THE Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) turned its gaze upon the technical machinations of the Church of England’s safeguarding procedures on Wednesday afternoon, as the lead bishop on safeguarding, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, gave evidence.
Fiona Scolding QC quizzed Bishop Hancock over several hours in depth on all aspects of the Church’s safeguarding work.
Bishop Hancock, who is also the Bishop of Bath & Wells, said that safeguarding now took up more than half his time each week. He listed the raft of measures introduced in recent years to make the C of E safer for children and vulnerable adults: a big increase in compulsory training, new policies and guidance, liturgical resources and Bible studies, new advisory safeguarding panels that included survivors of abuse, and much more.
But without a corresponding change of culture, all this would be useless, Bishop Hancock said. “[We have] to make sure we live out what we profess, and that there’s no dichotomy between those two.”
To achieve this, the Church needed to distil safeguarding into a simple message and endlessly repeat it. He likened this to the “See it, say it, sort it” counter-terrorism campaign on trains which he could now repeat by heart having heard it so often.
One diocese had even produced a credit-card-sized reminder to be carried at all times: on one side it had the phone number of the diocesan safeguarding adviser, and on the other, in large text: “Recognise, Respond, Record, Refer”.
Ms Scolding repeatedly asked whether the new procedures actually had any teeth. Bishop Hancock admitted that more needed to be done; but he insisted that the lack of accountability, excessive deference, and inadequate training which had occurred in the diocese of Chichester — the focus of IICSA’s work — could not happen today.