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Responses to Professor Jay’s church safeguarding report sought

25 March 2024

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A SURVEY has been launched to gauge responses to Professor Alexis Jay’s report on the future of safeguarding in the Church of England.

The survey was put online on Thursday, and will close on 18 April. Anyone “with an interest in safeguarding in the Church of England” is invited to take part.

The findings will be presented to the newly formed Response Group, which is charged with overseeing a consultation on Professor Jay’s recommendations, before proposals are put in front of the General Synod.

The full membership of the group has not yet been confirmed, but a provisional list of members, released before the February meeting of the General Synod, was criticised by one Synod member as including “people deeply enmeshed in the previous safeguarding structures” (Letters, 1 March).

Earlier this month, Church House advertised for a co-chair of the new group, to work alongside the lead bishop for safeguarding, the Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell (News, 15 March).

The Jay report was released two days before the start of the February meeting of Synod, and recommended the creation of two new independent bodies: one to conduct the Church’s safeguarding work, and the other to oversee it (News, 21 February).

The report also recommended that the category of “spiritual abuse” should not be used in safeguarding training and guidance, and that mandatory reporting should be introduced on a legal footing.

Respondents to the survey are asked to what extent they agree with the recommendations, and what strengths and weaknesses they see in the proposals.

The report received a varied response: some expressed concern at the implications for the current diocesan structure of safeguarding, while others urged the full adoption of the proposals (News, 23 February). Synod members considered, and ultimately voted against, taking immediate steps to implement the proposals, instead opting for a period of consultation (News, 24 February).

In an interview with the Church Times, the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, said that she had been “quite shocked” by the decision, and described it as “disgraceful” (News, 26 February).

Others, including the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Philip North, and the Bishop of Bath & Wells, Dr Michael Beasley, said that time should be taken to consider the proposals, the latter warning that immediate action would lead to a “botched and rushed implementation”.

Also this week, it was announced that the law firm Kennedys Law had been engaged to manage the National Redress Scheme for victims and survivors of church-related abuse.

The chairman of the Redress Project Board, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, said: “As we move steadily towards the scheme going live, the appointment of Kennedys Law as the scheme administrator is a significant step towards our goal of offering redress to survivors and victims of church-related abuse.”

Members of the Redress Survivor Working Group were involved in the selection process, and an anonymous member of the group said: “Victims and survivors worked extremely closely with the Redress Project Team to assess several very strong bids, and interview the firms bidding to run the scheme.”

Kennedys Law, they said, “were particularly impressive during the interview phase, demonstrating a clear desire to put survivors at the heart of the Scheme’s design. The Survivor Working Group is looking forward to working closely with Kennedys.”

The press release announcing the appointment says that the Redress Scheme will be finalised “over the course of 2024”. Draft legislation is currently being reviewed by the General Synod’s revision committee (News, 24 November 2023).

In February, it was confirmed that Ecclesiastical Insurance would not take part in the scheme — a decision which the Project Board said was “disappointing” (News, 16 February).

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