Opinion: Safeguarding children is our priority

PUBLISHED: 08:30 11 May 2019

Elwin Cockett, archdeacon of West Ham wants past victims of abuse to come forward.

Elwin Cockett, archdeacon of West Ham wants past victims of abuse to come forward.

Elwin Cockett

As anyone who is involved with a school, a place of worship or a youth club knows, safeguarding has become a matter of the highest priority.

Everyone who works with children or young people has to be vetted regularly by the Disclosure and Barring Service, and all staff and volunteers receive regular training about the signs of abuse and what to do about it.

Sadly, that was not always so. There are all too many cases of people who were abused as children in years gone by by adults who got themselves into positions of authority as cover for their activities.

Those abusers came from all walks of life and included teachers, sports coaches, youth workers and, as we know all too well, clergy. In many cases, we are still learning about the harm that they did.

These days, just like people in other professions working with children, all clergy and volunteers working with children in the Church of England are thoroughly vetted to make sure that churches are safe places for children and families to come to.

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As is the case in schools and hospitals, the effective safeguarding of children's welfare is taken seriously at every level. It's in our DNA.

Not only does every church have a safeguarding officer but, locally, readers of this paper can be assured that the Church of England in east London and Essex has an excellent full-time safeguarding team.

We are not complacent. Child-abusers are often clever, devious people, and so vigilance and training will always be needed. But make no mistake: The Church of England is committed to making sure that our churches are safe places for children.

That is not to say that the victims of past abuse have always been listened to. The way things were handled in the past often fell short of what we would expect now.

Many of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s will remember being warned to avoid particular people.

Sadly, some people reading this will have experienced abuse as children at the hand of people who should have been caring for them, and in some cases they will not have told anyone about before. If that's you, let me encourage you to report it, even if it was decades ago.

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