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Church seeks co-chair for Response Group to Jay and Wilkinson safeguarding reports

15 March 2024

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

The exterior of Church House, Westminster

The exterior of Church House, Westminster

AN INDEPENDENT co-chair for the group responding to recent reports on safeguarding in the Church of England is being sought and — not as the post was initially advertised — will be paid.

The advertisement, posted on recruitment websites, originally described the post as “unremunerated with reasonable expenses paid”. This was later updated to “supplier fee paid”, but no figure was specified.

The Church of England, the ad says, is looking to appoint someone with “safeguarding expertise from outside of the Church who can work closely with the Church of England’s Safeguarding Bishop to facilitate the Response Group meetings”. The length of the commitment is from March to August 2024, “and possibly beyond”, and the “successful candidate will be a senior leader, with excellent communication, and interpersonal skills”.

The closing date for applications is 17 March.

It is understood that the Response Group will conduct a consultation on how the Church should respond to the recommendations of Professor Alexis Jay (News, 23 February) and Dr Sarah Wilkinson (News, 15 December 2023) in their reports.

The consultation’s findings will then be passed to the National Safeguarding Steering Group, and the Archbishops’ Council, who will put a proposal before the General Synod.

The timing and and content of the call for a co-chair would suggest that, although the response group has not yet come together, it is hoped that proposals will be put before the Synod at the July group of sessions.

Shortly before the Synod’s meeting last month, a document containing terms of reference for the group, and a partial list of members, was published on the C of E website.

During the Synod debate, the lead bishop for safeguarding, the Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell, assured members that the Response Group would not be making a decision, but overseeing the consultation process (News, 1 March).

In the document, Dr Grenfell is listed as the chair of the Response Group; and Dr Jamie Harrison, an Archbishops’ Council member and Chair of the House of Laity, is listed as the group’s deputy chair. It is currently unclear what part he will play in the group, in the light of the appointment of a co-chair.

It is understood that the decision to seek an independent co-chair was made in the light of feedback after the publication of the document.

In the safeguarding debate on 24 February, several Synod members criticised the formation of the group, owing to the involvement of people who might be considered responsible for the current situation

A lay member, Professor Helen King, has written that “the composition and the process for the Response Group suggest that the ‘independence’ of safeguarding will begin with a terrible sense of familiarity” (Letters, 1 March).

It is expected that, when the membership has been finalised, the names will be published, except for those of members who have been drawn from a separate recruitment process for survivors of church-based abuse.

Crompton to continue review work for one year. On Monday, a statement posted on the Church of England website announced that Kevin Crompton has been engaged to continue for a further year the work of commissioning the reviews which had been promised by the Independent Safeguarding Boad (ISB) before it was disbanded (News, 15 September 2023).

Last month, a group of 11 survivors of church-related abuse said that they were no closer to receiving their reviews (News, 23 February). Their statement said that “not one survivor is currently have their review progressed” by Mr Crompton, contradicting a document released on behalf of the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council which had said that “several people” were working with him.

Asked to explain the apparent discrepancy, a spokesperson for Church House said: “We understand that a number of victims and survivors have been engaging with Kevin Crompton about reviews of cases, although it would not be appropriate for us to give more details.”

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