Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford to consider new tribunal action against Dean

We reported on 19 November 2020 A new complaint about the Dean of Christ Church.

Since then we have also linked to several comment articles published on Surviving Church  and Archbishop Cranmer relating to this, in particular (and in reverse date order) on 9 January, 2 January, and 9 December. Some of the linked articles contain fragments of information about developments in this case.

Today and yesterday, two news articles have appeared in mainstream media, both unfortunately behind paywalls, but here are the links, with their headlines, anyway:

Telegraph Camilla Turner Dean of Christ Church faces fresh attempt to be ousted

Times Andrew Billen Oxford college accused of ‘toxic’ bid to paint dean Martyn Percy as a sex pest

Both Christ Church and the Oxford diocese have issued statements (full texts copied below)

The Christ Church statement contains no reference to this incident still being treated as a Safeguarding matter, contrary to earlier reports. The Diocesan statement confirms that a CDM action is still proceeding.  TA understands that Oxford diocesan officials, including the bishop, have recused themselves from participation in that action.

The Telegraph reports:

The College’s governing body and the chapter of the cathedral are due to vote on Monday on whether Dr Percy should be taken to an internal tribunal that could see him removed from office. This… follows an alleged incident which took place in Christ Church cathedral in October, where it is claimed that he stroked a woman’s hair and complimented her on her appearance.

The Times article includes this:

Few in the Church of England have voiced their concerns about a complicated affair over which the church has little say. Many, including the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, appear satisfied that Christ Church has acted responsibly over the latest complaint.

But Rev [Angela] Tilby told The Times: “The difference this time is that the patient machinations of those on the cathedral chapter who have consistently plotted against the dean have now borne fruit with other cathedral clergy apparently actively working for his sacking on the grounds of him being a ‘sex pest’. The mixture of malevolence and naivety is toxic and extremely disturbing in an institution supposedly dedicated to education, learning and holiness.”

Christ Church confirmed yesterday that the governing body would review its investigator’s report alongside the advice of an independent QC.

Both news reports mention that Jonathan Aitken has written to the Cathedral Chapter about the latest developments. In his letter he explains that if the Chapter endorses the Governing Body’s action (expected on Monday) to proceed with a new tribunal, he will seek a Judicial Review in the High Court. and outlines the legal and financial risks involved, both for the Chapter and its individual members. He also makes three suggestions for alternative courses of action by the Chapter.

(more…)

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Safeguarding: Durham diocese publishes Granville Gibson report

The Diocese of Durham has today published the report by Dr Stephanie Hill into the case of convicted sexual abuser Granville Gibson, formerly the Archdeacon of Auckland.

Statement by Bishop Paul Butler which explains why the report, completed in 2017, has been delayed in publication until now.

The full text of the report is here: Independent Report into the case of George Granville Gibson.

The diocesan responses to the recommendations in the report are tabulated here.

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Independent oversight of safeguarding proposed

The Church of England has today issued this press release:

Update on NST independent oversight
The Archbishops’ Council has voted unanimously that a proposal on interim independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team is to be put in place before February Synod (2021) to pave the way for full independent oversight, by February Synod 2022. Both the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops have already endorsed the principle of independence for the Church’s safeguarding work.

The House of Bishops also discussed this at its meeting today supporting the direction of travel for these proposals while noting the importance of engaging with dioceses. The interim oversight model would include the creation of a new safeguarding board with a majority of entirely independent members, including a Chair, who would have delegated responsibility for the oversight of the NST, to ensure independence of scrutiny and feedback. The Board could then help determine the approach to implementing full independent oversight which will include proposed structural changes for closer working with and oversight of diocesan safeguarding officers, particularly on casework, as outlined in the IICSA recommendations.  The detailed arrangements for this, and the resulting allocation of responsibilities, will need to be worked out fully through this process of consultation.

Consultation with survivor representatives has made it very clear that they want to see independent oversight for all cases, not just national ones. This particularly reflects the first IICSA recommendation. There will  be full consultation with survivor groups and with dioceses as detailed proposals are drawn up.  The Archbishops’ Council noted the importance of how the principle of independence is worked out in relation to dioceses and of ensuring input and feedback from parishes and PCCs. There will be a more detailed timeline in place by February Synod for the following 12 months as this work is progressed. The Council agreed the importance of increased resources to ensure this structure is in place by February Synod.

The Council also unanimously endorsed the setting up and funding of the Interim Support Scheme for survivors.

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CofE National Director of Safeguarding resigns

Updated Friday morning

Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph reported last night: Exclusive: Church of England’s child protection director quits after 18 months

The Church of England’s child protection boss has quit after 18 months amid claims that she faces too much resistance from clergy.

Melissa Caslake was appointed as the church’s first permanent Director of Safeguarding in April last year. She will take up a role as Director of Children’s Services with a local authority in the New Year.

However, The Telegraph has spoken to sources who claim that after just over a year and a half in the role, Ms Caslake “wouldn’t be leaving unless she felt that task had become impossible”…

…A source said: “Half of the leadership of the Church of England knows that it needs to change to survive, but the other half feels that survival depends on preventing change at all costs.”

“Melissa Caslake is a dedicated and competent safeguarding professional. She was brought in to reform the church’s safeguarding practice. She wouldn’t be leaving unless she felt that task had become impossible. Perhaps she has discovered what many victims know from bitter experience – that the church is simply too complex, too defensive, and too self-absorbed to face up to its own cruelty…”

…In response to the claims surrounding her departure, she said: “I have been privileged to work with survivors, members of clergy, diocesan and safeguarding professionals and others in the national church and beyond.

“I hope their expertise will continue to be respected and heard. I would like to thank all those who have supported the safeguarding journey so far, and wish the church well as it reflects on how best to implement the IICSA recommendations for the future…”

This morning no official announcement from the Archbishops’ Council has so far appeared, but this afternoon the Church Times has published: C of E safeguarding director resigns.

THE Church of England’s Director of Safeguarding, Melissa Caslake, is resigning after just 18 months in post (News, 12 April 2019), it was announced this week.

Ms Caslake is to take up the post of director of children’s services for Devon County Council…

…A small group of survivors replied on Thursday with a statement wishing her well, saying that she would “leave with respect from many in the survivor community and beyond, for the energy she brought to transforming the Church’s safeguarding, and rescuing a moribund National Safeguarding Team.

“Some have offered legitimate criticism of the controversies over which she nominally presided, but still recognise that she has left a good mark of the changes required for the future. Indeed, she has done more than anyone to change the culture. She ‘got it’. We note that she came from a local authority context and returns to a similar position where she will have clear unambiguous roles, rules, and structures, none of which currently exist within the Church of England in general and Church House in particular.

“Until these are sorted out the position of Director of Safeguarding is virtually impossible to do with integrity, and we don’t blame Melissa for leaving whilst hers is still intact. . . It is crucial that her successor picks up on and carries forward the direction of change and reform. We wish her well.”

The Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the lead safeguarding bishop, said: “Melissa has brought experience, skills and commitment to her role and I would like to express my personal thanks for her support and leadership within the NST and National Safeguarding Steering Group. . .

“I am conscious that this has been a very demanding and personally costly role, facing challenges from many different directions. Melissa has sought to help the Church to become a safer and healthier place for all and we owe her a real debt of thanks for all her work on our behalf.”

The full text of the statement from survivors mentioned above is as follows:

Melissa Caslake will leave with respect from many in the survivor community and beyond, for the energy she brought to transforming the Church’s safeguarding, and rescuing a moribund National Safeguarding Team. Some have offered legitimate criticism of the controversies over which she nominally presided, but still recognise that she has left a good mark of the changes required for the future. Indeed, she has done more than anyone to change the culture. She “got it”. We note that she came from a Local Authority context and returns to a similar position where she will have clear unambiguous roles, rules, and structures, none of which currently exist within the Church of England in general and Church House in particular. Until these are sorted out the position of Director of Safeguarding is virtually impossible to do with integrity, and we don’t blame Melissa for leaving whilst hers is still intact. We suspect Moses would struggle to reshape the culture and mindset of Church House. We feel Melissa Caslake has done well to survive there for eighteen months. It is crucial that her successor picks up on and carries forward the direction of change and reform. We wish her well.

Friday morning update

An official announcement has at last appeared and can be read here: National safeguarding director takes up new role. It is copied in full below the fold. (more…)

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Update on Church’s response to IICSA report

One of the papers, released ten days ago, for next week’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod is GS 2184 Response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s Final Investigation Report into the Anglican Church. This has been followed up today by the following press release.

Update on Church’s response to IICSA report
16/11/2020

Following the publication (Oct 6) of its overarching IICSA report, the Church’s national governing bodies have all endorsed a motion apologising to victims and survivors and committing to urgently implementing the six IICSA recommendations. There will be a particular focus on independent safeguarding and redress for survivors and victims

Project groups will be set up including for independence and redress work streams. The independence workstream is about scoping the best structure for independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in place of the Archbishops’ Council. The House of Bishops also agreed that an interim arrangement is put in place prior to the establishment of this new body.

A further project group will also be set up to implement Recommendation 1 which proposes that diocesan safeguarding officers (DSOs) employed locally would be professionally supervised and quality assured by the National Safeguarding Team.

The Archbishops’ Council committed to finding significant additional financial resource to support the interim support scheme for survivors, which was announced in September, while work begins on a full redress scheme. The NST is in the process of appointing a new staff member to lead on the redress work.

It was agreed that workstreams must be undertaken in consultation with victims, survivors and all relevant Church bodies

The National Safeguarding Steering Group will establish a coordinating subgroup to oversee the work on all six IICSA recommendations and ensure they are implemented swiftly with the particular focus on independence and redress for survivors and victims. The recommendations also focus on CDM reform, information sharing and external audit.

A full background paper on these proposed changes has been published for a presentation and debate at General Synod which meets online from November 23-25 (timetable) with a further detailed response to the recommendations then to be drawn up, published and sent to IICSA.

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Update on safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury

The following statement has been issued by Lambeth Palace this morning.

Update on safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury
12/11/2020

The abuse carried out by the late John Smyth was horrific and support continues to be offered to survivors. The Makin review is currently looking at the Church’s handling of allegations about his abuse, including the response of other organisations involved.

A formal complaint made to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in June, that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow correct safeguarding procedure when responding to an allegation against Smyth, has not been substantiated. The complaint referred to Lambeth’s response to allegations which first came to attention in 2013 and information relating to the specific issues raised has been reviewed. Information relating to a further complaint sent to the NST in August, about wider issues, has now also been reviewed and no safeguarding concerns have been identified. All the information reviewed will now be sent to the Makin Review, due to publish next year, for further scrutiny.

Archbishop Justin is deeply sorry for the abuse that was carried out by John Smyth. The Archbishop has committed himself to leading the change needed in the Church of England relating to safeguarding and is personally keen to listen to survivors and striving to keep developing and learning in his own ministry.

Both the reviewers and the Church recognise that giving information to this review has the potential to be re-traumatising for victims and survivors. Support can be offered to victims through the National Safeguarding Team’s survivor engagement worker Emily Denne, who can be contacted at emily.denne@churchofengland.org or do contact Keith Makin, the independent reviewer, direct at keith.makin@independentreviews.live.

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Church of England Safeguarding: weekly roundup 24 October

See separate articles for the recently published reports on Victor Whitsey and on Stowe and Maids Moreton.

See also several relevant items in our twice-weekly comment roundups, first here, and then here.

Media coverage of the Whitsey report has been extensive:

Media coverage of the Maids Moreton case:

Other Church Times reports:

And see House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020.

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Events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton

The Diocese of Oxford has published a summary briefing and recommendations, along with the full report, from the independent review into events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

Press release (also copied below)

Summary briefing: this page includes all the recommendstions and diocesan responses (scroll down) and also links to a Seven Minute Briefing.

Full report

Press release:

In 2017 Peter Farquhar was murdered. His need for an emotionally close relationship had been exploited, and an intelligent, talented man was made vulnerable. Peter was a member of his local church; his strong personal faith featured in the abusive relationship, and his murderer, Ben Field, also had roles within the church.

This was an extraordinary and unusual case. Everyone who came into contact with the murderer, Ben Field, was manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church.

The Church and wider society need to be ever more vigilant of those who can be made vulnerable by the likes of Ben Field, simply because they are elderly or lonely. For this reason, the Diocese of Oxford commissioned an independent review to establish lessons learnt from the events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

The review, commissioned by the Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Panel, was carried out by Dr Adi Cooper, OBE, an independent consultant in adult safeguarding and adult social care. Dr Cooper makes 13 recommendations for improving safeguarding awareness and prevention as well as supporting a shift to a more open culture within the Church of England around safeguarding in all its complexity for parishes.

“Although the events in the Parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton were unusual, there is learning from them that can inform improvement in safeguarding policy and practice,” writes Dr Cooper. “The lessons from the harm done by Ben Field presents a challenge for the Church regarding specific themes: the abuse of trust in a religious paradigm, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and safe recruitment both of clergy and volunteers.”

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: “I welcome the report and the recommendations it contains. The events to which it relates have caused immense distress to many. Following the trial and conviction of Ben Field, the Diocese was determined to learn what further action was required to ensure that potentially vulnerable adults attending church are adequately protected from harm. This review helps to challenge the commonly-held view that safeguarding is solely about preventing child abuse, and it is a clarion call for further improvements to our work on LGBTI+ inclusivity, our selection processes for clergy and volunteers, and the training and support the Church provides.”

23 October 2020

Notes for editors:

  • The independent report and recommendations were published in full on 23 October. The Diocese will report progress against each of the recommendations during 2021.
  • We believe this to be the first independent review concerning the Ben Field case. A Domestic Homicide Review is due to report in 2021
  • The report and recommendations are published at oxford.anglican.org/events-in-stowe-maids-moreton/
  • For media enquiries, call Steven Buckley 07824 906839 or Liz Hudson on 07702 563211
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Bishop Victor Whitsey: safeguarding review published

From the Chester diocesan website:

A Betrayal of Trust, the independent report into the Church’s handling of the allegations concerning the late Hubert Victor Whitsey, former Bishop of Chester, has been published today. The learning lessons review was carried out by His Hon David Pearl and independent safeguarding consultant Kate Wood.

The Church supported the police in an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by Whitsey dating from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. A public apology was issued in October 2017 following this investigation which included a commitment to a learning lessons review…

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House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020

Update The Church Times has written about the bishops’ meeting and a subsequent interview with the lead safeguarding bishop, Dr Jonathan Gibbs: Gibbs: independent body will supervise Church’s safeguarding.

Church of England press release

House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020
19/10/2020

A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today, Monday 19 October via Zoom.

From October, the House is now meeting once a month, a schedule which is likely to continue until Easter 2021.

The focus of the meeting was an opportunity for reflection and learning on the overarching IICSA report for the Anglican Church in England and Wales which was published on 6 October and had six recommendations for the Church of England.

The House discussed the two most significant themes from the report; proper redress for victims and survivors and greater independence in safeguarding decision making. The House was addressed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the lead safeguarding bishop and the National Director of Safeguarding. All spoke in favour of the motions put before the House (see below) and strongly urged the House to vote in their favour.

During the course of two plenary sessions and breakout groups the House reviewed the recommendations of the report, affirming that any response by the Church needs to be sensitive to, and mindful of, the views of victims and survivors.

The House unanimously endorsed a motion fully accepting the IICSA report, unreservedly apologising to victims and survivors for the harm done by the Church and committing itself to urgently implementing the recommendations.

The House also unanimously agreed with the proposal that the Church should move towards establishing an independent safeguarding structure, with a new trustee body responsible for safeguarding to take over responsibility for the Archbishops’ Council. The House also agreed that an interim arrangement be put in place for additional independent oversight of safeguarding, prior to the establishment of the new trustee body.

The House then underlined the importance of a full response to the IICSA report being released in the coming weeks.

The House also received updates from the various works streams operating under the auspices of the Emerging Church Groups. An overview by the Chair of the Co-ordinating Group, the Bishop of Manchester was given, followed by a brief report from the Chair of the Recovery Group, the Bishop of London regarding ongoing changes and updates to the guidance for worship, following the introduction of the tier system across the nation.

The Archbishop of York updated the House on the work of the Vision and Strategy Group and received the House’s endorsement for his work on developing a shared vision for the Church. Further updates were also given by the Governance Group and the Transforming Effectiveness Group.

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Church of England Safeguarding: weekly roundup 16 October

A collection of material published in the past week related to Church of England safeguarding. See also additional items in our Opinion articles last Wednesday and  tomorrow.

BBC Radio 4 had this  Sunday programme interview including survivors and the Archbishop of York. The item starts 13 minutes into the programme.

The same radio station had a programme in its Moral Maze series, titled The Moral Authority of Organised Religion.

The Telegraph had a surprising item: Church of England’s ‘Safe Spaces’ helpline labelled ‘unsafe’ by abuse survivors

Today the Church Times has many relevant items, including:

The Church of England announced the terms of reference for the PCR2 Reference Group for National Church Institutions and Archbishops. Here is a direct link to the actual Terms of reference.

Parliamentary Questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner included some on this topic.

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More about the IICSA report

Updated

See also Wednesday’s Opinion roundup.

Church Times Julie Conalty Comment: the IICSA report sheds light on darkness in the Church.

Religion Media Centre: Church of England concerned for its reputation rather than dealing with child sex abusers and the video recording of the media briefing (chaired by Andrew Brown) is here: Damning report says Church of England more concerned for reputation than dealing with sex abusers. (40 minutes, but well worth the time to watch).

Giles Fraser UnHerd Can the Church solve its paedophile problem?

Open letter regarding IICSA to the parish of St Margaret’s Rainham: Also in a PDF here.

Updates Friday

The Church Times today has a great deal more material related to the IICSA report:

Religion Media Centre also has Fact Sheet Abuse and the Church of England – timeline.

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Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following personal statement following the publication of the IICSA report:

To fail on safeguarding casts a profound stain across every good thing we do. I have said this before and I continue to stand by it. But I am acutely aware as we come towards the end of this year that while there is a genuine commitment for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults to be the highest priority of all parts of the Church, it is evident we still have not got it right.

The report published today is a stark and shocking reminder of how so many times we have failed – and continue to fail – survivors. Apologies are vital, but they are not enough. We have to listen. We have to learn. And we have to act.

In calling for the enquiry, through a letter to the then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014, I was aware that although it would be something that survivors had demanded it would also be a deeply painful process to tell their stories. I am very grateful to them for their courage. We cannot and will not make excuses and I must again offer my sincere apologies to those to have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues.

There is clearly much to respond to and an in-depth consideration of today’s report is vital. IICSA has shone a light on the past and present to help us better inform our future safeguarding work. They are owed our thanks which we give wholeheartedly. I pray this report and its recommendations will result in the changes needed to make our Church a safer place for all now and for future generations.

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IICSA publishes report on Anglican Church

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its long-awaited report on the Church of England and the Church in Wales. The report totals 154 pages.

Here is a link to the Recommendations section of the report. And here is a link to the Executive Summary.

Press releases:

Initial media coverage:

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Looking ahead to IICSA report on Tuesday

Updated

The Church Times has reported on the open letter published on Friday: see Archbishops pledge to act on IICSA report.

Surviving Church published this article by Gilo Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday.

By no means a comprehensive list. Just a brief visit across a number of things we may probably see further comment upon after the Inquiry makes its final Anglican report…

Gilo also was interviewed by the BBC Sunday programme (along with Bishop Jonathan Gibbs). Listen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n4vy (25 minutes in)

For the first time The Church of England has announced a scheme offering financial support to abuse survivors. Emily [Buchanan] gets reaction from one survivor and talks to the Church’s Lead Bishop for Safeguarding, the Rt Rev Jonathan Gibbs, about how he hopes this will pave the way to a full redress scheme in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Carlisle also made the news, but not in a good way: Bishop under investigation for giving paedophile Wiltshire vicar a reference.
Update: more detail here: Investigation after Bishop of Carlisle gives child abuse canon a character reference.

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Church of England publishes open letter ahead of IICSA report

press release  02/10/2020

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse; an open letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the lead safeguarding bishop and the national director of safeguarding.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, IICSA, will publish its overarching investigation report into the Church of England (and Church in Wales) on Tuesday (6th October).

For survivors, this will remind them of the abuse they suffered and of our failure to respond well; it will be a very harrowing  time for them.  Some have shared courageously their story at the IICSA hearings or in other forums.  For others this report will be a reminder of the abuse they have never talked openly about. We are truly sorry for the shameful way the Church has acted and we state our commitment to listen, to learn and to act in response to the report’s findings. We cannot and will not make excuses and can again offer our sincere and heartfelt apologies to those who have been abused, and to their families, friends and colleagues.

We, as the Church of England, are ready to support anyone who comes forward.  We must honour our commitment to change. Survivors have told us that words without actions are meaningless; we are taking action but we are also aware that what we have done has neither been soon enough nor sufficient.

Please pray for all those who will be affected by the publication of the report on Tuesday and that as a Church we are able to respond with humility and a shared determination to change.  We must listen carefully and reflect honestly on all that the report says and continue to drive change towards a safe Church for all.

At this point, we know that the report is based on the main public hearing in July 2019, which examined the response of the Church of England and Church in Wales to allegations of child sexual abuse, as well as the adequacy of current safeguarding policies and practices. The report will also focus on common themes and issues identified by the overall investigation which included the case studies into Bishop Peter Ball and the Diocese of Chichester, both held in 2018. The report will identify failings that we are already working to change, and failings that we will need to work harder to change. There will no doubt be strong recommendations  and we welcome that. We make an absolute commitment to taking action to make the Church a safe place for everyone, as well as to respond to the needs of survivors for support and redress.

Safeguarding is valuing every person as one who is made in God’s image.  It is the prevention of harm, and the promotion of well-being.  It is about responding compassionately to victims and survivors, addressing issues of justice with regard to survivors, other complainants, respondents and all others affected and helping them to rebuild their lives.  Safeguarding is fundamental to our faith.  Whatever part we play in the life of the Church, safeguarding is the responsibility of each one of us, guided and advised by our safeguarding professionals.  Church leaders have a particular responsibility to work together to bring about the change in culture and practice that we need to see and has simply been too slow.

If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the publication of this report and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056  or email: safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk.  There are also other support services available.

Alternatively feel free to contact the diocesan safeguarding team in your area.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell
Lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs
National Director of Safeguarding, Melissa Caslake

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Church Times criticises Church of England safeguarding

Today, the Church Times has a lengthy news report, Church safeguarding activity accelerates in advance of IICSA report, which lists various initiatives that have been announced recently by the Church of England.

And it also has a very strongly worded leader (scroll down):

Long overdue

WE HAVE often written about safeguarding in these pages, and will again next week, when the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) delivers its final report on the Church of England. The array of new initiatives unveiled in the past week — the interim fund, the Safe Spaces service, the admission that an independent system is needed, etc. — gives the distinct impression of a church hierarchy that is scrabbling about on the bedroom floor looking for items of underwear to cover its nakedness, knowing that IICSA is about to draw back the curtains and expose its carelessness, cruelty, and neglect. We would have been more impressed by something not so obviously prompted by IICSA and the approach to the Charity Commission.

It is worth quoting from an earlier leader comment, from April 2018: “Past blunders, defensive policies, and deliberate obstruction have cast such a pall that they overshadow the better practices now being introduced, and have left a trail of damage in their wake.” Survivors have, of course, welcomed the new urgency given to this topic, but will be forgiven for not trusting an institution that has put off improvements till this last minute. And there is much still to do. The emphasis during the IICSA investigation was on the Church’s treatment of survivors and perpetrators. Since it finished, much more has emerged about the ill-treatment of those falsely accused, and of faulty procedures that have led to unsafe conclusions. We, too, welcome the new commitment, but will withhold judgement until we see wholesale reforms.

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Churches launch Safe Spaces project

Church of England press release: Safe Spaces launches to offer support to survivors

A new service providing vital support for survivors of church-related abuse has become operational today.

Safe Spaces, commissioned by the Anglican and Catholic Churches in England and Wales, will be run by Victim Support, a national charity with a track record of providing survivor support.

Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England, Church in Wales or the Catholic Church of England and Wales.

Safe Spaces comprises a team of trained support advocates, who have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence and who have received additional specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse, and the particular issues affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church.

The service is for those who may have experienced any form abuse, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse (including spiritual abuse), domestic abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour.

The Bishop of Southampton, Debbie Sellin, Deputy Lead Safeguarding Bishop for the Church of England, said: “I’m delighted that this service will shortly be available to offer support and advice to survivors of abuse.

“I want to express my thanks to all those who have helped to bring the project together, particularly the survivors who have given of their time and energy.

“In Victim Support, we have an excellent operational lead, and we look forward to continuing a constructive partnership with then as well as the other denominations involved.

“I commend the service for use and hope colleagues will do all they can to promote it locally.”

The service will run for an initial two years, with a view to extending this. It has been paid for by the Catholic and Anglican churches involved, supported by a grant from Allchurches Trust.

CBCEW press release: Launch of ‘Safe Spaces’ includes a link to this Briefing Paper.

Victim Support press release: Victim Support launches Safe Spaces for survivors of church-related abuse

Victim Support (VS) has today (29 September) launched its new service, Safe Spaces, a joint Anglican and Catholic Church in England and Wales (CCEW) project to provide a vital support service for survivors of church-related abuse.

Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England, the Catholic Church of England and Wales or the Church in Wales.

The service comprises a team of trained support advocates, who have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence. They have received specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse, and the particular issues affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church…

Safe Spaces website

Safe Spaces is a free and independent support service, providing a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England, the Catholic Church of England and Wales or the Church in Wales.

Victim Support have been commissioned to run this national service, providing remote support through our helpline, live chat serviceand website. Remote support is provided for as long as the survivor needs.  This can be advocating for the survivor, giving them support, providing information (including information on church and police procedures), understanding individual needs and jointly working on individual support plans.  If face-to-face support is also required, contact and referrals will be made with appropriate local organisations depending on need…

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Archbishops’ Council agrees new safeguarding proposals

Updated again Saturday evening

Press release today: Unanimous support from Archbishops’ Council on safeguarding proposals

The Archbishops’ Council, at its meeting on Wednesday (Sept 23), voted unanimously for safeguarding proposals to offer both immediate practical support to survivors of abuse and also to strengthen independence in the Church’s safeguarding work.

The Council approved a proposed plan for an interim pilot support scheme for survivors and agreed to draw down reserves for an initial support fund to support those who have come forward. The Council also committed to urgently pursue the principle of independent safeguarding recognising the need for greater independence and transparency of safeguarding.

The pilot scheme is designed to enable the Church to respond in particular to those survivors’ cases which are already known to the Church, where the survivor is known to be in seriously distressed circumstances, and the Church has a heightened responsibility because of the way the survivor was responded to following disclosure. Experience with these pilot cases will help inform the setting up of the Church’s full redress scheme for victims and survivors of abuse as that is developed. Part of the value of a pilot scheme is that it will enable the Church to explore different ways of working and to learn important lessons for the future.

The full paper put to the Council contained further details of how the interim pilot support scheme would be run.

The vote followed a detailed discussion by Council members on the importance of safeguarding in the Church including a presentation from the national director of safeguarding Melissa Caslake and input from the lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said:

“Today the Council discussed the safeguarding challenges that face our Church. We acknowledged how we have responded badly to survivors, and what that means for the Council as a trustee body. It was a long, honest and soberingly frank discussion. There were some very personal reflections and comments, including from both of us. This reflects the seriousness with which the Council took the proposals under discussion. The issue of independence is something we have taken a personal lead on and are very committed to. We are glad that we the Church is now going to make this happen. Along with providing redress for victims and survivors this is the next step we must take. Today’s meeting and these decisions feel like a turning point. As we await IICSA’s report into the Church of England we continue to pray for survivors and all those the Church has failed. We are profoundly sorry for our failings, but today our words of sorrow are matched by actions that will believe will lead to real change. We hope that this will provide some hope for the future.”

Bishop Jonathan Gibbs said: “While there is much work now to be done the decision to start a support fund is an important and vital step in our response to survivors. This is an endorsement by the Archbishops’ Council of General Synod’s unanimous vote in February for a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress.’

The press release says: and also to strengthen independence in the Church’s safeguarding work and the archbishops are quoted as saying: The issue of independence is something we have taken a personal lead on and are very committed to. We are glad that we the Church is now going to make this happen. But there is absolutely no explanation of what this means.

Updates: see in the comments below for some helpful explanations of what is meant.

Also, this recruitment advertisement appeared earlier this week: Development Manager (Redress Scheme)

The Church Times has this report: New scheme ‘marks turning point’ in Church’s treatment of survivors.

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Safeguarding News

Today’s Church Times has two safeguarding stories.

Oxford admits failings in spiritual-abuse case

“THE Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has apologised for “shortcomings” identified by an independent review of his diocese’s handling of a case of spiritual abuse. These failings “contributed to the distress of the survivors”, he said…”

You can read the full report and information about how the diocese is responding here.

Elliott condemns PR response to his safeguarding review

“THE author of a strongly critical safeguarding review of the Church of England has condemned the revelation that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) responded to his recommendations by initiating closer ties between insurers, communications officers, and legal staff…”

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