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Synod will hear update on safeguarding progress

25 June 2021

THE General Synod, meeting in July, will be invited to take note of workstreams and projects that have been developed to improve the Church’s safeguarding procedures, in the wake of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report (News, 9 October 2020).

A briefing paper, published on Thursday and written by the Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the lead bishop for safeguarding, says that a safeguarding programme is being developed to implement the IICSA report’s six recommendations to strengthen the C of E’s safeguarding arrangements. These recommendations have been “fully accepted” by the Archbishops’ Council, the House of Bishops, and the Synod (News, 27 November 2020), the paper notes.

It continues: “To deliver this level of change on a national scale is a huge undertaking and to be delivered successfully requires the use of established programme and project management structures, hence the development of the Safeguarding Programme. The programme structure will co-ordinate the multiple projects that all relate to safeguarding.”

The safeguarding programme, which will also include the existing Casework Management System and Past Case Review (PCR2) projects, “will ensure the NST has the additional resources to deliver this level of change in the most cost-effective way”, the paper says. “The programme focuses on good engagement with the dioceses and parishes to ensure that they are part of the changes required to ensure a safer church for all.”

The structure of the safeguarding programme is now in place, the paper says, and funding has been secured.

The paper also reports on progress towards independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team, the first step of which is the appointment of an Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) (News, 26 February).

“Descriptions of the roles for the ISB members have been completed and draft contracts are being drawn up,” it says. “The members will not be employees of the Archbishops’ Council, so it has been important to frame the relationship appropriately.”

An external recruitment agency is handling the search for suitable candidates to appoint to the ISB, “and they are finding an encouraging level of interest among people with relevant experience”. It is hoped that a chair and survivor advocate will be appointed to the ISB in late July or early August, and that a third member (“chosen to complement the other two members”) will be appointed in September. “An Appointment Panel of suitably qualified people, including survivor representatives, is being finalised.”

The paper also reports on the work of the NSCMS project, which will “deliver a casework management system to cover all dioceses, cathedrals, and the National Safeguarding Team.

“The new system will support effective safeguarding practice, facilitate smoother information sharing between the Church’s entities and will provide a strategic overview of types and number of cases, feeding into policy-making, risk management and prevention.”

The new system comprises three elements: “a National Casework Management System that will hold and enable access to information pertaining to church related safeguarding cases”; “a standardised approach to recording, storing, accessing and managing data”; and “national level reporting and performance analysis of cases”.

On 11 May, the Archbishops’ Council approved a provider of the NSCMS, “the budget to fund implementation and initial subscription up to the end of 2023”, and “approval for the Project Team to develop a recharge model to start from the beginning of 2024 for the ongoing ‘business as usual’ costs”.

The paper also reports that, at a meeting in April, the National Safeguarding Steering Group approved the Safer Recruitment and People Management (SRPM) guidance. “The discussion acknowledged that there are some church bodies who may need a longer lead in time to be able to implement the Guidance fully, and therefore it was agreed that full implementation was required by 1st January 2022.”

The paper also provides details of this year’s Safeguarding Sunday, which will take place on 10 October, which is a “chance, for local churches, to use their regular Sunday service to explore together what safer places look like, and to thank all those working behind the scenes to make our churches safer for all”. More parishes have already signed up to take part than all who participated last year, it says.

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