Updated again Saturday (scroll down)
Professor Maggie Atkinson has resigned as chair of the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB; in a statement she said she wished all concerned the greatest success in their crucial work on safeguarding.
The Archbishops’ Council has agreed the appointment of Meg Munn as the acting chair until the end of 2023. She will work closely with the two other Board members, survivor advocate Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves who have started developing plans for what independent scrutiny of the Church’s national safeguarding work will look like in the long term.
The ISB work will continue to sit alongside the Church’s National Safeguarding Panel of which Meg is also the independent chair and there will be updates on this in due course.
Speaking this week, Dr Atkinson said: “Changing family circumstances and ISB matters have meant that my presence even from a distance has become a distraction and therefore I decided to tender my immediate resignation to the Archbishops’ Council.
I wish all concerned the greatest success in their crucial work on safeguarding across the Church and will keep their endeavour in my prayers.”
Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, and member of Archbishops’ Council said: “I would like to personally thank all three board members for their work so far, particularly their important focus on responding well to survivors. I wish Maggie well as she leaves the Board and welcome Meg as she works with Jasvinder and Steve and builds on the existing work of the ISB. The Archbishops’ Council remains committed to this important principle of independent oversight as the ISB moves to its next phase.”
Meg Munn is a former MP and Government minister and a qualified social worker with extensive experience in senior safeguarding roles in local authorities. She has been the Independent Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel since 2018.
Meg said: “I am pleased to be asked to take up the role of Chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board. As I know from my work leading the National Safeguarding Panel, independent scrutiny and oversight is a vital part of the Church’s national safeguarding work. I look forward to building on that and the work of the Board to date.
I want to thank Maggie Atkinson for her work as Chair. She demonstrated a strong commitment to engaging widely to develop phase 2 of the Board’s work, an approach that I will follow.”
Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves said: ” We would like to thank Maggie Atkinson for her work and acknowledge this has not been an easy decision for her. While working with limited resources, we have met the various challenges of the past seven months. The work of the Board in raising the voices of victims and survivors has continued. We welcome Meg Munn to the role of acting Chair and look forward to our collectively work towards implementing the vision of the ISB.”
Independent Safeguarding Board Independent Safeguarding Board https://independent-safeguarding.org
National Safeguarding Panel https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/safeguarding-governance/national-safeguarding-panel
Church of England safeguarding governance https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/safeguarding-governance
(press release ends here)
This contains a lot of information that is omitted from the press release.
Surviving Church Martin Sewell Independent Safeguarding Board: Even more Confusion?
This is a detailed review of the many missteps in the short life of the ISB, which needs to be read in full. Here’s two extracts:
…This latest act in the tragi-comedy which is the ISB, came at the end of a lengthy period of the Chair being “stood back” – in truth suspended by the Church – but even from that time, the Archbishops’ Council was still maintaining the fiction that it was not controlling the very body whose role was in part to hold its parent body to account. The announcement of both the “standing back”, and the resignation were published on the CofE website; this is not insignificant; a truly independent body would have been reporting its own comings and goings.
If you read the terms of the announcement – and we must now be clear that the news management is largely in the hands of the CofE Communications Department – it was all very respectful and amicable; evidently the Chair was leaving partly to spend more time with her family. If you believe this is the top and tail of the story, I have a lovely bridge in New York to sell you – ‘real cheap.”
…The appointment of Ms Atkinson’s temporary replacement brings additional important issues to light .The former MP Meg Munn who is taking over, currently numbers amongst her career portfolio of offices, that of member of the National Safeguarding Steering Group and Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel. Whether she and /or either of those bodies played any part in the original conceptualisation of the ISB or the current shenanigans is unclear. So much is and will remain unclear; General Synod has not been allowed to debate these problems and may not be in July.
One might have assumed that the interim role would have fallen to the Survivor Advocate who has been the de facto voice of the body, since Ms Atkinson has been “stepped back”. However, Jasvinder Sanghera appears to have been nudged aside, with Ms Munn imposed upon her and her colleague Steve Reeves without any notice, still less consultation, neither were survivors consulted.
One might be critical of the slow pace of change, and even perhaps of the naivety of the ISB members; sometimes they appeared to be talking a better game than they delivered within the complex and tangled institution that is the CofE.
What cannot be denied however is that Ms Sanghera and Mr Reeves have brought bona fides to their task and devoted a lot of time to talking to Survivors, gaining their confidence. The effects of the imposition of the Archbishops’ Council ‘s choice of Chair into this difficult situation without any consultation with the very group that has been abused and ignored by the Church for far too long, is yet another example of the arrogance of power that taints so much that the Church does in this area…