Thinking Anglicans

Independent safeguarding chair steps back

Updated Friday

The Church Times today (Thursday) has this report: Independent safeguarding chair steps back after second data-breach

THE chair of the fledgling Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Professor Maggie Atkinson, has stepped back from her role after a second complaint that she breached data and confidentiality was upheld…

You read that right: a second complaint.

Earlier, there was this Church Times report: Information Commissioner’s Office upholds survivor’s complaint against chair of ISB

But today’s report says:

..The Church Times understand that Dr Gibbs’s statement refers to a separate incident…

The statement from Bishop Jonathan Gibbs is here: Statement on ISB from lead safeguarding bishop. In full, it reads:

“A complaint to the National Church Institutions from a data subject about a data and confidentiality breach by the chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Professor Maggie Atkinson, has been upheld. We have notified the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Archbishops’ Council has made a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission.

We have apologised to the data subject for the distress caused and the chair has been asked to step back from her role as we await a response from the ICO. We would like to stress that the rights of individuals to protect their data and our duty to use that data properly in any aspect of our work is paramount.

The ISB was set up in 2021, following a decision by the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops to provide vital independent external scrutiny and oversight of the Church’s safeguarding activity. The 2020 IICSA report gave momentum to this decision. This independent oversight continues to be a key part of making the Church a safer place for all, but it will take time to embed its work to ensure it has the confidence of all concerned. We are in contact with the other members of the ISB, who will continue in their work and there will be further updates in due course.”

Update

The Church Times added this later:

A statement from the ISB later on Thursday said: “The ISB regrets it has been necessary to ask Maggie Atkinson Chair of ISB, to step aside whilst the ICO investigates. We support their decision. The ISB recognises and is grateful for all the work undertaken to date by Maggie. The ISB acknowledges the importance of keeping personal data safe. The work of the ISB continues with the shortly to be published first report into survivor experiences authored by Survivor Advocate Lead Jasvinder Sanghera CBE.”

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A Menage
A Menage
6 days ago

What a farce!!! If it weren’t so serious!!

Dr John Wallace
Dr John Wallace
Reply to  A Menage
6 days ago

Couldn’t manage a p**s up in a brewery is my view. Why are they all so unprofessional – clergy and officers?

Kate
Kate
6 days ago

Personally I thought she should have gone after the first incident because of the risk. Perhaps more importantly the statement confirms a number of other points. 1. The Archbishop’s Council is the Data Controller – it is specified that they made the report to the Information Commissioner. As Data Controller they therefore have a legal obligation to manage the data handling aspects of ISB. 2. The National Church Institutions are the forum for complaints about ISB indicating that ISB is a creature of the National Church Bodies and not independent of them. 3. Likewise they have sufficient control of ISB… Read more »

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Kate
5 days ago

Kate, I made all the points about GDPR, Data Controller, etc several months ago. Maggie first of all said it was all in place and continued to reassert the complete independence of the ISB from the Archbishops’ Council (AC). When it became apparent that funding, oversight, accountability and data management were all handled by the AC, both ISB and AC just continued to assert the claim that this was independent and nobody could tell the Chair what to do, etc. More recently the ISB has admitted it is not a legal entity, so it cannot have any independent status apart… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Martyn Percy
5 days ago

Hopefully someone will raise a fresh question in the next meeting of General Synod referring to this public statement by Bishop Jonathan Gibbs as evidence. As you say, it looks very similar to a permanent core group.

I understand how you have been treated. I have had my own experience of a safeguarding complaint being swept under the carpet by very senior members of the Church of England.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
5 days ago

What are questions to General Synod likely to achieve? Things are surely reaching a point in the C of E where some outside intervention must happen, whether by the Charity Commission or, I tentatively suggest, the High Court which has jurisdiction in all other instances of breach of natural justice. Is the C of E outside that jurisdiction? It consistently behaves as though it is. I can’t offer an answer. I don’t wholly relate to the suggestion below by Adrian of a government-appointed ombudsman. I tend to doubt that the government would be sufficiently concerned or interested to intervene by… Read more »

Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Canon Dr Michael Blyth
6 days ago

This is going well isn’t it? Careless talk has already led to one fully-reported clerical suicide (with no consequences for those implicated). And now data is being breached. How ‘safe’ exactly is the church?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Canon Dr Michael Blyth
6 days ago

The Church of England is not a safe place – for anyone (except abusers of power). Never has been safe and never will be safe – unless the safeguarding system is operated independently.

David Lamming
David Lamming
5 days ago

The initial report in the Church Times concluded by stating: “A further statement is expected from other ISB members.” This has been replaced with: A statement from the ISB later on Thursday said: “The ISB regrets it has been necessary to ask Maggie Atkinson Chair of ISB, to step aside whilst the ICO investigates. We support their decision. The ISB recognises and is grateful for all the work undertaken to date by Maggie. The ISB acknowledges the importance of keeping personal data safe. The work of the ISB continues with the shortly to be published first report into survivor experiences authored… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  David Lamming
5 days ago

The ISB website identifies its ‘author’ as “coeadmin”. That may, or may not, answer Angusian’s question below. The website seems to date from 30th November 2021, but in its present form it is, as you say, an empty template on a host site.

A necessary edit. I assumed ‘coe’ to mean Church of England, but it may be something solely to do with IT. Only the page headings specifically state Independent Safeguarding Board.

Last edited 5 days ago by Rowland Wateridge
Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Lamming
4 days ago

The lack of an informative website at this stage seems regrettable. From the very early stages, it was proposed that “To ensure maximum transparency, the ISB should establish a website, serviced by the administrative officer, on which all its reports, formal minutes etc. are posted. There should be a clear link to the ISB website from the Church of England’s own website.” (February 2021) The website was launched on 30th November 2021. Seven months have passed since then. You might hope at least to have some basic info… Instead, what we have is an empty WordPress template. Click on ‘About’… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Susannah Clark
3 days ago

With regard to the ‘independence’ of the ISB in the light of Maggie Atkinson being asked to ‘step aside’ while the ICO considers another complaint of a breach of confidentiality, a question I asked at General Synod on 10 July 2021 following the ‘presentation’ on safeguarding by Bishop Jonathan Gibbs and Zena Marshall is pertinent. I asked: “My questions relate, first of all, to paragraph 3.1 of paper GS 2215 and the appointment of the members of the Independent Safeguarding Board. One of the issues that was a matter of concern following the IICSA recommendations was how the independence of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Lamming
3 days ago

Yes, because if ISB members can be suspended or sacked by those who pay them, then that might influence or constrain their responsibilities to challenge or criticise the Church without fear or favour. Does the ISB have trustees who act as ‘overseers’ with powers of dismissal or rights to set terms of reference for investigations etc? And if so, are they distanced and external to the Church? I have little expertise in this area, but my own ‘imaginings’ are that it would be far better if the Church – as a responsible party with good principals in safeguarding – went… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Susannah Clark
3 days ago

From the remarks made in the video clip referred to, it seems likely that the ISB members are consultants under a service contract, not employees.

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
5 days ago

There was a presentation with a chance for questions by the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) at General Synod last month (July 2022, the link is below). Martin Sewell (Rochester) asked a question about due diligence and what is the legal entity vis-à-vis the work of the ISB.  I’m not a lawyer (Martin is), but I understood his question to be about liability, should someone have grounds to sue to ISB. It is worth listening to Maggie Atkinson’s (the ISB’s chair who has stepped back from her role) reply to Martin in which she discusses several scenarios but adds ‘I don’t expect us… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Judith Maltby
5 days ago

I don’t expect us to do something for which we could be sued

Rather an odd remark when at the time the ISB had already done something for which it could be fined by a regulator… It is inconceivable that the Chair of the ISB does not know what the legal status of her Board is, so we have to presume that she did not wish, for some reason, to disclose it.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Judith Maltby
5 days ago

Thanks, Judith, but the link ends at 5 hrs and 3 minutes.

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
5 days ago

Apologies, it worked when I used it. The session on safeguarding was Saturday 9 July at 2 pm. Looks like Simon has cracked it.

Last edited 5 days ago by Judith Maltby
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Janet Fife
5 days ago

This is the specific one that Judith referred to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE3y7BYRJzQ&t=20669s

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 days ago

Found it, thank you. Prof Atkinson’s response to a legitimate question is breathtaking in its arrogance.

Angusian
Angusian
5 days ago

But who is her line manager

Adrian
Adrian
5 days ago

Independence, in this context, is a misnomer. It can only be independent if it is set up by parliament as an ombudsman.

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
5 days ago

This has turned into a humiliating farce.

These problems were foreseeable, foreseen and ignored.

They represent a failure of due diligence and proper governance.

it will surprise nobody here that steps are being taken.

More anon…..

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Martin Sewell
4 days ago

Martin is right. This was accurately predicted from March onwards, and despite repeated concerns being expressed in writing, the ISB just bludgeoned on, accountable to no one and nobody, and simply trying to ‘hex’ General Synod with its Big Promises. It would not be so bad were it not obvious to many of us from the outset that the misleading, half-truths, dissembling, redactions, comms strategies and other guff was already huffing and puffing away to no avail. Some of us went to the trouble of explaining that all the CofE/NST was now doing was further eroding, trust and confidence, and… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Martyn Percy
3 days ago

Yet the abuse of power and privilege remains untouched.

How and why is the perpetuating of these injustices made possible?

A cabal of people – not just ‘the system’ – is responsible for this monstrous abuse and injustice.

Who are they? Who is protecting them?

Last edited 3 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Nigel Ashworth
Nigel Ashworth
4 days ago

Diffuse structures where accountability and authority are unclear and charitable trusteeship flies away seem to be utterly endemic in the Church of England. Bizarre entities like ‘core groups’ spring up like Star Chambers. The National Institutions themselves seem concocted from spun sugar. Impossible for intelligent outsiders to understand the Church is an organisational mash-up. Who, exactly, is Maggie Atkinson answerable to? What, exactly, is the ‘independance’ of the ISB? Is it time for Parliament to step in?

Graham Jones
Graham Jones
4 days ago

I am aware of other data breaches by Maggie Atkinson , if only because my complaint to the ICO has not yet been adjudicated. That would be a third, and I am told of a fourth. The facts in my case are almost identical to those of Graham Sawyer ( a confidential email shared with a third party, the mistake acknowledged afterwards, but the damage done). If the ICO uphold my complaint ( though goodness knows how long they will take) then surely Maggie must resign ?

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
Reply to  Graham Jones
3 days ago

I am aware of other compaints to the ICO too. What is so disturbing about this episode is that repeated requests to the ISB to show that it had legal compliance with EqA 2010, GDPR, ISA’s, HRA 1998, conflicts of interest policies, Quality Assurance, budgets, etc were all said to be in place. When pressed for evidence, one is told it is “confidential to the iSB” and “not appropriate or necessary” to share it with any others. When a third-party regulator gets involved, it turns out that none of these things were or are in place. The current position, as… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
2 days ago

Since it appears that Maggie Atkinson has been asked by the Archbishops’ Council to step back from her role as Chair of the ISB, thereby raising acutely the question of whether the ISB is truly independent as its name implies, it is instructive to compare the position of its members with those of temporary sheriffs, considered by the Scottish High Court of Justiciary in the 1999 case of Starrs v Procurator Fiscal, Linlithgow [1999] ScotHC 242. At paragraph 39 of his Opinion (judgment), Lord Reed said this: “Judicial independence can be threatened not only by interference by the Executive, but… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  David Lamming
2 days ago

I note the use of the pompous passive “the chair has been asked to step back” used to avoid saying who did the asking. If it had been the other two members of the Board, or a collective decision by the Board, then presumably Bishop Gibbs would have said so: but of course admitting that the Archbishops’ Council can ask the chair to step back would be to admit that the Board is hardly, as claimed, independent of the AC. Elsewhere Bishop Gibbs talks of “we”, speaking for the NCIs in general. Again, not exactly establishing the “independent external” nature… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
2 days ago

I suppose this is an instance of what one might call “cargo cult safeguarding”. (See Richard Feynman’s comment on cargo cult science for the origin of the phrase.) You put in place all the external appearance of a safeguarding apparatus with fancy titles, but because there’s nothing behind the facade, it just doesn’t work. At this point, I suppose the only question is the extent to which the people setting up the ISB knew it was a cargo cult. The choice appears to lie between (1) they wanted to do it, but were simply unaware of how to do what… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
2 days ago

(1) Puppets on a String

(2) Master Puppets on a String

(3) Master Puppeteers pulling the Strings

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