The Safeguarding Committee recognises the need for legislation in relation to child protection and, since Lord Cullen’s enquiry following the Dunblane tragedy, is aware of the diverse attitudes surrounding this issue, ranging from apathy to near hysteria. The committee is therefore mindful of achieving a middle ground where the need for reliable protection does not deter people from offering to work with children.
The existing high standard of procedures to ensure safer recruitment of people who wish to work with children is acknowledged, however, the potential increase in offers of help to congregations from people living in Scotland recently migrated from the new member states of the EU has highlighted that the usual disclosure checks may not reveal any conviction record a person may have in their own home country.
In its report to the General Assembly, the Safeguarding Committee will look to discuss the concept of inclusion for sex offenders seeking to return to worship in congregations. The main objective of the Safeguarding Committee is to make the Church as safe a place as possible for everyone to worship, therefore, it is essential to retain a broad and open approach.
The committee believes that facilitating sex offenders to worship without compromise to the safety of others merits discussion with colleagues on the Worship and Doctrine Task Group and seeks instruction from the General Assembly.
The report continues by highlighting the increasing awareness among congregations of the importance of safeguarding and that the current bill before the Scottish Parliament, the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill, will improve a number of areas associated with safeguarding.
The conclusion of the report stresses that the biggest area of development for the Safeguarding Committee will be in preparing presbyteries and congregations for the changes which the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill will bring about when brought into force. It is the intention of the committee to produce a practical set of guidelines for each congregation to accompany this new Bill, which the committee hopes will be workable and manageable legislation providing protection for vulnerable adults and children in the community.
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