Thinking Anglicans

ISB controversy episode 10: Meg Munn quits

Continued from episode 9.

1. The Church Times reports:Archbishop Welby undermined me’ — Meg Munn quits as Church’s safeguarding chair. Hattie Williams writes:

THE acting chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Meg Munn, has accused the Archbishops’ Council of being “slow to listen” to experts — and the Archbishop of Canterbury of “undermining” her work — as she resigns all her safeguarding responsibilities within the Church.

Ms Munn, a safeguarding professional and a former MP, is also the independent chair of the Church’s National Safeguarding Panel (NSP).

After weeks of silence as disputes about the functionality and future of the ISB escalated, Ms Munn released an explosive personal statement to the Church Times on Wednesday morning explaining her decision to cease working for the Church, and finally giving her side of the story of the ISB’s demise.

In it, she speaks of being unsupported by the Archbishops’ Council, which appointed her; says that the other two members of the ISB arbitrarily changed their brief; and calls the ISB “a huge waste of money”. But she also says that safeguarding in the Church of England is not in crisis, praising the professionalism of many diocesan and national safeguarding officers…

Read it all 

2. The Church of England has issued: Statements in response to the resignation of Meg Munn.

3. Here is the full text of the statement from Meg Munn.

4. The Church Times story now also reports on a statement received from Maggie Atkinson.
The full text of that document is over here.

5. I’ve prepared a transcript of the presentations from the four Archbishops’ Council members to General Synod on last Sunday afternoon. It may still contain errors, and I would be glad to receive corrections for inclusion in a revised version.

6. The Church Times reports today New church safeguarding regulator appears on the block, anonymously. The press release mentioned is available here.

7. I’ve now prepared a transcript of the presentation from last Sunday afternoon by Jane Chevous. This immediately preceded the Council presentations. As for item 5, please advise me if you find any errors.

8. Ian Paul has written about the ISB debacle, along with other aspects of the recent York General Synod, here: Fractures and fractiousness at General Synod.

9. There is also discussion of the ISB in the article A ‘Culture of Mistrust’ at General Synod by Rosie Dawson, which is linked in our Saturday Opinion article.

10. The final transcript that I have prepared is of the statements made by Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera, to “an informal meeting of General Synod members” in the course of last Sunday afternoon. As for items 5 and 7 above, this may contain errors, and please do notify me of any corrections for inclusion in a revision.

Continued in episode 11.

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Maungy Vicar
Maungy Vicar
10 months ago

A resignation! Presumably she can (and might) take her employer to an Employment Tribunal and claim constructive dismissal, just as her colleagues (former) can try to claim wrongful dismissal. While the outcome of each might be a settlement agreement, together with a confidentiality clause, limiting what can and what can not be spoken about, the notion of a public airing of truth, or at least ‘competing truths’ or narratives, is in the public interest. So, no comment on what that truth is (though I am pretty clear in my own mind), but the notion of a public airing of truth… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Maungy Vicar
10 months ago

The members were independent contractors with terms of contract issued on behalf of AC. These will provide for short notice periods so the idea of an Employment Tribunal as a route for airing the problems is unlikely to gain traction. Even if those terms were capable of getting into such a venue the damages would not be commensurate to the stress involved and the expense. Meg has become yet another victim of those she attempted to serve.This is why the following motion was tabled – and managed off the agenda by the old school culture that dislikes such Transparency and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
10 months ago

Meg Munn: “I felt a combination of astonishment, incredulity, and growing anger at what happened during the safeguarding débâcle at General Synod on Sunday. . . Quite what such a spectacle was meant to achieve I do not know.” The compassion and anger flowing through the room was focussed on how survivors were so recklessly treated by the abrupt disbanding of the ISB. The debacle fuelled anger, not because of the speeches themselves but because of the shattering harm done (again) to survivors, and the whole sequence of events (including Meg’s appointment) which had preceded it. Surely we need an… Read more »

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Susannah Clark
10 months ago

Thank you Susannah. The ghastly business speak of “moving forwards” is always particularly irksome when you know things are going backwards. Just wish we could keep to plain English, and say “in future”.

Jane Chevous
Reply to  Susannah Clark
10 months ago

Thank you Susannah. As Jasvinder said, this isn’t really about her, or Steve, or Meg or Maggie, though they have also been hurt. This is about the survivors who have had their trust betrayed yet again by the institution that caused their trauma.
And still we wait for support and a way forward for those with reviews

Graham Holmes
Graham Holmes
10 months ago

I am so grateful for the work done by the administrators of Thinking Anglicans to keep us informed about so many issues that concern our Church and about which many of us would otherwise not know.
With articles behind a paywall such as this from the Church Times, is there any way in which the article or at least the basic details can be shared.
With many thanks

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Graham Holmes
10 months ago

You get two free articles a month, but that seems to track your IP address. Using a different device, or yet better a VPN, can allow you to cheat your way around this, if that helps 🙂

Ezlxq
Ezlxq
Reply to  FearandTremolo
10 months ago

True, but the CT deserves to be supported by those who are able to do so.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  FearandTremolo
10 months ago

No cheating please. It’s £2.92 per week, and £1 per week for the first 10 weeks. https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/subscribe

WYH
WYH
Reply to  Anthony Archer
10 months ago

So sorry Anthony…..but I already pay £52.00 per month as a subscriber to The Times. A couple of free articles at CT, now and then, is fine…most of the time.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Anthony Archer
10 months ago

It’s a pity that CT and other papers don’t have a scheme where you can pay per article you want to read. I’d be happy to do that, but don’t want to pay a sub for the majority of articles I don’t want to read.

rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

that’s a dangerous road to go down – it leads to siloes of people being given what they want to read and less investment in what they don’t surely? Which is problematic when the same journalist writes on multiple subjects – are they paid more for the ones more people want to read? A flat fee for access to everything is probably more ethical in the long run.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  rural liberal
10 months ago

Only if you want access to everything. If you want access to safeguarding stories – no matter who wrote them – but nothing else, why would you want to pay for Synod reports, the Register, etc? Subs are not cheap. We can have 2 free articles a month – why not charge e.g. £2 to have 4 articles?

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
10 months ago

There will, we were told at Synod, be a review. Who decides on the Terms of Reference for that? Will survivors be consulted, and will their concerns be fully addressed?

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

Two observations:

  1. it takes massive ineptitude on the part of the AC to have hacked off everyone so decisively;
  2. one might have hoped that a former politician like Meg Munn would have sufficiently well-tuned antennae that would have alerted her to the possibility that resigning sooner rather than later would have been helpful.
Tim
Tim
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

you point 1 is indeed something I echo.
Rather like LLF – the HoB have managed to annoy all sides so far.

I wonder if there is a wider problem – Anglicanism is often about trying to find a middle way – as a result Bishops and AC are not used to stating what they actually believe on contested matters and instead try to find a compromise.
However for some matters those compromises mean everyone is poorly served.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Tim
10 months ago

I think a part of this comes from a slight misunderstanding of what a via media is on the part of the powers that be. The 39 Articles – as much as they’ve sort of fallen out of use – cut a middle road between the older Scholastic world and the newer Reformation world, but in doing so do actually articulate some doctrines. There’s some compromise there, of course, but still sufficient commitment to specific claims that the Puritans felt they had to leave the CofE. In a sense, I’d prefer the honesty of both Laud and the Puritans to… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
10 months ago

I find what Meg Munn has written chilling. Here we have a “safeguarding expert” who thinks she knows better than victims of abuse how to run effective safeguarding. “Effective Safeguarding” designed to impose the will of the centre on parishes and force parishes to foot the bill. No need for monitoring or accountability because “the experts” know best. And this whole bureaucratic industry will ensure that there are no victims so in the future we won’t need to focus on them. Victims of domestic abuse, bullying by peers ? Well none of that will result in insurance claims so we… Read more »

Thomas G. Reilly
Thomas G. Reilly
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

Thank you for that ,David. Like you, I found it chilling that Zoe Heming sat behind the two speakers Reeves and Sanghera, and quite blatantly did not listen to their very passionate speech, but found it more important to chat amiably with her neighbour. Their contribution was not about process or debate on rules, but about pain, helplessness, and being ignored by the institution. She could well have been representing the “Church”??…

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Thomas G. Reilly
10 months ago

I know Zoe Hemming: She had a very very tough job that day which she she performed well and graciously. Her calmness helped keep the temperature down and remember – the rules are not hers to make or break.When a route to letting Steve and Jasvinder speak was found ( from the floor – not the advisors) – she took it. I of all people would slate her if I thought she had failed us. I like Tim Goode who was defending the indefensible and told him very very plainly what I thought – but we remain friends and the… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Martin Sewell
10 months ago

With respect (and I do respect you) you are making a Straw Man argument. Zoe Hemming was an effective chair of the meeting and you are correct that she conducted herself with calmness and grace. But what wasn’t at all gracious was to chat and joke while Steve and Jasvinder  were speaking. That reveals an appalling arrogance and a disrespect for the victims of serious sexual abuse. And this arrogant mindset was echoed by the comments Meg Munn made when she resigned. I urge you to talk to Zoe Hemming and ask her to reflect on her behaviour and why… Read more »

Andrew (another one)
Andrew (another one)
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

I repeated that sequence and, for what it’s worth, I think I observed the Vice Chair reacting negatively to Jasvinder in particular, and badgering the Chair (ZH) with his reactions. It seemed to be a perfect illustration of the breakdown of management structures under the pressure of safeguarding. I know such scenarios only two well, and recall for example five people from two agencies in the same room trying to supervise just one, the perpendicular pronoun. I thought ZH was recovering from what had just occurred – a most embarassing failure of authority acted out in full public view, which… Read more »

Patricia
Patricia
10 months ago

With Meg Munn gone I assume Steve or Jasvinder can apply for chair of the NSP.

Tim
Tim
10 months ago

In the official response “The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: “We want to thank Meg for her work …. she has chosen to stand down, but we understand and respect her decision”

I’m not sure they do understand – or if they do; it has ‘strange implications’ for them to respect and understand why someone would not want to work with the Archbishops.

No doubt the words were quickly typed up by an intern or similar – and given only a quick glance by the Archbishops. But it does underline the disconnect from reality.

Stephen Kuhrt
Stephen Kuhrt
10 months ago

If Welby and Cottrell were politicians, the pressure for their resignations would be overwhelming and they would both have to go.

Kieran
Kieran
Reply to  Stephen Kuhrt
10 months ago

Surely the point is that they *are* politicians. The resonance and similarity of method is striking when you compare them with the way the Johnson-Truss-Sunak cohort of Tories conduct parliamentary business. Perhaps the ISB is the Welby-Cottrell equivalent of the Rwanda scheme.

‘Adrian’
‘Adrian’
10 months ago

Ian Paul has said, apparently with a straight face: ‘the Church has excellent safeguarding professionals working in the NST’.
To be fair to Ian, I think Justin and Stephen both, separately, said similar/identical things at GS.

Perhaps all three of them could enlighten the rest of us as to whether they were including the ‘excellent NST professionals’ who knowingly withheld vital evidence from the Makin review and also from a separate Lambeth Palace Inquiry into a current Diocesan Bishop, or not?

John Davies
John Davies
10 months ago

Not entirely unrelated; has anyone else seen the story on tonight’s BBC News website that Mike Palivachi has resigned as leader of Soul Survivor Watford with ‘immediate effect’ and apologised for anything he’s done hurt people? It came as something of a surprise, particularly being almost simultaneous with Ms Munn’s resignation.

So far the synod debates, and Ms Munn’s departure haven’t featured much in the media – the fuss at the BBC getting preferential coverage. Perhaps we should be thankful for that?

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
10 months ago

That’s fine by me – seeing as the story appeared late, I was wondering if you had picked it up and this was the only way I knew of drawing attention to it. Other than that, I’ve got no comments to make about it – happily so.

Flecks
Flecks
10 months ago

The CT article mentions that Maggie Atkinson released a lengthy critique of the ISB on Weds too. Has anyone located it?

‘Adrian’
‘Adrian’
10 months ago

The best summary of Synod I’ve seen (though personally I would have given more time to Jasvinder & Steve), but do please alert us to other good summaries. Stephen L, with all that material, would you not consider a final reunion gig out of (premature) retirement, giving 5 days of your life to YouTube? No, me neither. However most of the interesting stuff didn’t happen at GS (does it ever?), but in the aftermath. Can I invite Anglican Futures to do a follow up in a week’s time entitled: ‘A week in the life of the Archbishop’s Council: 24 snippets’?… Read more »

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
10 months ago

A governance question. There is no mention in Meg Munn’s statement of the Lead Bishops for Safeguarding. I went on GS in 2010ish and it was always, I think, the Lead Bishop who reported to GS on safeguarding (more recently along with the ISB and NST on the platform): +Durham, +Bath & Wells, +Huddersfield – sorry if I’ve left someone out before +Stepney. How does the Archbishops’ Council relate to the NSP, NSSG etc? Is this symptomatic of how the AC relates to the House/College of Bishops more generally? That is a real, not a rhetorical question. https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/safeguarding-governance I also… Read more »

James Harris
James Harris
Reply to  Judith Maltby
10 months ago

I would not want to criticise Zoe Heming’s synod chairing skills at all. But I would agree with others who have posted critically on this site about the clumsy optics of her and a church official appearing not to listen for a crucial 10 minutes when she was not chairing. No doubt this was an unintended error that should not be blown out of proportion. It would not not matter so much if the context had been a humdrum presentation of financial accounts, but this was a highly charged, extraordinary situation, watched by abuse survivors who have felt frustrated about… Read more »

Graham
Graham
10 months ago

I am confused: is there a page missing from Maggie’s statement ? There is no mention of victims or survivors ? There is no mention of trust and confidentiality? There is no mention of engagement with victims, and those let down by the failure of the ISB.

This is the airing of dirty washing, a self serving, political defence. A complete failure to “read the room”.

Alwyn Hall
Alwyn Hall
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

Indeed, a very “woe is me” response.

Now that there is so much information publicly available from different sources and perspectives, surely a decent investigative journalist from the MSM can piece it all together and bring this further to the forefront of the news agenda?

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

Sorry, but I think we all need to take a step back.
At a first glance this whole sorry saga looks like the replacement drama for ‘Traitors’ .
However I think what is taking place is that the pain and frustration of survivors who are not getting a proper hearing is being transferred up the chain so different professionals and clergy/staff are acting it out for them in very destructive ways – and this will only continue unless there is a complete change of mindset and people are ‘held’ emotionally, not bullied and blamed.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
10 months ago

Sorry to divert for a second. Susanna, I hope you saw my response to your very kind posting to me on the Episode 9 thread. I just didn’t want you to think I hadn’t acknowledged your kindness, as events moved on quickly and Episode 10 became the focus for debate just as I’d posted it! Back to radio silence. Over and out.

WYH
WYH
Reply to  Realist
10 months ago

Realist, please take good care of yourself and your family. Your past comments have always been appreciated and your recent comments displaying raw emotions have shown courage, dignity and decency which will have helped others. Take time, re-charge your batteries…… and hit the keyboard when you are ready to return. Best wishes.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Realist
10 months ago

Yes, like WYH I do hope and pray that you look after yourself and those close to you. I apologise for being slow myself to recognise that these events were painful because of events in your own life, and the way the recent issues stir up pain all over again. And thank you for engaging, given how raw this must have been for you. I hope you can find time to rest, and safe space. Susannah.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Susannah Clark
10 months ago

Thank you, both of you, for your kindness.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

In Prof Atkinson’s statement she sounds as if she’s absolutely at the end of her tether. It’s really tough to deal with crises at work and in the family simultaneously, especially if both are drawn out over a period of time. She deserves our compassion. The C of E has an uncanny knack of chewing up all sorts of people. I presume only a fully independent inquiry, in the unlikely event we ever get one, will reveal to us who is telling the truth about these matters. It does seem, however, that from the outset there was a clash between… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

I would observe that for any successor body to be successful it is going to need a press officer – or buy in the services of a third party agency. The Archbishops’ Council has the PR machine of Church House and, as we saw recently, a platform at Synod. I can quite see why towards the end Steve and Jasvinder were briefing the press to achieve some sort of balance. My observation is that neither Maggie Atkinson nor Megg Munn seems to have realised that need until the last few days and therefore are having to play catch-up to get… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by Kate
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
10 months ago

When, in a properly constituted (i.e., independent) and properly staffed charity providing safeguarding and redress for victims of abuse, does a need for press briefings arise? The present circumstances have been wholly exceptional and, arguably, should not have arisen and should not be allowed to happen again. Isn’t complete confidentiality the lynchpin of proper safeguarding?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
10 months ago

Yes, confidentiality is but the press release, for example, of the appointment of Meg Munn as acting chair should have come from ISB and not the Archbishops’Council via the central Church of England press office. It’s like Martyn Percy commented on the incongruity of him (allegedly) seeing Meg Munn at Synod wearing a badge which listed her as belonging to the Archbishops Council rather than wearing one which said Independent Safeguarding Board. Appearances matter.

Tim
Tim
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

I think you and I read different documents. “In summary, ISB Phase 1’s remit was to: • Ensure the central, meaningful involvement of survivors, their advocates, and collective or representative bodies; ” She doesn’t go into detail of any survivor case – – but if she did; that would surely be a problem? “no mention of trust and confidentiality?” – I thought there was an awful lot about ICO/data-breach/confidentiality. It is a different tone – – but basically we have a situation with now 3(?) versions of the truth of what happened on the ISB. 1-Maggie’s and Megs are roughly similar/compatible.… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Tim
10 months ago

I disagree with you on the question of “output” as personally I would also regard pushback on poor practices as important output. Even more important was the “output” of survivor engagement and gaining their trust which is a pre-requisite to doing much else.

As to whether £¾m is good value or not, I’d rather not say, but I will observe that setting up an independent body is likely to cost more than many would expect.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Tim
10 months ago

I also observe SR and JS appeared consistently unwilling even to meet others involved in this, let alone work with them. They may have their reasons, but it does begin to look as if this is a saga from which no-one emerges well.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

That’s the story being put out, but JS and SR’s account is rather different. My lengthy experience of the C of E leads me to put more trust in their version than in the official line.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

It must, surely, be possible to ascertain whether or when SR and JS met Atkinson and Munn. If they didn’t, the question as to why not becomes pertinent.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

That’s why we need a fully independent inquiry. Without one, we’ll never know; it’s just a matter of choosing whose story to believe,

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

One view might be that if Jasvinder and Steve had agreed to the involvement of Maggie (post-data-error) and Meg (appointed in contravention of stated processes), that would have subverted survivors’ trust in themselves and the ISB project itself. As it turned out, the Archbishops’ Council managed to do a pretty thorough job of nuking trust themselves. A formal and independent selection panel for all members of the ISB, involving two survivors on the panels, was stipulated and presented to General Synod in the plans drawn up by Malcolm Brown. The reason for that stipulation and principle was provided in the… Read more »

Graham Holmes
Graham Holmes
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

For clarity, as with various “Martin” and “Susan….”, “Graham” is not me.

Helen King
Helen King
10 months ago

Meg Munn says her appointment was initially welcomed by the other two members. But in their statements to Synod on Sunday we were told they’d been instructed by the AC to issue that piece on welcoming her. So, not an honest welcome but one imposed on them.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Helen King
10 months ago

I agree – and Helen, I refer you to my reply to Father Dexter (above). General Synod were told (assured) in Malcolm Brown’s presentation to them that formal appointment processes, with formal selection panels, and two survivors on those panels, should be carried out in the case of all appointments to the ISB – for the very purpose of stopping the Church of England selecting its own “safe” candidates. The appointment of Meg Munn subverted the trust of survivors. How could professionals with integrity have accepted that circumvention of the agreed processes? Especially with the knowledge of the kickback from… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by Susannah Clark
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

As I observe all of this, I find myself with a practical question: since the C of E’s safeguarding system is now such a mess, is any parish at liberty to disengage from it and seek safeguarding advice and oversight from elsewhere? I know of one C of E parish which receives its safeguarding from the Methodist Church, but that is on the basis that the parish is part of a Local Ecumenical Partnership. Does anyone know the position for any parish that isn’t in a LEP?

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
10 months ago

I think this is one of the most important questions to arise from the last week’s revelations. Parishes have a direct line of accountability to the Charity Commissioners, and I am sure some parishes would rather satisfy their requirements independently of the CofE system. Whilst diocesan safeguarding processes can be useful, it is patchy and inconsistent diocese to diocese. If a diocese cannot in good faith escalate a situation to the national team, surely that diocese (again directly accountable to the CC) should take an alternative route to independent scrutiny. I would expect every diocesan synod to be having that… Read more »

Kate
Kate
10 months ago

It’s hard to unpick the history – it needs a thorough Independent review but some historic press releases are easily found and are interesting. https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/safeguarding-news-and-releases/update-nst-independent-oversight Update on NST independent oversight 15/12/2020 “The interim oversight model would include the creation of a new safeguarding board with a majority of entirely independent members, including a Chair, who would have delegated responsibility for the oversight of the NST, to ensure independence of scrutiny and feedback.” (There are rather too many commas in that to parse the meaning reliably but personally I read it as the chair being entirely independent of NST?) https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/safeguarding-news-and-releases/chair-and-survivor-advocate-appointed-church-englands Chair… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
10 months ago

My own approach has been very very simple. AC advanced an account : I pressed from an early stage to have Synod hear the other parties. AC refused: we forced it to happen against huge obstruction. All 3 ISB members were invited to speak. Meg Munn declined the opportunity. The independents had no preparation time but spoke spontaneously and persuasively.

We tried to set up a comprehensive inquiry into the fully rounded situation. Jasvinder & Steve welcomed our effort. Meg Munn and Maggi Atkinson offered us no support for what should have been an uncontentious way of moving forwards.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Martin Sewell
10 months ago

Also, the Archbishops’ Council had the option of Independent Mediation, if they’d only been willing to wait 2 more days, as it was to be (contractually) triggered on Day 30 after the Dispute Resolution notice was served. Furthermore, Ms Atkinson points out that the agreed timeline was to work for two years towards conclusions at the start of 2024. That arrangement was hindered by her own messing up (and yes, I sadly know myself, everyone messes up)… but surely, the loss of a Chair who could be trusted by survivors was surely going to put huge pressure on achieving that… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Susannah Clark
10 months ago

“There were many other mistakes as well.” For which it seems (so far) absolutely no one seems to be have accepted responsibility. I don’t know Meg Munn and I fear she should should have anticipated the reaction to her interim appointment, but she was one of the ‘four’ (including her predecessor) trying against the odds to make progress. Synod remains totally in the dark on all this but (thanks to Gavin Drake) has had its eyes opened big time. Resignations seem unlikely as no one believes they are responsible. But I think the resignation of an Archbishop (which would be… Read more »

WYH
WYH
Reply to  Anthony Archer
10 months ago

I’m afraid I have little sympathy, if any, for Meg Munn. With her experience and skills she should not have accepted the interim role…(actual conflict of interest/perceived conflict of interest etc.). As for resignation at the very top…. That’s tricky…. It will come down to which Archbishop sees a “life outside for himself” without the trappings of power and status…and the constant challenges to lead by example.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
10 months ago

I think a big part of the problem is that survivors bear witness to the fact that the Church has failed. No system of prevention will be perfect, and there will be future witness to failure too. We have to own that and also to own that our response to survivors is not just our first response and cannot be wholly subcontracted – survivors have been and sometimes can be part of our church communities in which trust needs to be rebuilt and healing supported. That is costly work. The ISB had too wide a brief and was under resourced… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Mark Bennet
10 months ago

This is an extremely perceptive comment – and I suspect the AC became extremely frustrated with the Safeguarding professionals because they did not make the problem of survivors go away for what they (the AC) viewed as an economical sum of money- as well as future proofing church safeguarding into the foreseeable years to come . After all, why else would you pay professionals? Unfortunately the AC does not understand how the set up and supervise- in professional terms- work with people the church has wronged. This is where the need for independence and professionals with a different set of… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Mark Bennet
10 months ago

My reply got cut because of the word limit. My final point is that it will be very easy to play one “side” off against the “other”. That would be a mistake: it ALL needs to be done: not part of it. In criticising individuals we can lose sight of important parts of the necessary agenda. “They” were bad people, so what “they” were trying to do was wrong. Not so – they were good people trying to do right and facing impossible constraints. The expertise has left the room … and we have to work out what to do… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Mark Bennet
10 months ago

An excellent comment, Mark.

trackback
10 months ago

[…] The former chair of the Church of England’s safeguarding board, Dame Maggie Atkinson has issued a statement saying she has been subject to “persistent misrepresentation bordering on defamation, threats to my professional reputation and personal wellbeing”, in documents outlining the events leading up to her stepping aside from the role in March this year.  She states that a data breach, for which she apologised, was not the cause of her leaving the job. This public testimony is just the latest in a series of angry disputes within the bureaucracy of the church’s national safeguarding process, and has inevitably been… Read more »

Susannah Clark

She states that a data breach, for which she apologised, was not the cause of her leaving the job.”

Listen, I have sincere sympathy with Maggie Atkinson who undoubtedly came into her role with good intentions, and reports that she has also had to handle her own private problems outside of this work.

But that statement I’ve quoted is about her, not about the survivors.

I suggest we re-phrase it:

“The loss of survivors’ trust in her was why she needed to leave her job.”

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Susannah Clark
10 months ago

It wasn’t just one data breach. She has admitted two, and I have heard from complainants that there were three. I’m not clear if the third was adjudicated by the data protection people (the name escapes me for the moment) or found against her. But whether it was one breach or two, Prof Atkinson doesn’t seem to realise that she had thereby forfeited the trust of survivors.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

That was the point: it wasn’t all about her… it was about the survivors. If the trust was lost, then the role was no longer tenable. The same could be said about Meg Munn: it wasn’t all about her… it was about a lack of trust in her from many of the survivors engaging with the ISB. The only people who seemed to be building (always fragile) trust were Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera. And of course, even that trust was put in jeopardy by the loss of survivor trust in the other two people. Why on earth the Archbishops’… Read more »

Graham
Graham
10 months ago

One thing that I don’t see often is discussion of the difference between current safeguarding practice and historic failings. I have no doubt that current safeguarding, at parish level, is transformed. Everyone is better trained, better informed, and more aware. Abuse will still happen, but less often, and hopefully will be reported and dealt with quicker and more professionally. NST, in writing ( and rewriting, and rewriting) the safeguarding manuals focuses on making the CofE safer, now. The main ( only ?) question they ask is “is this person currently a safeguarding risk ?”. One of the criticisms over the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

I think this is a really helpful analysis. Whether the ‘ongoing’ and ‘historic’ elements should be carried out by two organisations, or under the umbrella of one, I think what you say is important. It also makes me wonder – if the Archbishops’ Council really wanted the ISB to succeed – why they didn’t recognise the need for Board Members with different skills. When the ISB was really only operating with 2 people (it was under-resourced from the start) and those 2 people were clearly succeeding in building trust with survivors of historic cases… and if they wanted deeper attention… Read more »

Martyn
Martyn
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

I hesitate to disagree here, but it is more subtle and less positive than one might suppose. Yes, in the plus side there is heightened awareness of safeguarding issues across parishes. There is a greater sense of this being a shared responsibility. Awareness, however, is not necessarily translated into competence and understanding. One only has to think of the moral panic over allegations in Shetland, Nottingham etc unpicked by the French sociologist Danielle Hervieu Leger to see how such awareness can easily become problematic. Do I think things are much better? No. If this was a field (e.g., school, university,… Read more »

Tim
Tim
Reply to  Martyn
10 months ago

Thank you – very interesting analysis.

Once again – a shame that Gavin Drake’s motion failed; as it would hopefully have put some more light onto this.
I hope that someone will carry the torch to the next Synod.

Josephine Stein
Josephine Stein
Reply to  Martyn
10 months ago

The essential problem with CofE safeguarding is that it is adversarial. This is not what Christianity is all about. When did Jesus ever approach lawyers to sort out peoples’ problems and needs? He ignored the law when it was harmful to people. He healed on the Sabbath, and you’ll all be familiar with many other examples of how Jesus placed God’s commandments above earthly legalisms. A safeguarding system based on the institutional Church as an interested party retaining all powers and resources cannot possibly discern the truth or reach just outcomes in cases of abuse or false accusations. The contempt… Read more »

Jane Chevous
Reply to  Josephine Stein
10 months ago

Thank you Josie for your wise comments, and I hope you are well? Just to correct one thing, there’s no law firm in place for Redress Scheme yet. The procurement specification is still being designed, with survivor involvement

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Josephine Stein
10 months ago

But lawyers, or specialist ones and judges, are the very people who assess and award damages for personal injury and abuse in our system. I concede that the expense of litigation is a major deterrent to many people. There is one alternative route which might be attractive to some victims: the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is government funded and totally independent. Unless things have changed, there are no fees to be paid by the claimant. There is a right of appeal, and the CICA can make additional payments if circumstances change after an award. In fairness to Professor Maden, two… Read more »

Josephine Stein
Josephine Stein
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
10 months ago

Rowland, I take your point. However, the specialist lawyers and judges who assess and award damages in our system are not contracted by a party with a direct interest in minimising awards. They are independent. An initial assessment of allegations of abuse should be made by a independent specialist social worker, a medical doctor who can identify therapeutic needs and a trauma-informed pastoral professional (perhaps a Methodist?). They can provide expert opinion on whether the abuse took place, what the consequences have been for the survivor and how to meet their needs. It’s fine if independent lawyers then take into… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Josephine Stein
10 months ago

I won’t comment further about Professor Maden, but, that apart, I agree with everything you say! I’m not sure how it is to be achieved. It seems to be a case of back to the drawing board, and how are existing cases to be handled?

Conflict of interests was at the root of the ISB problem. It’s astonishing, to me, that even now it seems not to be recognised or understood by some parties.

Jane Chevous
Reply to  Martyn
10 months ago

I have it in writing that the core group don’t establish facts. They make no judgement as to whether the abuse happened or not. They only assess whether the person poses a current risk. How you do that without finding facts I don’t know

K. Anonymous
K. Anonymous
Reply to  Jane Chevous
10 months ago

Jane, We have had that too. I thought it was just our core group that said that. We have also had: It is not our role to seek the truth. We have to believe the complainant / child whatever they say and however contradictory. Any evidence which is opposite to what the complainant says is inadmissible. We have to protect the child and so believe, on the balance of probabilities, the respondent must be guilty. It is not our role to investigate. I have an email to our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser sent after eighteen months of the allegation having been… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  K. Anonymous
10 months ago

When I first read this post I was rather confused because, as a retired Social Worker, I thought I knew what a core group was so couldn’t really appreciate what you were saying. A quick search online turned up an excellent article dated April 28th 2020 on Stephen Parsons ‘Surviving Church’ blog which discusses longstanding problems with core groups within the Church of England. It is salutary that this article is over 3 years old and the way they are run does not seem to have changed. Unfortunately the term seems to have been lifted from Local Authority safeguarding practice… Read more »

RogerB
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

Graham, I think that is a very valid point. Dealing with safeguarding failures, whether historic or recent, is a completely different activity from attempting to prevent future abuse. The latter is putting up railings along the river bank, the former is rescuing those who have fallen in. ‘ISB Phase 1’ seems not to have realised this distinction. Its remit, according to Maggie Atkinson’s Document, was to set up a permanent ISB that would ‘Supervise and quality assure the work of ….. NST’. However, they were ‘contacted in our earliest days by numbers of those whose safeguarding experiences with the C… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  RogerB
10 months ago

If the ISB weren’t supposed to be connecting with survivors, why was Jasvinder appointed as Survivor Support Officer?

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  RogerB
10 months ago

How can you learn what has happened so as to avoid it happening again without engaging with survivors and their stories? And how can you so engage without maintaining a decent level of trust?

Graham
Graham
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

This Telegraph article perfectly illustrates my point: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/07/14/investigation-soul-survivor-abuse-no-power/ The NST will only ask the question: is he currently fit to be a minister. They have no capacity or desire to investigate historic abuse, and seem unwilling ( or incapable) to initiate a CDM. The only sanction is an interview with a psychologist. At least 100 victims, across multiple decades of a complex (but no less real ) form of abuse: spiritual abuse. And no one apparently has power to do a damned thing. And all of those told as early as 2004: do not even get a mention. So NST… Read more »

Jane Chevous
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that ISB was only focussed on non-recent abuse. (I avoid the term ‘historic’ as to the survivor, it’s very much a current trauma). Jasvinder’s report, the Spindler Review & at least two of the pending reviews that I am aware of are very much about recent safeguarding practice

‘Adrian’
‘Adrian’
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

Part 1:  it seems to me that Graham has started a really worthwhile thread here & that Susannah Clark, Martyn, Tim, Josephine & Roger B have all added really important/helpful points. So much so that I for one would like TA to make this whole section as an entire new separate topic of its own, perhaps ISB: thoughts on the way forward, rather than burying it amongst almost 100 comments on ISB9? I believe that the following ideas suggested above would, if combined, transform C of. Safeguarding: – distinction, perhaps? separation, between the addressing of historic abuse and the… Read more »

‘Adrian’
‘Adrian’
Reply to  ‘Adrian’
10 months ago

Apologies, ISB9 should have read ISB10, which perhaps supports the point I was posing: do we need a new thread?

‘Adrian’
‘Adrian’
Reply to  Graham
10 months ago

Part 2: After some optimism in Part 1, my primary concern is that there have been dozens of opportunities over the last 40 years when the Church could have reset on safeguarding. Each time the Church leadership has reacted with fear, and sought to impose its authority and shut down whistleblowers, victims and survivors in favour of deference and reputation management. Since Peter Hancock, Melissa Caslake and Emily Denne left C of E safeguarding, that is the exact approach that the senior Church authorities have adopted. One would hope that reform might have been prompted by the whole series of… Read more »

Martyn
Martyn
Reply to  ‘Adrian’
10 months ago

I support the idea of this sub-thread in the discussion becoming a forward looking supplement ‘magazine’. The current problems with the CofEs work in this terrain are multiple, and densely packed. As such, the unplanned nature of CofE initiatives merely resembles a complex ecclesial ‘jungle’. It’s impassable, and provides camouflage for those who want to hide misconduct, evade scrutiny or conceal corrupt or incompetent actions. The CofE will not build a highway through the jungle; nor will it create clearings for clear sighted support and travel. The jungle of issues and initiatives that belong to CofE safeguarding provide cover, excuses… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
10 months ago

Not sure why Church Times uses the word “anonymously.” The press release is quite clear that a law firm, which the release names, is forming the entity. And the release also names a contact person and gives the website.

John U.K.
John U.K.
Reply to  Jeremy
10 months ago
David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  John U.K.
10 months ago

It’s not a CofE press release. There is a link to the statement at numbered paragraph 6 in the post above.

John U.K.
John U.K.
Reply to  David Lamming
10 months ago

Thank you, David

Rich
Rich
10 months ago

Why is no one calling for Welby’s resignation following the ISB debacle? Is anyone able to explain to me?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Rich
10 months ago

A number of people have called for Welby’s resignation – on TA, on Twitter, and probably elsewhere as well. But I suspect he will not want to resign until after the Makin Report is published, so that he can help to manage it. Which is another reason, in my view, he should go now.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

It’s as well JW’s an expert on reconciliation, so. Trainee surgeons are familiar with the mantra: see one, do one, teach one. Perhaps in church circles it’s: see it, cause it, advise on its solution. Reminds me of that fatuous railway station safety announcement: see it, say it, sorted. (When did railway stations become train stations?) Concerning Makin/Smyth, I agree, Janet.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

But who would succeed JW? And as things are ( and becoming) who would want to?

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