SURVIVOR’s voices are “vital” to the running of a new trawl of the C of E’s safeguarding history, the director of the National Safeguarding Team, Melissa Caslake, has said.
The review of files of every living cleric and church officer for allegations of abuse or neglect is currently ongoing. The work, “Past-Cases Review (PCR) 2”, is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and a report is due to be published in 2021.
Speaking last Friday, Ms Caslake said: “This is a substantial and significant task, to ensure that the Church is a safer place for all, and it is vital we ensure that survivors feel they can come forward in confidence.”
The Principal of the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, Bishop Mark Sowerby, who chairs the national PCR management board, said: “We would urge anyone who wants to talk to please come forward.”
An independent helpline has been opened for survivors of church-related abuse in the UK, which will be operated by the NSPCC: 0800 802020.
A review of the original Past-Cases Review, chaired by Sir Roger Singleton, concluded that survivors had not been engaged in the process — something for which the Church was criticised (News, 29 June 2018).
It was confirmed, however, that, despite pressure for safeguarding to be tackled at a national level, responses to PCR2 would remain at the diocesan level. While the national communication of the helpline and the project would, it was hoped, promote the project, it was up to dioceses to “engage with and support victims and survivors in a helpful and sensitive way”.
A source said: “Whenever we very publicly say that we’re going to be going over some old ground, that will trigger a mixture of responses in different victims and survivors. For some, there will be a sense of, ‘this is an opportunity to come forward to say a little bit more’, perhaps to disclose something they’ve not previously disclosed.
“For others, I’m afraid it may set up a deep sadness, and an anxiety that what they had hoped they had begun to leave behind is being looked at again. That is part of the inevitable scenario; but we do hope the dioceses, with guidance, respond to that sensitively, appropriately, and, where possible, proactively.”
The seven dioceses that were found to not have fully completed the first PCR are now conducting a full review of their files: Ely, Rochester, Sheffield, Lichfield, Salisbury, Winchester, and Sodor & Man.
Every parish is to be checked; so that every safeguarding concern is registered at diocesan level, where an independent reviewer will sift through the records for a final report. Every parish will have to respond to the diocesan request, even if only to register no safeguarding issues.
The PCR source said: “Every diocese and every parish, at one level or another, is going to be involved in this review. A small number of dioceses are doing a complete revised post-case review, in the light of the shortcomings of the previous one. Most will, in one way or another, be building upon the previous work.
“All of those dioceses need to check and to be able to give assurances that they have looked at their records and anything that might impinge upon not only child sexual abuse, which ought to have been catered for in the 2008 review, but also all forms of adult abuse. That wasn’t part of the original PCR. So this is a very major substantial piece of work, to check that all of that has been focused on within the review.”
Bishop Sowerby said: “The Church is committed to ensuring that survivor voices are heard, but we are aware that those who have suffered through the Church may prefer to speak to someone outside, which is why we have commissioned the NSPCC helpline.
“As a Church, we must pray for all those involved, particularly survivors who may be reminded of their abuse, remembering that the effects of abuse are lifelong.”