Thinking Anglicans

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.

04/12/2020

Melissa Caslake, the Church of England’s national director of safeguarding, is moving on to a new role as Chief Officer for Children’s services for Devon County Council. She will leave the National Church Institutions during January.

Message from Melissa

I am leaving my post to take up a Director of Children’s Services role, having over the last 18 months embedded a new structure for the safeguarding team, established clear priorities and introduced change proposals which were reinforced by IICSA and formed part of our response to the final publication of its report on safeguarding in the Church. 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.

Message from Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop

I am enormously grateful to Melissa Caslake for all that she has done as the Church of England’s first National Director of Safeguarding. She has made a huge contribution to our work in this vital area and her departure will be a big loss to the Church. It is vital we must not lose momentum while of course, we need also to reflect and consult widely especially with the survivor community about next steps to ensure we build on the good work that Melissa has done.

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. She joined the NST shortly after IICSA’s hearings into the Church of England and has led us through to the publication of the Church’s response to the IICSA report, including steps towards the creation of new independent structures for the oversight of safeguarding.

Melissa has worked tirelessly with a dedicated team of colleagues to improve the quality and consistency of the Church’s safeguarding work and especially to improve our response to and care for survivors. 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.

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Horrified but not surprised
Horrified but not surprised
4 months ago

This is a shocking indictment of the broken governance structures of the Church of England. In any other organisation heads would roll at a very senior level, given what the “source” and the survivors have said. It’s arguably time to revisit the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919. Because the General Synod only exists because Parliament delegated its powers under that Act, it may be time for Parliament to take back control. This is not to do with theological issues but with making the organisation safe for vulnerable people. Parliament may have delegated to the General Synod, but if… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
4 months ago

I don’t think it’s the General Synod which is at fault – more the people that control the Synod [and beyond]

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 months ago

Richard is right. I don’t think the problem is General Synod, which has been very supportive this past year. The issue seems to be with some of the senior civil servants in Church House Westminster, and perhaps also with some of the bishops.

Michael
Michael
4 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

I agree also. When she says resistance from clergy, does she mean bishops? Why was there resistance? What happened to the ‘lessons will be learnt’ mantra following the Whitsey report? In light of IICSA and other safeguarding failures that keep on being uncovered in the Church, I think it is disappointing that she has felt the need to move on after 18 months.

Horrified but not surprised
Horrified but not surprised
4 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

That rather supports my point. The Church is supposed to be “episcopally led, synodically governed” but despite the members of Synod doing their best, the governance isn’t working; the way a difficult issue like this one works out is the test that demonstrates this. So the problem absolutely isn’t the GS itself, it’s the structure within which it operates. “Synodically governed” is an empty phrase if the synod can’t pull enough relevant levers in the current crisis. Frankly, as in the real parliament, or for the shareholders of a company, or the board of trustees of most charities, that needs… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Horrified but not surprised
Froghole
Froghole
4 months ago

““Synodically governed” is an empty phrase…” Many thanks for this. Episcopal churches have evolved as the dictatorships of a clique decked out in purple. In the period between the Reformation and the movement for political reform in the 1830s and 1840s, parliament exercised forbearance (the Oxford Movement originated as a reaction to the initial moderate reform of the Church in Ireland). What many churchmen could not tolerate was legislative interference by a body that – after catholic emancipation – was confessionally heterogenous. However, to remove the role of parliament altogether would result in the loss of the Church’s political privileges.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Froghole
Michael
Michael
4 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

Indeed Froghole. Politburo sounds like an apt word. I am waiting for the House of Bishops to issue another edict, instructing worshippers to produce a vaccine certificate before being allowed to enter a church. That will mean only the over 80s in church for the first few weeks, joined later by the over 70s, so in many churches a return to normality, assuming public worship in church resumes and assuming that those in that age group get over the pain of being excluded for the best part of a year.

american piskie
american piskie
4 months ago

Spot on.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
4 months ago

The agenda for a meeting I “attended” this last week had an item “succession planning” – recognising that certain strategic posts are potentially hard to fill, that we need a contingency plan for leadership (COVID focused the mind), and that we need to be developing internal candidates for key strategic roles. One issue is that if we don’t get our organisational culture right, key positions might move from being “difficult to fill” to “impossible to fill” – and that is a danger in this case. Too often in the past on Church recruitment, excellent potential candidates have been alert to… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

Exactly so. The Church cannot be trusted with safeguarding. The policing of Church safeguarding should rather be entrusted to a wholly independent body that would have the ability to impose penalties on delinquent prelates and ecclesiastical corporations. If that erodes the prerogatives of the episcopate and its adjuncts, I am tempted to say “so what” and “who cares”. Interested Observer has noted on this thread that children may not be safe in churches. In a sense that problem has largely taken care of itself: they have been conspicuous in their absence from almost all churches for more at least a… Read more »

Helen King
Helen King
4 months ago

So, a new appointment ‘in due course’. What about the advertised post of Development Manager for the survivors’ redress scheme? Applications closed 12 Oct. Have they appointed?

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
4 months ago

Should responsible parents allow their children to take part in activities organised by an institution which has been heavily criticised for its child protection policies and is unable to recruit or retain long-term safeguarding leadership? OfStEd think not, in the case of Ampleforth, and are proposing to forbid the recruitment of new pupils into that school from the start of next (calendar) year. What should parents who are currently engaged with CofE churches or other institutions do? It’s clear the CofE doesn’t take safeguarding seriously, nor regard it as worthy of significant management attention. Going further, to what extent would… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Interested Observer
David Keen
David Keen
4 months ago

To be fair you could insert ‘at a national level’ after ‘the CofE doesn’t take safeguarding seriously’, though the budget commitment at Synod to beef up safeguarding is a positive sign. Many of us in parishes take it extremely seriously, and put in a significant amount of time and energy to put in and follow robust safeguarding practices. Our safeguarding policies and practices are often much sounder than those of the groups who are hiring our premises.

Ken Crossett
Ken Crossett
4 months ago

The quote,  “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” sums it all up and doesn’t just apply to safeguarding or to the senior leadership of the Church. For me, it applies in far too many parishes as well. I often think of a picture a friend passed to me of an old tree splitting apart and a new one growing out strong and straight from within the old trunk. I wonder if this is God’s plan for… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
4 months ago

When I saw that the Church Times last week had only given this shocking announcement a few lines in an ‘other news’ column, I presumed that was because of the close proximity of the announcement to their going to press time, and that fuller treatment would be afforded this week. Instead I find nothing at all this week, so it appears as if last Wednesday was ‘a good time to get bad news out’. However, there is a letter in the print edition from three canons at Blackburn Cathedral, which mentions both safeguarding and the resignation of Melissa Caslake, but… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

When I first read the announcement, my reaction was that Melissa Caslake was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire by going to Devon Children’s Services which had very recently earned an ‘inadequate’ rating by Ofsted, referring to shortcomings going back seven years. Clearly she would face a major challenge to turn things around there. But, again, that does add a perspective on her leaving the C of E, so my original instinct now seems to have been wrong.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
4 months ago

Thank you, Simon, for adding this information. Having re-read the letter, it is hard to see who might think that they have been libelled, but I guess it must be the person who raised the matter, under privilege, at General Synod (who I certainly won’t be naming here!)

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