Overhaul of C of E safeguarding to address criticism

07 April 2017

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THE National Safeguarding Team (NST) of the Church of England is overhauling its safeguarding policies and training for all clergy and churchpeople, after an independent review said that its handling of allegations of sexual abuse within the Church was “fundamentally flawed”.

The Elliott review, published last year, considered the Church’s response to allegations brought forward by a survivor, known only as “Joe”, against the Revd Garth Moore, a former Chancellor of the dioceses of Southwark, Durham, and Gloucester, who died in 1990 (News, 4 December 2015).

It concluded that the Church had not implemented the “excellent” safeguarding policies that were in place in 2014, when Joe had been in touch with various authorities. The Church had relied on goodwill, the review said, and had withdrawn pastoral support as soon as the matter of financial compensation was mentioned.

Responding to its recommendations last Friday, the NST stated that draft guidance had been produced for the Church Commissioners, emphasising the importance of pastoral support alongside any claim for compensation. It also agreed that, in all cases, the “first response” to a survivor of abuse within the Church should be to issue an apology.

A revised training module on the handling of individual disclosures from survivors and organisations is to be delivered to all bishops and senior staff from June, and a “specialist” module for all clerics on pastoral encounters, confidentiality, and the seal of confession, is to be issued from 2018.

The National Safeguarding Adviser for the C of E, Graham Tilby, said that, while the abuse should never have happened, the Elliott review “reinforced the importance that any disclosure of abuse by a survivor must be heard and acted upon, in a consistent and timely manner.

“As the review showed, it is important that all clergy, at whatever stage of their ministry, should have training in this area. . . We will be training all bishops and their senior staff in handling disclosures and how to respond to allegations relating to a church officer as recommended by the report.”

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The House of Bishops published safeguarding training and development guidance for all churchpeople in January, and has since updated its safeguarding policy, Promoting a Safer Church, concerning children, young people (aged 14-17), and adults.

Church employees should refer to these policies and training before issuing advice, the NST says. It also points to the House of Bishops’ revision of its 2006 report on “responding well” to domestic abuse, to illustrate how the Church had been working closely with survivors to produced informed guidance (News, 17 March).

The Archbishops’ Council has commissioned and funded a programme of independent safeguarding audits being undertaken by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, and which are to conclude before December. A safeguarding audit for each diocese is also to be introduced, subject to a pilot this year, and another round of independent reviews is to be commissioned after 2020.

The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, was appointed last year by the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead the implementation of the reforms, at the request of Joe (News, 18 March 2016). She said last Friday: “As a Church, we must do better in our response to all survivors, and I am encouraged that by working through the implications of this review we are already starting to see a more unified approach to safeguarding training and awareness.

“Practical changes resulting from any review are always important, but these must be accompanied by a hearts and minds sea change so we respond with compassion to all who come forward. I know for Joe progress may not be fast enough, but I am reassured . . . that we are moving in the right direction.”

The Church has also been working with other denominations, the NST says, including the Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches, to “learn lessons” from past mistakes, and identify the best ecumenical responses to survivors.

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