Workshop: Safe Church - Church Council Responsibilities

7 October 2021

Safe Church

Safe Church

Church Councils' Responsibility for Safe Church

The Uniting Church in Australia believes that all people, including children, are made in the image of God. As a community of faith, we are committed to providing safe environments for all people including children, so that they may live life in all its fullness.

Church Councils as the governing body of the congregation have an important role to play in Safe Church leadership, both within the mission of the church and as officers and responsible persons under the law.

How To Get Started for Church Councils

Step 1

 Step 2

Appoint a Safe Church Contact person and inform the Safe Church Unit. This person's role is to champion this cause and to remind Church Council regularly of its responsibility. One specific task for this person is to verify Working With Children Checks. (see Step 4)

 Step 3

  • Be aware of the 10 Principles of Safe Church for Children see https://nswact.uca.org.au/media/10171/principles-video-nswact.mp4
  • Use the Audit Tool to develop an action plan with implementation dates
    • Plan to do this incrementally. Synod's suggestion is to start with Principles 1 and 10 (Quarter 3: July to September 2021), then move on to 6 and 8 (Quarter 4: October to December 2021). The others will be scheduled later in the year.

Step 4

Please be aware that this involves several steps.

The Volunteer must apply initially online for a WWCC (or using a form from Services NSW), and take all the relevant documentation to a branch of Services NSW.

The Volunteer will then receive a Clearance letter with a reference number on it.

But this is not the end!

The Safe Church Contact person needs to follow a process called Verification. This requires going on-line to check the Reference number with the date of birth of the Volunteer and to obtain a certificate showing the status "Cleared". 

The Safe Church Contact needs to keep records for each Volunteer including

  • Reference Number
  • Verification status
  • Expiry Date (expiry after 5 years)

All Church Council members are now required to hold current and verified WWCC.  The Secretary of the Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) will be contacting all Congregations to facilitate this and has prepared some resources to help with the process. 

 Step 5

Volunteers in relevant roles including all church Council members will need to attend a Safe Church Awareness Course and a refresher every subsequent 3 years.

Currently the UCA training is unavailable. Alternative opportunities are:

Questions and Answers

Q: Who needs a Working With Children Check (WWCC) in our Congregations? How do they do it and how does a Congregation keep track?

A: Anyone over 18 who works with children while under your Congregation's care, all ordained ministers, individuals engaged as religious leaders or spiritual officers and all church council members, need to have a verified WWCC. Step 4 above explains how to obtain one.  It is the responsibility of the Safe Church Contact person to verify and then keep track. Tools to help you can be found on the Synod website; the Secretary of our PRC has distributed a useful tool for this. Services NSW should send each volunteer a reminder when their expiry date is getting near.  

Q:  What would you say to the Church Council that says we don’t have children’s programs?

A: Safe Church policies and awareness training does not only focus on children; it covers understanding a safe environment, protecting vulnerable people, boundary violation, sexual misconduct or harassment, bullying, verbal abuse, inclusivity of all people, legal responsibilities of leaders, duty of care and more.

Q: Does this mean that there must be documentation for each and every one of these 10 principles in our church files?

A: Ideally, yes.  If you run children's programmes or plan to, then, yes, a Child Safety Plan is essential and one which covers these 10 Principles is best practice. Every church should have a Safe Church Policy.

Resources

From <https://nswact.uca.org.au/congregation-governance-toolkit/>

 General: UCA - Safe Church Resources

Further Support for Church Councils

There is a Synod Safe Church Unit which has carriage over all aspects of safe church and they are the key contact for Presbyteries and Congregations for these matters. This is the link to the ‘About Us’ page for the Safe Church Unit on the Synod website https://nswact.uca.org.au/safe-church-unit/about-us/.  It includes the team members and the scope of their responsibilities.  The team can be contacted on safechurch@nswact.uca.org.au.

If you need assistance on this or any other other issue, please contact the GRP Office:

Phone: (02) 9579 4682

Email: admin.grp@nswact.uca.org.au

Executive Assistant: Frencing Sastradjaja