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Find out ‘why’ of abuse, not just ‘how’, says Church’s National Safeguarding Team

18 November 2022

Code of Practice for Learning Lessons Case Reviews is being developed

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THE Church’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) has released a briefing document on the development of the Code of Practice for Learning Lessons Case Reviews (LLCRs), which are intended to prevent and reduce the likelihood of sexual abuse.

The code of practice is currently under consultation. Once complete, a revised draft will be sent to the National Safeguarding Steering Group for approval in March. If approved by the steering group, it will be posted on the Church of England website for three weeks so that members of the General Synod can ask for the draft code of practice to be debated at its meeting in July 2023.

The aim of the code of practice is to set out how LLCRs should be conducted, to ensure consistency and good practice, the briefing document says.

One change is to remove LLCRs from the guidance that applies to managing allegations, to ensure that there are two separate processes. “The purpose of an LLCR is to understand not just what happened in a situation, but why it happened,” the document says.

“In particular, it seeks to identify if there are factors in the wider organisational system that help explain events, for example, lack of support and supervision for individuals, excessive workloads, organisational culture.”

But the document emphasises that LLCRs do not replace other processes for responding to allegations against a particular individual.

The new draft code reflects the approach taken by the statutory sector, the NST says. “It is important for the Church to mirror what is recognised as good practice standards for prevention and practice improvement in the wider safeguarding sector.”

The briefing also defends the principle of “reflective practice” that underpins LLCRs. “This is seen as a core component of safe and effective social work practice, so it is very applicable to safeguarding situations in the Church,” its authors argue. “The intention is to create a learning culture.”

Work to develop detailed guidance for LLCRs has been under way for some time; an earlier draft was subject to consultation in 2020. “At all stages there have been consultations with victims and survivors,” the briefing says.

The latest draft was put out to formal consultation last month, from 3 to 31 October. “The usual process was followed of asking victims and survivors of abuse to make expressions of interest in giving feedback on the draft. We will, however, be undertaking further consultation with victims and survivors over the coming weeks.”

Graham Jones, a survivor of abuse by John Smyth, said this week that the current proposals “dilute out of existence” the “already weak” LLCR, and that this goes against the conclusions of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) (News, 21 October).

In an email to the independent chair of the C of E’s National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn, and to the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the Church’s lead bishop on safeguarding, Mr Jones wrote: “Victims of abuse do not want ‘reflection’ or ‘themes’. They want the truth, recommendations, people held to account and action.”

He criticised the proposed approach to LLCRs for failing to reflect the planned reforms to the Clergy Discipline Measure (News, 15 July), which triage allegations according to their seriousness.

“For some . . . failures in safeguarding in the Church of England, an LLCR might be the appropriate, reflective response, and might be achievable in six months. However, what the Consultation excludes is the possibility of a full bells-and-whistles ‘investigation’. The Church of England seems to have little desire to ‘find out what happened’, and farms them out to LLCRs.”

The current “managing allegations” process did not work, he continued. “The NST seems to believe its sole brief is prevention; so historic failures will just not get addressed. No one is prepared to instigate CDM proceedings, or even properly investigate. . . If the managing allegations process does not work, LLCRs are the only route for victims to get some feeling of justice. But then we are let down when the LLCRs are ignored, or worse, buried.”

He also believes that the recent consultation process was not well publicised. “I have been in contact with a number of Synod members who were completely unaware of the October consultation,” he wrote.

In response, Ms Munn thanked Mr Jones for his reflections, which she had forwarded to the NST staff working on the consultation.

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