A code of behaviour is a clear and concise guide to what is and is not acceptable behaviour and practice when working with children. It is necessary to guide all staff and volunteers when working with children. A good code of behaviour protects children and staff. Below are the basic codes to be followed by all ministering to children in parish and diocesan groups. These should be given to staff/volunteers on completion of the Recruitment and Selection Procedure.
It is important for all employees and volunteers and others in contact with children to:
- treat the children and each other with courtesy, dignity and respect;
- provide an example of good behaviour you wish others to follow;
- operate within the Church principles and guidance and any specific procedures as outlined in the Diocesan Policy and Procedures;
- be visible to others when working with children whenever possible;
- challenge and report potentially abusive behaviour;
- develop a culture where children can talk about their contact with staff and others openly;
- respect each child’s boundaries and help them to develop their own sense of their rights as well as helping them to know what they can do if they feel that there is a problem.
In general it is inappropriate (and therefore should be avoided) to:
- spend excessive amounts of time alone with children or away from others;
- take children to your home, especially where they will be alone with you.
Church personnel must never:
- hit or otherwise physically assault or physically abuse children;
- develop sexual relationships with children;
- develop relationships with children which could in any way be deemed exploitative or abusive;
- act in ways that may be abusive or may place a child(ren) at risk of abuse;
- give their personal details to children unless absolutely necessary.
Church personnel must avoid actions or behaviour that could be construed as poor practice or potentially abusive. For example, they should never:
- use language, make suggestions or offer advice which is inappropriate, offensive or abusive;
- behave physically in a manner which is inappropriate or sexually provocative;
- have a child/children, with whom they are working, to stay overnight at their home unsupervised;
- sleep in the same room or be in the same bed as a child with whom they are working;
- do things for children of a personal nature that they can do for themselves;
- participate in or condone the behaviour of children which is illegal, unsafe or abusive;
- consume alcohol while having responsibility for, or in the presence of, children taking part in church activities;
- use mobiles to make or receive calls or texts when responsible for the safety and well-being of children. This is unsafe practice which distracts from the responsibility of supervision;
- smoke in the presence of children taking part in church activities;
- use drugs or illegal substances while having responsibility for, or in the presence of, children taking part in church activities;
- act in ways intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade;
- engage in rough play with each other or with children;
- discriminate against, show different treatment or favour particular children to the exclusion of others.
In order to ensure the Code of Behaviour is adhered to all parish/diocesan groups will need to:
- ensure adequate information is given to all those involved in ministering to children;
- distribute a copy of the Code of behaviour to all staff and volunteers as part of the Recruitment Procedure;
- display the Code of behaviour in all parish premises;
- make copies of the Code of behaviour available for children and parents/guardians;
- monitor parish groups and those groups using parish premises.
The Diocese will support good practice by:
- providing the necessary training for Safeguarding Children Representatives and all clergy;
- distributing copies of the Code of behaviour to all clergy and Parish Representatives;
- offering support to individuals or groups in the implementation of good practice;
- responding promptly to any concerns reported and reviewing practice and the content of the Code of behaviour regularly.
It is also recommended that a Code of Behaviour for all activities is developed with children. Guidance in this area can be sought from the Armagh Diocesan Youth Commission or the Armagh Diocesan Youth Director.