Thinking Anglicans

Church of England safeguarding difficulties continue

The Church Times today has several items about safeguarding in the Church of England. Each of them is worth reading in full. Here are the links, with only brief quotes from each.

Survivors dismayed by delays to Church’s national redress scheme

SURVIVORS of church-based abuse and their advocates have expressed dismay both at further delays to the national redress scheme promised by the Church of England and that the cost of it is to be met by dioceses and PCCs…

…In a written question to the General Synod, published two days before the meeting in York, Tina Nay (Chichester) asked whether the timeline for the full redress scheme was on track, in line with the “15 to 18 months” given by the lead bishop for safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, in a BBC interview in October 2020.

Responding, Dr Gibbs wrote that the comments had been made before a project team had been employed (in April 2021), and that, having researched other schemes of a similar scale, and owing to a planned procurement process and possible legislation, the full scheme was now due to be final completed in 2024 or 2025, with a pilot phase to be completed in 2023…

Links to items mentioned in this article

…Still more alarming was the news from the Chair of the Finance Committee that the costs of redress will not be met wholly by the Church Commissioners, but by individual parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, col­leges, and so on. Nothing in the Church’s recent history of caring for victims suggests that this will go well. When the scheme eventually opens, I fear that we will see an ugly and protracted scramble as each institution seeks to minimise its responsibilities. Some colleges, cathedrals, and dioceses that are likely to face multiple claims, such as Sheffield, Chester, and Chichester, may well be bankrupted by it. More importantly, this process will pitch survivors into a nightmare of long and costly legal battles, sometimes with multiple church bodies.This is not what redress should look like. The re-dressing of survivors’ wounds is not a drag on resources, but a missional opportunity for the national Church. It is a chance to do justice, and to begin to reverse the mainstream perception that the Church doesn’t care for those whom it has wounded.Where the national Church is serious about missional issues such as racial justice or the environment, funds are provided by the Church Commissioners. Surely, we need the same commitment from the Commissioners, together with a far greater urgency, in doing justice for those whose lives have been devastated by their contact with the Church.

Information Commissioner’s Office upholds survivor’s complaint against chair of ISB

A COMPLAINT by a survivor of clerical abuse that the first chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Professor Maggie Atkinson, broke data-protection rules during their correspondence, has been upheld by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)….

And, by the way, the twice promised website for the ISB has still not yet appeared at the time of writing.

There is a further letter to the editor, just below the one from Andrew Graystone. This one is from David Lamming about the ISB, and its role in relation to the Christ Church Oxford dispute. He concludes:

…There is a clear need for the fully independent inquiry that Dr Percy is seeking. The problem is that the issue is at one and the same time too small and too big. It is too small to justify a formal inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 (which would need to be ordered by a government minister), such as the current Infected Blood inquiry. But, in embracing both Christ Church Cathedral and the College, it is too big for either to handle.

Moreover, any inquiry would need to investigate the role of Oxford diocese and the NST as an agent of the Archbishops’ Council. All these bodies are charities, and it is for this reason, I suggest, that the Charity Commission should step in and appoint a judge-led or senior-lawyer-led inquiry with wide terms of reference. Only such an inquiry would be truly independent and command the necessary confidence.

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Kate
Kate
17 days ago

There is another problem with localising the cost of redress. If there is only one survivor whose redress is met from a particular financial ‘bucket’ it will be impossible to maintain confidentiality: the amount will be visible in the accounts. Even if there are two, it’s hardly great. I suspect in many cases the identity of survivors is known locally, either because they have waived confidentiality, because of data protection leaks, or because of the CDM process. The least survivors should expect is that the quantum of any financial support they receive should be confidential. I don’t see how the… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Kate
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
17 days ago

Equally relevant, I would have thought, would be the respective abilities of a ‘poor’ local parish (or whatever unit is being contemplated) to meet a substantial, say six-figure award for major multiple abuse, and a better-off one facing only a nominal amount for a case at the bottom end of the scale. I offer no other thoughts about the merits of the proposed arrangements, except to beat the drum, yet again, of the need for independent professionally qualified people – the point also repeatedly made here and elsewhere by Martin Sewell – who know how damages are assessed, and for… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
17 days ago

I’m sympathetic to concerns that localising costs will burden, and could bankrupt, particular dioceses, parishes, or other institutions. Yet it’s also the case that proper safeguarding depends on local action. And to encourage speedy and correct local action, at least some costs must be imposed on the entity or entities that were particularly and directly responsible. Otherwise the organisation itself is not brought to account. All of us, including survivors, should want every church institution to have strong incentives that discourage misconduct. Local and specific accountability ensures proper behavior, going forward. Would it be so terrible if the dioceses of… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Jeremy
17 days ago

Bankrupting a diocese would be a wholly negative (I would say irrational) step. These things really do need to be carefully thought out. Why, for example, should a parish bear the responsibility for the actions of a member of the clergy (or other church officer) which went totally unknown within the parish – or beyond? The Church’s proper redress of abuse is (1) to fairly compensate the victim, and (2) take appropriate action against the abuser (that might be the CDM or equivalent). I believe that the Criminal Injuries Compensation authority can reclaim from an abuser a payment (or some… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Rowland Wateridge
Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
17 days ago

But if any private institution were to commit safeguarding failures that, properly compensated, would bankrupt that institution, then we would very likely say, good riddance.
Organisations that are dangerous should be held responsible themselves–even if they are charities or otherwise provide public benefits.
Why are expectations lower for the Church of England?
Isn’t liability part of how we encourage compliance and ensure accountability?
What are the consequences of not imposing liability where it should rest?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Jeremy
17 days ago

I think the agenda must be to achieve improvement, not bring about demise. Bankrupting individual dioceses is effectively dismantling the C of E – nor, as I have tried to point out, would it necessarily reflect the justice of the situation.

I know it has happened in other countries, especially in the RC church in the USA. Quite how they continue to function, I do not know, but the RC Church itself is a huge umbrella. They should be a warning to us, not an example to follow.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
16 days ago

I don’t think the argument flows in that direction. If you start from the proposition that victims of abuse in the church should be financially compensated, then that money has to come from somewhere. If liability to pay falls on an institution within the church that cannot afford to make that payment, that institution is bankrupt ipso facto: it cannot meet its liabilities. If the wider church does not wish one of its component institutions to become bankrupt, it needs to find a way to enable those institutions to meet those liabilities. But those liabilities exist and need to be… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Unreliable Narrator
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
15 days ago

I think that if you read my contributions here carefully, you will see that I addressed that issue but, of course, they can only be suggestions. May I say, as general comment, that I see little sign of anyone tackling the problem from the standpoint of fairness, justice and common sense. Bankrupting a diocese fails all three tests. Let’s take, for example, the Chichester Diocese already mentioned. Why should a church struggling to pay its parish share, and conscientiously doing so, be at financial risk for events, whether recent or historic, elsewhere in the diocese (or anywhere for that matter)?… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
15 days ago

“I think that if you read my contributions here carefully”

I did read them carefully, thank you.

Last edited 15 days ago by Unreliable Narrator
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Jeremy
17 days ago

That might be a valid point if the abuse was recent. But in many cases the abuse was historic, and the current personnel and membership don’t bear responsibility. In that case it’s hard to see how lessons will be learned, other than to resent the survivor/s who may still be part of that community. Hardly helpful. What would be helpful – speaking as a survivor who has been down this road – is the offer of a full and meaningful apology on behalf of the parish/cathedral/diocese/province, made as soon as the settlement is agreed. What actually happens to many of… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Janet Fife
16 days ago

The problem, as I see it, is that the C of E simply isn’t equipped to handle both a proper pastoral response to victims/ survivors and handling any claims they make for compensation. The first is really a matter for senior clergy which inevitably requires some sensitive investigation to establish facts. It also potentially involves taking possible action against the abuser. I thought the revision of the CDM was leading towards this. These steps, as I see them, and, of course, any apology made, can only be carried out in-house. Assessing appropriate compensation requires separate (essentially legal) expertise if the… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
16 days ago

Agreed. But once the facts have been established (at present, by the insurer) there should be no problem with issuing an immediate and full apology.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Janet Fife
16 days ago

That seems to be placing a degree of trust in an insurer that no insurance company should be willing to accept. Firstly, external insurers are motivated to limit their payments to the minimum that is legally required. Their investigations, via loss adjusters and so forth, are not independent inquiries intended to elicit objective truth, they are intended to establish a case sufficient for the insurer as an interested party to base its payment on — and to defend their position with a reasonable degree of success should that payment be challenged in the civil courts. In particular, insurance companies would… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Unreliable Narrator
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
15 days ago

And the priest walked by on the other side, while the broken survivor lay abandoned in the ditch. Jesus wept.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Janet Fife
14 days ago

Yes, I did mention that.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Janet Fife
14 days ago

I am not a survivor, and do not presume to speak for them. But I had not expected to be rebuked for suggesting that the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company is not the Good Samaritan.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
14 days ago

Either I have misunderstood you, or you have misunderstood me. My argument was (and is) that once the insurance company have established the facts sufficiently to settle the case and make a payout, there ought to be nothing preventing clergy and bishops offering an immediate and full apology to the survivor, on the church and Church’s behalf. You seemed to me to be offering excuses why clergy and bishops should not perform this healing act and sacred duty.If I have misunderstood you, I apologise. But if I understood you right – business interests are not supreme over our Lord’s commands.… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Janet Fife
16 days ago

Janet, I acknowledge that your argument about historic cases is cogent.
But that argument would not apply to recent cases.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
17 days ago

Andrew Graystone:

“I fear that we will see an ugly and protracted scramble as each institution seeks to minimise its responsibilities. Some colleges, cathedrals, and dioceses that are likely to face multiple claims, such as Sheffield, Chester, and Chichester, may well be bankrupted by it”

Bankruptcy will almost certainly be the case for Chichester Cathedral. Its hierarchy continues to stumble from one moral incompetence to another – especially regarding the Bishop Bell debacle.

NJW
NJW
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
17 days ago

Chichester – cathedral, or diocese?
Would not the liability for the (alleged) actions of a bishop sit with the diocese (if not the Church Commissioners)?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  NJW
17 days ago

As far as I can see there is no legal liability. If the General Synod decide on a redress scheme there is no obligation on PCCs, dioceses etc to go along with it. In fact, it would be wrong for them to do so, as clearly in breach of their obligations as independent charities to further their own objectives.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  T Pott
16 days ago

I’m not sure whether it’s a matter for General Synod to approve or will require a Measure (which would need GS approval anyway), but it should be possible for the C of E to legislate how a redress scheme is to be properly and fairly funded.

In terms of fairness, and simplicity (a single bank account just being one factor) such funding would be central, and I don’t see how it could possibly breach charity law. If necessary, it could be made the subject of a further C of E charity – there are many others.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  NJW
17 days ago

That’s an interesting point. If the seven-year incompetences in the Bell scandal were ever investigated at Chichester – which is unlikely ever to happen – the Cathedral hierarchy would, at a guess, simply say they were just carrying out orders from above (and would understand the consequences of disobedience of those orders). It is unlikely any proof of such orders would exist (eg in written form), but the chain of command – from the top down and the bottom up – would be clearly known. As Professor Andrew Chandler concludes in his biography of the wartime Bishop of Chichester: “It… Read more »

John Sandeman
17 days ago

Two aspects of the Australian redress scheme – established after the Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse might be relevant. Church denominations have been required to establish national schemes to make it simple for complainants. Dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia have had to sell millions of dollars of buildings and, in some cases, take out loans to pay redress claims.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  John Sandeman
15 days ago

“Dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia have had to sell millions of dollars of buildings and, in some cases, take out loans to pay redress claims”

Irony indeed if Chichester had to sell 4 Canon Lane within the Cathedral precincts – still yet to be renamed back to George Bell House.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
17 days ago

So the CofE is all fur and no drawers when it comes to compensating its victims – who knew? The insouciant response from Bishop Gibbs to the GS question reveals that when their default option of confetti apologies is found to be insufficient and cold hard cash is required, they’ll drag their heels to the door of the courtroom. The victims need to assemble a team of first rate lawyers to expedite matters.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
15 days ago

I find it interesting in this context that the Church of England project to deliver safeguarding training on an industrial scale has been well resourced. No-one suggested that the training ought to be principally a local responsibility – local delivery of national training is the model. Locating redress locally adds complexity and confusion to the already tortuous and pretty much incomprehensible mess that survivors of past abuse have faced over many years (this has been well documented). I can’t see how an organisation that centralises training, presumably on the basis that it is both necessary and effective, can disperse redress… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Mark Bennet
15 days ago

I think this new system of national safeguarding is simply designed to fail. The power-brokers are banking on the idea there will never be genuine independent scrutiny and accountability of the Church in this country. This is just a new in-house scheme to kick the issue into the long grass – again.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
14 days ago

The fundamental problem for any system of financial compensation for victims of abuse in the church is deciding who qualifies for it. That involves, among other things, deciding the truth of matters which are contentious, disputed between parties, and very hard to resolve. There are already several other bodies with a stake in that: the police and prosecutors in cases of criminal misconduct; the civil courts in cases of claims for damages and compensation; the Charity Commission where a charity’s acts (and most church bodies are charities) have caused harm to people involved; and church tribunals. It seems unlikely that… Read more »

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