Diocesan Safeguarding Day
Letter to be read at all Masses on Sunday, 24 September 2017
Sunday 24 September is Diocesan Safeguarding Day. I wish to take this opportunity to address you on this vital matter and to thank you for all of the work you have been doing to make the Church in Dublin a safer place for children.
As we prepare for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin next August, we should recall the words of Pope Francis: “Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home”.
Considerable efforts have been made in the Archdiocese of Dublin to ensure that the Church is a safe and secure home for children. Last year alone, nearly 1,200 people attended one day safeguarding training sessions and a further 1,500 attended information sessions. We now have almost 400 parish safeguarding representatives who are working alongside clerical and lay colleagues to ensure that best safeguarding practice is followed in each of our 199 parishes. I commend this work and I am grateful to those of you who have accepted this responsibility.
There have been significant developments over the past 12 months or so. In 2016, the state vetting legislation came into operation. Up to that point, vetting was a matter of good practice. Now it is become a legal requirement for those working with children and vulnerable persons. The system for applying for vetting changed and this placed an extra burden on parishes and, most particularly, on those parish workers and volunteers who are not familiar or comfortable with computers and with communicating by email. I want to thank you for bearing with the anxiety and trouble this has caused you.
The second major development is linked to the first. It concerns vulnerable adults. As we know people who are vulnerable are open to abuse and exploitation just as children are. Irish society has come to recognise the need for laws, such as the vetting legislation, and services to protect vulnerable persons. The Health Service Executive now has dedicated teams of social workers working with vulnerable adults. I have asked the diocesan Advisory Panel on Child Protection, the diocesan Safeguarding Committee and the Child Safeguarding and Protection Service to extend their remit to include vulnerable adults. An interim policy on safeguarding vulnerable adults has been developed and issues related to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults are being integrated into the safeguarding training delivered by the Child Safeguarding and Protection Service. There will be further developments in this area over the coming years.
We have seen a welcome decline in the number of child abuse allegations coming to the attention of the diocesan Child Safeguarding and Protection Service. However a decline does not mean that such allegations have ceased, only that there are fewer of them. There are no grounds for complacency. It is important that we remain committed to this vital work.
I ask you also to pray for and remember those who were abused as children and who continue to suffer as a consequence.
With prayerful good wishes,
+ Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin