The National Safeguarding Panel again used Zoom for its September meeting given the pandemic. The Panel expect to meet remotely for the foreseeable future. We welcomed a new Panel member, Kevin Ball, who has extensive experience working in children’s social work. He replaces Roger Singleton, who has completed his term.
There were two major items: a discussion of the National Safeguarding Team business plan and a review of actions arising out of recommendations from previous panel meetings.
National Safeguarding Team business plan
The Panel used the small group facility in Zoom to have detailed discussions. We recognised the significant number of tasks in the plan and the pressure this puts on the Team. Members also acknowledged the difficulty in prioritising activities, all of which are seen as important.
Significant progress has been made in revising a number of policies. It is hoped that these clearer policies will mean less contact from dioceses to the team for guidance and support, freeing up time to complete planned work.
While the Business Plan describes the work of the team, of course this is undertaken on behalf of the whole Church. It was suggested that including an introduction with a description of the roles and accountabilities in relation to safeguarding in the whole Church would improve clarity.
There was also a suggestion that the plan should be for 2 – 3 years rather than just one year. It was also noted that while many of the activities contribute to prevention of abuse, this is not clearly articulated.
Following up Panel recommendations
The Panel is keen to understand its impact on safeguarding in the church so decided to follow up on recommendations from previous meetings. This will be an ongoing process with periodic discussions in the Panel.
Training & development framework considered in March 2019
The Panel see training and development as a key part of safeguarding to help ensure a broad understanding throughout the Church. Since the March 2019 discussion there have been significant changes to the training programme. There will be a greater focus on the context in which those undertaking the training work or volunteer. The aim of the training should be to change behaviour in relation to safeguarding, rather than it just be an administrative requirement. This is encouraging and in line with the recommendations of the Panel.
The Panel also commented that training on safeguarding of children is well developed, but more should be included around adult safeguarding. We welcomed the commitment to working more with survivors on developing training programmes.
Clergy Discipline Measure considered in May & June 2019
The recommendations from the Panel have been fed into the Clergy Discipline Measure Working Group chaired by Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth. He also attends the National Safeguarding Panel. The Working Group will hold a number of consultations this autumn and the Panel will schedule a discussion at a subsequent meeting. This will provide the opportunity to test out whether the recommendations from our meetings in 2019 have been incorporated into new proposals for dealing with safeguarding concerns.
Prevention Strategy considered in September 2019
Prevention is integrated into training, including for clergy leadership where the emphasis is on embedding safeguarding into their work. It was suggested that there is still a need for more emphasis on prevention. Some of the good work that is being done is not well publicised, and more could be done to link up safeguarding in the Church with Church schools. The introduction of compulsory sex and health education in schools provides an opportunity to do this.
Safeguarding Complaints Process considered in October 2019
Changes to the Clergy Discipline Measure should bring a better system of identifying less serious complaints from those of a serious and disciplinary nature. However, this only covers those who are ordained and there still needs to be a process for lay staff and volunteers.
It was discussed that survivors are looking for an independent complaint’s procedure. It is clear that further work needs to be done.
IICSA recommendations considered in December 2019
The Panel were reassured that progress has been made on most of the recommendations. The Government has indicated that it does not consider there is a need to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in line with an IICSA recommendation that the offence of abuse of trust should include clergy in the definition of position of trust. The Panel discussed the possibility of further work with other faiths to lobby for the change.
It was noted that a further report and recommendations are due from IICSA this autumn.
Safeguarding Adults considered in February 2020
The Panel were reassured that work is ongoing to increase training content on issues related to safeguarding adults. The work on revising policies will also include more on safeguarding adults.
Redress Scheme considered in July 2020
The Panel was informed that work has been undertaken to look at more immediate solutions to bridge the gap until a full scheme can be put in place. The Panel had recommended such action. Since our meeting the Archbishops’ Council have announced that an interim scheme is to be put in place. This is very welcome.
The Panel has also taken part in a Zoom discussion on a draft policy on the Safer Recruitment and People Management Process. Running through our discussions was the importance of ensuring that processes are rigorous with regards to safeguarding. There needs to be comprehensive and detailed documents for paid employees while those for volunteers should be shorter but equally rigorous. Further work remains to be completed on the policy and the Panel looks forward to commenting on a subsequent draft.
The next meeting of the Panel will be towards the end of October and it is planned to discuss the review of past cases which is currently underway. This is known as Past Cases Review 2 or PCR2.