Sexual Abuse and developing the correct policies to combat it
Faith organisations have experienced a great deal of reputational damage in recent years, around allegations of the sexual abuse of children.
Obviously, all faith organisations need to take special care in preventing incidences such as these, because traditional processes and management of faith organisations has not been adequate. One of the reasons that many faith organisations are searching for specialised insurance policies and providers of them is precisely because they understand that their policies for the prevention of child abuse are not up to standard.
What we recommend to faith organisations:
All faith organisations should develop a policy statement on client protection. This is a powerful statement of intent that allows all stakeholders to know that the organisation does take the prevention of abuse seriously.
Faith organisations generally have a large number of unpaid volunteer help. The policy statement should be presented to them, as well as the paid staff, to ensure that the policies are communicated clearly to all.
Faith organisations should have a very clear and documented process with which staff and employees are selected because, should legal issues arise, the way that positions are filled may be exploitable by those with predatory intent, and this could leave the faith organisation exposed.
This document should be drawn to encompass all staff, temporary or otherwise. In addition to full-time employees, volunteers, contractors and board members should all be required to go through a strict selection process.
Beyond that, it is also important that faith organisations focus closely on risk mitigation. All staff should be made aware of expected behaviour with children, for example, and these staff should be observed to ensure that they are behaving in accordance with these practices. The more detailed the document is in laying out the responsibilities of all individuals likely to have contact with children, and the more accountable the organisation is to that document (for example by mandating at least two employees or volunteers be present in any situation whereby there is contact with children), the more defensible the organisation will be should an allegation of child abuse be brought forward.
Finally, all faith organisations should have an appropriate and detailed response plan. No matter how sound the policies are, there is still the possibility that something could happen, and an allegation of abuse be brought forward. Preparing in advance with a response plan is essential in ensuring that the faith organisation handles the issue in an appropriate manner.
Faith organisations in the modern environment need strong insurance policies against child abuse. But, more than that, they need these insurance policies to come from a partner that has extensive experience in providing insurance policies to faith organisations, and who can “value add” by providing expert advice and guidance as the organisation writes its critical policy statement.
For more information, contact the expert team at PIB at XXXX