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Policy for the Protection of Vulnerable People

The following policy and procedures are in place to ensure that the PCC meets its obligations to safeguard vulnerable people who attend anything which takes place in the name of our church, whether or not on church premises.

St Mary’s Church Shirehampton is committed to working within the Principles of the House of Bishop’s Policy for Safeguarding (contained within 'Protecting All God's Children 2010'), the requirements of Working Together 2015, and the Care Act 2014.


Vulnerable people refers to all those adults (over 18) who have a physical disability, suffering from mental illness, have a learning disability or who, through illness or injury, are unable to provide adequately for themselves at that point

Risks to them refers to any situation or behaviour by an individual or others which presents a real or potential threat or harm to a person’s health, safety or well being.

These policies and procedures also relate to staff and volunteers on whom someone described above is significantly dependant for their care and who may be at risk as a result of that person’s behaviour or action.



  • To offer vulnerable people opportunities within church to have a lifestyle which maintains personal independence, safeguards privacy, offers genuine and informed choices, provides opportunities to enjoy and contribute to our mission and enables them to have their social, cultural and individual needs met. They also have the right to protection from harm or exploitation.

  • To work with anyone who has suffered abuse, developing with him or her an appropriate ministry of informed pastoral care.

  • To offer a climate within which vulnerable people are able to make reasonable, informed and calculated decisions involving risk taking and safety.

  • To offer vulnerable people relevant support to seek appropriate advice   


          - They are unable to provide adequate care for themselves

          - They are unable to obtain care necessary for their needs

          - They are unable to make reasonable decisions because of their state of       

             mental health

          - They are living in insanitary/unsafe accommodation or are homeless         

             and to seek support and advice for our church community where

          - Their behaviour is such that it presents a real or potential threat of harm to their own health, safety or well being or to that of              others.

The objectives of the work of St Mary’s Shirehampton with vulnerable people are to help them to develop into a mature Christian faith through the building of safe relationships with other people, in a safe environment.

We need to make sure that vulnerable people are kept safe by ensuring that we accept the prime duty of care placed upon the clergy and the PCC and that:

  • We will respond without delay to any complaint made which suggests that a person may have been harmed, co-operating with the police and local authority in any investigation.

  • We have a named Officer for Vulnerable People who will take responsibility for policy and procedures and ensure that any concerns are appropriately reported.  This person will also take the role of vulnerable people’s advocate.

  • The building is as safe as possible.  The Health & Safety Officer, the Priest-in-Charge and the PCC will consider the risks of accident which may be present and when accidents do happen lessons will always be learned and the same risks do not occur again. 

  • All those authorized to work with vulnerable people or likely to be alone with them and all in                 

      positions of authority are recruited in line with St Mary’s policy for safer recruitment, appropriately trained using the current                diocesan training plan and supported to deal with any issues of abuse or disclosure which may occur.

  • All those people in the above categories are properly checked through references and the DBS process.

  • Any organizations and individuals who use church premises are aware of our policy to keep vulnerable people safe from harm.  Particular attention will be paid to organizations which are not otherwise vetted.

  • We create a culture of informed vigilance which takes vulnerable people seriously.

  • We will challenge any abuse of power, especially anyone in a position of trust.

  • Anyone known to us as likely to pose a threat or is known to have offended against a vulnerable person is effectively managed through pastoral care and support, including supervision and referral to the proper authorities and monitored, with an up to date contract in place.

  • Appropriate health and safety policies and procedures are in place.

  • Appropriate insurance cover is in place and risk assessments undertaken for any activities carried out in the name of the parish.

  • We pay particular attention to adults with special needs and from ethnic minorities to ensure their full integration and protection within the church community.

  • The clergy and PCC review the implementation of the vulnerable people policy, procedures and good practice, at least annually.

  • Everyone will know who the officer is, so that if anyone has a concern they will approach that person to discuss their concerns in confidence. This role is currently part of the duty of the Parish Safeguarding Officer.

  • A person’s right to confidentiality is respected and only people who ‘need to know’ have details of any abuse to a vulnerable person.

If anyone has to use physical restraint on a vulnerable person in order to ensure their safety or the safety of others, this must be reported to the Vulnerable People’s Officer or Priest-in-Charge and will be recorded.


In all these aims we will follow legislation, guidance and recognised good practice.


Risk factors for vulnerable adults:

• Physical, e.g. accidents including fire malnutrition, hypothermia, neglect, and alcohol or drug misuse, including prescribed medication.

• Mental health- e.g. depression, dementia, fears, guilt, paranoia and suicidal tendencies

• Social-e.g. social isolation, exploitation, antagonism, marital difficulties, relationship problems, sexual    


• Psychological- e.g trauma arising from past experience of abuse, serious accident or sudden loss



The main categories of abuse are listed below, although this is not exhaustive. Abuse exists in the context of the relationship and means that both the behaviour of the abuser and the effects on the abused come into the definition

• Physical abuse

Typical examples of physical abuse are slapping, hitting, physical restraint, over-use of medication, pushing, forcing people to do things against their will and depravation of care including food and medication.

Typical effects of the physical abuse are bruises, burns, fractures, pressure stores, malnutrition or impaired health.


• Psychological abuse

This can be referred to as emotional abuse, mental abuse and verbal abuse. Typical examples of behaviours are blame, insults, humiliation, swearing, threats, neglect and denying a person of the right to make their own decisions. Typical effects are mental anguish, fear and depression.


• Financial abuse

This is sometimes referred to as material abuse and financial exploitation. Typical examples of behaviour are theft or misuse of property, possessions and insurance, blocking the access of a person to their assets, and extortion. Typical examples of effects are having inadequate money to pay bills including rent, having a “disappearing pension” and losing control of ones financial affairs.


• Sexual abuse

This can be any form of sexual exploitation, ranging from the inappropriate use of sexually explicit language that causes offence to forced penetration and includes the involvement of people in sexual activities they do not fully comprehend or to which they have not given their consent or which violates the sexual taboos or family roles. Typical examples of effects are emotional distress, feelings of guilt or shame and withdrawn behaviour.


• Social abuse

Typical examples of behaviour are confining a person to a room on their own, preventing them form seeing friends or relatives or having other social contact, denying access to services and refusal of transportation. Typical examples of effects are withdrawn behaviour, prolonged loneliness, sense of isolation and depression.


In cases of abuse the first question must always be:

Is the person safe?





Principles of intervention

Reasonable, informed and calculated risk taking play an important part in contributing to the quality of life of both young and old; this is a matter of choice, demonstrating an individual’s right of self determination and autonomy. However, where the health, safety and well being of vulnerable people are seriously threatened as a result of self-neglect or abuse by others, there is a commitment to make every effort to identify, prevent or minimise such risks. In exercising these responsibilities we must be aware of, and sensitive to, an individuals ethnic origin, culture, religious beliefs, gender and sexual orientation.


Where a person appears to be at risk, every reasonable effort should be made to identify the specific problems or dangers. The concerns should be discussed with the individual and also relatives and others providing care and support, and where possible agreement reached on actions which will reduce the risk to an acceptable level, taking into account the chosen lifestyle of the person concerned.


Where direct intervention in a person’s life is required because of the level of risk to which he or she is exposed, or because of the limitations on his or her capacity to make informed decisions, the intervention should be at the level necessary to ensure appropriate and sensible protection is provided. In these circumstances the involvement of an advocate should also be considered to help protect the interests of the person concerned.


Where abuse has been identified it may be necessary to take immediate action to prevent or stop it. This might include ensuring that the alleged abuser no longer has access to the vulnerable person concerned. Where it appears that an offence has been committed against a vulnerable person who is unable to make informed decisions and that person remains in danger of physical harm, the Officer for Vulnerable People must be immediately notified.


Allegations of Previous Abuse

Allegations of abuse may be made some time after the event by a person who was abused as a child; the Officer for Vulnerable People must be immediately notified.


When someone wants to confide in you:


  • Be accessible and receptive

  • Listen carefully and only use ‘open questions’ to clarify.  Let the person talk and only ask the questions you need to know to clarify immediate safety

  • Take it seriously and reinforce this to the person

  • Re-assure the person that they are right to tell someone

  • Negotiate getting help - tell the person you are getting help for them/and their family - prepare them for the fact that you must involve others.

  • Explain that you cannot protect them personally, but that you can support them by telling the right people so that the abuse stops.

  • Report all suspicions or disclosures immediately - there will not be a convenient time, do it at once.

  • Make careful records of what was said immediately.  Use the person’s own words and include anything you asked.  Keep any handwritten notes to give to the Officer for Vulnerable People.


  • Jump to conclusions, speculate or accuse anyone

  • Encourage the person’s disclosure, don’t ask leading questions.  The person should never be interviewed repeatedly and the police/social services interview will form the basis of future evidence.

  • Ever ask leading questions or ask questions requiring only a yes/no answer.

  • Make promises you can’t keep

  • Ever assume that anyone can’t have done what a person says they have done.


Points to bear in mind when monitoring and recording:

Observation:  Differentiate between a ‘one-off’ incident that requires immediate attention and lower level concerns that build up over time to form a picture.

Remember observations can take place

  • over time

  • in different settings

  • and can be shared between people



Make a written note of details as soon as possible; as you are then more likely to be accurate in recalling events later.

There is no such thing as ‘gut feeling’ in dealing with vulnerable people, it must be based on sound professional judgement.

Remember it is the role of the police and social services to investigate.  It is not your role.

Procedure for the appointment of staff whether paid or unpaid:

  • This is in line with St Mary’s policy for safer recruitment.


If there is any further information you require please contact the Officer for Vulnerable People.


This policy stands for all staff and volunteers recruited by St Mary’s Church Shirehampton


Other policies at St Mary’s related to safeguarding.

  • Protection of children

  • Safer Recruitment

  • Fair recruitment of ex-offenders

  • Handling DBS information

  • Domestic abuse


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