CofE welcomes safeguarding overview report

The Church of England has issued the following Press Release which welcomes the final report from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). This provides an overview of the learning from 42 independent diocesan safeguarding audits. Also attached to this post is a summary of the response from the National Safeguarding Steering Group and the Survivors Response to Church Abuse from MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors), available on the Thinking Anglicans post Sexual abuse survivors respond to SCIE report.


The Church of England welcomes the final SCIE overview report

04/04/2019

The Church of England welcomes the final SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) overview report, published today, which details the learning from the 42 independent diocesan safeguarding audits and findings on improving responses to survivors of abuse.

The report received by the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) acknowledges that the results of the survivor survey makes for very difficult reading and the Church’s failure to respond compassionately has undermined confidence in the its own safeguarding practice.

The report presents an overview of learning from the 42 audits, carried out between 2015-17, and introduces the additional work conducted by a survey to gather the views of people who have first-hand experience of Church responses, including survivors of clergy and Church-related abuse

It notes the audits have taken place in a changing context and the Church has done much to address early systemic issues raised by SCIE. It therefore summarises and appraises all activity (completed, underway and planned) to address issues that have been raised and makes clear areas where work is still required to improve safeguarding practices.

58 people responded to the survivor survey which focused on how the Church should be engaging with people who come forward; the vast majority said they were dissatisfied with the Church’s response.

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop and chair of the NSSG said:

“It is essential that victims and survivor organisations have confidence that anybody coming forward to disclose abuse to the Church are treated with compassion, offered support and their concerns and allegations are taken seriously. They must have confidence that the Church will act to address instances of abuse and do all it can to prevent future harm.  The Church recognises that significant changes will be required before survivors will have this level of confidence in the Church, and that this undertaking is no simple task.  However, it is one that I and my fellow Bishops and the whole Church are absolutely committed to.”


National Safeguarding Steering Group

The report of the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) indicates that it will respond in more detail to some of the individual considerations during 2019, but in its initial response to the SCIE report, it has agreed the following actions:

  • The NST will work with survivors to co-design a Victim/Survivor Charter. This will be a statement of principles regarding good practice in responding to, supporting and communicating with survivors.
  • The NST will work with survivors to develop a more systematic way of engaging their views and experiences in their work and the work of diocesan safeguarding advisory panels and the National Safeguarding Panel, NSP.
  • The NST will explore how the use of both mediation and restorative practices may be used to address more fully the experiences and concerns of victims and survivors.
  • The NST will commission a piece of work to develop a range of materials, for instance testimonies, video’s etc that capture a wide variety of ‘stories’ of abuse across church bodies, including church leader’s responses and the voices of survivors. These materials can be used in the Church’s core training modules, discernment processes, during clergy training by Theological Training Institutions and in the Church’s leadership training and wider communications.
  • The NST will commence the revision of practice guidance detailing how the Church responds to victims and survivors of church-related abuse.
  • This process of revision will include the direct engagement of survivors, with a view to developing a ‘menu of support’ that should be available to all survivors regardless of where they live.
  • The NST will continue to work with the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and other Christian denominations in the future, to develop and commission an independent helpline and community advocacy services, a project known currently as ‘Safe Spaces.’ Funding is now in place and that the final details are being worked out. This project, which has been established working with survivors, aims to:

– Establish a central hub with skilled first response advocates trained in trauma informed support and guidance.

– Offer online sessional counselling for survivors of church related abuse.

– Develop a digital data base of community spokes made up of existing local, national statutory voluntary and community-based services that can support survivors.

– Develop 10 new or existing community based therapeutic initiatives that support survivors of church related abuse co-produced with survivors.


Survivors Response to Church Abuse Report

Sent on behalf of MACSAS* and a number of survivors of abuse in a church context

Thursday 4th April 2019  

Today’s report from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) illustrates the Church of England’s comprehensive failure in the treatment of victims of its own abuse. The church’s leaders should now be putting their hands up to their collective and individual failure to respond authentically and honestly to survivors.

SCIE’s independent research indicates that less than one in five people who reported abuse in the church say that they received a satisfactory response, and more than half never received any meaningful response at all. [2.1.1] The report also speaks of the church’s failure to understand the lifelong impact of abuse, and its failure to keep the victim at the centre of its response. [8.1.2]

Those of us whose lives have been devastated by clergy abuse know this from long and bitter experience. We are victimized first by our abusers, and again by the church’s “defensive responses” to criticism of its failings.

For many years the Church of England has responded to the crisis of clergy abuse by saying “You can trust us. We’ve got this in hand.” The SCIE report confirms what we have known all along – that the church can no longer be trusted to manage disclosures of abuse. We repeat our call that this work should be handed over to a fully independent body. The church’s General Synod must be allowed proper time to debate these findings – preferably at an Extraordinary Meeting at which survivors can contribute their expertise, as recommended by the report.

Notes

The full report can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yyfqxvlj
The Church of England’s response can be found at http://tinyurl.com/y425ykd4
*MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors)  www.macsas.org.uk
For more information contact Andrew Graystone: 07772 710090, andrew.graystone1@btinternet.com


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "CofE welcomes safeguarding overview report" in Law & Religion UK, 4 April 2019, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/04/04/cofe-welcomes-safeguarding-overview-report/

Updated 5 April 2019.

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