6.26 Guidance on Safeguarding Children for Faith Groups in Wirral

6.26 Guidance on Safeguarding Children for Faith Groups in Wirral


  1. Introduction
  2. The Responsibility of Faith Groups and Religious Settings in Wirral
  3. Categories of Child Abuse
  4. Nominated Child Protection Officer
  5. What to Do If You Suspect That Abuse Has Occurred
  6. What to Do If a Child Tells You about Abuse
  7. Recognising Possible Signs of Abuse
  8. Allegations of Physical Abuse, Neglect or Emotional Abuse
  9. Allegations of Sexual Abuse
  10. Allegations Against People of Authority within the Setting
  11. Safer Recruitment
  12. Good Practice for Working with Children
  13. Discipline and Respect
  14. Physical Punishment or Restraint
  15. Children and Fasting
  16. Children with Special Needs
  17. Venues and Transport
  18. Spirit Possession In Islam (Jinns and Shaitan)
  19. Domestic Abuse
  20. Local and National Contacts


  1. Introduction

A lot of young people attend faith groups and settings in Wirral throughout the week to learn about their chosen religion. It is therefore important that children who attend these settings are kept safe and are provided with the appropriate care and supervision that will enable them to learn and develop spiritually and in all aspects of life.

As members of the society, we all have a duty to protect children and young people from harm. Regardless of faith or cultural values all sectors of society must work in partnership to maintain and protect children’s rights.

  1. The Responsibility of Faith Groups and Religious Settings in Wirral

It is imperative that faith organisations are equipped with the knowledge and awareness that will enable them to detect the abuse and ill treatment of children.

This child protection policy aims to be a reference for all members of staff and volunteers involved in religious activities.

For organisations involved in working with children, it has become increasingly important for their management committees to make sure that they respond to the requirements and expectations of society and the law.

Religious and faith groups need to ensure that they have policies and procedures in place that look at the roles and responsibilities of people working with children, how to promote children’s welfare, protect them from harm, respond to concerns and report to the statutory authorities.

These are some of the ways in which faith groups and their management committees can achieve this:

  • By providing explicit and written guidance for all those working with children about their responsibilities and the standard of care expected of them, including behaviour management in the setting;
  • Ensuring that everyone understands policies and good practice guidelines through training and safeguarding;
  • Providing all necessary information to those working with children about child protection and the procedure to follow if someone raises a concern or makes an allegation;
  • Ensuring that teachers are able to recognise the signs and symptoms of abuse, and that they know what to do about these concerns;
  • Having a procedure for checking that teachers and other staff members who are in contact with children, have no recorded incident which would deem them unfit to teach. This would include a safe recruitment process covering application forms, references and DBS disclosures.

The safety and welfare of children is paramount and these measures seek to provide the framework to deliver this.

  1. Categories of Child Abuse

See also Recognition of Significant Harm Procedure.

The ‘DfE Working Together To safeguard Children 2015’ defines the main categories of child abuse. These categories are also used for the purposes of drawing up Child Protection Plans for children at risk of harm. The categories are as follows:

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone. Children who do not fit the categories above may also be at risk of significant harm as they could, for example, be in a situation where another child in the household has been harmed or a person who may pose a risk to children may reside in that household.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including sexual exploitation, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.


Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food and clothing, shelter including exclusion from home or abandonment, failing to protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger, failure to ensure adequate supervision including the use of inadequate care-takers, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of or unresponsiveness to a child’s basic emotional needs.

  1. Nominated Child Protection Officer

All faith settings must have a nominated child protection officer, who has some expertise and knowledge in child protection, to act on their behalf when there is a suspicion or allegation of abuse. If the nominated child protection officer does not have previous experience or knowledge in this area, specialist training is available from the Local Safeguarding Children Board.

The name of the nominated child protection officer should be displayed prominently in the setting so that everyone, (including parents and carers) is aware of who they should talk to if they are concerned about a child. The setting’s management committee should select the nominated child protection officer. An enhanced level DBS check and two references should be sought prior this appointment.

The role of the nominated child protection officer is to:

  1. Report any concerns to Wirral’s Integrated Front Door (IFD) or the Police;
  2. Promote the needs of children in the setting, keep everyone informed of good practice, and work in partnership with local statutory agencies as needed;
  3. Ensure that up to date records are kept of any concerns about a child or adult and of any conversation or referrals to statutory agencies;
  4. Ensure this policy is reviewed regularly;
  5. Ensure that all workers within the setting have a basic knowledge of child protection and receive some training or induction in this protocol.

In the absence of the nominated child protection officer, or where they are implicated or allegations have been made against them, the Chair of the management committee will act as the deputy child protection officer.

  1. What to Do If You Suspect That Abuse Has Occurred

See also Contacts and Referrals Procedure.

Very few adults hurt children deliberately and usually when this occurs it is a sign that such families need help and support. IFD and Children’s Specialist Services get involved with families where children may be at risk, first to investigate the allegations and then to look at what could be done to support and assist the family. It is quite rare for children to be removed permanently from their family.

If a faith worker feels that a child attending the setting is suffering abuse, they must pass this information on in order to ensure that the child is protected.

The information should be passed on to the nominated child protection officer.

If a faith worker suspects that a child attending the setting has been hurt in any way, either by their family or by another person within the setting, they have a clear responsibility to ensure that action is taken to protect that child.

Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on the local authority to investigate any allegation of abuse against a child. If a crime appears to have been committed then the police also have a duty to investigate.

  1. What to Do If a Child Tells You about Abuse

See also Section 9, Allegations of Sexual Abuse.

  • Listen attentively and let them know that they were right to tell someone about their worries;
  • Stay calm and make sure that the child feels safe and knows that they are not to blame;
  • Explain that you will have to tell someone else about the abuse if it is to stop;
  • Only ask questions that establish what was done and who did it;
  • Make a note of what the child said and the date and time of the conversation. If you can write down what the child says, be as precise as you can be;
  • Don’t act without talking to the nominated child protection officer to deal with child abuse;
  • Seek advice before telling parents or carers about the conversation. You could be putting the child in greater danger by doing this;
  • Do not investigate, but speak to the nominated child protection officer, Deputy child protection officer or IFD.
  1. Recognising Possible Signs of Abuse

See also Recognition of Significant Harm Procedure.

The following signs may or may not be indicators that abuse has taken place, but the possibility should be considered.

Physical Signs of Abuse

  • Any injuries not consistent with the explanation given for them;
  • Injuries that occur to the body in places, which are not normally exposed to falls, rough games, etc;
  • Injuries that have not received medical attention;
  • Neglect, under- nourishment, failure to grow, constant hunger, stealing or gorging food, untreated illnesses, inadequate care, etc;
  • Reluctance to change for, or participate in, games or swimming;
  • Repeated urinary infections or unexplained tummy pains;
  • Bruises, bites, burns, fractures etc, which do not have an accidental explanation;
  • Cuts/scratches/substance abuse;
  • Fear of going home to parents or carers.

Indicators Of Possible Sexual Abuse

  • Any allegations made by a child concerning Sexual Abuse;
  • Child with excessive preoccupation with sexual matters and detailed knowledge of adult sexual behaviour, or who regularly engages in age-inappropriate sexual play;
  • Sexual activity through words, play or drawing;
  • Child who is sexually provocative or seductive with adults;
  • Inappropriate bed-sharing arrangements at home;
  • Severe sleep disturbances with fears, phobias, vivid dreams or nightmares, sometimes with overt or veiled sexual connotations;
  • Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia;
  • Unaccounted for sources of money;
  • Telling you about being asked to ‘keep a secret’ or dropping hints or clues about abuse.

Emotional Signs Of Abuse

  • Changes or regression in mood or behaviour, particularly where a child withdraws or becomes clinging. Also depression/aggression, extreme anxiety;
  • Nervousness, frozen watchfulness;
  • Obsessions or phobias;
  • Sudden under-achievement or lack of concentration;
  • Inappropriate relationships with peers and/or adults;
  • Attention-seeking behaviour;
  • Persistent tiredness;
  • Running away/stealing/lying.
  1. Allegations of Physical Abuse, Neglect or Emotional Abuse

If a child attends a religious setting and has a serious physical injury or symptoms of Neglect or Emotional Abuse the nominated child protection officer should be informed. The parents or guardians of the child should normally be contacted and informed of the concerns raised unless by doing so the child would be placed in further danger. If this is the case, IFD or Police Family Crime Investigation Unit (FCIU) should be contacted for advice and assistance.

The Nominated Child Protection Officer should:

Speak with the parent/guardian and suggest medical help/attention be sought for the child. If appropriate, the parent/guardian should be encouraged to seek help from IFD. With older children it is important to take their wishes and feelings into account with regard to speaking to their parents.

If the parent/guardian is unwilling to seek help, then it may be appropriate for a worker to go with them. If they still fail to act and there is concern about the welfare of the child, the nominated child protection officer should contact IFD.

Where a child needs emergency medical attention, all efforts must be made to contact the child’s parents prior to treatment, but the health and safety of the child must come first. The nominated child protection officer should inform the medical staff of any suspicions of abuse.

Consideration should always be given to referring the matter to IFD if there are concerns about the safety of a child. If the nominated child protection officer is unsure whether or not to refer a case to, then s/he can always contact them for advice or to discuss the case.

CCPAS a children’s charity which advises faith groups in safeguarding and child protection can also be contacted for advice on 0845 120 4550 (24 hour telephone helpline).

  1. Allegations of Sexual Abuse

In the event of allegations or suspicions of Sexual Abuse, the nominated child protection officer should:

Contact the IFD or the Police FCIU directly. The nominated child protection officer will not speak to the parent or anyone else directly, as there is always a possibility that they could be involved. If named people are innocent, talking to them before contacting the authorities may make it harder for them to be cleared.

If Sexual Abuse has occurred very recently, the nominated child protection officer should contact the police urgently so that any physical evidence is preserved. Do not interfere with any evidence such as stained clothing.

Under no circumstances must the nominated child protection officer or any faith worker attempt to carry out any investigation into allegations or suspicions of Sexual Abuse. The important thing is to collect and clarify the precise details of the allegation or suspicion and to provide this information to the IFD, who will then investigate the matter under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

Whilst allegations or suspicions of Sexual Abuse will normally be reported to the nominated child protection officer, their absence should not delay referral to the Deputy child protection officer or IFD.

There may be disagreement between the person in receipt of the allegation or suspicion and the nominated child protection officer or Deputy as to the appropriateness of the referral to IFD. If so, the person who heard the allegation has a responsibility as a member of the public to report serious matters to IFD, and should do so without hesitation.

If the allegations or suspicions involve the nominated child protection officer, then a report should be made to the chair of the management committee who will contact the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), who manages allegations against members of staff as well as IFD.

  1. Allegations Against People of Authority within the Setting

If an allegation in any way implicates the nominated child protection officer, then a report should be made to the chair of the management committee. If an allegation implicates both the nominated child protection officer and the chair, then a report should be made to IFD or the Police FCIU. If the allegation is one of assault by any member of staff or management committee of the setting then the matter must be referred to the IFD and the Police. If an accusation is made against a worker (whether a volunteer or paid member of staff) whilst following the procedure outlined above, the nominated child protection officer will need to liaise with the LADO.

See also Managing Allegations Against Staff, Volunteers, Foster and Potential Adoptive Carers who Work with Children Procedure.

  1. Safer Recruitment

The Safe Recruitment, Selection and Supervision of Staff Procedure is designed to promote the effectiveness of the setting and to protect both children and workers. The procedures involve all potential staff and volunteers being treated as potential job applicants.

  1. Good Practice for Working with Children

All workers are responsible for establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries with children. Workers should ensure that they are not dependent on their relationships with children and young people to meet their own emotional needs.

  • If necessary to touch, keep everything public. A hug in the context of a group is very different from a hug behind closed doors;
  • Touching should be related to a child’s needs not the workers;
  • Touching should be age appropriate and generally be initiated by the child rather than the worker;
  • Avoid any physical activity, which is, or may be construed as, sexually stimulating to the adult or child for example, fondling, touching private parts of the body;
  • Workers should take responsibility for monitoring one another in the area of physical contact. They should be free to constructively challenge a colleague if necessary.

Further guidance is available to all paid and voluntary staff working with children and young people in the Safer Working Practice Guidance.

  1. Discipline and Respect

In many religions, behaviour is an important part of the child’s faith and high standards are often expected within the religious setting. Achieving good behaviour is not just expecting children to be quiet and obedient. It is important to teach children to live alongside others and to encourage them to understand individual rights and responsibilities.

In order for children to learn good behaviour, adults have to set an example because children learn more from practical example than teaching.

Religious groups and teachers need to agree on what sort of behaviour is acceptable, and have agreed plans so that everyone follows the same system.

  • Be clear and positive – explain fully to pupils what you want them to do. Tell them what they have to do, not what they don’t have to do. Use positive statements rather than negative ones. For example, saying ‘come and sit in your place’ is better than saying ‘stop running around’;
  • Use ignoring as a technique to reduce low-level poor behaviour Your pupils want your attention and some think that bad behaviour will get it. Sometimes they may be right! Give your attention as a reward. For example, if a pupil is chatting when you are ready to start your class, choose a child who is nearby and say: ‘Well done Aysha, you are quiet and ready to learn’. This often results in other children paying attention. Be sure to give the first pupil some positive attention at the earliest opportunity;
  • Be consistent – be the same from day-to-day in what you allow or don’t allow;
  • Be polite – we cannot teach children to be polite if we do not show them politeness;
  • Be fair – children will usually accept rules if they can see that they are fairly applied;
  • Recognise, praise and reward good behaviour – the best way to achieve good behaviour is to praise children who are behaving well. Rewards can be a smile, a good word, a comment written on work, stickers or stamps, a note to parents, certificates, etc;
  • Criticise the behaviour, not the child – don’t label children by calling them naughty or stupid. If you have to reprimand a pupil, say, for example: ‘Calling names is not allowed here and is unkind’ rather than ‘you are a very unkind girl.’ ‘That was a dangerous thing to do – a sensible boy like you should have realised that’ rather than ‘you stupid boy – did you want to cause an accident?’
  • Avoid putting negative labels on children – children generally believe what teachers say. If we tell them they are lazy or forgetful, they begin to believe it and act accordingly. If we tell them they are hard working and helpful, they will try to live up to our expectations. This is known as self-fulfilling prophecy;
  • Be calm – if pupils are upset or angry, staying calm is the best way to deal with the situation. Pupils will then learn from you that teachers can keep their temper;
  • Give pupils the chance to make amends – offer them the opportunity to suggest a way to make things better, for example an apology or a suggestion about how they will do better next time;
  • Remind pupils regularly of the rules – all pupils need reminders. It can be useful to let children help to decide on rules – hey are often much more strict than adults! A poster on the wall allows you to bring the children’s attention to the rules as and when necessary;
  • Be patient – recognise that children learn at different rates. Some children have special educational needs, which may mean that they need additional support or more time to learn;
  • Be a good role model – Build healthy relationships with children and be a good role model by setting an example. You can’t expect children to observe the ground rules if you break them yourself;
  • Be consistent in what you say and ensure that other team members know what you have said. This avoids manipulation;
  • NEVER smack or hit a child and do not shout, change voice tone if necessary.
  1. Physical Punishment or Restraint

Staff or religious figures should never hit children – either with their hands or with sticks or other implements. This is against the law. On some occasions, it may be necessary for a worker to restrain a child or young person physically to prevent him or her from inflicting injury to others or damage to property. On these occasions, only the minimum force necessary should be used.

If restraint is used, the worker should make notes of what happened and report the incident to the nominated child protection officer. The child’s parents should be informed of the incident.

  1. Children and Fasting

In some religions, such as Islam, children are required to fast from the age of puberty, and this is not harmful if correctly supervised by a responsible adult.

Fasting prior to this age is tolerated differently depending on the children’s general health, nutrition and attitude. Fasting prior to the age of seven or eight years old is not necessary, although it is a good idea to make the children aware of the practice of fasting in the community around them, and to give them a ‘taste’ of fasting, e.g. a few hours at a time.

Communities in Action supported by the NHS have produced a helpful booklet: Ramadan Health Guide: A Guide to Healthy Fasting.

  1. Children with Special Needs

Special care and attention should be given to all children with disabilities and special need for two reasons:

  • Children with disabilities are at greater risk of abuse.

In Eleanor Stobart’s research Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of ‘Possession’ and ‘Witchcraft’ (2006).

  • She found that where children had a difference, such as a disability, illness or challenging behaviour these were sometimes rationalised as being signs of ‘Black magic’ or ‘Possession’.

Faith Groups can help and support children with special needs by making their buildings and activities accessible and welcoming to all children in accordance with Wirral Council Equality and Cohesion Policy and Strategy.

  1. Venues and Transport

If a worker arranges an activity with a child or young person outside the usual group time this must be with knowledge and consent of the Management Committee as well as that of the parent. A child or young person arriving uninvited to a worker’s home should not be allowed to stay without the consent of the parent. Parental consent will be obtained for all organised activities and outings, which are outside the usual group times. Arrangements for transporting children and young people must also be with the knowledge of the nominated child protection officer and with parental approval.

  1. Spirit Possession In Islam (Jinns and Shaitan)

Working Together (2010) (now archived) Sections 6.49 to 6.53 addresses “Child abuse linked to belief in ‘spirit possession” or in other ways related to spiritual or religious belief. In 2007 the Government issued Safeguarding Children from Abuse Linked to a Belief in Spirit Possession as supplementary guidance to Working Together. Mosques should consult these documents.

  1. Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse occurs across society, regardless of age, gender, race, wealth, geography or religious beliefs. Domestic abuse is any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship together, or between family members.

The legal definition of harming children has been extended by the introduction of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, to include the harm children suffer by seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another – particularly in the home. Workers need to be aware of any children that exhibit any distress as this may be as a result of observing domestic abuse in the home environment and make the necessary referral to IFD to ensure the safety of the child.

  1. Local and National Contacts

Local Contacts

Wirral Multicultural Organisation
Telephone No: 0151 666 4547
Integrated Front Door (office hours)
Telephone No: 0151 606 2008
Emergency Duty Team (out of office hours)
Telephone No: 0151 677 6557
Police Family Crime Investigation Unit
Telephone No: 0151 777 2665
Merseyside Police
Telephone No: 0151 709 6010
Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)
Telephone No: 0151 666 4582

National Contacts


P O Box 133 Swanley Kent, BR8 7UQ

Tel: 0845 120 4550 (24 hour telephone helpline)

A children’s charity, which advises faith groups in safeguarding and child protection.

Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247


Bengali / Sylehti helpline: 0800 096 7714

Gujarati helpline: 0800 096 7715

Hindi helpline: 0800 096 7716

Punjabi: 0800 096 7717

Urdu helpline: 0800 096 7718

Asian helpline (service in English): 0800 096 7719

Forced Marriage Unit at GOV.UK website.

Helpful Publications

Child Protection in Faith-Based Environments

A Guideline Report – Dr. G. Siddiqui

The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain 109 Fulham Palace Road, London, W6 8JA

LSCB Safeguarding Inter Agency Procedures

Luton Safeguarding Children’s Board

See Luton Gov website.

Safe Children and Sound Learning Guidance for Madrassahs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council; Children and Families, Westfields, Mirfield, WF14 9PW

Safeguarding Children and Young People – A Working Manual for Child Protection and Safe Practice.

CCPAS – contact details in National Contacts

DfE, Working Together To safeguard Children 2015

Department for Children, Schools and Families (March 2010)

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