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New group to respond to Jay and Wilkinson safeguarding reviews

26 January 2024

IICSA

Professor Alexis Jay

Professor Alexis Jay

A GROUP is being convened in preparation for the publication of a report on the future of safeguarding in the C of E, it was announced on Tuesday.

The group is being set up by the Archbishops’ Council to respond both to the Future of Church Safeguarding review by Professor Alexis Jay (News, 27 July) and to Sarah Wilkinson’s review of the demise of the Independent Safeguarding Board (News, 15 December).

A statement released by Church House says that the response group “will consider the important lessons to be learnt highlighted in the Wilkinson report and once published will look at the recommendations in the Jay report”.

On Tuesday, Professor Jay’s office announced that she had informed the Archbishops of Canterbury and York that she would publish her report next month.

“In her report, Professor Jay will make a series of recommendations on how Church safeguarding can be made independent, accountable, fair and trusted, in order to learn from the past and better protect all those involved in Church life from harm,” a statement said.

Her review was commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council, but has been conducted independently by Professor Jay, who chaired the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The new response group will, the Church House statement says, comprise “safeguarding professionals from within and outside the Church, along with survivor and victim representation to ensure that survivors have input into the discussion and that their lived experience is heard”.

The statement says that the Archbishops’ Council will then decide on a response to the two reviews, and put this forward for debate by the General Synod.

The outline of business for the next Synod meeting on 23-27 February indicates that safeguarding will on the agenda during the morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday 24 February.

There is no indication at this stage, however, how much time will be devoted to the topic, or whether members will have the opportunity to carry a substantive motion — decisions that will be made by the Business Committee.

Some current and former Synod members have expressed misgivings about the Archbishops’ Council’s move to set up the group. In an “open memo” to all Synod members, dated Tuesday, Gavin Drake, a former member, criticises the formation of the new group.

Until you, as the Synod, have had the chance to read, study, consider and debate the reviews and their recommendations, what is the point of a new ‘Response Group’?” he asks.

Mr Drake resigned from the House of Laity last July, saying that “manipulation” of synodical process had prevented the hearing of a motion that called for an independent inquiry into church safeguarding (News, 14 July 2023).

In his message to Synod members, Mr Drake suggests that “rather than you — the General Synod — being given the opportunity to debate the Wilkinson and Jay Reviews in their entirety, you are instead being promised the opportunity to debate the Archbishops’ Council’s response to them.”

An invitation to take part in the new group was sent to survivor groups, asking for expressions of interest in becoming one of the two “survivor and victim representatives” in the group, or in taking part in a “wider focus group . . . of more survivors and victims which the response group will connect with in order to ask questions on specific areas”.

On Monday, the National Safeguarding Team posted four videos on the C of E’s website to illustrate the C of E’s guidance document Responding Well to Victims and Survivors of Abuse.

Made in collaboration with survivors of church-based abuse, the videos advise survivors on reporting abuse and seeking support, and offer guidance to church members or officials on handling a disclosure of abuse.

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