Wednesday 12 September 2018 marked the launch of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) which has been established to promote the responsibility and opportunity of faith groups in safeguarding.
The group is co-chaired by Sarah Champion MP for Rotherham and Michael Tomlinson MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, with the Secretariat for the group being provided by Thirtyone:eight (formerly CCPAS), the UK’s only independent Christian safeguarding charity. The announcement that the group would be formed was made by Sarah Champion at an event in July to mark 40 years of the charity and to relaunch its new name and vision.
The inaugural meeting of the group, which was held in Westminster, saw the election of officers from across the House of Commons and House of Lords including Preet Kaur Gill MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and Baroness Hollins.
The group marked the launch by initiating its first inquiry into ‘Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief: An Exploration of multi-agency responses to Children in Need’.
Speaking about the launch Sarah Champion MP, said “Faith-based organisations make a significant contribution to society and particularly in relation to social welfare and social justice. With this opportunity comes great responsibility to engage communities and society in safe ways. It is the aim of the APPG to increase awareness and understanding of the unique challenges faced by communities of faith, facilitate dialogue, learn from those doing it well, and to ensure safer practices are encouraged and maintained. Some things are above politics and we need to simply get on with them.”
Michael Tomlinson, the group’s co-chair said “I was delighted to have been asked by Sarah to Co-Chair this brand new APPG. There is so much good work that our faith based organisations do – voluntarily, day in and day out – both in my constituency of Mid Dorset and North Poole and right across the country, and this is why safeguarding is so important. I am especially pleased that the APPG will have the expertise and support of Thirtyone:eight, and I look forward to our first inquiry.”
The first inquiry will begin with a research project to be undertaken by Dr Lisa Oakley and Sarah Vaughan at the University of Chester. The project will seek to explore the characteristics of those cases that are registered in the children in need census in 2017 and 2018 under the category ‘child abuse linked to faith or belief.’ 2017 was the first year that this category has been included in the census and identified 1,461 cases. The 2018 figures are soon to be released.
Speaking to the group at the launch of the inquiry Dr Oakley said: “The characteristics of children in need data in the category of ‘child abuse linked to faith or belief’ will be analysed to ascertain any patterns or themes that can better inform prevention and intervention work moving forward in this area and therefore enhance the safety and well-being of children in England.”
Professor Ros Bramwell, Head of the Department of Psychology, and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, at the University of Chester, said: “As an institution with a Church of England foundation, the University of Chester is very proud to be supporting the excellent work that Dr Oakley is doing to help protect the young and vulnerable. To be leading the first research project of this newly established All Party Parliamentary Group is proof of her national reputation in this field.”
Justin Humphreys, Chief Executive at Thirtyone:eight, who spoke at the launch of the APPG, said: “It is a great privilege for us as a charity to be providing the Secretariat for this newly formed APPG on safeguarding in faith settings. As a charity, a key part our wider mission to create safer places for all, is to encourage society to stand against oppression and exploitation by informing legislation and striving to raise the standards in safeguarding practice. Supporting this APPG is one important way that we are able to fulfil this mission. We look forward to working together with MPs, Peers and researchers to construct a more detailed understanding of these issues, and together help faith communities and statutory partners alike to improve preventative practices and responses.”