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Former ISB members cut links to review    

24 November 2023

Sam Atkins/Church Times

Steve Reeves addresses the General Synod in July

Steve Reeves addresses the General Synod in July

TWO former Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) members have announced that they have ceased to co-operate with the independent review of the ISB’s demise. They have concerns about the reviewer’s remit.

The ISB was disbanded in the summer, after the two board members, Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves, were sacked by the Archbishops’ Council (News, 23 June).

The move was condemned by survivors who had been working with the ISB members, and caused disquiet in the General Synod, where Mr Reeves and Ms Sanghera gave their account of what had happened in July (News, 14 July).

Meg Munn, who had taken on the chair of the ISB on an interim basis, subsequently resigned from all her safeguarding posts in the Church and published a scathing critique of both the Archbishops’ Council and her former colleagues (News, 14 July).

In a statement to the Church Times, Ms Sanghera and Mr Reeves say that they have “been consistent advocates of an appropriately constituted and independent inquiry into the Church’s engagement with and approach to the Independent Safeguarding Board”.

But they say that the terms of reference are too narrow and mean that “some people may not engage with the process because they considered their perspective
to be outside the scope of the inquiry.”

As a result, they conclude, it “will not be the thorough and independent inquiry that survivors, churchgoers, Synod, and the public have a right to expect”.

After efforts to ensure that the terms of reference were broadened came to naught, Mr Reeves and Ms Sanghera decided that they would not engage any further with the inquiry.

It is, they say, a situation that could have been avoided “if the Archbishops’ Council, as we requested, had consulted stakeholders and engaged effectively on the [terms of reference]”.

The terms of reference for the review were announced in September, along with the identity of the reviewer: Sarah Wilkinson, a barrister of Blackstone Chambers (News, 15 September). Publication of her report is expected at the end of November.

At the time, several survivors and survivor advocates expressed disquiet at a lack of consultation in preparing the terms of reference, and at the Archbishops’ Council’s involvement in their development when the Council was itself a subject of the inquiry.

One victim of church-based abuse suggested that the quick turnaround between the announcement of the reviewer and the scheduled report meant that it would just “scratch the surface”. “Victims of abuse in a church context deserve a well-resourced, comprehensive, and forensic independent Review. Nothing less will do,” they said.

Mr Reeves and Ms Sanghera, however, in their statement, express optimism about the Future Safeguarding Programme that is being run by Professor Alexis Jay (News, 21 July).

“There is every indication that the Future of Church Safeguarding Programme will provide valuable direction particularly to children and adults at risk, and survivors of abuse, can have confidence in the measures implemented to safeguard them,” they write.

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