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Praise for safeguarding in diocese of Salisbury

12 April 2024

Diocese and cathedral first to undergo new round of independent safeguarding audits

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Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

THE diocese of Salisbury has been commended in an audit of its safeguarding practice. The audit spoke of the diocese’s commitment to creating an environment in which people could “come together, to visit, work, worship and thrive”.

The findings of the audit are set out in the first report by the INEQE Safeguarding Group, which was appointed by the Archbishops’ Council last year (News, 4 August 2023) to carry out the second round of independent safeguarding audits commissioned in 2015 as part of a national programme covering dioceses, cathedrals, and palaces (News, 4 April 2019). The first round of audits was completed by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

The report, published this week, examines both the diocese and the cathedral, after Salisbury volunteered to be the first to undergo the new-style audit.

While the auditors identified some areas for improvement, their report observes a “positive trajectory across the diocese and cathedral”. During the audit, senior leaders had shown “a willingness to open themselves to direct challenge, and provided access to all areas and no questions were off limits”, the report says.

“To the cynic, this may sound like rhetoric, but the real strength in Salisbury is its people. From the leadership teams to the volunteers, there was an absence of hubris, no defensiveness, and a desire to learn.”

The auditors attribute their positive findings directly to the leadership of the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Stephen Lake. “He is a relentless advocate of safeguarding and his commitment is demonstrated by deeds not just words,” they conclude.

“However, their greatest overall strength and potential lies in the fact that Salisbury’s safeguarding practice is built on a foundation provided by their in-house professional safeguarding team.”

The safeguarding team has grown “in numbers, confidence and competence” since 2020, the audit finds. It is a team “that places victims and survivors, the young and the vulnerable at the centre” of their work. “Their commitment to a trauma informed approach was palpable,” the authors report.

“Continuing to invest in their impressive improvement journey will be key to their success.”

The audit was carried out in January. The auditors examined the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) audits, Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) outcomes, and other relevant material, besides seeking evidence from surveys, focus groups, correspondence, and interviews. In total, the auditors engaged with almost 500 people.

The auditors found that a culture of safeguarding was firmly embedded at parish level. Largely, parish staff and volunteers reported that they felt able to speak “truth to power” and to raise any concerns. A minority disagreed with this, the auditors said, but this was “unsurprising” in a diocese the size of Salisbury.

The report contains recommendations to both the diocese and cathedral. These include that the diocese should “promote the need for mutual respect and demonstrate its commitment to this by actively listening to their communities”; and a co-ordinated approach should be taken to identifying and targeting any perceptions of negative culture around safeguarding.

Bishop Lake welcomed the report, praising the auditors for their “professional rigour”. Safeguarding was “both a right and a gospel imperative”, he said.

This second phase of independent safeguarding audits is expected to take until 2027 to complete.

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