Survivors monitor church websites for safeguarding information

14 June 2019

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A GROUP of Anglican survivors of abuse have issued more than 100 complaints under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), after they identified that many parishes had failed to make safeguarding arrangements visible on the front pages of their websites.

The Parish Safeguarding Handbook, launched by the House of Bishops last year, states that parishes must “ensure that safeguarding arrangements are clearly visible on the front page of the parish website”.

A survivor of abuse, who asked not to be named, reported this week that a survey of dioceses carried out in February — on average, 120 websites per diocese were checked — had found that 94 per cent did not carry this information (News, 17 August).

“Having the right contact on the front page is really important,” he said. “The first place they [people seeking to report abuse] look for help is online.”

The dioceses of Canterbury, Rochester, and Chichester had “very good compliance levels now, for which we are grateful,” he said. “The rest of the country is sadly lagging behind.”

A total of 186 CDM complaints had been made last week, he said.

“If you look at the handbook, under the parish-responsibility section, there is very little for them to do,” he said. “It’s less than a page, and if they can’t do something very simple, what else is being ignored? . . . To have such low levels of compliance is shocking and really shows the lack of seriousness that the Church takes with regard to safeguarding.”

Survivors had spent “hundreds of hours” checking websites, he said. This had included looking at the websites of all the parishes under the oversight of a bishop of The Society. Of these, just three carried the information, he said.

This week, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, said: “Dioceses have been drawing their parishes’ attention to the Parish Safeguarding Handbook. The PCCs and parish priests of all Church of England parishes should ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities as set out in the Handbook.”

The survivor said that there was also widespread disappointment at the failure to establish Safe Spaces, a support service for survivors of church-related abuse across the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Promised more than a year ago, the service is expected to be in operation at the end of this year.

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