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Money for abuse survivors is dwarfed by legal and admin bill

14 August 2020

Independent research suggests survivors receive about £55,000 in redress from C of E

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The facade of Church House, Westminster, from Dean’s Yard

The facade of Church House, Westminster, from Dean’s Yard

SURVIVORS of abuse in a church context receive about £55,000 in redress from the Church of England out of an estimated £20 million spent on safeguarding annually, independent research released this week suggests.

The estimates were collated by Dr Josephine Anne Stein, who is an independent researcher, policy analyst, and survivor of ecclesiastical abuse (Comment, 6 April 2018). She completed the work in response to a question from Canon Rosie Harper during the February General Synod meeting, at which an increase in the redress given to survivors was agreed (News, 14 February).

Canon Harper had asked how much of the Church Commissioners’ budget had been set aside “specifically for the care and restorative justice” of survivors of clerical abuse. The answer from the then lead bishop for safeguarding did not quote a figure.

Dr Stein, however, estimates that the Church pays £55,000 towards the costs of counselling or therapy, out of an estimated annual spend on safeguarding of £20 million. “This is less than the cost of supporting a single alleged clerical perpetrator who has been suspended,” she said on Tuesday. She estimated that this would cost on average £60,000, including a stipend, housing, upkeep, and insurance costs.

Her research is based on information in the public domain, including evidence given to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), media reports, the NST Newsletter, vacancy notices, and the Archbishops’ Council Annual Report for 2019, she explained, as well as years of personal contact with survivors, clergy, churchpeople, auditors, and safeguarding professionals.

Dr Stein said that her calculations resulted in “conservative” estimates. “The real total is likely to be closer to £25 million — or higher — and it is growing very fast with the appointment of half a dozen regional directors by the NST [National Safeguarding Team of the C of E], and the rapid increase in the number of core groups, investigations, and ‘lessons learned’ reviews.”

The biggest expenditure was on personnel and expenses: she estimates that £1.4 million pays for direct staffing costs of the 24 full and part-time members of the NST at the time of writing. This rises to £4.56 million when including honoraria, independent chairs, lawyers, HR, case reviews, GDPR, conferences, meetings, and travel.

This total does not include safeguarding expenditure for the 42 dioceses, which she estimates amounts to £12 million, including £7.4 million on staff costs, 168 of whom are full-time equivalent. Other costs calculated include DBS checks, expenses, training consultants, staff cover, and the compassionate payments.

In fact, the NST staffing budget is higher than Dr Stein estimates. A spokesman for the NST said on Wednesday: “Dioceses are responsible for their own safeguarding budgeting and do not account to the National Safeguarding Team for this. The National Safeguarding Team’s staffing budget for 2020 is £1.85 million.”

The NST was unable to say how much was spent on therapy or counselling for survivors, as this was also determined by each diocese. Staff costs varied between dioceses and cathedrals; not all had a full-time diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA). The approximate salary of a DSA was £50,000 full-time equivalent.

In her report, Dr Stein states that many survivors of abuse are unemployed or under-employed, and that the cost of psychological or therapeutic treatment falls almost entirely to the individual. “Three expert counsellors have estimated respectively that 140, 160, and 200 sessions are needed, on average, to recover from the trauma caused by abuse. Taking an average figure of 170 sessions costing £70 each, this comes to £11,900 per survivor.”

She suggested that discretionary funds used by bishops to pay for clergy counselling covered only six sessions: about £500. Based on core-group participation, she estimated that about two survivors per diocese would receive these funds, and some dioceses would renew the payment, leading her to the £55,000 figure for the 42 dioceses.

“If a cleric is suspended over a safeguarding concern, their stipends and associated costs are kept up, and they are eligible to apply for ecclesiastical legal aid. Survivors receive no support from the Church for their housing or costs of living and are not eligible for legal aid.

“The cost of supporting just one suspended cleric for a year (£60,000 for stipendiary clergy) exceeds the estimated amount received by all survivors nationally.”

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