The Good News
Helping our neighbours
Churches are an intrinsic part of the local community, providing support, offering friendship and serving its needs and helping build bridges and encouraging working together.
They also play a role in the wider community of the Diocesan family, the county, region and often in both national and international arenas, through the highlighting of issues or the responding to consultations.
In this section of the website, you can find out more information about what the church is striving to do to help its neighbours, including vulnerable people and those who are living in poverty, and the work of the care groups.
There’s also information on rural and urban ministry and resources for those working in these areas.
Our neighbours aren’t just those who live next door, but people at our local church or village, people living in the Diocese, and globally, those living in other countries.
The Church can do much to promote the well-being of older or vulnerable people, by encouraging integration within their congregations. The Diocesan Manual considers both the prevention of abuse and activities that may promote wellbeing.
There’s also a need for Christians to be aware of widespread discrimination against people with disabilities; removing such discrimination is a first step in the prevention of harm. Such harm can occur in our own families or to people we know, or visit. It’s vital to know what to do if we have concerns.
We also need to respond appropriately if abuse occurs within the church community, when those in ministries of various kinds abuse or act inappropriately towards adults they are ministering to. (Please see disability section for specific information.)
An increase in awareness of the needs of vulnerable adults should enable Christians to recognise and speak out about harm wherever it’s encountered, and to take positive steps to prevent abuse and promote wellbeing.
The House of Bishops 'Providing a Safe Church' (a Policy for Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults) document outlines policies and procedures for making church a safe place for vulnerable adults, and the responsibilities for managing situations where things go wrong. The Diocesan Manual has information on the prevention of abuse, and considers activities that may promote well-being.
The church has perhaps two key roles in the area of safeguarding vulnerable adults. Firstly, it is imperative that we take all possible steps to ensure that vulnerable adults do not experience abuse through their involvement with the church. We must pay regard to our recruitment and selection procedures, ensure appropriate training is provided and work to accepted best practice guidelines.
Secondly, for some vulnerable adults, the church and church people may be the only independent people they know who care for their wellbeing. It is essential that we’re aware of the abuses people may experience in their own homes - from family, friends or carers - or in residential care: to know the signs to look out for, and to know what to do about it.
Within the Diocese we issue guidance material to all parishes, and also provide training events for those working with vulnerable adults. These include consideration of the forms, signs and symptoms of abuse, and some thoughts and best practice in working with vulnerable adults.
In November 2006, the Diocesan Synod accepted a Vulnerable Adults Protection policy for the Diocese.
For more information on training days or to discuss any issues please contact Jane Fisher in the Safeguarding Department on 01962 737318.
As Christians we believe that all people are created in the image of God, are completely known and totally loved by God; that God sent His Son to die, so that each and every one of us may be restored to relationship and fellowship with Him. It is God’s plan and intention that everyone has the opportunity to: have life, and have it to the full. (Jn 10v10)
We have family services, youth services, youth groups, and Sunday School, youth worship group and youth choir. It is, of course, right that we should be encouraging young people in their faith journey – but this cannot be to the exclusion of older people and vulnerable adults. Our ministry must reflect ‘both/and’ not ‘either/or’.
Isaiah 46 v 4 – Gods promise of care and sustaining in old age.
1 Timothy 5 Paul gives Timothy a list of instructions about treating those who may, for various reasons, be deemed vulnerable.
1 Cor 12 Special care for those who may be weaker.
People from the church may be the only ‘independent’ people some vulnerable adults have contact with. Church workers see people in a range of situations – home, residential care, church, other activities. We need to be aware and alert to the possibility of abuse and know what to do about it.
What is abuse?
The following definitions of abuse are based on the guidance given in 'No Secrets':
“Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It may be physical, verbal or psychological, it may be an act of neglect or an omission to act, or it may occur when a vulnerable person is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it”.
The Centre for Policy on Ageing states: "Abuse is the harming of another individual usually by someone who is in a position of power, trust or authority over that individual. The harm may be physical, psychological or emotional or it may be directed at exploiting the vulnerability of the victim in more subtle ways (for example, through denying access to people who can come to the aid of the victim, or through misuse or misappropriation of his or her financial resources). The threat or use of punishment is also a form of abuse. Abuse may happen as a 'one-off' occurrence or it may become a regular feature of a relationship. Other people may be unaware that it is happening and for this reason it may be difficult to detect. In many cases, it is a criminal offence.” (Centre for Policy on Ageing, 1996).
Abuse may be perpetrated by an individual, or by a group of people. As with many other forms of abuse, it is about the misuse - the abuse - of power, trust, control and/or authority. It may be a criminal offence. Harassment, bullying, exploitation, victimisation, discrimination, are other forms of behaviour that should not be accepted within the life and ministry of the church.
Who is a vulnerable adult?
All adults can be vulnerable to mistreatment at different times in their life.
There are several documents and pieces of legislation which define ‘vulnerable adult’. However, within our work and ministry within the church we must be aware that there may be times when people are rendered vulnerable because of circumstances, and these are often the times when the church is in contact with them, but these may not fall strictly within the legal definition. We must bear them in mind to ensure best practice in all areas of our ministry and service.
‘Vulnerable adult’ means a person aged 18 and over who has a condition of the following type or is experiencing one of the following situations:
- a substantial learning or physical disability;
- a sensory, physical or mental illness or mental disorder, chronic or otherwise, including an addiction to alcohol or drugs;
- a significant reduction in physical or mental capacity;
- a dependency upon others in the performance of, or a requirement for assistance in the performance of basic physical functions;
- severe impairment in the ability to communicate with others;
- impairment in a person’s ability to protect him/herself from assault, abuse or neglect;
- failing faculties in old age;
- a reduction in physical, mental, or emotional capacity brought about by life events;
- any situation which reduces a person’s capacity to protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation;
- a person experiencing long term disability or deterioration in health, or caring for someone with physical difficulties;
- a recently bereaved person;
- someone coming to terms with life changing experiences – divorce, birth of a child, domestic abuse, retirement, loss of job, and so on.
The definition could include a wide range of people and does not make it easy for people in churches to identify areas where they may need to undertake special care or training. It could almost be taken to apply to anyone to whom clergy offer pastoral care, whether a regular attendee at their local church, or a person coming for one of the occasional offices or who simply wants pastoral support.
Types of abuse
Abuse may consist of single or repeated acts. A consensus has emerged, identifying the following main forms of abuse:
Physical Abuse – including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint, or inappropriate sanctions. It may be deliberate or accidental.
Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse covers a wide range of activity. It includes contact abuse: sexual assault or sexual acts, and non contact abuse: exposure to pornographic materials, being made to witness sexual acts, indecent exposure, sexual remarks and suggestions and encompasses sexual harassment.
Psychological Abuse – including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks. This is the most common form of abuse but can be the most difficult to recognise.
In a church context we need to be careful how we address spiritual issues, to ensure we do not abuse vulnerable people over spiritual matters.
Financial or Material Abuse – including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits. In all our dealings we must ensure that people are never made to think or fell that the services of the church are dependent upon or influenced by money or giving.
Neglect and Acts of Omission – including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
Discriminatory abuse - including racist, sexist, that based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.
Institutional Abuse - 'No Secrets' further refers to an umbrella category ‘Institutional Abuse’ where the abuse seen in an organisation providing care is repeated in a number of cases; the forms of abuse still falling into the previous six categories.
Spiritual abuse - churches need to be sensitive so that they do not, in their pastoral care, attempt to 'force' religious values or ideas onto people, particularly the vulnerable. Within faith communities harm can be caused by the inappropriate use of religious belief or practice.
Any or all of these types of abuse may be perpetrated as the result or deliberate intent and targeting of vulnerable people, negligence or ignorance.
Within the Church, we need to be vigilant to protect vulnerable adults from harm whilst they are attending worship or other meetings or activities or being visited by someone from the church. There is a specific range of issues that we need to be aware of within our buildings, as has already been indicated, to make sure they are safe and accessible. In addition we need to be sure that all those who are closely involved with vulnerable adults are behaving in safe and appropriate ways.
Abuse of vulnerable adults may be perpetrated by a wide range of people; it may be perpetrated by those working for or on behalf of the church.
Stranger abuse will warrant a different kind of response than the response to abuse within an ongoing relationship or care setting. Protection and support procedures may still be appropriate to ensure that the victim of the alleged abuse receives the support and services they require.
Prevention of abuse
Some of the key areas in which churches can ensure their practise with older and vulnerable people are by ensuring they work to accepted guidelines in areas such as:
- rigorous recruitment practices (including volunteers)
- code of conduct promoting good practice
Implementing a policy for vulnerable adults in a parish
It is recommended that each nominated person responsible for issues relating to the protection of older people vulnerable adults, and has a parish policy.
The PCC is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the management of the church; this includes the safety of all those who attend. They need to ensure that a policy is in place that reflects the need to safeguard vulnerable adults and that is being implemented and appropriately resourced. They need to find ways to communicate the policy to the whole church. Clergy, in particular, need to be aware of the pastoral needs of the vulnerable, their carers and those that work with them.
A sample policy is available from the Department of Safeguarding on 01962 737347.
Ministry with older people
We’re in a time when people live longer. Retired people lead full, active lives. Modern medicine prolonges life – sometimes resulting in increasing care needs, for a longer time.
How do we as church respond to this?
What place do older people have in church?
Do we recognise both our responsibility to and the opportunities and resource presented by older people?
At both ends of the age spectrum we may fall into a huge error in thinking young people are ‘the church of tomorrow’ and older people are ‘the church of yesterday’. As the world is valuing the ‘silver market’; the church needs to wake up to the ‘silver congregation’.
Age is not always seen as positive. There are high levels of anxiety about getting old, about health, mobility, access to facilities, routine care and attention. The media and marketing concentrate on the young, and images of what age might be are seldom encouraging. What is there to aspire to in age? What does the good life look like for those who do not have the opportunities – for financial, social or health reasons – to live as the marketing industry suggests you should? What does the marketing culture say about – and to – the elderly?
It is therefore not surprising if the prospect of age is unattractive to many. When Shakespeare’s King Lear mocks the attitude of his business-like daughters by admitting that ‘age is unnecessary’, he foreshadows the fear that surrounds this area: being old is seen as being dispensable. Prejudice or contempt for the elderly is not a modern issue, even if it has become culturally more prevalent.
Ageing may feel threatening; it has the likelihood of sickness and disability and most frightening of all, the loss of mental abilities. If this is combined with an unspoken assumption that the elderly are insignificant because they are not consumers, the image of ageing is bleak.
In contrast to a setting where age means freedom from having to justify your existence, age is often implicitly presented as a stage of life when you exist ‘on sufferance’. You are not actually pulling your weight; you are not an important enough bit of the market to be targeted in most advertising, except of a rather specialised and often rather patronising kind.
All too often, that goes for the church too. We talk of family services – but mean young families with small children; we talk of all-age worship, meaning worship that children and parents will enjoy. What does this say to older people?
It has been said that how we perceive age is a spiritual issue. How can we include older people, and ensure their dignity, value and worth, and help reduce some of the anxiety they feel? How can we nourish and build the relationship with older people in the community and congregation, on the assumption that we actually need our older citizens. The Bible presents a very different picture:
Acts 2 v 17 / Joel 2 v 28 – 32, God has a place in ministry for older people
The Bible has many references to older or vulnerable people and their treatment:
1 Timothy 5 Paul gives Timothy a list of instructions about treating those who may, for various reasons, be deemed vulnerable.
Isaiah 46 v 4 – God's promise of care and sustaining in old age.
More than 101,000 'households' are technically homeless, according to government statistics, and more than 1,800 people are sleeping rough on any one night (Office for the Deputy Prime Minister Website Dec 2004).
The causes of homelessness can be as varied as the amount of people homeless: financial problems, family break up, eviction from the family home, escape from some form of abuse, ex–offenders, and people seeking asylum are just a few.
Many just ‘slip through the net’ and cannot gain access to social housing because they do not fit the criteria. The ‘hidden homeless’ sleep on friends’ floors, in squats and charitable hostels such as the Winchester Churches Nightshelter, or in doorways and abandoned cars.
Many of these people remain trapped by homelessness. Jesus spoke of His presence in these people when he said ‘whatever you did for the least of these you did for me (Matthew 25:40).
We can help in many ways:
- find out where your nearest homeless shelter is, and offer to visit or donate food and good quality clothing that is surplus to requirements
- many homeless people have poor literacy and numeracy and really appreciate help in this area – especially help with forms/applications
- arrange a collection point for food at your church and/or workplace which can be donated to projects such as ‘Basics Banks’, which distribute food to homeless and impoverished people
- charities such as Crisis and Shelter help hundreds of thousands of people every year and really value financial donations as well as offers to help with campaigning. Church Action on Poverty is an ecumenical organisation which focuses on debt and poverty which can lead to homelessness.
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The Southampton Council of Faiths has issued the following statement:
Minstead holds special service to commemorate 716 Company Alms Dish
New era outlined by the newly elected Chair of Churches Together in Winchester
Prayers and liturgical material for 60th anniversary of Coronation of The Queen
Jersey Church safeguarding inquiry update
Churchwardens admitted by Bishop at celebratory service
Slight growth in Diocese as national statistics published.
5% set to rise to 20% - ACT NOW
The Churches of Nursling and Rownhams have achieved their Diocesan Environmental Gold Award
The Very Reverend Robert Key, the Dean of Jersey, has today apologised