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Safeguarding reports grow by a half in two years

20 June 2019


THE number of safeguarding concerns or allegations reported to dioceses increased by half between 2015 and 2017, to 3287, new figures show.

The statistics, published in Diocesan Self-Assessment Key Safeguarding Data 2015-2017, were released on Wednesday. They will be sent to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which will begin more hearings concerning the C of E on 1 July.

The largest increase — 78 per cent — related to reports concerning adults at risk of abuse or neglect, 35 per cent of which concerned sexual abuse in 2017. Those concerning children and young adults fell slightly in 2017 to 1257; more than half concerned sexual abuse.

During the period, new House of Bishops’ guidance was introduced that requires all parishes to have a safeguarding officer, all dioceses to have safeguarding advisers, and all clergy to undergo regular safeguarding training.

Less than a quarter of the concerns or allegations related to a church officer (anyone appointed or elected by or on behalf of the Church to an office, post, or role, whether ordained or lay, paid or unpaid). About 12 per cent concerned members of the clergy.

The proportion that required reporting to statutory agencies has remained fairly static at about one third. Disciplinary measures were taken in 72 cases in 2017, of which 39 were under the Clergy Discipline Measure and 33 under lay disciplinary procedures — up from 38 cases in 2015.

In 2017, dioceses were managing more than 1000 safeguarding arrangements for people who attend a worshipping community who may post a risk to others, up from 750 in 2015.

In response to the news, Phil Johnson, chair of Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group (MACSAS), stated: “One hopes that this is due to increased reporting rather than increased abuse, so MACSAS regards this as a positive development.”

But he registered two concerns. The first was that the statistics cover only those reports that had reached the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers. “It is impossible to tell whether concerns or allegations made at a local level made it up the chain in what is essentially a discretionary reporting policy.”

The second related to the proportion of reports that were not passed on to the statutory authorities and were dealt with internally or dismissed. “This is largely due to the very high threshold that the House of Bishops guidance sets for reporting a case to the authorities,” Mr Johnson said.

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