One element of exercising due diligence is ensuring the environment in which we provide our ministry is safe. In addition to being safe, we want all people to feel welcome. The means by which we achieve a safe and welcoming space is determined not only by internal factors but also by external pressures such as legislation. The challenge is in being aware of and meeting the requirements of the external pressures.
"Environment" includes not only the physical space but also the people who deliver the services. Health and safety policies and screening practices are only two ways of developing a safe environment. The atmosphere created by individuals as they interact with one another is another element of the environment. The following section looks at various aspects of creating the safe environment—the "caring community."
Looking to develop or enhance your own program for due diligence and screening? Need resources to assist in the process? In addition to the United Church resources listed here, check out Plan to Protect® from Winning Kids Inc.
The Camp Safety DVD and accompanying information booklet [PDF: 24 pp/184 KB] is a starting point for understanding and managing the safety issues, and includes links for more detailed information. The Camp Safety DVD (including information booklet) is also available to order from UCRDstore.
The three short videos on the DVD are available on YouTube. Click on the We Are Camp playlist for all three: General Safety, Waterfront, and Emergency Search. The information booklet provides more information and links to other resources.
If you are involved in programs that involve waterfront, especially boating, the Canadian Safe Boating Council's Smartboater website may be valuable. This site includes free downloadable educational videos and other resources.
The United Church of Canada is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for all staff and volunteers, and has policies in place to that effect. On June 15, 2010, Ontario joined with other provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, PEI, and Quebec) as Bill 168 took effect. This legislation requires all workplaces to have
The following provides an overview of what each congregation/ministry needs to do to meet the legislative requirements. It also includes useful links to other online resources and tools.
One resource that may assist many congregations and community ministries is the Ontario Service Safety Alliance website.
All ministries in Ontario have an obligation to meet the requirements of the new Accessible Customer Service Standards, and the January 1, 2012, deadline will be here before we know it.
In the spring of 2010, staff representatives from Hamilton, London, and Toronto Conferences met to collectively develop a resource that can be used by their presbyteries to assist ministries in meeting their obligations. This resource is available on the Hamilton Conference and Toronto Conference websites:
Conferences in Ontario are welcome to adapt the resource for their own Conference. Conferences outside Ontario may find the resource useful as we strive to be a welcoming church to everyone.
Check out the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services website for stories, videos, and tips on how to provide services to individuals with disabilities. A number of tools are available to help you meet the compliance requirements, including online training resources.
In April 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed into law. Unlike previous versions, this Act has implications for those who fail to meet the various standards that were to be developed and implemented. The first of these standards, Customer Service, has been passed with a compliance deadline of January 1, 2012, for service providers.
Most of our congregations and many of our other ministries will be required to do the following:
Accessibility and the Church [RTF: 2 pp/108 KB]explains the Customer Service standards in more detail and suggests where to find more information (updated December 2010).
Social networking is more than a communications tool. It is a way for people, particularly young people, to hang out together, an extension of their social lives and places of self-expression. It is an alternative form of community. As such, it poses some of the same risks that a physical community may present.
Those in leadership roles who use social media tools as a means of enhancing communication, sharing faith, and deepening relationships need to be cognizant of the power of this medium and the accompanying risks. It is important to continue to employ the rules regarding relationships, boundaries, and ministry practices to ensure a safe environment is created for all. These guidelines [PDF: 2 pp/85 KB] are provided to assist church leaders when they use this growing community.
For more information contact
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