11.4 Visiting adults
Visiting vulnerable adults in their homes is an essential element of many church officers’ roles. Many members of the congregation will be well known to the church officer, and where there have been no previous concerns, the level of risk to the church officer or members of the congregation during visits will usually be low. However, unexpected circumstances can be encountered, some of which may place a church officer at risk; for example, the unexpected presence in the home of a relative or friend with a history of violence or threatening behaviour. Unfortunately, case histories also show that a member of the congregation may be at risk from a church officer. For these reasons, it is very important for chaplaincies to ensure that their church officers and congregation members are as safe as they can be and that there is accountability and transparency in how church officers engage in lone working or visits to homes.
To assure the person you are visiting of their safety, and for your own as a church officer:
- If possible, undertake a risk assessment before an initial visit, especially if you do not know the person. If any concerns or risks are known before a visit is made, you are always advised to undertake a risk assessment (see Model Risk Assessment Checklist for Home Visiting). In these circumstances, consider whether the visit is necessary, or whether you should be accompanied by another church officer. In addition, visiting in pairs may be advisable, especially if the adult is perceived to be vulnerable.
- Do not call unannounced; call by appointment, and if appropriate, telephone the person just before visiting.
- Be clear about what support you can offer and the purpose and limitations of any pastoral care/support that is available.
- Do not make referrals to any agency that could provide help without the adult’s permission, and ideally encourage them to set up the contact, unless there are safeguarding concerns.
- Never offer “over-the-counter” remedies to people on visits or administer prescribed medicines, even if asked to do so.
- Do not accept any gifts from adults other than token items, to avoid misunderstandings or subsequent accusations from the person or their family. If someone wants to make a donation to the church, put it in an envelope, mark it on the outside as a donation and obtain a receipt from the Treasurer.
- Make a note of the date when you visit people, report back about the visit to the agreed named person and say what is concerning or going well. They will report safeguarding concerns to the local Safeguarding Officer and/or incumbent, or directly to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor (DSA) if they are not available.