The following submission was made to the APPG by the then Chair of the NLN Jim Foy, LADO for Doncaster.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Settings:

 Inquiry into ‘Positions of Trust within Faith Settings’

I am employed by Doncaster Children’s Services Trust Safeguarding unit as the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). I have been employed in this capacity since November 2013. I am responsible for the management of allegations made about anyone who works with children in Doncaster whether in a paid or voluntary capacity. I am also Vice Chair of the National LADO Network (NLN). All LADOs (or designated officers) across England are represented by 9 regional areas. Representatives from the regional areas meet on a regular basis. The group has also been widened to include colleagues that undertake a similar function in Wales. The NLN provides a forum to consider LADO practice issues, develop national guidelines and consider future developments of the LADO role and services. We support local authorities in developing robust systems for managing allegations against those who work with children and young people.
I hold a Diploma in social work awarded in September 1996 and an MA in Child welfare and safeguarding (Advanced Social Work Award) awarded in September 2010.
LADOs are responsible for managing and overseeing cases where an allegation is made about a person working with children. We play a vital safeguarding role in combating abuse and protecting children. LADOs are involved from the initial phase of the allegation through to the conclusion of the case, and have to ensure a robust but fair response to safeguarding concerns and when necessary ensuring steps are taken so that individuals who pose a risk to children are no longer able to undertake any role working with children.
The NLN welcomes the inquiry that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Settings has set up as there are a number of concerns with the current definition of ‘Positions of Trust’ within the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 that need to be addressed both within a faith settings and in other sectors.
Currently a person is in a position of trust if he/she is an adult (someone over 18 years old) who looks after a child(ren) (someone under 18 years old) when the adult is engaged in certain roles including, teachers, social workers, some personal advisors, residential care workers and foster carers. It also covers adults working in specific settings including, schools, colleges, residential care homes, hospitals, youth offender institutions and in secure accommodation.
There are a significant number of adults who look after children or who are seen as a trusted adult by children who are not covered by the current definition. The following are examples of such roles and is not an exhaustive list; All sports coaches including those that are not regulated by a national body such as independent martial arts instructors, Youth club leaders including national organisations such as Scouts, Guides and youth outreach workers, drama group leaders, uniform services cadets, home tutors, driving instructors, Personal assistants paid under direct payment arrangements, choir masters, leaders of classes set up by faith groups to teach about their faiths, faith leaders and those in authority within faith organisations. Those providing pastoral/counselling support both in and outside of faith groups.
Some adults who work with children whether in a paid or voluntary capacity use their authority and influence over children in order to develop a relationship that is sexually exploitative. These relationships may not lead to a criminal conviction, especially if the child is over 16 years old and does not view the relationship as exploitative. When an adult has authority and influence over a child a power imbalance is in existence and therefor any relationship will be unequal and can be exploited by the adult.

There are a number of cases recorded across the cohort of LADOs involving individuals in regulated activities which are not currently covered by the current legislation, but who have entered into a sexually exploitative relationship with a child they are working with, including children aged 16 to 17 years old. Not all of these cases have resulted in criminal convictions often because of the complexities of the case including the child not believing that they were abused. By widening the definition to include any adult, whether in a regulated activity or not, that has regular and direct contact with children and are in a position of authority over them it would allow for prosecutions of such cases and increased awareness of the risks these individuals pose, which will enable organisations such as local authorities and the DBS to take more robust action to prevent them from working with children again.

In the example of a martial arts instructor who sexually groomed a child who was around 17 years old. This led to a sexual relationship but there was insufficient evidence for a conviction. There may well have been evidence if he was classified as being a person in a position of trust for a criminal investigation. There was no criminal conviction and he did not answer to any national regulatory body for his sport and therefore he was able to continue running the group.

A scout leader had known the child for a few years and in that time built up a level of trust with him to the point that text messages were exchanged on a regular basis and he was able to exploit that trust. This led to overnight stays at the leader’s home and the child (15yrs old) being given alcohol before he was sexually abused. The child’s family reported the matter some time later. There was insufficient evidence to meet the criminal threshold. As in the previous example there may have been evidence if he was classified as being a person in a position of trust for a criminal investigation.

I have also been involved in cases where an adult has had authority over children in a faith setting including someone in charge of altar boys, a youth leader in a church and a leader of a church. In one of the cases criminal charges were brought in relation to sexual offences but in the other cases no charges were brought. The allegations were substantiated and the denomination did take appropriate steps to stop the individuals from undertaking further work with children. However this would not stop these individuals going to another church/organisation where they were not known. Any checks would not show a criminal conviction. LADO colleagues nationally will have a wealth of additional case examples of sexual abuse of 16/17 year olds by those working in faith settings and were viewed as trusted adults.

A further area of concern are private tutors who work in the community, some of which are connected to faith-based settings and provide a service in family homes. There is currently no requirement for DBS checks to be undertaken and/or training for these individuals.

There are additional complexities for LADO’s where faith groups are not willing to cooperate with LADO’s or statutory agencies investigating child abuse because of their own internal policies. For example the Jehovah’s Witness position on safeguarding notes that allegations of child abuse should be reported to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses and notes “Even if the elders have no legal duty to report an accusation to the authorities, the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses will instruct the elders to report the matter if a minor is still in danger

of abuse or there is some other valid reason.” This is not consistent with statutory guidance and can lead to abuse being unreported. In addition practice can include taking further action only if there is a second witness to the offence, which may lead to some criminal offences going unreported.

There is also a concern about the accountability of faith-based leaders who have extremist ideas about reinforcing cultural practices within the faith communities e.g. female genital mutilation, extremism and radicalisation and also cultural practices e.g. rights of women/girls if a sexual act is inflicted on them outside of the domain of marriage. If a leader express these views or is aware that this type of abuse is taking place and does not take any action then currently it is very difficult to place any sanctions on them.

It is my view and that of the NLN that because of the vulnerability of young people and the power in balance that exists between adults and children they work with, the current definition of ‘Position of Trust’ within the Sexual Offences Act, 2003, should be extended to include any adult that has regular and direct contact with children and are also in a position of authority over them.

Jim Foy Local Authority Designated Officer Vice Chair National LADO Network