Safeguarding people amid the coronavirus pandemic

Safeguarding guide cover imageAt these difficult times, we would like to help churches not only promote everyone’s wellbeing but also consider actions for those who are more vulnerable in the next weeks and months. 

As churches close for the foreseeable future, everyone needs to keep safeguarding a priority even if we are not meeting, it’s important to ensure care for the more vulnerable takes place through phone calls, messages, emails and social media platforms.

There are many initiatives to help people connect via the internet, through streaming and other measures. There is a range of advice on the URC website:

Please see the quick guide to what you can do to offer support whilst continuing to serve the needs of your communities. 

The main issues to consider are as follows:

1. Pastoral/ home visiting

Face to face pastoral visiting should not be the norm, nor encouraged, but over the period of self-isolation people may need occasional visits to help with minor emergencies. If required, existing pastoral visitors with a current DBS check and are exempt from the self-isolating list may conduct the visits. All must follow government guidance in relation to self-isolation and due regard must be given to appropriate care, including hand washing.

A priority is to consider alternative ways of keeping in touch:

  • Telephone
  • Email
  • FaceTime (smart phone)
  • Social Media messaging (WhatsApp, Messenger etc.)

2. Children & Young People

For most children and young people, their home is a safe and supportive place but for others it is not. At this time of “lockdown”, some children are at greater risk of abuse. If you have concerns about any child(ren), you must report the situation to the relevant agencies or at the very least to the church safeguarding coordinator and/ or Synod Safeguarding Officer.

3. Adults at Risk

The government have already identified adults who are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. This includes people who are pregnant, aged 70 years or older with or without health conditions and people with complex health problems. Those who fall into these categories need to be the centre of our care and support, along with people who are living with mental health and physical disabilities and anyone who relies on others for “personal assistance to meet their basic needs”.

Regular contact and texts over the telephone will be a valuable source of help and reassurance to those who require a reminder of medication or need assistance to order food supplies.
If you have any concerns about an “adult at risk” seek advice about reporting the issues to the local authority from the church safeguarding coordinator and/ or the Synod Safeguarding Officer.

4. Domestic Abuse

Reports from China revealed that incidents of domestic abuse tripled in February 2020, compared to the previous year. Of course, COVID-19 cannot cause domestic abuse, just as alcohol, drugs, unemployment etc. do not cause it. Existing research highlights that natural disasters and diseases are factors in increased reports of domestic abuse.

Here are a few things that might be useful for people to consider:

  • Understand that stress and anxiety does not cause domestic abuse, but it may increase it in families where it is already being perpetrated. Acknowledge that this is an extremely unsafe time.

  • Check in with someone who you are personally worried about. If making a phone call to a suspected domestic abuse victim or survivor, always assume that the perpetrator could be listening in. The same goes for instant messaging services.

  • If you suspect that the victim or survivor isn’t able to talk because of being overheard, give them a readily thought out line to end the call, e.g. if it is not safe to speak right now then please repeat after me “I’m sorry there is no one called Tina here, you must have got the wrong number.”

  • If it is safe to talk when you call, arrange a codeword or phrase that the victim can use if interrupted, e.g. if you need to end the call at any point please say “no, sorry I’m not interested in taking part in the survey”.

For further help and advice consider the following:

Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge 0808 200 0247
Galop (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) 0800 999 5428
Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327
Rape Crisis (England and Wales) 0808 802 9999

5. Fraud

Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totalling over £800k.

Multiple reports have been received about coronavirus-themed phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.  

One common tactic used by fraudsters is to contact potential victims over email purporting to be from research organisation’s affiliated with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.


Watch out for scam messages: Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
Shopping online: If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases. For more information on how to shop online safely, please visit:
Protect your devices from the latest threats: Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats. For information on how to update your devices, please visit:
Further information will be made available via URC Mersey Facebook and here on our website.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any concerns.
Take care
Julie Rafferty
Mersey Synod Safeguarding Officer

“Our duty to safeguard individuals does not stop during the epidemic”.