ISB reports on how Church failed in responding to an abuse survivor
The Church Times reports on the first case review conducted by the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board.
Abuse survivor let down by the Church multiple times, says ISB safeguarding review
A CONTINUING lack of communication, no co-ordinated case management, and poor pastoral support, has left a “heavy toll” on a vulnerable survivor of abuse, the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) has concluded in its first case review.
The review, redacted for legal reasons and dated March 2023, has been submitted to the Church’s Director of Safeguarding. It was written by Steve Reeves, one of three ISB Board members, and has been approved by the survivor whose case it relates, known as Mr X. The abridged version has been seen by the Church Times this week.
The abridged text of the Spindler review into the case of Mr X can be found here.
The full text of the concluding recommendations is copied here, below the fold.
We accept that the Church of England is not a single body or legal entity, but comprises many office holders, and legal entities which are separately governed. We refer to the Church of England as a shorthand for these office holders and legal entities, except where we are more specific about where the responsibility for action lies.
We accept that the Director of Safeguarding is not operationally responsible for all the functions affected by these recommendations, but we do consider it to be the Director’s role to co-ordinate and communicate the Church of England’s response to this report.
- The Church of England should ensure that a case management solution is delivered across the various entities that make up the Church of England, including the Interim Support Scheme, to enable a holistic view of interactions with chronic case survivors to ensure central oversight of support provided. The solution must facilitate effective case management and remove the need for survivors to be retraumatised by having to repeatedly explain their circumstances.
- The Church of England should ensure the appointment of a single point of contact within the Church for each survivor receiving protracted care and support from the Interim Support Scheme or locally arranged provisions. This approach should mitigate the risks presented by the current lack of a coherent approach and minimise the potential for re- victimising those survivors who remain engaged with the Church for the purposes of interim or longer-term redress.
- The Church of England should institute a case management group approach to oversee chronic cases being handled by the Interim Support Scheme. Case management groups should adopt a problem-solving approach with a view to ensuring that survivors retain agency and are able to have a clear view of the exit strategy that helps them to move forward in the context of financial support. As a minimum, a case management group should include:
- A suitably qualified and experienced chair.
- Survivor representation.
- Clear terms of reference for each group focussed on developing a just and equitable outcome for both the survivor and the church.
- Representation from each part of the church involved.
- An effective communications strategy.
- A risk and issues register.
- The Church of England should review the terms of reference and resourcing for the Interim Support Scheme, as they are not currently fit for purpose. A more resilient model for 2023/24 is required and should allow for a trauma informed approach to the assessment of needs and decision making. This should include the provision of a case support worker(s) to assist with managing workload and liaising with dioceses.
- The Diocese of Chichester should ensure that a senior safeguarding professional, with a good understanding of the history of this case, is available to meet with Mr X to discuss the background to the complaints made that pre-date 2015, when and if he wishes to do so.
- The Church of England should institute a mechanism to ensure that that Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors are made aware of all civil actions from the outset, that formal contact is made directly with complainants to assess their needs, and that offers of additional support are made where appropriate (for example spiritual/pastoral care or access to an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor).
- The Director of Safeguarding should ensure that an urgent case management group meeting, consistent with recommendation 3, is convened within four weeks of this report with the active participation of Mr X and/or his representatives. This meeting should adopt a problem-solving approach with the aim of breaking the cycle of dependency that has been created for Mr X and seek to address the root cause of his financial challenges. A report on the progress and outcomes of this meeting should be sent to the Independent Safeguarding Board within two weeks of the meeting taking place.
- The Director of Safeguarding should seek urgent assurances from the church’s insurers that approaches to the settlement of claims are managed to an acceptable standard and consistent with a survivor centred approach.
- The Director of Safeguarding should assess whether there are survivors known to the National Safeguarding Team who may be experiencing similar difficulties to Mr X and seek to apply the principles of recommendations 2 and 3 as soon as is practicable.