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Interim positions on Church’s National Safeguarding Panel filled

09 November 2023

Sam Atkins/Church Times

Kashmir Garton (left) and Jane Chevous speak during different Synod sessions in York, in July

Kashmir Garton (left) and Jane Chevous speak during different Synod sessions in York, in July

A GENERAL SYNOD member for Worcester diocese, Kashmir Garton, and a survivor of abuse in a church context, Jane Chevous, have respectively been appointed as interim chair and vice-chair of the Church’s National Safeguarding Panel (NSP), it was announced on Thursday.

The Panel, which includes safeguarding professionals and survivor representatives, was set up in 2014 to offer “independent” scrutiny of, and guidance on, church safeguarding policies and practice. The work does not involve survivor cases.

The previous chair, Meg Munn, a safeguarding professional and a former MP, resigned in July (News, 14 July) after a backlash from survivors over her appointment as acting chair of the Church’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) just months earlier (News, 31 March).

In June, the ISB had been unceremoniously disbanded by the Archbishops’ Council, and its two other board members had been dismissed (News, 23 June). The Council said at the time that Ms Munn would stay on temporarily for “business continuity” before her contract was also terminated.

After a safeguarding item at the July sessions of the Synod in York, however — at which the two other board members were unexpectedly given an opportunity to speak — Ms Munn broke her silence over the recent handling of church safeguarding structures with a resignation letter in which she spoke of being unsupported by the Council and “undermined” by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The ISB had been “a huge waste of money”, she wrote.

Ms Chevous gave a presentation at the same session, telling members that the disbanding of the ISB had “crumbled” her world and damaged the trust of survivors.

Speaking after her appointment, Ms Chevous, who founded the group Survivor Voices, said that she was “pleased to bring a survivor voice to this role. It’s so important that independent professional and survivor perspectives continue to support and challenge the Church in its safeguarding practice.”

Ms Garton, who gave a Synod presentation — concerning a motion on rehabilitation and the Probation Service (News, 14 July) — also said that she was “pleased” to continue Ms Munn’s scrutiny work.

A notice on the Church of England website announcing the appointments says: “All independent Panel members were invited to apply for the roles, and the appointments were made by an interview panel that included survivor and professional representation.”

Survivors have previously criticised safeguarding appointment processes, including the one by which Ms Munn was appointed to the ISB, and have referred to a lack of proper process and consultation with survivors, as well as perceived conflicts of interest.

The notice does not give a timeframe for appointing a permanent chair and vice-chair.

The Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell, who is the lead bishop for safeguarding, said: “The NSP has been providing vital scrutiny and challenge to our safeguarding work for nearly ten years, and I am pleased that Kashmir and Jane have stepped into these interim roles to lead the Panel in its next phase of work.”

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