Faith groups find social workers ‘hard to reach’

Faith groups seen as hard to reach by child protection workers believe it is the professionals who are elusive.

Dr Jeanette Pugh, director of the safeguarding group at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, told Community Care’s faith communities conference this week: “Hard-to-reach groups say that we’re the ones that are hard to reach – not them.”

Her message was echoed by faith groups, who said they often felt excluded from social policy design and implementation. “Statutory services work in a highly secretive manner,” said Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbie Foundation. “Few partnerships [with the statutory sector] are based on transparency and sincerity.”

Dr Pugh added that time and resource pressures may force social services to continue focusing on individuals’ problems rather than engage with faith groups to seek solutions.

Delegates emphasised that all religious communities faced challenges in safeguarding children, whether dealing with sex offenders, forced marriages or female genital mutilation. 

There was a consensus that engaging the religious groups’ knowledge and expertise of their constituents, as well as building on the respect they command within their communities, played an essential part in safeguarding children. 

Debbie Ariyo, Executive Director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse  said: “Terms such as ‘hard to reach’ are used as excuses for inaction – our communities know that there are huge benefits to be gained from working with the statutory sector.”

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