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Reuters
Children praying.JPG
Reuters
UK News

New safeguarding rules 'shoots of progress' towards 'brighter future'

by Sophie Drew

New changes to safeguarding rules have made it illegal for faith leaders and those in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18.

Prior to the change in legislation, such rules did not apply within the church or sports clubs, with the cut off previously only applying to young people under the age of 16 (the age of consent in England and Wales.) 

Now, an expansion of the current laws sees places of worship forced to follow the same laws as schools, in regard to relationships with those under the age of majority.

Justin Humphreys, CEO of ThirtyOne:Eight - a Christian organisation working within safeguarding - says that these rules are a step in the right direction, bringing consistency across all groups working with young people. 

However, he believes this legislation should have come much sooner. 

He said: "I hope that it's not too little too late; although it may have been too late for some. 

"I really hope that this will be something which will acknowledge that there is risk in some of our churches, and there are things that we can do to first mitigate those risks, but also respond to them when things have gone wrong."

Humphreys recognised that, for some, the church has been marred with scandals of sexual abuse and misconduct. 

Whilst he hopes we are working towards a brighter future, he believes we need to be united in recognising our past.

He continued: "I think we have to acknowledge that the church has not always been the safest place that it could have been; attitudes, behaviours and practices have not always been those that we would perhaps have expected of those within the church.

 "I think it's right, the we acknowledge that that has been the reality. 

"We always have to appreciate that, where mistakes have been made, we ought to do our very best to address them, learn the lessons from them, and do everything we can to prevent repeats. 

"I don't know whether this legislation is going to help in that regard. Because I think really what needs to happen across the church is a wholesale acceptance of that truth and that reality, and an unfettered commitment towards improving the way we do things for the future. 

"...I think the church has got a long way to go. But we're seeing we're seeing some green shoots of progress."
 

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