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The Church is striving to do better, Welby tells survivors of abuse

13 October 2017


In the open: the slogan on the survivors’ sweatshirt

In the open: the slogan on the survivors’ sweatshirt

EXPENDITURE of £10 million a year, and an “extraordinary” increase in staff, is evidence of the Church’s commitment to improving safeguarding, the Archbishop of Canterbury said last week.

“We are taking it as seriously as we know how, and I’m sure we are not as good as we ought to be: no human institution ever is,” he said. “We are striving to be as good as we ought to be, with every effort we can make.”

Speaking at a press conference at the end of the Primates’ Meeting, Archbishop Welby told journalists: “We are constantly engaging with survivors. I see survivors regularly my­­self. . . All survivors are offered support, and any clergy-person who fails to report a disclosure of abuse is liable to disciplinary action.”

The Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure, passed last year, amended the word­ing of the Measure to include “failing to comply with the duty to have due regard to House of Bishops’ guidance on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults”.

Outside Canterbury Cathedral, a protest by survivors was under way. One of those who led it, Matt Ineson, said on Monday that it had gone “exceptionally well”, and that members of the public had been “very, very supportive”. He thanked the Bishop at Lam­­beth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, for coming to talk to survivors.

Asked about the Archbishop’s assertion that the Church was doing everything humanly possible, he said: “It doesn’t appear like that at the moment.” He had not learned until last week, when a BBC journalist contacted him, that the inquest on Trevor Devamanikkam (News, 16 June) had taken place. He high­lighted his disclosures to bishops, who, he believes, should be disciplined for their failure to take action (News, 14 July).

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, told The Times on Saturday that seven changes were needed to improve the response to abuse: mandatory reporting of abuse dis­closures; an independent safe­guard­ing body; an overhaul of the Clergy Discipline Measure; better pastoral support for sur­­vivors; an an­­ony­mous reporting system; bet­ter liability insurance; and, after a series of suicides, more pastoral care for alleged ab­users.

On Saturday, more than 200 safeguarding co-ordinators gathered for a conference in Coventry, organised by the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS).

On Tuesday, the executive director of CCPAS, Justin Humphreys, said that the aim was to “enthuse, motivate, and inspire” those working in safeguarding. It was a “call and ministry in itself”, he said, and those who answered it required recognition and support. He reported that the CCPAS received hundreds of calls a week.

Asked about the Archbishop’s comments, he said that, while there was a “great inten­tion” to offer support to all survivors, for many that had not happened. The response was not consistent across the dioceses. “I have a growing level of sympathy for those sur­vivors who still believe that they are not hearing a realistic view of what their experi­ence has been,” he said.

He suggested that more than seven im­­provements to safeguarding were needed, in­­­cluding safer recruitment measures to ensure that information was shared when clergy moved. While CCPAS supported mandatory reporting “in general terms”, there needed to be “a lot more clarity brought to the para­­meters”.

On Wednesday, the Government published details of the internet Green Paper that calls on companies such as Google and Facebook to pay a voluntary levy to fund moves to protect children from cyberbullying. The an­­nouncement was welcomed by the Children’s Society.

Last Friday, Pope Francis called for greater pro­tection for children from online porno­graphy. “We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.”

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