Implementing the IICSA recommendations

The National Safeguarding Panel meeting considered the implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).  We welcomed Zena Marshall, Interim Safeguarding Director and David Worlock, Deputy Director from the National Safeguarding Team, William Nye, Secretary General, Archbishops’ Council and Jonathan Gibbs, Lead Bishop for Safeguarding.

The panel recognised the complexity and scale of change needed to address the Inquiry recommendations. William Nye said that the report is being addressed in the round and not from a narrow focus. The church has engaged constructively and used the process of IICSA as a prompt to generate significant change. Jonathan Gibbs was pleased that on the whole the response has not been defensive, there has been openness, honesty and desire to lead change. The House of Bishops and Archbishops Council have shared the same positive emphasis, and a holistic and coherent response has been developed set against the complexity of the Church organisation. Amongst the many challenges is how you take stakeholders with you.

Potential stumbling blocks

Zena Marshall said that IICSA work had to be prioritised against the existing significant workload, which includes the Past Cases Review 2, case management and other projects. She has established programme governance which coordinates the individual projects and workstreams into a unified approach, recognising interdependencies and the need to sequence work activity.

Jonathan Gibbs’ biggest concern is resistance to change. He recognised that there were still people within the organisation that believed too much fuss was being made about safeguarding. There needed to be realism, combined with a recognition that deep cultural change was required.

Changing the culture?

The IICSA report identified five concerns regarding the culture of the Church – clericalism, tribalism, naivety, reputation and sexuality. The Panel wanted to know that these concerns, as well as the issue of deference, are being addressed.

Jonathan Gibbs emphasised that issues of deference were not exclusive to the Church, giving examples of other organisations were this is relevant. Specific challenges for the Church centre on being ‘ruled’ by priests. There was a need to develop approaches to psychological safety – providing a safe space with room to challenge. Another key issue is the training of bishops.

William Nye offered a non-clerical view. He recognised the process needed to address a culture of complacency. When he started working for the Church five years ago it was far behind in recognising this challenge. The IICSA report has been a valuable spur in generating this debate. However, to be successful there is a requirement for resilient Church engagement that doesn’t fold in on itself and become defensive. The commitment from the Archbishops’ Council to independent oversight is important, though the church has to retain ownership of safeguarding.

The Panel asked what is being done to change culture within the Church. There is no one single activity that will achieve this outcome. Safeguarding training is being remodelled to have a more nuanced emphasis. This reflects an attempt to move from process and procedure to  behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Safeguarding activity has to be an intrinsic part of how people in the Church express their values.

Panel members shared individual experiences and expertise in the area of cultural change. These insights recognised the importance of recognising resistance to change, and then working with it to become part of the solution. Understanding why there is resistance to change has to be used to shape the future.

What has the Church learnt from IICSA?

The Panel sought to understand whether there was anything in the IICSA recommendations that the Church wasn’t aware of four years ago. Jonathan Gibbs replied that in one sense the answer is no. However, by holding up a mirror and seeing failings, it is easier to begin to address them. The IICSA hearings and process have been a painful way to learn that many safeguarding concerns present in other organisations also apply to the Church. William Nye felt that some of the issues were known about and some not.  IICSA’s recommendations have not all been as expected. For example, it had been expected on the issue of independence that they would recommend setting up an entirely separate safeguarding entity.

The Panel asked whether the focus can be maintained once the IICSA spotlight moves on and the pressure for change diminishes. Jonathan Gibbs is personally committed to ensuring focus does not lessen. There is always a danger in any organisation that when the focus moves activity slows, however the work on independence and the National Safeguarding Panel offer sustained oversight of the changes.

Building trust with victims and survivors

The Panel identified that the Church has been slow to find better ways to effectively engage with victims and survivors, to learn from their experiences and regain the trust of those that have been abused. Members asked about the role victims and survivors have had in response to the IICSA recommendations and how there will be meaningful engagement going forward.

Zena Marshall acknowledged the response had been quite piecemeal. The National Safeguarding Team recognise the importance of this, they are building a focus on survivor engagement into all their future work with widespread consultation. The survivor engagement post will add real value. The work of survivors to date towards improving the Church’s safeguarding arrangements was acknowledged. This aspect of the work has been much stronger in local communications strategies during the Past Cases Review 2 programme and the experience can be used to develop this area of work.

Debbie Sellin (Deputy Lead Bishop safeguarding) has the lead responsibility for survivor engagement. The awareness of trauma and trauma informed practice is vital. This is recognised in the new senior leadership training, which is focussed on changing hearts and minds, not just safeguarding procedures.

The structure of safeguarding

The Panel questioned whether the pace of response is sufficient to engender confidence in the Church’s commitment to change.

Dave Worlock spoke of a quality assurance framework which is required to assess the safeguarding resources that are needed and to establish the level of support the dioceses need. At present there is no consistent methodology. There is a need to consider strategic planning, training, casework, prevention, partnership and survivor engagement. This will be approached through piloting and the use of pathfinder areas.

The Panel questioned that since neither Archbishop had a clear view on how ‘independence’ should be introduced for safeguarding, how realistic is the timescale for producing an independence framework that will stand the test of time.

William Nye replied that Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, is working on proposals for greater independence. He is looking at a phased approach offering an interim position, with potentially an Independent Safeguarding Board. Phase 2 will ask the House of Bishops and Archbishops’ Council to look harder at what goes beyond the contractual or legal requirements.


The Panel asked about the audit programme for 2021 and how it links to the development of the quality assurance framework.  Dave Worlock clarified that last year the National Safeguarding Steering Group agreed to develop quality standards and a process for monitoring them. Approval has been given to create a post which will lead evaluation and implementation of change, as well as supporting dioceses to develop their quality assurance expertise.

Panel members advocated the use of survivors with co-producing quality assurance work. Dave Worlock stated there are a range of ways to use survivors and their contributions will be built into the regional modelling and pathfinder work.

Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM)

The Panel will hold its next session on the CDM. Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth, advised that there were delays with this work due to the lockdown restrictions in 2020/21. This did, however, provide an opportunity to develop creative and lateral thinking.

Panel’s Conclusions

  1. The Church’s proposals for a programme approach to support the delivery of the second IICSA report recommendations should be presented to the Panel within the next few weeks via the means of a one hour long Zoom session.
  2. The Panel notes the consistent concerns about culture within the church, particularly some resistance to change. The Church should report on how this is being addressed in the change programme and consider how resistance can be used as an opportunity to educate and learn.
  3. The Church should consider further how to achieve cultural change. Part of these considerations should include how to provide safe spaces and environments for people to share their experiences and views.
  4. Independence within the Church of England and the quality assurance framework should be subjects of future NSP meetings.
  5. The IICSA report communications strategy should be shared with key stakeholders and incorporate lessons learnt from the statement regarding the reinstatement of the Bishop of Lincoln.
  6. The range and nature of diversity in survivor engagement and representation within the programme should be shared with the Panel.