The Veterinary Christian Fellowship is an association of Christians in the veterinary and allied professions. Members come from all denominations and all areas of the veterinary profession. As such VCF (Veterinary Christian Fellowship) does not normally work with children, young people or vulnerable adults.

The aim of this document is to set out:

  • the principles of the policy
  • address the common situations where VCF may be involved with Safeguarding

A definition of abuse is:
Somebody may abuse or neglect a child or vulnerable adult by inflicting harm, or by failing to prevent harm. (Department of Health,Dept for Education & Skills 2017)
Abuse may occur in a family, in an institutional or community setting (including Christian organisations) by those known to them, or more rarely, by a stranger. Abuse may take the form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect or sexual abuse or a combination of these.

Principles upon which the Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy is based:

  1. The welfare of a child, young person and vulnerable adults will always be paramount
  2. The welfare of families will be promoted
  3. The rights, wishes and feelings of children, young people and vulnerable adults and their families will be respected and listened to.

Keeping safe from harm requires people who work with children and vulnerable adults to share information. See Information Sharing: Practitioners Guide published by the DfES.

VCF aims to have a culture of listening to, and engaging in dialogue, with children and vulnerable adults- seeking their views in ways that are appropriate to their age, their understanding and mental health; taking account of those views in individual decisions.


Policy

VCF takes seriously the responsibility to protect and safeguard its members and their children including those members with mental health issues. VCF encourages the spiritual and emotional growth in members. It is important that all leaders ensure that our members are protected and if issues arise they are dealt with in a sympathetic and considered way.

  1. There needs to be a clear line of accountability within VCF for safeguarding issues.
    A named senior member will be appointed by the trustees as Safeguarding Officer (SO):
    a)to be responsible for safeguarding within VCF
    b)to whom all concerns about vulnerable adults or children should be addressed
    c)to deal with allegations or concerns with volunteers or leaders. (Where this concerns the Safeguarding Officer they should be addressed to a trustee)
    The SO must be familiar with safeguarding issues and mental health issues.
  2. Supervision of children's activities
    During conferences and members activities there are likely to be children’s activities organised on behalf of VCF. These will normally be for less than 2 hours and parents will be present on the premises. Where such events are organised by VCF it may be in conjunction with a recognised organisation such as a church or children's ministry. A copy of that organisation’s Child Protection policy will be lodged with the VCF secretary prior to the activity.
  3. Signposting
    Most members will not have the professional experience to deal with the issues raised by those suffering with mental health issues. It is recognised that support, pastoral care and listening will help, but members are encouraged to signpost those with mental health issues to appropriate organisations.


Agreed by trustees September 2018   To be reviewed September 2023


Responding to situations

Forewarned is forearmed. It is useful for leaders to have thought through how they would handle a discussion initiated by a member about abuse or mental illness.
They may have been asked to keep it secret and are likely to have complex emotions about it. It is useful to have seen training material so if leaders are not confident they
should take part in training course. Complex and difficult situations may arise so do not be afraid to ask for help from the Safeguarding officer or Social Services. If unhappy with the response of Safeguarding officer you have every right to get advice from a child protection agency, CCPAS or social services.


How to respond to a child or vulnerable adult wanting to talk about abuse

When someone wants to talk about abuse, it is important to listen carefully to what they
say, without prompting or using leading questions. Above all else, listen, listen, listen

  • Show acceptance of what the child says (however unlikely the story may sound)
  • Keep calm, look at them directly, be honest
  • Tell them that you will need to let someone else know, don’t promise confidentiality
  • Even if they have broken a rule they are not to blame for the abuse
  • Be aware that they may have been threatened or bribed not to tell
  • Never push for information. If they decide not to tell after all, then accept and always be ready to listen
  • Don’t say why? how? when? where? who? or I can’t believe it etc
  • Do say: You have done the right thing in telling, That must have been really hard, I am glad that you have told me, It’s not your fault, I will help you
  • Never make false promises
  • Never make statements like “I’m shocked” or “don’t tell anyone else”.
  • Reassure the child and let them know what you are going to do next.

What to do once they have talked to you about abuse

  • Make notes as soon as possible, writing down exactly what the child said and what you said in reply. Record what was happening immediately before and after also dates and times.
  • Report your discussion as soon as possible to the Safeguarding Officer or the social services if circumstances so require.
  • Do not discuss your suspicions or allegations with anyone else other than the above.
  • Once a child has talked about abuse then consider whether or not it is safe for the child to return home.
  • On rare occasions it might be necessary to take immediate action by contacting the Social Services or police

How to respond to those with mental illness

In coming away from the daily routine to conferences, or having trusted older VCF members around means that issues of mental health are likely to arise. It is important to remember that they will have come with that illness and recovery will take months. Support and listening can be helpful but any crisis should be signposted to the appropriate local mental health crisis team for assessment and treatment.