Each month, the safeguarding experts at thirtyone:eight help us to keep those in our care safe, as well as our policies and procedures sound.
If you’re a church family or youth worker, you’ll know the challenge of finding a suitable venue to host your activities – whether that’s a summer barbecue for the youth group, a youth Alpha or Bible study course, or a home group for young people.
If someone has a home or garden big enough, it might seem like a helpful solution. But there are risks.
The National Youth Agency (NYA) recently launched a consultation on their latest guidance (applicable in England only) about the use of private dwellings in youth and children’s work.
The latest guidance recommends against hosting children and youth groups in private dwellings. Yet, hospitality is one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith and inviting young people into a welcoming space where they feel like they can belong is important.
Youth work supports some of the most vulnerable young people in society, helping them find safety, care and an understanding space. However, there’s still plenty you can do to engage with young people in a way that keeps their safety and well-being at the forefront.
Any regulated activity with children and young people should ideally take place in a neutral / public space or venue as far as possible. This should be seen as a starting point in finding a suitable location for your children’s or youth activities.
Several safeguarding risks are heightened if you host a youth group in someone’s home or private garden. Professional boundaries are not only important to keep for the safety of the young people in leaders’ care, but also for individual leaders’ reputations and the integrity and reputation of the organisation and faith community and the services they provide. More recently, similar lessons have been highlighted by the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
As with any activity, conducting a risk assessment before you begin can help you think through and mitigate any risks that may arise.
Hosting a youth group in a private dwelling space for youth work should be considered only as an exception as opposed to as a rule. Beyond the usual considerations such as safer recruitment and the training and management of workers and helpers, you’ll need to think about whether your home has sufficient space, facilities and separation to host the activity safely, with limited contact with other members of the household.
Ensure young people are aware of areas they can’t enter in that space and the toilet facility they can use. Make drop-off and pick-up times clear to ensure workers are not left alone with young people.
Let your insurance providers know and check that they’re satisfied with the arrangements and will cover the activity. It’s advisable to contact both the organisation’s and home’s providers to ensure coverage.
You’ll also want to ensure that other adults and children present in the house but not involved in the activity are not mixing with the group, and that you have appropriate consent from parents and carers.
Finally, remember that in everything you do to create safer places for vulnerable groups in your care, you’re reflecting and embodying the very heart of a just and loving God.