Thinking Anglicans

First independent chair for Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel

The Church of England has announced the appointment of the first independent chair for its National Safeguarding Panel with this press release:

Meg Munn, former MP and Government Minister, with a professional background in child and adult safeguarding issues, has been appointed as the first independent chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel (NSP). Meg attended her first Panel today where she was officially installed as Chair, taking over from Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop.

Meg Munn is a qualified social worker with 20 years’ experience and led children’s social services in York before being elected as a Member of Parliament in 2001. She spent 14 years in Parliament and was a government minister; in 2010 she established and chaired the All-Party Child Protection Parliamentary Group having previously chaired the All-Party Voice Parliamentary Group which worked for the prevention of abuse of vulnerable adults. Stepping down from parliament in 2015, Meg became an independent governance consultant and non-executive director.  She has been a member of the Methodist Church since her teenage years and lives in Yorkshire…

Press report

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian C of E appoints first independent chair of safeguarding
“Meg Munn insists apologies for past wrongs will mean nothing without deep cultural change”

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Rowland WateridgeJeremyJudith MaltbyAlan DaviesKate Recent comment authors
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Jo B
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Jo B

Looks like a positive step. Cautious welcomes from survivors and experts are a very good sign, as is finding someone who is themselves an expert in the field and a Christian but not an Anglican. I hope and pray that this will mark a turning point in CofE approaches to safeguarding.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

A positive step, Jo? A politician in charge of safeguarding in the Church of England? Have we learned anything from past mistakes? Am I alone in feeling just a little anxious?

David Rowett
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David Rowett

There’s never going to be a ‘perfect’ candidate, though, as Augustine would observe. Someone with experience in the corridors of power (so to speak) can be viewed either as potentially contaminated or as having high-level awareness of the complexities of governance. A chair with social work background might equally be held suspect because of potential allegiance to former colleagues and institutions or hailed as having invaluable background knowledge. And so the story goes on. We could equally question Methodist credentials (too closely bound up with the CofE’s safeguarding), Christian sympathies (too ready to give the Church the benefit of the… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Well said. I certainly wish Ms. Munn well in an impossible job: but the underlying issues are structural, and no person, however well qualified, can deal with them. Until discipline and oversight of safeguarding is removed entirely from bishops’ hands, the same grim outcomes born of an overwhelming conflict of interest will reoccur on a frighteningly regular basis.

Jo B
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Jo B

I think until we see improvement in the situation then anxiety is an entirely justified response because until there is real change people are being harmed in ways that could be avoided. I’ve not been directly affected by the CofE’s safeguarding failures so I defer to the judgment of those who have, their representatives and those with significant expertise. The fact that the CofE have appointed someone from outside the hierarchy who has at least the guarded approval of survivors and experts gives me some cause to hope, is all.

Kate
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Kate

At a personal level, I am sure that she believes herself (with some justification) to be ndependent but structurally should the term independent properly be applied to *anyone* appointed by internal management?

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Depends on who can remove her, who sets her salary, who she reports to.

Alan Davies
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Alan Davies

Got it in one, Jeremy. Unless Ms Munn is truly independent, and is not having to account for her decisions and policies to the hierarchy, this appointment raises quite a number of questions. Until safeguarding is given over to a body completely outside the Church, we will see little progress.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

This is the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel. How could the appointment be in the hands of any outside body? According to ‘The Guardian’ “Meg Munn insists apologies for past wrongs will mean nothing without deep cultural change”. Surely that provides some reassurance that her role will be independent.
Although it seldom seems to be mentioned in these threads, every local authority Social Services department has a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. I don’t profess to know the situation relating to adults.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

I understand the question. And the appointment may not have been independent.
But a chair is most independent, functionally, if the chair has life tenure on a salary that cannot be reduced. I seriously doubt that either is the case here.
Perhaps an enterprising journalist can ask why the CofE is describing this appointment as an independent chair.
The fact that Ms. Munn is a Methodist would not make her independent in most organisations.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I think the best interpretation of ‘independent’ must be that she is someone entirely from outside the organisation and fresh blood who has the experience and expertise needed for this role (which were so sadly lacking in the handling of the Bishop Bell case). No one has seriously suggested that, of itself, being a Methodist was the basis of her appointment or independence. As Judith Maltby states below, she has an excellent CV.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Really? Coming from outside an organisation, and having needed experience and expertise, would apply to most new hires. None of that makes them independent employees!

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

This isn’t the board of a company. I have no idea whether this is an employment situation, but I would have thought that unlikely. I would expect the Chair of a committee to receive reasonable expenses. That would not make Meg Munn an employee. With the greatest respect, there seems to be a lack of charity running through this thread about this appointment which I completely fail to understand.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

I truly hope that the Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel is _not_ volunteering her time. But that is one of the easier questions that an enterprising journalist may ask. Charity toward whom? The Church is saying Ms Munn is “independent” without giving any basis for this assertion. The Church is doing this in a context that demands honesty, transparency, and accountability. Me Munn appears to bill herself as an “independent governance consultant and non-executive director.” An outside consultant is most independent if the consultant has many different clients, who each retain the consultant for limited times, one-off projects, or… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I’m not sure how you set about it, but it would clarify matters considerably if we knew the precise basis of the appointment.

Judith Maltby
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Judith Maltby

I think this is a good step and Ms Munn seems a good choice. I don’t know her but she’s got an excellent c.v. for it. Methodists, in my experience, are not a deferential lot, which is certainly required here. She will face, though, as the IICSA hearings on Chichester in March revealed, cultural attitudes in the Church of England that still do not respect women in authority – lay or ordained. She should be in our prayers. IICSA and the Peter Ball case has made it urgent that we have clarity on the relationship between the Lead Bishop for… Read more »