Updated Thursday and Friday
My previous post on this topic is here: Church Safeguarding: Updates for General Synod
Some more recent items:
Church Times Hattie Williams Disputes undermine effectiveness of the Church’s Independent Safeguarding Board
THE Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has upheld a third complaint of a data-breach made by a survivor against the chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Professor Maggie Atkinson, the Church Times has learned.
This paper also understands that, despite being informed of this, the Archbishops’ Council, who employ the ISB as independent contractors, has recently reinstated Professor Atkinson’s access to her ISB email account against the wishes of the two other ISB board members.
The two have requested that her access be removed until they are reassured and can assure survivors that their data is safe…
and the report continues with a great deal of detail on the confusion, ending with:
“…However, due to ongoing concerns about the current working relationships, the Council agreed at its January meeting that members should enter into a dispute-resolution process to ensure this important independent work can continue with effective collaborative working between its members. This will enable the ISB to reach decisions including on outstanding work and to provide services to the Church agreed in its contract.”.
Read the whole report if you can.
The Acting Bishop of Lincoln has written this letter: The Retirement of the Dean of Lincoln, The Very Reverend Christine Wilson. It concludes:
…It is well-known that Dean Christine was caught up in the safeguarding debacle leading from allegations made against the Canon Chancellor. He was subsequently found not guilty; but both the Bishop of Lincoln and Dean Christine were disciplined for a reporting error with regard to the safeguarding breach. Dean Christine voluntarily stepped away from her duties. The Bishop was suspended. Later the Bishop received an apology from the National Church for the undue duration of his suspension. Perhaps because the Dean’s situation was more informal and local, she received no corresponding recognition. A subsequent independent review of the case found that Dean Christine paid too high a price for her mistake, which she apologised publicly for on her return to work. The review, conducted by a senior and highly-esteemed barrister, also found that Christine was never a threat to children or vulnerable adults as had been asserted.
Of course, the first priority of the Diocese was to ensure that no breach of process could possibly lead to a vulnerable adult being hurt. The Court finally determined that there was no case to answer; but the two senior leaders involved paid the price in the meantime. That price has been high and provides a media narrative which will linger for a long time. However, the whole matter can now be seen in perspective, and Dean Christine should in the years ahead be allowed to celebrate her many achievements in ministry under God, as I am celebrating today.
Archbishop of York Press Release: Bishopthorpe Palace publishes its Independent Safeguarding Audit from SCIE and the full text of the audit report is here.
Church of England Press Release: Statement on ISB and Christ Church review
The Archbishops’ Council, at its meeting last week, has agreed that the review of the handling of safeguarding issues regarding the former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Dr Martyn Percy, originally referred to the Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, should be led by another person.
All parties have been informed of this decision and next steps will be announced in due course.
The Archbishops’ Council and the Diocese of Oxford originally referred the review to the ISB early in 2022 and Terms of Reference were announced in May. In the autumn, the ISB announced it was pausing work on the review due to finite resources, current workload and a desire to study the outcomes of other independent reviews into Christ Church.
Due to ongoing concerns about current working relationships and the conclusion of the ICO investigation into the Chair the Council also agreed at its January meeting that the three ISB members should enter into a dispute resolution process to ensure this important independent work can continue with effective collaborative working between its members. This will enable the ISB to reach decisions including on outstanding work and to provide services to the Church agreed in its contract.
The ISB, was set up to provide vital scrutiny of the Church’s safeguarding work and we remain committed to this principle and would like to thank members for their work to date.
…Early last year, the ISB had agreed — at the request of the diocese of Oxford and the Archbishops’ Council — to undertake a review of the quality of earlier safeguarding investigations into what became a long and protracted dispute between the college authorities and Dean Percy (News, 24 June 2022). The Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, later defended the ISB’s ability to do so, after its competence and capacity to investigate were questioned by a General Synod member, Martin Sewell (News, 1 July 2022).
Last October, however, the ISB “paused” its review indefinitely because it was not confident in its own independence and resources (News, 21 October 2022).
On Wednesday, the Archbishops’ Council announced that the Christ Church review “should be led by another person” — the day after the Church Times reported that a third complaint of a data breach had been made by a survivor against the ISB, and that this had been upheld by the Independent Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The complaint concerned an email exchange between the survivor and the chair of the ISB, Professor Maggie Atkinson.
The full text of this motion as originally submitted appears in the comments below.
“The Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) is committed to sharing its thinking and emerging findings. Despite attempts to secure an opportunity to update Synod in person, no time was made available. We do not believe that the importance of ISB work is consistent with a ‘fringe’ activity. This paper is published in accordance with our commitment to transparency and accountability.”