A "comprehensive and historical" safeguarding review

by Michael Ford last modified 19 Feb, 2019 12:41 AM

The Diocese of Salisbury has begun a pioneering safeguarding review - one that will include piloting the next stage of Past Case Reviews for the whole of the Church of England.

In a letter sent out to all serving clergy this week, the Bishop of Salisbury the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam said:
“In the spirit of the Gospel, we all want to protect and care for our children and all adults at risk of harm. We wish to ensure that our churches and church related activities are as safe as possible for everybody and to have the best possible safeguarding policies and practices. But in order to be certain that we are fulfilling our duty of care, it is important to establish that all known past cases of concern have been considered and dealt with appropriately. We are, therefore, embarking on a comprehensive and historical safeguarding review.”

The Diocese was one of a number asked by the national Church to repeat a review they had first undertaken 10 years ago, as the records of these reviews had not been archived at the time.
And while having investigated thoroughly, the Diocese is confident that the 2007-9 review was conducted correctly, the Bishop has welcomed the opportunity for the Church to re-examine past cases and ensure that justice is done and seen to be done.

Along with this Past Cases Review (PCR), the Diocese will also be piloting PCR2 which expands the review from children and young people to adults at risk and domestic abuse and will cover allegations against deceased clergy.

Bishop Nicholas explains in the letter:
“In the past, national reviews have been limited in their scope and, given that victims of long-deceased perpetrators may still be living and require pastoral care, we are widening the parameters of this review to include deceased clergy and those in the laity who hold, or have held, formal roles within the Church. We are setting the historical start date of the review at 1950, although, if any instances or reports of abuse prior to this date are identified, they will be included.”

Steve Long, the independent Chair of the Diocese of Salisbury’s Safeguarding Management Group, said:
“Although a comprehensive review of past safeguarding cases was carried out in 2007-9, we acknowledge that shortcomings in record keeping then mean we need to repeat the exercise now. This will give us a welcome opportunity to learn any lessons, but most importantly, be as sure as we can be that positive action was taken following past safeguarding incidents.”

“Practice has been transformed over the decade since we last carried out such a review, and the Diocese now has significantly more safeguarding resources than it had then. Safeguarding in the Diocese is now overseen by an independently chaired board and has become one our major priorities. Last year alone, we trained more than 2,000 people on safeguarding matters, and 80 local safeguarding trainers were trained to work at grassroots level.”

The Review will be led by two independent examiners and the letter (sent out this week) begins the process with a comprehensive review of parish records.

Bishop Nicholas told the clergy:
“This review will require us all to look back into our records – in the parish, at Church House and here at The South Canonry. I am sure that you will recognise the importance of being as certain as possible that all instances of concern have been addressed.”

He added:
“This is part of the Church of England’s commitment to becoming a safer Church for everyone.”

Parishes have been asked to report back by the end of May, but anyone who is affected by church-related abuse as a victim or survivor is always welcome to contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor (DSA), Heather Bland.

The 2007-9 past cases review aimed to revisit and consider for action all incidents where concerns had been raised about clergy and church officers across the Church of England over the preceding fifty years, ie back to the mid-1950s. As policy has developed since then, the review has been found to be lacking generally, specifically in relation to cathedrals, parish employees, deceased clergy, and contact with survivors, in the light of current best practice.

As a result of this, dioceses were asked in 2017 to re-examine some elements of the 2007-9 exercise to take account of these issues. But even before the publication of the report, this Diocese took the opportunity to carry out a ‘desktop review’, looking back at some of the cases highlighted as possibly needing further work. So far, we have considered a number of cases, none of which have raised any cause for current concern.

The New Past Cases Review 2 adds into its remit adults at risk and domestic abuse. PCR1 looked at only cases involving children and young people.

The second review ensures that all vulnerable people are protected, not just children, and requires:

  • All dioceses and provinces to ensure that relevant files (including those of diocesan lay employees working with children) which are known not to have been examined in 2008-9 or which have subsequently been located and not examined, are independently reviewed and any cases of concern which emerge dealt with by the DSA as if they were new referrals.
  • All dioceses to check with every parish that all safeguarding concerns about the behaviour of any parish employee or volunteer towards children both currently and historically have been notified to the DSA.
  • All dioceses to carry out independent reviews of all known cases of abuse to vulnerable adults, plus a review of the files of all clergy and church officers in post in January 2007 and those who have come into post since then up to the present day, for any evidence of concerns which have not been addressed.

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