A guide to the screening and selection of Clergy and Church Workers who work with children and vulnerable adults

This webpage has been prepared to assist Church bodies in selecting the most appropriate people for positions within the Church. It provides guidelines and procedures for the challenging task of choosing the right people for God’s ministry.

Introduction

In 2004, the General Synod adopted a number of resolutions concerning integrated safe ministry policies and structures to ensure the safety of all people in the Church. At Anglican Church Southern Queensland, the Professional Standards Implementation Task Group worked hard to implement these decisions and has progressively developed policies and procedures which now form an integral part of our policy framework.

A key element in creating a safe environment is careful and considered recruitment and training of clergy and church workers. Clergy and church workers are trusted leaders in the Church. Therefore, we must take great care in recruiting our people especially those who are working with children.

The section of the website Safe Ministry Check Choosing the right people for God’s ministry, provides clear procedures to assist people who are responsible for recruitment. It includes ready-made questionnaires, checklists and sample letters designed to make a complex and challenging task simple, straightforward and rewarding.

I commend this document to you for your prayerful consideration and application in your ministry in the Church.

Yours in Christ

PA-signature

Phillip Aspinall
Archbishop of Brisbane

The purpose of this webpage

The screening of clergy and church workers is an important and critical step in the recruitment process.

It enables us to establish the suitability of potential workers for the roles and tasks they are expected to perform. In addition to assessing the suitability of applicants, screening of workers is consistent with the requirements described in the Church’s Risk Management Plan.

Risk management begins with identifying the opportunities for workers to abuse the trust placed in them. The Plan seeks to eliminate potential risks through planning the activities of workers and implementing recruitment processes that test the suitability of applicants and will screen out those who may present a risk.

The majority of workers perform their roles without incident and with a deep commitment to the wellbeing of those with whom they work. However, certain roles demand a high level of trust and these require vigilant screening. In particular, workers who work with vulnerable persons such as children and young people must be screened rigorously to minimise the risk of harm.

In October 2004, the General Synod of Anglican Church of Australia resolved that each Diocese adopts a system for screening of all paid and voluntary church workers who have direct and regular contact with children in their ministry or who supervise any such workers that includes the Safe Ministry Check and a children’s commission check. (Resolution 35/04 Child Protection 3 (f)).

General Synod also adopted the Safe Ministry Check as the national applicant and referee questionnaires for the screening of clergy and church workers who have contact with children in their ministry. (Resolution 33/04 Child Protection 1 (c)).

Accordingly, Anglican Church Southern Queensland has approved this Safe Ministry Check Manual and its procedures for the screening of clergy and church workers.

The screening process includes a criminal history check which is conducted through an application for a Blue Card to the Blue Card Services, Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

This Manual has been developed to assist parishes and other ministries in Anglican Church SQ to screen and select clergy and church workers. It includes a step-by-step process for screening and selection of clergy and lay workers; and appropriate forms, checklists and other documents to assist you in this complex, but important, task.

An explanation of terminology

Throughout this document, the term workers is intended to include paid, unpaid, full-time, part-time and casual workers, and clergy and lay workers who work with children and other vulnerable persons.

The terms Blue Card, working with children check, positive suitability notice and national police check are used within the Safe Ministry Check and all refer to the same process.

Blue Card Services requires that all persons who are working with children undergo a working with children check. This check is required by State legislation the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000.

Anglican Church SQ is committed to comply with the Act by ensuring that all Church workers who work with children or who are responsible for persons working for children hold a current, valid Blue Card.

The working with children check requires the person to apply to the Blue Card Services for a suitability notice which includes a national police check. A successful applicant will be issued a positive suitability notice (which is a letter from the Commission) and a Blue Card (which is a credit-card-size card).

Where any one of the above terms is used, please understand that it incorporates the other terms.

Ten steps to choosing the right person

The first stage in appointing a person to a position is the application of a sound screening and selection process. The following guide is designed to lead you through the process step-by-step.

Whether all the steps need to be followed will depend on the nature of the position and the level of risk it entails.

Discretion may be used where a position is considered to be low risk that is, where there is likely to be little contact between the person and children. With positions of low risk, the position description and the formal recruitment process (steps 1 and 2) may be modified.

However, it is critical that any appointment is confirmed only when the person with the appropriate responsibility for an appointment is satisfied that the best applicant has been selected and that all requirements (including a Blue Card) have been met.

1. Prepare a clear position description

This should outline the requirements, the responsibilities and accountabilities, and the objectives of the position. It should also define performance measures which will be used for on-going performance management and feedback to the worker.

The People & Culture team can provide helpful information regarding recruitment.

2. Establish a formal recruitment process

It should be made clear to applicants from the beginning that they will be required to undergo a screening process. An open screening process informs applicants that the organisation is professional in its management. The screening process may also act as a deterrent to applicants who may pose a risk.

3. Advertise the position

It is always best to publicly advertise the position rather than rely on word-of-mouth to attract applicants. In this way you can clearly define the position and the terms of employment.

By advertising you may attract someone who is better suited to the task than those within your immediate circle of contacts.

4. Use the Safe Ministry Check as an application package

The benefit of using this package is that, when completed fully, it provides all the required information for you to make an informed and wise appointment.

5. Conduct interviews

An interview provides the opportunity to speak to applicants about their background, skills, interests and availability; and also to explore any doubts you may have about their suitability.

6. Follow up references

Applicants should always be asked to provide the names of at least two referees; and the referees should always be contacted to assist you in determining the applicant’s suitability.

It should not be assumed that referees will only say positive things about the applicant. With the right questions, referees can provide good insight into the applicant’s suitability for the position.

Written reference checks should be sought from referees of Clergy and paid worker applicants.

Telephone reference checks may be conducted with referees for voluntary applicants. It is easier to have prepared in advance a set of questions to ask the referee, and to record their responses.

Template questionnaires for written and telephone reference checks are provided as part of the Safe Ministry Check Resource Pack later in this manual.

7. Require a Blue Card as a condition of appointment

Once an applicant has been selected for the position, an application for a Blue Card must be made to the Blue Card Services.

An applicant for a paid position may commence duties prior to receiving their Blue Card provided they have completed and submitted their application form. An applicant for a voluntary position must hold a Blue Card before he/she commences duty.

If any applicant already holds a Blue Card, it must be current and you must sight it. In addition, you should request the person to complete and sign an authorisation to confirm a valid blue card/application form. When completed and signed by you and forwarded to the Blue Card Services, they will advise whether the person’s Blue Card is valid. Then, the person may start duty immediately.

8. Conduct orientation and/or training sessions

Orientation and training provide opportunities to observe the person in context and to inform him/her of the policies and procedures in place in the Church.

All persons taking up positions in Anglican Church SQ are required to attend the following two training sessions:

  • Professional Ethics and Human Sexuality, and
  • Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children – Parishes.

These sessions are conducted regularly throughout Anglican Church SQ.

For information about when sessions are available, please contact the Director of Professional Standards on 07 3835 2266.

It is not necessary that the person has attended a session prior to starting but should attend as soon as possible after he/she has been appointed to a position.

9. Provide supervision

Supervision is an essential component of good pastoral care. All workers need to be supervised in the early days and, if the position has a high level of risk (for example, a youth worker), close supervision is warranted. As trust and experience is developed, the level of supervision may be reduced.

10. Follow up with participants

As the person responsible for the conduct of activities within the parish, it is appropriate for you to speak with participants in the parish’s various activities from time to time. This provides an opportunity for you to receive feedback on the performance of the worker and will assist you in identifying any potential problems or risks. Awareness that follow-up will take place may also act as a deterrent for someone who may do harm.

Contacting the applicant

By the time you are ready to contact the applicant you should already have completed the first two steps of the Selection and Screening Process.

You should have:

  • prepared a clear Position Description, and
  • established a Formal Recruitment Process

If you haven’t completed these stages, please do so before proceeding any further.

Advertising the position

You may choose to advertise in a variety of media, depending on the position you seek to fill and the calibre of the applicant you hope to attract.

Media may include your parish newsletter, Anglican Focus, local newspapers or metropolitan and national newspapers.

The wording of the advertisement is crucial in attracting the best applicants for the position.

It should state clearly what the position is, who the employer is, the location and hours of the position, and any special requirements.

The advertisement should also state that applicants will be asked to complete a Safe Ministry Check and are required to apply for, or hold a current, valid Blue Card.

It is recommended that the advertisement for a position states that potential applicants should contact you (or a nominated person) for an Application Package.

Safe Ministry Check Resource Pack

Safe Ministry Check Questionnaires

The Safe Ministry Check Resource Pack features two forms of questionnaire one for clergy and paid workers and another for voluntary workers.

The questionnaires include a number of questions regarding the applicant’s criminal history, inappropriate conduct, driving history,
and matters of abuse.If an applicant answers yes to any of these questions, his/her application needs to be considered with greater care.

A yes answer will not automatically preclude a person from obtaining a position in the Church.

For example, a positive answer to question 2 Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence?, may not necessarily preclude a person working with children. The context of the offence/s should be considered and matters such as the age of the person at the time of the offence, the nature of the offence, and any impinging cultural issues must be taken into account.

However, the person must apply for, or have, a valid Blue Card. If the person is unable to obtain a Blue Card and the position requires one, he/she cannot be appointed to the position.

In Questionnaire B (for Volunteers) where a yes answer is given to any one or more of questions 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10, the Director of Professional Standards must be advised before any decision is made about engaging the applicant. The Director will then initiate a risk assessment of the person to determine whether he/she may safely be engaged in any position with  Anglican Church Southern Queensland.

Questionnaire A for Clergy and Paid Church Workers (full questionnaire is filling in for first time). 

Affirmation Form for Clergy and Paid Church Workers (if full Questionnaire A has previously been completed). 

 

Safe Ministry Resource Pack

The Safe Ministry Check Resource Pack provides a complete range of information sheets and template forms which can be sent to applicants.

You should collate together an Application Package that is appropriate for the position and the individual candidate applying for that position.

Applicants who are Clergy

To download documents, simply click on the icon.

Applicants for paid positions

To download documents, simply click on the icon.

Applicants for voluntary positions

To download documents, simply click on the icon.

Protection of personal information held by Parishes

APP 11 requires that an organisation must take reasonable steps to protect the personal information it holds from misuse and loss and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.

Parishes will hold a range of personal information including information in relation to baptism, confirmation, marriage and death. As well, information will be held on members of the parish.

In addition, persons who apply for paid and unpaid positions in the parish provide considerable personal information in their applications and any attachments (for example, written references, copies of documents, Blue Card information, etc). The completed Safe Ministry Check also contains personal information of a sensitive nature.

All this information must be protected from unauthorised access.

It is important that the information is held securely in a locked filing cabinet or cupboard and access is limited to those who have a need to access the information. In addition, in larger parishes, it may be necessary to have measures in place to manage access to the information.

The information related to unsuccessful applicants for positions should be held for a limited time. Twelve months would be sufficient. At the conclusion of that period of time, the information should be destroyed by either shredding or placing in a secure disposal bin.

Information on persons who are employed either in a paid or an unpaid position should be retained in a secure place. When a person resigns, retires or is terminated from a position, his/her information should be retained in the Parish.

After a reasonable period of time the information should be sealed and forwarded to Anglican Church Southern Queensland Archives where the documents will be stored indefinitely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should we screen volunteers, including our own parishioners?

We want our church to be a clear symbol of the Kingdom of God a safe and holy place for all. Therefore, it is the policy of Anglican Church Southern Queensland (ACSQ) that everyone who comes into contact with children and young people and other vulnerable persons is screened in a manner appropriate to the ministry or job being undertaken. The aim of this policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in all parishes, all ACSQ ministries and all activities aimed at children, seniors, the physically, emotionally or spiritually vulnerable and those who are ministering in our church.

Can a check of the National Register be made for volunteers in my parish?

Yes in most cases. The National Register can be accessed by the Director of Professional Standards under certain circumstances. Access to the Register is determined by a Protocol which limits the circumstances in which a check may be made. The Protocol allows the Director to identify whether there is any information on the Register about a particular person and will assist in screening the person for a position in the Church. When you have selected the most suitable person for the position, contact the Director for the National Register check.

Who should be screened?

All new persons appointed to high risk positions of trust and authority involving ministry to children and vulnerable adults are to be screened prior to appointment. To give solid leadership, it is also important for those in visible leadership roles to be screened.

Do we need to screen everyone, even occasional helpers?

The first step is to complete the Risk Assessment questionnaire. If the position held by a person is considered high risk, then screening is necessary. If a person is helping on an occasional basis, it should not be necessary to screen him/her. However, to ensure that there is no risk, it is helpful to have another screened person working alongside the helper.

Who does the screening?

In general, screening is done by the people responsible for supervising the volunteer or worker. A parish may choose to set up a screening committee for support and to track progress.

How do we deal with someone who has done pastoral work for 30 years and resents being screened?

Involve them in writing their own ministry description or in developing parish guidelines for other workers. Assure them that it is not about the person; it is about the position.

How do we screen those who are under 18?

Young persons under the age of eighteen are not required to apply for a Blue Card but should still be screened. A detailed ministry description, references and an interview should be used to screen young people.

Can you ask in an interview whether someone has a police record?

No. Relevant questions on the Safe Ministry Check provide the opportunity for an applicant to provide information regarding this issue. The application for a Blue Card will also establish whether there is any relevant police record.

How are types of abuse other than sexual to be checked, especially for adults, for example, abuse of authority?

Try to develop clear ministry descriptions, mentioning appropriate attitude and behaviour. Interview for attitude and be sure that a volunteers training and evaluation are ongoing.

What is our Duty of Care?

This is a legal concept which identifies the obligation of individuals and organisations to take reasonable measures to care for and protect people in their programs. Failure to meet the Duty of Care can result in an accusation of negligence.

If someone has done their time shouldn't the church allow them to do ministry?

A criminal conviction for a sexual offence involving a child disqualifies an applicant from working with children. Generally, the person would be unable to obtain a Blue Card which means under State law and ACSQ’s policy the person would not be able to work with children. The Church must be careful not to expose anyone back to unnecessary temptation. Other types of ministry may be explored.

Why should I interview all volunteers when some are people I have known for years and see weekly at our services?

An interview provides the ministry leaders with the opportunity to review important items about the ministry description and the individual’s application form. In addition, it gives the interview team a feeling about how well this person fits in a particular ministry or job.

How often should people be re-screened

When a volunteer makes a significant change in position or takes on a new ministry, he or she should be re-screened. Based on the new Ministry description, the parish should conduct an interview, orientation and perhaps an appropriate record check.

What if one person holds many positions in the parish?

If a person holds many position in the parish, it is required they are screened for the position with the highest level of risk.

When is it appropriate to conduct a second interview?

If the interviewer is uneasy about the fit of a person for a particular position, arrange a second interview. Invite another person to assist in the interview preferably someone who is familiar with the ministry. You are looking for the right match of person and ministry.

Who pays for the application for a Blue Card?

The cost of an application is borne by the parish if the position is a paid position. Applications for a voluntary position are free.

How long is a Blue Card valid?

Three years from date of issue, unless cancelled earlier.

What should the parish do with copies of the application for and notice?

All documentation should be kept secure and safe in the parish office.

Does the person being screened have the right to access their file?

Yes, the person being screened can access their file.

What happens when parishioners become friends?

An important role of the church is to build communities of friendship that reveal Christ’s love. Unfortunately, sexual offenders attempt to form relationships to serve their own purposes and harm the vulnerable. It is important to be sensitive to responsible boundaries in any relationship of trust.

How do we screen those who are appointed or elected?

If the position is assessed as high risk, the individual must be screened before the electoral decision can be ratified. If the election is to the parish council or to the position of warden, the provisions of the Eligibility for Office Canon and the Regulations under the Canon apply especially section 5 (2) of the Canon. When possible, screening requirements should be addressed with nominees before the election in order to avoid confusion or embarrassment.

Do we need to do reference checks on people who have been serving in high risk positions before the implementation of this policy?

Yes. While the experience of the congregation with those persons may serve as references, these positions should also be reference checked progressively to ensure the safety of children and other vulnerable persons. All other aspects of the application process are also followed, including a written ministry description, application (without references), suitability notice, interview, signing of ministry guidelines, position-specific training and relevant training.

Do I need to interview a person who has been holding a high risk position for a long period of time?

If a person has been in a high risk position for over twelve months and the person has a current blue card, it will not be necessary to conduct a full interview. However, it would be helpful to prepare a job description with clear responsibilities and accountabilities; and to discuss with the person how he/she is performing. If there are any concerns or areas which may need further support or supervision, appropriate strategies can be put into place. With the person’s permission, you could speak to other persons in the parish who have knowledge of the person’s role to discuss their perspective on his/her performance. It is important to emphasise that the primary concern is the well-being of the children involved in the ministry and the enquiries you are making do not indicate a lack of trust in the person.

Can we conduct a group interview with all of our Sunday School Teachers (for example) at a regularly scheduled teachers meeting?

Getting the group together for orientation to group norms, information sharing and pastoral care can be great way to demonstrate support and build a culture of trust. Nevertheless, individual interviews are a better option for screening. There are frustrations and concerns that may be raised in an interview that might not be aired in a group. Persons in positions of trust should have the opportunity to tell their stories and voice their concerns in private and regularly. Ministry leaders need to build in space and privacy in order to address any concerns they may have and to support the person’s personal growth and development. An interview may be informal (e.g. a short visit over coffee) as long as the person knows the purpose of the interview and is given time in a confidential environment to communicate concerns. Concerns and frustrations raised should be handled appropriately according to parish practice, policy and guidelines.

What is an AVO?

Apprehended Violence Order [AVO]: means an order made by a court restricting the behaviour of the person against whom the order has been taken. The purpose of an AVO is to protect a person from violence, harassment or intimidation in the future. An AVO usually states that the person the AVO is taken out against cannot assault, harass, threaten, stalk, or intimidate the person taking out the AVO. It is often used in family court matters. It can also be called a Domestic Violence Order or a Protection Order – depending on the state in which the order was made.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual Harassment means unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, whether intended or not, in relation to an adult where the person reasonably feels in all circumstances offended, belittled or threatened. Such behaviour may consist of a single incident or several incidents over a period of time. It includes:

  • Asking a person for sex;
  • Giving a person to understand that you would like sexual favours from them;
  • Making any gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature to a person directly or making a comment of a sexual nature in their presence;
  • Making jokes containing sexual references or innuendo using any form of communication;
  • Exposing a person to any form of sexually explicit or suggestive material;
  • Making unwelcome physical contact such as touching, pinching, or patting;
  • Making unwelcome or unnecessary inquiries about or attempts to discuss personal matters of a sexual nature;
  • Deliberately intruding on an individual’s personal space;
  • Staring at or secretly watching a person for the purposes of sexual stimulation or gratification; and
  • Stalking a person.

Publications and References

The following documents form part of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland policies and procedures.

Reference is made to these documents at various times throughout this publication and they may all be accessed through this website.

  • Professional Standards Canon
  • Protocol for Dealing with Sexual Misconduct
  • Policy – Risk Management Strategy for child and youth ministries in the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane
  • Faithfulness in Service (Code of Conduct)
  • Safe Ministry Policy Statement
  • Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children – Parishes
  • Student Protection in Anglican Schools: Policy and Procedures

Training provided by the Director of Professional Standards

  1. Professional Ethics and Human Sexuality
  2. Protection Policy for Children Parishes

Weblinks

  1. Blue Card Services,  Department of Justice and Attorney-General
  2. Australian Human Rights Commission

External Documents and Procedures

These documents have been referenced in the Safe Ministry Check

  1. Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000
  2. Guidelines for the Prevention of Discrimination in Employment on the Basis of Criminal History
  3. Working With Children Check

Training provided by the Office of Professional Standards

  1. Professional Ethics and Human Sexuality (Including Faithfulness in Service)
  2. Child Protection Policy training
  3. Safe Ministry training