Independent Safeguarding Board: Review’s findings

On 11 December 2023 it was reported that the Review of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) had been published. Extracts from the report’s Summary of Conclusions are reproduced below.


  1. I set out a summary of my conclusions below, divided into Reasons (paragraph 1(b) of my Terms of Reference) and Lessons Learnt (paragraph 1(c) of my Terms of Reference.

Reasons for the termination of the ISB

  1. A complex matrix of reasons led to the termination of the ISB contracts. The structural reasons for the termination were principally the responsibility of the Archbishops’ Council. The short-term reasons were the responsibility of both the original ISB members and the Archbishops’ Council, all trying to operate in a situation where their roles were not clearly defined.

Structural Reasons

  1. Creation: the ISB was designed under extreme time pressure imposed principally by the Archbishop of Canterbury. While the intention to create an independent safeguarding function rapidly was laudable, the speed at which it had to be designed resulted in serious design flaws.
  2. Legal status: the legal status of the ISB was unclear from its inception. Misunderstanding about its status was widespread.
  3. Nature of independence: the ISB’s name caused confusion. The word ‘Independent’ suggested to many that the ISB was in fact the final body that the Archbishops’ Council envisaged creating in Phase 2 of the ISB’s work. The word ‘Independent’ also caused confusion between the ISB members and the Archbishops’ Council itself as, again, neither party was clear as to where the ISB’s operational independence ended and the Council’s oversight as charitable trustees began.
  4. Governance: the ISB’s governance arrangements were inadequate from its inception and left it vulnerable to personal conflicts between the ISB members and to contingencies.
  5. Relationships: the legal ambiguities and inadequate governance arrangements led the three original members of the ISB to adopt entrenched positions when a dispute arose because their working relationships with each other and with the NCIs were not clearly defined. In particular, the Survivor Advocate and Independent Member, understandably considering themselves as bulwarks against the erosion of the ISB’s independence as they saw it, adopted confrontational and intransigent positions in disputes, particularly when they refused to meet others when a dispute had arisen.
  6. All the ISB members found themselves in an almost impossible position when disputes arose because well-meant efforts to mediate disputes by the Archbishops’ Council staff and the Archbishops themselves simply exemplified and exacerbated the arguments about where operational independence ended and governance oversight began.

Short Term Reasons

  1. Appointment of the acting Chair: the appointment of the acting Chair without consulting 8/the other ISB members by the Archbishops’ Council was the most significant short term cause of the termination of the ISB contracts.
  2. Relationships: the breakdown in relationships between the ISB members following the appointment of the acting Chair, which was evident at the Archbishops’ Council’s meeting, on 9 May 2023 was the event which made termination of their contracts almost inevitable.
  3. All efforts to mediate between the acting Chair and other ISB members from that point onwards were conducted by the staff of the Archbishops’ Council, members of the Archbishops’ Council and the Archbishops themselves in good faith but the structural weaknesses in the ISB’s governance arrangements made it highly unlikely that those efforts would succeed.
  4. Phase 2: the decision to terminate the ISB contracts on 21 June 2023 was also taken by the Archbishops’ Council in order to move towards a Phase 2 body as quickly as possible.
  5. Other reasons: I have not seen direct evidence or evidence from which I could infer that the Archbishops’ Council terminated the contracts of the ISB in order to prevent it bringing to light allegations against senior clergy. Where a body is terminated suddenly in the middle of work on case reviews, however, it is unsurprising that the subjects of those case reviews might consider that the terminating body also wished to terminate the case review work.

Lessons Learnt

  1. Trauma training: everyone involved in decision making about safeguarding issues at the NCIs, from the Archbishops to case workers and including all members of the Archbishops’ Council, should have mandatory training on trauma-informed handling of complainants, victims and survivors. Ideally, members of General Synod would also be required to complete such training, particularly in light of the governance decisions that  General Synod is likely to have to make as a result of the National Governance Project  Board’s Recommendations and those of the Jay Review.
  2. Risk assessment: risk assessments of the impact on participants of the termination of any case review process should always be carried out by those making the decision to terminate. Risk assessments of the operation of any safeguarding body should be carried out as a matter of routine governance.
  3. Scrutiny gap: the scrutiny gap that needs to be addressed by the creation of any new independent scrutiny body is that there is no appeal process for the outcome of a diocesan core group or an NST safeguarding investigation save for the NCIs general complaints procedure, which is not designed for the purpose.
  4. Governance of any new oversight body: in order to avoid conflicts of interest and to assure the requisite expertise is available, the NCIs, or any successor body such as the proposed CENS, should not set up the governance of any new safeguarding body but should outsource it to management or governance consultants who have safeguarding  experience and have undergone trauma training. The set up of any new oversight body should not be rushed. The governance of any new safeguarding body must be set up  before it starts work, including these elements as a minimum:

37.1.  its legal status must be defined and published;

37.2. the extent of its independence from the NCIs, including its funding arrangements, must be accurately described and published;

37.3. data protection agreements, policies, officers and systems must be in place, including exit arrangements for case review subjects and in the event of the closure of the body;

37.4. legal advice must be available with clear statements as to the funding arrangements and instructions for that advice;

37.5.  information sharing agreements must be in place;

37.6. any new safeguarding body should be named to make clear its function, the extent of its independence from the NCIs and to avoid ambiguity;

37.7. its operating policies for reviewing cases and for the enforcement of recommendations must be published, whether by means of legislative provision or published rules.

  1. Case reviews: the design of any future safeguarding scrutiny body should incorporate a mechanism for the implementation and enforcement of case review findings.
  2. Dignity: everyone involved in safeguarding should communicate courteously, in tone and manner, in all forms of communication with each other, including social media, not least because the extent of trauma on either side may be undisclosed. Both complainants, victims and survivors, and those dealing with their cases, should be able to work towards solutions of long-running cases with dignity, and without fear.


The Review was announced on 11 September 2023 and its Terms of Reference published.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Independent Safeguarding Board: Review’s findings" in Law & Religion UK, 12 December 2023,

2 thoughts on “Independent Safeguarding Board: Review’s findings

  1. I’m not thinking that this is a comment that you will publish! Between paragraphs 28 and 29 the phrase “Short Term Reasons” should be formatted as a heading.

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