safeguarding policy?

One of the first questions parents should ask when enrolling their children in a club or church group is about the safeguarding policies and procedures in place. Does the organisation conduct thorough background checks for staff and volunteers? Are there clear guidelines for reporting concerns or incidents related to child safety? Understanding these policies provides parents with assurance that their children are in an environment where their safety is prioritised.

What training have you completed?

Equally important is the level of training provided to staff and volunteers regarding safeguarding issues. Are they equipped to recognise signs of abuse or neglect? Do they understand the appropriate steps to take if a child discloses something concerning? By investing in ongoing training and awareness, these communities can ensure that everyone involved in caring for children is knowledgeable and aware.

How many adults work or volunteer here?

A crucial aspect of safeguarding is the level of supervision provided during activities and events involving children. Parents should inquire about the adult-to-child ratios and the measures in place to ensure adequate supervision at all times. Creating a safe space means not only having enough adults present but also ensuring they are attentive and actively engaged in overseeing the well-being of the children in their care.

How and what do you communicate to parents?

Open and transparent communication is vital in safeguarding children effectively. Parents should know how they will be informed about their child’s participation in club or church activities and any incidents or concerns that arise. Establishing clear channels of communication builds trust and ensures that parents are kept informed and involved in their child’s experiences within that community.

Do you have a Safeguarding Lead?

Many clubs or churches designate a safeguarding lead responsible for overseeing the implementation of safeguarding practices. This individual plays a crucial role in ensuring that policies are followed effectively and that any safeguarding concerns are addressed promptly and appropriately. Parents should familiarise themselves with this person and feel comfortable reaching out to them with any questions or concerns they may have.

Can I express my concerns and will I be listened to?

Experienced and mature leadership, whether in church or the community should value both transparency and accountability. Parents should feel empowered to ask questions and express any concerns they may have regarding safeguarding practices, trusting they have been heard and action will be taken. A culture of openness and accountability fosters trust and collaboration, ensuring that everyone is working together to create a safe place for children.

What are you going to do differently?

Groups, clubs and churches should be committed to ongoing review and improvement of their safeguarding policies and procedures. This includes regularly assessing and updating practices to ensure they remain effective and responsive to the evolving needs of the community. By prioritising continuous improvement, organisations demonstrate their dedication to the safety and well-being of all who enter their doors.

Where do I go for help?

Finally, if you have concerns about your child’s safety or well-being you have the following options:

  • · If the child is in immediate danger – call 999.
  • · If the danger is not immediate, speak to the designated safeguarding lead. The safeguarding lead should immediately implement the safeguarding policy procedures.
  • · If you have further concerns, you can speak to the child protection service of your local authority.
  • · For more advice on reporting concerns, or on any issues of safeguarding children you can also call the Thirtyone:eight helpline on 0303 003 1111.

As parents, it is our job to ensure our children can feel, and be, safe in the places they spend their time. Part of fulfilling this responsibility involves ensuring that our children are protected in their participation in clubs and church communities. You have the right to ask questions and be kept informed about safeguarding practices, so don’t be afraid to ask. Together we can work with our communities to create environments where children can have fun, flourish and grow.