Church of England response to IICSA report

On 27 June, the Church of England the following Press Release announcing its response to IICSA’s report (“the Response”). Our summary of the comments in the Response on the IICSA Report’s five recommendations is given below. Comments specific to the Clergy Discipline Measure are clearly set out in Safeguarding and the Clergy Discipline Measure on the blog of Meg Munn, the Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel.


Press Release: Church of England response to IICSA’s report

27/06/2019

The Church of England has published today its response to IICSA’s report on the Chichester diocese and Peter Ball case studies. This is ahead of next week’s wider IICSA hearing on the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

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National Safeguarding Team


Extracts from CofE Response

Background

“In July 2018, the General Synod debated a motion on safeguarding put forward by the NSSG. The report (GS 2092) considered the themes arising from evidence given to the Diocese of Chichester public hearings and under three key themes made 11 commitments for action. The report was updated for the February sessions of General Synod as GS 1213 and a further update will be presented to the July 2019 General Synod as GS 2134.

In addition to the five recommendations made by the Inquiry, the report contains a number of themes which the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) intends to further reflect upon and where appropriate take action ahead of any further recommendations that the Inquiry will make in its report following the public hearings taking place in July 2019. However, the Church has taken the view that where strategic issues have been highlighted either to or by the Inquiry, action is required now to progress such improvements.”

Recommendations from the Inquiry and the NSSG’s response

“The Inquiry has made three direct recommendations to the national Church and one to the government. A further recommendation will require the cooperation of religious institutions and the recently created Child Safeguarding National Review Panel. These recommendations are stated below (in the blue boxes) followed by a response to each from the NSSG.”

Recommendation 1: Introduction of safeguarding guidance for religious communities

The Church of England should introduce appropriate guidance which deals with safeguarding within the context of a religious community affiliated to the Church. It must ensure that these organisations meet adequate requirements for safeguarding and child protection. The needs of victims should be prioritised when designing safeguarding policies and practices. 

The regulation and management of religious communities should include a mandatory requirement both to have and to follow safeguarding guidance. The requirement to comply with this safeguarding guidance should be the same as would be expected in any other Church institution. There needs to be clarity in respect of how safeguarding should be managed in these communities, along with appropriate auditing of compliance.

Published response from the NSSG

“At its July 2019 group of sessions General Synod will be asked to give final approval to Amending Canon No. 40.6 It inserts new provision into the Canons of the Church of England relating to religious communities. Under these provisions, religious communities in the Church of England will be subject to legal designation for the first time … Among other things, the regulations will impose conditions as to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. The House of Bishops will have the power to revoke a declaration that a community is a religious community in the Church of England “for grave cause … The revision is likely to include strengthening the safeguarding responsibilities of the episcopal visitor. It is envisaged that the Regulations and guidance will be approved in July 2020.”

Recommendation 2: Amendment of Canon C30

The Church of England should amend the current canon requiring clerics to comply with the Bishop’s Guidance on Safeguarding. The use of the words ‘due regard’ in Canon C30 is an acceptable term of art but lacks sufficient clarity. Very few individuals who gave evidence to the Inquiry said they understood what this meant, including the Archbishop of Canterbury himself

Note: Unlike the drafters of the Recommendation, most readers will probably be aware that Canon C30 does not contain the words “due regard”, hence the querulous wording of the Response. 

The Response states:

“The Church considers this [Recommendation] is intended to be a reference to the requirement in section 5(1) of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 20168 for a ‘relevant person’ to ‘have due regard to guidance issued by the House of Bishops on matters relating to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults’.

Changing the nature of this requirement will be considered as part of a review of the legislation relating to clergy discipline with a view to introducing amending legislation in the General Synod next year. The Church is exploring how to distinguish specific parts of guidance as ‘compulsory’, namely areas which can be contained in Regulation or a ‘Code of Practice’ which carry the meaning of ‘must do’ and the best model for achieving this.

When it comes to reporting abuse, for example, the Church’s position is laid out in its overarching ‘Safeguarding policy statement for children, young people and adults’ which states that “all suspicions, concerns, knowledge or allegations, that reach the threshold for reporting to statutory authorities, must be reported … this will be done irrespective of the status of the person.” [Note: page 7 of this 2017 document defines the meaning of “due regard”.]

These proposals will be presented to Synod in July 2020. Alongside this work, the NSSG will also facilitate a wider discussion within the House and College of Bishops this September with regards to accountabilities in safeguarding to inform the revision of the Roles and Responsibilities and other relevant guidance.

In the interim, the Church will develop and implement a communications strategy to ensure that the definition and resulting requirements arising from the current legislation are better understood across the Church, targeting those for whom the duty applies.”

Recommendation 3: Amendment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

The government should amend Section 21 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 so as to include clergy within the definition of a position of trust. This would criminalise under s16–s20 sexual activity between clergy and a person aged 16–18, over whom they exercise pastoral authority, involving the abuse of a position of trust.

“The Church strongly supports this recommendation and will formally write to the government to this effect inviting it to consider a broader definition than the one recommended by the Inquiry. The NSSG believes that the recommendation to amend the definition of ‘Positions of Trust’ as defined within Section 21 of the Sexual Offences Act 2013 should apply not just to clergy but be extended further to include lay officers who are in regulated activity such as those employed or who volunteer to lead children’s and youth work. In addition, in respect of clergy, this should mean all those who hold the Bishop’s licence, namely including those with Permission to Officiate.”

Recommendation 4: Sanctions for failures to comply with safeguarding procedures

Individuals engaged in regulated activity who have failed to undergo a DBS check or complete compulsory training should not be permitted to hold voluntary offices within the Church. Failure by ordained clergy to comply with either requirement should result in disciplinary proceedings

“The Church [agrees] that those in regulated activity who have failed to undergo a DBS check or complete mandatory safeguarding training should not be allowed to continue in their voluntary role and this should include overseas checks when an applicant has spent periods of time abroad. The revised national Safeguarding Training & Development practice guidance also gives guidance on what to do if someone attending safeguarding training does not engage in the training itself. In circumstances of non-attendance or non-engagement, the person is unlikely to be given a certificate, which will have consequences for their continued ministry or role.

The Church also believes that the behaviour of leaders such as clergy who knowingly allow volunteers to remain in such regulated roles without having fulfilled these requirements should be considered under Section 5 of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016, or whatever amendments are made to this in the light of the above. The NST will review key pieces of guidance by the end of December to ensure that this position is reflected clearly.

The Church does, however, recognise that much of the work within parishes and cathedrals is undertaken by volunteers, many of whom do not come under the current definition of ‘regulated activity.’ For those church officers who have direct contact with children and young people, it is essential that they are safely recruited in accordance with House of Bishops guidance, and trained in relation to how to recognise, respond and report abuse in accordance with the Church’s national safeguarding Training & Development practice guidance”.

Recommendation 5: Disclosure of internal reviews to the national review body

If religious organisations have undertaken internal reviews or enquiries into individual safeguarding incidents, their findings should be sent to the national review body (set up under the Children and Social Work Act 2017).

“The Church supports an increased level of external scrutiny in respect of those cases for which an independent learning lessons review has been undertaken in order to maximise learning. The NST will now initiate an active dialogue with the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel to ensure that the right cases are reported to them in accordance with the principles outlined in ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2018) and the local safeguarding transitional arrangements arising from the implementation of The Children and Social Work Act 2017. The approach, once agreed, will be reflected in the House of Bishops ‘Learning Lessons from Case Review’s guidance.”


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church of England response to IICSA report" in Law & Religion UK, 29 June 2019, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/06/29/church-of-england-response-to-iicsa-report/

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