In February 2020 the National Safeguarding Steering Group endorsed the development of a Quality Assurance Framework which would include a set of national safeguarding standards to be applied to the Church’s safeguarding policies and practices. A key question in the process of development is, “How well are we doing in respect of safeguarding and what is the difference being achieved?” This is linked to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommendations 1 and 8 which propose the creation of the role of Diocesan Safeguarding Officer and the continuation of independent external auditing.
During its meeting, the National Safeguarding Panel examined the work that has been undertaken to date, as well as plans for the future. The Panel invited two speakers: David Worlock, Deputy Director, National Safeguarding Team, and Kathy Batt, who is the Independent Chair of the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel for the Diocese of Manchester, who also chairs the equivalent panel in the Diocese of Sheffield.
Involvement of survivors
The panel were keen to know what consultation there had been with survivors in the development of the proposed framework. David Worlock advised there had been consultation with various organisations including ‘Survivors Voices’. He emphasised that the current proposals are not the final product and that much more needed to be done. This additional work includes a piloting and testing phase.
Kathy Batt reported that in Manchester as part of the review of past cases (the project known as Past Cases Review 2 or PCR2), a survivor representative had helped significantly shape local work and identify safeguarding improvements. The issue now was how to build upon this. Unfortunately, too often such vital engagement was ad-hoc and purely dependent on individual relationships, particularly when there are a number of excellent locally based survivor organisations that can help with engagement, as PCR2 has demonstrated.
Consultation with other Christian denominations
Surprisingly there had been no research on what other Christian denominations had done, or planned to do, to inform the Quality Assurance Framework. It has been built on an approach developed by the London Safeguarding Children Board which seeks to shift from data alone to quality assessments. The aim is to move beyond data to look at experiences and outcomes not just statistics.
The role of Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels
Kathy Batt said that for Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels the main source of quality assurance information is quantitative, which includes the number of safeguarding cases, risk assessments and statutory agency referrals. They have had to develop their own qualitative assurance and have developed a process where a survivor reviewed some written work and publications during the PCR2 process. This method has proven to be very successful. Measuring any impact in terms of changes in behaviour resulting from training is however very difficult.
For the new framework David Worlock said that diocesan safeguarding advisory panels could adopt a programme of quality assurance activity, for example focusing periodically on different themes such as prevention or victim and survivor experience. He agreed that small, incremental steps will need to be taken as not everything can be delivered at once.
The panel challenged the over reliance on self-assessments within the diocese given the IICSA recommendation for continued external audit. However it was accepted that there is a value in setting up formal mechanisms to seek feedback from users to assess satisfaction.
It was suggested that the development of a whistleblowing policy was an important aspect of any quality assurance activity. There needed to be a way to escalate quality issues, or raise service concerns. David Worlock acknowledged this type of feedback was at the heart of ensuring the Church experiments and tests all aspects of quality.
Different types of data
David Worlock noted that there were three types of information sought -quantitative, qualitative and experiential. These should enable focused questions to be asked which would explore impact and any differences actually made. Currently there is quantitative data with the dioceses completing annual safeguarding audits. These are published on the Church of England national website as well as the annual report of the Diocesan Board of Finance.
Timing & resources
The panel sought clarity on the resourcing required for the proposed framework, and the timeline for delivery, recognising the scale of also dealing with responses to the current Past Cases Review project (PCR2) and other work. David Worlock outlined that the project would work with a small number of dioceses and cathedrals and be supported by National Safeguarding Team staff. Dioceses would be able to share resource through these pathfinders, with this phase running for 18 months.
Kathy Batt described the scale and scope of the PCR2 process and said that there will be significant work that will arise out of its findings. She questioned whether trying to respond to those findings, and the implementation of a new quality assurance framework, would just be too onerous for individual dioceses. She feels that more resources would be needed to implement the proposed framework, for instance each diocese would require a dedicated, full-time person working just on quality assurance. Additionally, the proposals need to be supportively and constructively presented in order to reach the parishes.
David Worlock stated that the framework did not have to be fully applied, uniformly, across all areas of the Church. An incremental approach was envisaged that would be progressively developed. He said that there is not a requirement to heavily commit resources to the process yet as the framework will be tested out through some pilot projects which would inform a more proportionate approach.
Refining the Quality Assurance Framework
The panel questioned whether the findings from the past cases review project (PCR2) could help decide where the focus of quality assurance needs to be. David Worlock acknowledged there are too may indicators which needed to be refined. The regional model of organising services may present an opportunity to better share resources.
Panel members asked how does the Quality Assurance Framework align with IICSA recommendation 8 and the approach to external audits? David Worlock answered that the Pathfinders would be used to explore several of the IICSA recommendations including recommendation 8. The research and evaluation roles will look at external auditing. The creation of the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer role, line managed by the National Safeguarding Team, offers a way to provide supervisory oversight.
Panel members asked how it is proposed to evaluate the effectiveness and cost of the approach? David Worlock stated that the team hadn’t developed this level of detail but that it could be reflected in the testing programme. He had confidence that the pilot phase would be able to explore and test a range of options which could design in what is existing and good. He emphasised that a national view on the standards is required to enable a consistency of approach and outcome.
The Panel made the following recommendations to the Project Management Board for the Quality Assurance Framework:
1.The Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) process represents a significant investment with independent quality assurance activity. The quality assurance work should be more strongly aligned and integrated with the extensive PCR2 activity and outcomes.
2. The resources required to support the successful implementation of the framework should be carefully considered and options to collaborate and share resources within a regional framework are encouraged.
3. The framework should also more strongly reflect and utilise the role and resources of Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels.
Survivor Participation and Perspectives
4. The perspectives of survivors and victims’ who have disclosed abuse and those of locally based survivor organisations should routinely contribute to the quality assurance processes building on existing local mechanisms wherever possible. A ‘Whistleblowing process’ should be included in the framework to address issues where the quality standards have fallen short of survivor or others’ expectations.
5. The Quality Assurance Framework is ambitious in scope and represents positive progress. However, there is a plethora of standards which would benefit from a process of rationalisation. This would help simplify the approach making it more manageable. An implementation impact assessment should be considered before the framework is launched using expertise from the National Safeguarding Panel.