Friday, 6 April 2018

Safeguarding needs a major overhaul

Today the Church Times has a two page spread of articles following up on the IICSA hearings.

Leader comment: Safeguarding: the next steps

…These pages contain a range of different perspectives on how to tackle sexual abuse; and yet there is a common desire to make safeguarding comprehensive and effective. This sounds like stating the obvious. There is a danger, however, pointed out most clearly by Josephine Anne Stein, that the type of safeguarding being promoted throughout the Church is modelled on a pattern designed to protect institutions from prosecution. A Christian organisation must do better than this…

Martin Warner Safeguarding: what we got wrong, and the steps we are taking to put it right

Linda Woodhead Forget culture. It’s a new theology we need

Anonymous: Sex-offender asks: are only the righteous called to repentance?

Josephine Anne Stein: The safeguarding overhaul that’s needed

…Safeguarding in the Church of England has burgeoned into a procedural, bureaucratic, and bloated industry that does not appear to be effective either in responding to abuse or in preventing further abuse. When checked earlier this year, the C of E’s safeguarding policy posted on the National Safeguarding Team’s website consisted of 364 separate pages…

…THERE are alternative approaches to safeguarding within the healthcare sector, grounded in the development of professional ethics, the regular assessment of fitness to practise, and professional discipline.

There are also alternatives to formal safeguarding complaints procedures that combine knowledge and experience from occupational psychology, specialist social work, and restorative justice, much of which is unfamiliar within the Church.

Furthermore, there are inexpensive and empowering ways to improve knowledge and understanding of both the causes of and responses to abuse in different constituencies within the Church — a bottom-up approach in contrast to current centralised, top-down training. If everyone in the Church is responsible for safeguarding, everyone is also responsible for ownership of safeguarding…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 8:50am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Please could someone explain to me, in simple terms and without jargon, why we don't just tell the police?

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 9:13am BST

DBS checks are over-relied upon - in this parish, anyway. All PCC members must submit to DBS checks regardless of contact with children and the vulnerable - yet adults who work with children, training servers, Sunday school helpers etc are not interviewed or required to provide references. Nor, come to that are PCC members, apart from the requirement for in-house sponsors. This approach leads, in my view, to an illusion of safety - ‘Must be OK - he/she is DBS checked’.

Posted by: Jill Armstead on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 9:29am BST

In response to Stanley Monkhouse: of course a church (any church) should tell the police if potential abuse cases are discovered, but the church (any church) should look to do better than this, both in terms of prevention of such cases in the first place, and care for the victims after the event. No church seems to be able to do either as well as it might, and the implementation of any procedures always seems to be heavily bureaucratic, which makes many people doubt whether they are actually there to prevent abuse and aid victims, but rather to allow the institution to say: "But we have now reformed..." This is not a specific issue with the Church of England - many churches seem to have similar issues with response to allegations of abuse.

Posted by: Peter on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 9:30am BST

Stanley - the local protocols vary and, for example (though terminology is changing all the time) the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) may be the correct initial point of contact. But very important to report, and very important for people to know that they can report over the heads of local structures.

But more seriously, if you are in the position of telling the police, something bad has likely gone wrong, and the point of safeguarding is prevention as well - stopping things from going wrong actually keeps people safe; a referral simply means they probably weren't.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 10:04am BST

Good question - and one that I've been asking myself.

The answer is - simply - that sometimes you have a concern that may not be significant enough (on its own) to warrant reporting to the police. In that case, the place to contact is the local authority social services safeguarding team. Every local authority with a social services department has one of these - just look on their website. They usually have good information and clear advice on who to contact. (Usually, it will say if it is an emergency or someone is in immediate danger, dial 999.)

Of course, this system too has weaknesses; however, the idea is that there is a central place where concerns may be shared and recorded. This allows each piece of information shared to be built up into a wider picture that could be used to protect children and adults.

When I asked why we have Diocesan safeguarding teams, I was told that it was because they have 'good relationships' with local authority teams so are able to communicate the information effectively. Yet there is part of me that feels a bit uncomfortable with what feels like institutional gatekeeping.

Posted by: Anon on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 10:29am BST

I'm with Fr Stanley. All this reportage has to do with criminal behaviour. Church people are perfectly calm about calling the police when the vestry is burgled. The insurers enter the picture after the police report is made. Why are they not similarly calm about reporting sexual behaviour that is criminal, especially if it's committed by a cleric? Oh yes, the insurers get there first...

Posted by: Victoriana on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 11:02am BST

Sometimes the behaviour people are worried about is not criminal in itself. But if it was reported to one specific body, that body would be able to connect it with other reports and join up dots that might otherwise not be joined up.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 11:56am BST

Sure, just report the victim's concerns to the police. In fact, why not just tell victims to call 101 themselves so the Church doesn't need to be involved at all? Much better. That way bishops can't be responsible.

Meanwhile, while the police slowly investigate the abuser can continue to molest other victims. None of the survivors have had anything to say about that, have they? Matthew Ineson anybody? And, if the police take the allegation seriously (believe me, they often don't) Victim Support can take care of the victim. As a Church we obviously don't have any responsibility to care for survivors do we?

/end sarcasm

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 3:13pm BST

The church of course has a duty of care to survivors, but it also has a duty to report any reasonable suspicions to the authorities. The two duties complement one other.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 6 April 2018 at 8:56pm BST

Interesting, in this context; what is going on in the Roman Catholic sphere, at Ampleforth School, which seems to have la problem with the Charity Commission because it does not meet the government's standards for the maintenance of student 'safety'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 7 April 2018 at 12:42am BST

Here's what the Charity Commission has actually done:

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 April 2018 at 7:48am BST

Random observations. More and more diocesan spending on safeguarding. Fewer and fewer pockets to plunder. More and more large parish churches unable to afford even the cost of maintenance (I'm thinking of one of mine) let alone diocesan share. This vicarage is within about 30 miles of six diocesan HQs and, presumably, six separate safeguarding teams. The winter night shelter for homeless, housed by one of my churches, has been staffed by over 100 volunteers, hardly any of whom were C of E (not old enough?). Draw your own conclusions. Close the parish churches: the people who'll moan will be dead soon. Abolish about 20 dioceses and demote their cathedrals. Throw even more money at remaining cathedrals with their pomp and robes and degree hoods to minister to the middle classes. It's a cosmic joke. I can only laugh. I'll get my coat.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Saturday, 7 April 2018 at 8:12am BST

Safeguarding is not solely about criminal behaviour. It is not solely about clergy having sex with children. It is purely indicative of this lack of understanding in comments here, that the church has the problem it has. Safeguarding is an 'us' thing not an 'othering'.

Posted by: Neal Terry on Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 8:10am BST
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