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Lockdowns have hindered safeguarding in churches, research suggests

25 June 2021

Alamy

A safeguarding leaflet pinned to a noticeboard outside Wimborne St Giles, Dorset

A safeguarding leaflet pinned to a noticeboard outside Wimborne St Giles, Dorset

LOCKDOWNS have widely affected safeguarding in churches and charities, new research suggests.

Research carried out by the University of Chester for the independent Christian safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight found that more than two-thirds of people involved in safeguarding said that their ability to carry out their job had been affected by the repeated lockdowns.

Sixty-nine per cent of the 199 participants said that Covid-19 had made an impact on safeguarding in their organisation, and 70 per cent reported that it had made an impact, or changed how they conducted their safeguarding duties.

Concerns expressed by safeguarding leads in churches included the lack of face-to-face contact with people to identify signs of abuse and also to listen to disclosures of abuse.

The switch to online meetings had also affected the ability to hear concerns or identify possible abuse, participants said. The rapid move to online church and other church events also worried many of those who took part, who raised concerns about the risks of online engagement.

The survey was a part of research into experiences of safeguarding leads in their positions in faith contexts in the UK before, during, and after Covid-19.

The study was carried out over two months this year.

Researchers identified three themes for further attention, including the mental-health impact of lockdown, and how this might relate to safeguarding; hidden harms and the potential for an increase in disclosures as people emerge from lockdown; and the long-term implications for safeguarding of “hybrid” — online and offline — church.

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