The PCC will be helped massively in its task of governance by noting what marks 2 and 3 have to say. Having good policies and procedures in place gives the PCC a clear framework to plan its work. It is important to remember that having policies and procedures is one thing but adhering to them is another! Some subjects necessitate mandatory procedures (indicated where applicable) whilst others would certainly benefit from them…
A primary concern for which a policy and related procedures must be in place is Safeguarding. Safeguarding must be a standard item on every regular PCC meeting agenda to prompt scheduled reviews and necessary actions. The Parish Safeguarding Coordinator should report regularly to the PCC concerning this subject and a report should be included within the Trustees Annual Report (part of the APCM documentation). The diocesan website has a comprehensive section on Safeguarding which gives a template for a PCC Safeguarding Policy and many guidance documents to enable a complete Safeguarding system to be established and an appropriate culture within the parish promoted.
Note: Please make sure that your Safeguarding Policy together with the contact details of your Parish Safeguarding Officer are clearly accessible from the home page of your website (if you have one) and likewise on your dedicated ‘A Church Near You’ site.
Please refer to the next page of this guide which addresses Safeguarding training and obtaining DBS clearance.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in the UK from May 2018. It replaced the existing law on data protection (the Data Protection Act 1998). This new regulation gives individuals more rights and protection in how their personal data is used by organisations. Parishes, just like any other charity or organisation, must comply with its requirements and maintain a policy. There is a handy GDPR checklist and sample policy on this website.
Nowadays, in seeking to witness and grow disciples, the church must be wherever people congregate. Many parishes have an active presence on the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. All these media tools need to be used responsibly and the diocese has produced some documents to help churches navigate the online world with safety. This link will take you to the diocesan social media guidance page and some useful guidance.
All PCCs should have a Reserves Policy which forms part of the Trustees Annual Report produced for the Annual Parochial Church Meeting; this is a requirement of the Charity SORP (Statement of Recommended Practices). Whether you’ve got lots of cash to spare, or are struggling to get by month by month, it’s important to consider what a reserves policy might appropriately say. Guidance in producing a reserves policy can be found within the CofE Parish Resources website.
Each scheduled PCC meeting agenda should include an item which gives an opportunity to hear an up-to-date summary of the PCC’s finances from the Treasurer. Where an annual budget exists (it is good practice to develop one) actual income and expenditure can be compared and discrepancies investigated. Many PCCs are now using online software package promoted by the diocese to record their finances. This software, produced by ‘Data Developments Ltd.’ can produce summary statements to be shared at various points throughout the financial year.
It’s good practice to have a Legacy Policy and to communicate this within the church. Such a policy informs potential givers that the Church values gifts left in wills and something on how it will seek to use such gifts; it provides a framework that guides the PCC’s thinking when a gift is received. Guidance for a Legacy Policy can also be found on the CofE Parish Resources website.
Many churches have churchyards which will fall into one of two categories, viz. ‘open’ or ‘closed’. To complicate matters, some ‘open’ churchyards have ‘closed’ areas. The terms ‘open’ and ‘closed’ refers generally as to whether burials can take place. Importantly, when a churchyard is formally closed, the responsibility for its maintenance can pass by means of an Order in Council to the Local Authority. To find out more about this procedure contact the Diocesan Registry.
It is worth noting that once a churchyard is closed it becomes unlawful to perform a coffin burial (even in a re-opened, family grave) unless the closure order made a specific exception for such. Enquiries as to whether such an exception was included in a closure order should be directed to the Registry.
The interment of cremated remains within an existing grave of a closed churchyard is subject to Faculty jurisdiction; however, a direction by the Chancellor simplifies the petitioning for such through use of the Private Faculty Petitions form. This form should be used when the following criteria are met (a) The remains to be interred are those of a person who is the son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter of a person whose remains are already interred in the grave or of the spouse of such son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter. (b) Consent has been obtained from such other descendants of the persons already interred in the grave as can be discovered with reasonable diligence. (c) The incumbent confirms that he or she and the PCC consent to such interment. The consent of the PCC can be signified by a resolution giving general consent to such interments.
For Churchyards which remain open the Diocesan Chancellor’s Churchyard Regulations can be found on the Diocesan website. These deal with the physical character of memorial stones and inscriptions which an incumbent may permit without a specific faculty being required. They also cover many other practical aspects of churchyard management.
It is possible for a parish to write its own Churchyard Policy which will then need to be approved by the Chancellor via the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). This can bring certain advantages where a greater flexibility in authorising the types of memorials requested might be helpful.
PCCs which are also registered charities must include in their Trustees Annual Report a statement ‘confirming that the major risks to which the charity is exposed, as identified by the trustees, have been reviewed and systems or procedures have been established to manage those risks.’
For smaller PCCs (those whose annual income is below £100,000 and which therefore have not had to register with the Charity Commission), it is simply good practice to consider regularly what risks your church faces and how you manage those risks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PCCs became much more familiar with performing and recording risk assessments. Under more normal circumstances at least, fire risk, and risk due to the performance of maintenance should be systematically addressed.
If your PCC employs five or more people, it will need a written Health and Safety Policy which meets certain requirements. The Ecclesiastical Insurance Company’s website offers a template for a Health & Safety Policy together with other useful information. Any risk assessments completed for employee and volunteer tasks will need to be included within the policy. The policy will need to be revised periodically and communicated to all employees and volunteers.
Though not generally a matter for the development of a formal policy, building maintenance and repairs often feature on the PCC’s meeting agenda. Naturally, some repairs become necessary through the natural failure of components or because of storms and, unfortunately, vandalism. Where emergency repairs are necessary, the Archdeacon is a good source of help and advice. Remember that repairs to church fabric may well be subject to faculty jurisdiction (see note on page 13). The development of a routine maintenance schedule (covering activities such as gutter cleaning, organ tuning, heating boiler servicing, tree safety surveys) can save a lot of potential emergency work. Perhaps the PCC could delegate to one of its ‘practical’ members the task of formulating a schedule of routine maintenance? Regular, visual inspections of paths and steps (particularly in the colder months) can make for safer access and egress of worshippers and visitors.
On a five-yearly basis, a more thorough inspection of church fabric is carried out against a fixed set of criteria. Sometimes, the architect who performed the last inspection (or the Archdeacon’s office) may send a reminder that the next Quinquennial Inspection (QI) is due; however, if the PCC can ‘file-forward’ a note on this necessity, so much the better. The diocesan website has dedicated pages which give advice on how to begin the QI process. In 2021, there were several changes to the established QI practices so even experienced PCC members may wish to discover what has changed!
A Conflict of Interest Policy is designed to ensure that the discussions and decisions of the PCC are not influenced by hidden loyalties or factors that are not known to all members. The CofE Parish Resources website has a template.
Hopefully, your PCC will not get many complaints, and most of those that you do receive can be settled informally. However, occasionally complainants will wish to pursue their complaint more formally; having a policy in place can be useful. Templates are available as in the case above. If the complainant is an employee of the PCC, the employee’s Contract of Employment should contain its own grievance procedure.