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A Place of Safety – Child Protection and Safeguarding

The first and most important safeguard to have in place to make sure that all children in our care are as safe as possible is the implementation of the diocesan Safeguarding policy. The Choir director should have undertaken Safeguarding training, so that they can implement the policy as fully and comprehensively as possible.

 

Diocesan and State requirements

Most dioceses now have an Office of Safeguarding which will have directives and guidelines which must be implemented when adults are working with children. This is both a requirement of the law and a requirement of the diocese. Find out what these are and implement them in every particular. The safety of the children is paramount.

 

In NSW all adults who work with children and direct them must have a current Working with Children Check number. This means the director of the Choir, the accompanist, any adult assistants, and parents or other family members who may be participants in some family-based choirs, anyone who may be in a position to give children directions. It also includes priests, deacons, and pastoral assistants who may occasionally pay visits to the choir. It is the responsibility of the person organising the Choir to make sure that everyone who requires a WWCC number has one, that it is current and that it has been checked and recorded by the parish office. No adult whose number has not been checked should be permitted to work with the Choir without supervision.

 

Safety at rehearsals

A registration form should be completed by parents/carers for every child who joins the choir. This should include emergency contact details, and essential health information such as allergies. Information provided by parents/carers should be stored sensitively, in accordance with diocesan privacy policy and at the same time accessible in case of any emergency. When the parent/carer registers their child, they should also complete a permission form for sharing images and recordings of their child.

 

For the children’s safety, they should be signed in and out of rehearsals by a parent/ carer. The director (or the choir manager if this is part of their role) should know the parent/ carer by sight, or have evidence that the person is authorised to sign the child out. Parents/ carers should be in the habit of notifying the Choir director if the child will be absent from rehearsals or Mass, out of courtesy as well as for safety reasons.

 

It is essential for at least two adults (current WWCC holders) to be present at every gathering of the choir for the protection of everyone. If the child leaves the rehearsal at any time, eg to go to the toilet, they should go with a friend, and go expeditiously. If possible, keep the toilets locked and only unlock them when they are needed.

 

In the rehearsal, a hands-off policy is safest. Respect and care for each other are positive ways to express this. It is important to keep good order within the choir to minimise the possibility of accidents, especially in a restricted area when everyone is in close proximity as we are in a choir.

 

Dealing with incidents

If an accident happens or an injury occurs, or an incident of any kind, the children’s safety and well-being is paramount. Follow procedure for an accident: Safeguarding requires that an up-to-date First  Aid kit is available, and there should be an adult present who is competent to use it. Know where the emergency Assembly point is; know where the  First Aid kit is. If possible, one adult should take care of the affected child or children while the other adult takes charge of the rest of the choir. Call for help if you need it. The director should have an up-to-date register of emergency contact numbers, which includes emergency services as well as parent/ carer contact numbers. Parents/carers should be contacted as soon as possible after an incident occurs.

 

If a child requires an Epi-pen, know how to administer it, or have someone present who does. If there is an AED available, find out how to use it. It may be a good idea to practise evacuation from time to time.

 

Keeping records

A written record of any incident should be made by the director and any other adult involved, signed and dated. If the incident is not of a kind which involves a health issue, an adult witness may be very important. It is not appropriate to ask children to act as witnesses, given their limited understanding and our responsibility to safeguard their emotional well-being. Remember that all records including emergency contact details and health history should be managed in accordance with diocesan privacy policy.

 

If an incident occurs which is distressing for you, seek counselling and advice from the parish, or the diocese. If you feel unsafe at any time, or you feel that you are unable to provide a completely safe environment for the children in your care, suspend the activity and seek help, from Emergency services, other adults present, parents/carers on the contact register, or a trusted advisor or professional.

 

PLEASE NOTE; This is not an exhaustive summary of what is needed to make sure children in our care are as safe as possible. Diocesan Safeguarding policy will contain far more far-reaching guidelines for structures and implementation. It is the Choir director’s responsibility to be aware of and implement all Safeguarding guidelines required by their diocese and their parish. All Children’s Choir directors should undertake Safeguarding training as a minimum requirement.

 

Written by Patricia Smith

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