THE Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) is to set up a working party, including survivors of church-related abuse, to ensure that the Church follows through on its promises to improve safeguarding.
The ISB was established by the Archbishops’ Council in 2021 to oversee the work of the Church’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) (News, 1 October 2021). The ISB’s first report, Don’t Panic — Be Pastoral: An independent report into the experiences of victims and survivors, was published last year (News, 4 November 2022).
It was written by the survivor advocate for the ISB, Jasvinder Sanghera, who made 46 recommendations to the Church. These have been variously answered by the NST, Lambeth Palace, the Interim Support Scheme for survivors, and the Church’s legal team.
Ms Sanghera said on Tuesday: “The ISB appreciate and welcome the responses; however, we now intend to ensure there is a workplan to monitor the implementation of areas that require immediate action. The responses do not provide us with timescales, and this is something we will be expecting.”
She welcomed in particular the “positive” response of Lambeth Palace, which accepted all of its recommendations, including the need to publicly “dispel the myth and perception that it is C of E headquarters”. To this, Lambeth responded: “Work is already under way to ensure that the role of the Palace is clearly identified. . . Lambeth Palace has within the last year created the role of safeguarding officer, independent of the National Safeguarding Team and Dioceses.”
Other responses to the ISB report were incorrect or inadequate, however, Ms Sanghera said, including those surrounding the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM). “It is the case that many survivors’ experiences are the opposite of trauma-informed as stated in these responses.”
In response to two recommendations regarding the CDM — the need to establish a clear resourced plan regarding consultation with survivors, and a clear timetable of the outcome of tribunal decisions — the Church’s legal team responded: “This process is already standard practice and will continue to take place.”
Ms Sanghera said that these recommendations had been “informed by the experiences of survivors, and I am sorry, but this response does not mirror the practice, and I am disheartened to see this response; again, CDM will be looked at closely and we are in discussion as an ISB now.”
Another recommendation, this time to the NST, was that the NST develop a consistent communication plan related to victims and survivors which “must reach dioceses, advocates, and lawyers, such as the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, Safe Spaces, Ministry and Clergy, Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS), the SRG, Survivors Voices etc.”.
Responding, the NST said: “Although the NST accept this recommendation, it must be noted that there is insufficient resource at this time to undertake this work and this will be reviewed in the new year when a review of resources and priorities takes place.”
This was questioned by Ms Sanghera, who said that the NST had “a huge budget”, and that survivors and victims should be at the “heart and centre” of its spending. The NST did not have a designated team to respond to survivors, and people were “getting lost in the system”, she said. This was also the case with the administration of the Interim Support Scheme, she said.
The new working party would be responsible for monitoring these responses and ensuring that all accepted recommendations were followed through, Ms Sanghera said.
“We are not writing reports for reports’ sake. Victims and survivors are tired of that approach, where a report comes out and everybody’s saying how sorry they are to hear this or that. We want to ensure that this report is monitored for the implementation of the recommendations, especially those that require immediate attention.”
Ms Sanghera said that she had received a response from the Church only after she had publicly expressed her disappointment that they had not yet commented on her report or recommendations. She did so in a blog post on the ISB website in December, in which she responded to an open letter calling on the Charity Commission to investigate the Church’s safeguarding practices.
Here, she wrote: “The notion that the only way forward in church safeguarding is to have fully independent regulation, oversight, and quality control, is something that the Independent Safeguarding Board endorses. We are part of that change.”
There are currently three board members of the ISB including Ms Sanghera, and the chair, Maggie Atkinson, who continues to have stepped back from her duties, after a second complaint that she breached data-protection rules and confidentiality was upheld last summer (News, 5 August 2022).