Our last two annual safeguarding updates have reflected on the challenges of living through COVID and though we are cautiously optimistic about our transition out of the pandemic, our society now faces new and different challenges including the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. These events have impacted us, our communities and our parishes, and vulnerability for many has increased due to exposure to trauma from the pandemic, the war or from living through poverty and hardship.
In acknowledgement of increasing vulnerability, rather than adopt a ‘heightened sense of safeguarding risk’ it is more important to reflect on the principles underpinning safeguarding. These are: care, love, respect and value for human dignity. These are the same messages shared within our gospels and homilies. It is easy to think of safeguarding as simply being a process, but it is not. Safeguarding is very much an ethos, rooted in people rather than processes.
We echo Pope Francis’ words when he pledged solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse. That same culture of care forms the core of diocesan safeguarding as the most important functions of safeguarding take place within our parishes as the focal points of our communities. While we all have a role in upholding the principles of safeguarding, we appreciate those who accept specific responsibilities in safeguarding ministry. We have parish safeguarding co-ordinators in every parish within the diocese, and we thank them for their hard work in supporting clergy to make and maintain safe and welcoming church environments which enables everyone, no matter their vulnerability, to worship and be part of parish communities.
We also thank our clergy for their engagement and dedication to our safeguarding mission. Clergy contribute heavily to both our Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group (DSAG) and Diocesan Risk Assessment Management Team (DRAMT) and at our recent safeguarding training in June, the vast majority of clergy attended and welcomed the learning and reflection on safeguarding. This allows us to ensure that as a whole diocese, our practice is contemporaneous and based on current evidence.
While it is right that safeguarding is people centred, we appreciate that to regain and rebuild trust and confidence in safeguarding within the diocese and nationally, robust processes and policies are needed to ensure that we maintain the highest levels of transparency and accountability that are expected within any hierarchical organisation.
As the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (SCSSA) establishes and drives forward work nationally, now is a good time to reflect on our local position. Following the external audit of the diocese in 2020, we have addressed all areas suggested for improvement, and can now confidently say that, in particular, thanks to the to the guidance of Frances Gunn, we have strong strategic safeguarding leadership, robust policies and guidelines, as well as consistent engagement from all who contribute to safeguarding within the diocese.
This is a time of change within safeguarding in the Catholic Church both nationally and locally. In Galloway as we await the appointment of a new bishop to shape and lead our safeguarding team, our previous DSA Helena Rameckers is settling into her new post with the SCSSA, and we have welcomed Tony Fisher as our new DSA. Please keep him in your prayers as he takes up this important role.
Achieving and maintaining these high standards of safeguarding practice simply wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of everyone who contributes to the effective safeguarding teamwork in the diocese; not only safeguarding trainers, PSC’s and clergy, hall keepers and pass keepers, DRAMT and DSAG members, and all volunteers in regulated ministry, but to each and every one who upholds the principles of safeguarding and keeps our parishes safe and welcoming.
Heartfelt thanks to all.