Churches ‘complacent’ about the need for child protection policies

Many churches are still “extraordinarily complacent” about child protection despite high-profile cases of abuse, according to an expert in the field.

David Pearson, executive director of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), said “too many churches” were not taking the issue seriously enough, after a report showed more than 2,000 lacked formal child protection policies.

The proportion of known UK churches without a policy fell to 6 per cent in 2005 from 9 per cent in 2003, according to the report.

But Pearson said hundreds of new churches being established could also lack formal child protection procedures and were difficult to identify because they did not have their own church buildings.

The report follows concerns about ritual abuse in African faith communities in London.

Pearson said his work with the Metropolitan Police’s Project Violet, which is looking at faith-related child abuse in the capital, had led him to believe there were “a number of new churches that haven’t got their heads around child protection”.

The survey, carried out by Christian Research for CCPAS, found that many churches introduced their policies during 2000-3. CCPAS attributed this to the publicity around the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbi, which was told that churches had failed to spot signs that Victoria was being abused before her death in 2000.

The survey also showed that 15 per cent of church children’s workers thought parents should be allowed to give their children a firm smack with the hand. And 6 per cent thought it was acceptable for adults to give children a firm smack on the leg or bottom with an object leaving a mark, while 2 per cent supported caning or use of the belt.

Less than two-fifths of church leaders were aware of the government’s key child protection guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, which was re-released this month and includes a new section on faith communities.

However, Pearson said nearly three-quarters were aware of CCPAS’s own guidance, which incorporates key elements of Working Together.

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