December 2020 News

Dear reader,
Welcome to the December 2020 SMR news - especially if it's your first as Safe Ministry Rep. This is really a quick wrap up for the end of the year...

Key Points:
  • UPDATED: Changes to the requirements to store SMC ID documents
  • REMINDER: New resource for Safe Ministry Reps: your own, private Facebook group
  • SMC - what happens if people are not cleared by Jan 1st?
  • Support over the holiday period

UPDATED: Helpful changes to storage of SMC ID documents

One of the more challenging aspects of the new Safe Ministry Check has been the requirement for our churches to securely store a copy of the id documents that your volunteers supply as part of their SMC.
There have been legitimate concerns around the security of these documents and the risk of identity theft if they are not stored well.
So after considering these matters, Diocesan legal counsel has recommended making some helpful changes to these requirements:

The PDF version of the Safe Ministry Check form
Currently, church member who use the pdf version of the SMC form attach a copy of their id document(s) to the form and the church stores both the form and the id docs indefinably.
From December 1st, this should be the process:
  • A slightly modified version of the SMC pdf form will replace the current version on the website.
  • The new version will have a small change to the 'Office use only' section on page 3 where the church Authorised Delegate can 'sign off' on the id document(s), showing that they match the person concerned.
  • The authorised delegate can then securely destroy (shredding is best) the copy of the id documents, and when the rest of the form is processed, that should be stored as per existing instructions/recommendations.
The Online Safe Ministry Check form
The storage of id documents uploaded as part of completing the online Safe Ministry Check form will not change at the moment. This is mainly because of the high level of security applied to these documents.
Currently, the following is true for the online form process:
  • All communication between the users device and our website is encrypted (true for all communication, not just the SMC form). The symbol in the address bar of your browser confirms this.
  • When a user clicks on the 'submit' button at the end of the SMC form, the uploaded id document file(s) are encrypted using a 256 bit encryption key (ie: very strong), and uploaded and stored in that state to a cloud storage platform. This means that even if that storage platform suffers a security breach, the files of these documents are unreadable without the encryption key. Two people in the PSU have the encryption key, which itself is very securely stored in an encrypted form.
  • The rest of the data in the online SMC form is also then encrypted and stored in our database. Currently I am the only person able to read the contents of those stored forms.
  • Of course, the copy of the SMC form as a PDF that is sent to the applicant and the church Authorised Delegate is NOT encrypted (they would not be able to read it otherwise).
  • The id documents are also emailed to the church Authorised Delegate.
The only change we are now recommending to the church processing of these forms submitted online is for the Authorised Delegate to check the id documents that they match the person concerned, and then to delete the copy of the id documents.

New this week - there is now a 'Parish Use Only' section at the very end of the pdf that is produced from the online form. This can be used to 'sign off' on the ID documents by your church authorised delegate before deleting them.
FireShot Pro Screen Capture #078 - '(3) Sydney Anglican SMR's I Facebook' - www_facebook_com_groups_173114257798286

SMR Facebook Group

There have been a few suggestions for this in recent times, so here it is!
Important points:
  • It is a private group, and to join I need to approve each person. This keeps it secure and any discussions within it.
  • The main reason for it: a safe and private place for SMR's to ask questions, support each other, share ideas or solutions to problems, etc
  • The address is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/173114257798286
  • Involvement in this group is entirely optional!

SMC - what happens if people are not cleared by Jan 1st?

I know that a good number of churches are still working at getting their current leaders through the SMC process before January 1st.
Realistically, that will not happen for everyone, so a question I'm getting asked increasingly is: 'What happens to people who do not have an SMC clearance by Jan 1st'?
The answer is simple: Those people cannot work with children in your parish until they have that clearance.

So in practice, given that much childrens/youth ministries are in recess over the Christmas/New Year period, having some volunteers in those ministries not able to work is not likely to be a major problem.
However, human nature being what it is, I would strongly encourage you to get on those peoples backs in the early part of January so that they don't hit peak ministry time in early February and still don't have that clearance.


Safe Ministry Support during holiday period

Support for Safe Ministry Training and general parish support will still be available over the Christmas/New Year period, from midday Dec 24th to Monday Jan 4th - but generally only for urgent matters.

For all Training related issues, please encourage your people to use the Support Ticket system (https://safeministry.training/support) as this is the fastest way to get help.
Should a situation of abuse arise in your church, please use the Report Abuse page on the Safe Ministry website
We haven't forgotten about Frontline - our Safe Ministry Podcast.
Due to some health issues and other general busy-ness, there won't be Frontline before Christmas. It will be back in the new year though!

Until then, you can find all previous episodes here: https://safeministry.org.au/frontline/

Keeping up to date with news

Newsletter Archive
An archive of all SMR Newsletters (since we moved to our new system) is available here.
Email alerts
Your can subscribe to email alerts system for new content on the safeministry.org.au website:

Likewise, alerts for new content are posted to our Twitter account, and you can find that account and follow us to get those alerts here:

Christmas Greetings

Important fact: No pandemic, lockdown, closed border, quarantine, etc can change the essential truths about Christmas.
As the image above says (paraphrasing Isaiah 9:6), the gift of the Lord Jesus trumps everything else.
So if you are feeling a bit down or frustrated because of Christmas plans that are being thrown into chaos, please take a big breath and reflect on what God has done for you at Christmas. Christmas day might well be very different this year, church may or may not happen face to face, family members may be missing from your lunch or dinner table this year. But God is still in charge, and his gift to us of Jesus is the one that keep on giving.

From all of us at the PSU, thank you for your hard work and efforts in what has been an unusual year. Be aware and encouraged that your work is vital to the gospel ministry of your church.
Do be sure to engage in some self-care over this period, reflecting on God's goodness. Take a break if you can and I look forward to continuing to work with you in 2021.
That's it for this edition and for the year!

With warm regards

Neil Atwood
Parish Consultant
02 9265 1547