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Portsmouth Cathedral to review its safeguarding after employee death

03 November 2022

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Portsmouth Cathedral in 2019

Portsmouth Cathedral in 2019

SAFEGUARDING processes at Portsmouth Cathedral are to be reviewed to establish whether lessons could be learned from the death last month of the cathedral’s volunteer co-ordinator.

Nadjia Carpenter died at Queen Alexandra Hospital on 18 October. An inquest into her death was opened at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court on 26 October, and is due to close next August.

Her death was confirmed in a notice from the Dean, the Very Revd Dr Anthony Cane, on 21 October. “The whole Cathedral community is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nadjia Carpenter, our Volunteer Co-ordinator. Nadjia lived her life with great courage, and died by suicide,” he wrote.

The Church Times understands that the word “suicide” had been used with the express permission of the family, but has since been removed from the notice pending the outcome of the inquest.

“During her short time with us,” Dean Cane continued, “she brought to the Cathedral energy, commitment, and organisational flair, coupled with a kind heart and a wonderful sense of humour. We will miss her greatly, and hold her and her family in our prayers.”

Ms Carpenter was appointed to the new one-year post of volunteer co-ordinator and records management assistant in April. She was described in the announcement at the time as a member of the congregation who had worked at the Yorkshire Building Society and HM Treasury. In the new position, she had been expected to “renew and strengthen” how the cathedral held and managed its records, and to help with its “induction processes including safer recruitment”.

The Church Times understands that the state of Ms Carpenter’s mental health was known to both her employers and some of the volunteers whom she managed, many of whom are elderly. In July 2021, the cathedral published a policy statement for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults which recognises that the safeguarding of these groups is the responsibility of the whole community, and that supervision and support would be on hand.

Responding to questions about the state of safeguarding at Portsmouth Cathedral, a spokesman said that all safeguarding, HR, and pastoral protocols had been stringently followed. He described Ms Carpenter as a “hugely valued member of staff, who served with us for a short period of time, but who shone brightly in our community and made a real difference in the few months that she worked here.

“We were supporting Nadjia and her family before and during her employment with us as she dealt with long-standing and complex issues, and we were immensely saddened to hear of her death.”

The spokesman continued: “It is understandable to wonder if more could have been done to prevent her death, but we believe we did everything possible, both as her employer and as her place of worship. All of our safeguarding, HR, and pastoral protocols were followed, and we liaised closely with diocesan safeguarding advisers and our external HR agency. We will also be reviewing all of our processes, to establish whether there are lessons to be learned as part of our ongoing commitment to staff and volunteer well-being.”

He concluded: “We are unable to say anything further about the details of what happened, while the inquest is ongoing, and to respect her family’s privacy. Everything we have said about Nadjia, and have done in her memory, has been in accordance with the express wishes of her family. Simple services of reflection have been held for cathedral staff and volunteers. They have also been offered access to counselling, paid for by the cathedral.”

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