Past Cases Review 2 project

In May 2007, the House of Bishops recognised the need for a review of past cases of child abuse. Past Cases Review 2007-2009 (PCR) was intended to ensure that any risks to children were identified, support provided to survivors and lessons learned. In 2016 concerns were expressed about just how well it had been conducted and an independent assessment was undertaken. This found that although the Past Cases Review was well motivated and thoughtfully planned, there were limitations in its execution and recommendations were made to address these shortcomings. The Past Cases Review 2 (known as PCR2) commenced in January 2019 having been commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council with the support of the National Safeguarding Steering Group.

The aim of PCR2 is to ensure that any file that could contain information regarding a concern, allegation or conviction in relation to abusive behaviour by a living member of the clergy or church officer, (whether still in that position or not) will have been identified, read and analysed by independent safeguarding professionals.

At the completion of the review it will be possible to state that:

• all safeguarding cases have been appropriately managed and reported to statutory agencies or the police where appropriate

• that the needs of any known victims have been considered and that sources of support have been identified and offered where this is appropriate

• that all identified risks have been assessed and mitigated as far as is reasonably possible.

Past Cases Review 2 was first scrutinised by the National Safeguarding Panel in 2020 resulting in 6 recommendations:

  1. The Panel supports the need for openness and honesty regarding the findings and limitations of the process.
  2. It is essential to use the new template for final reports to promote comparison and the spread of best practice across all Dioceses and Church contexts.
  3. The PCR2 findings should be shared with other denominations and learning drawn from work by other Churches of a similar nature.
  4. There must be a clear survivor strategy to ensure support is available when outcomes are published.
  5. The Panel wishes to record continued concern that the deceased clergy issue is unresolved.
  6. The Panel hopes that a PCR3 will never be needed. However, there must be ongoing audit processes in place to accord with the IICSA recommendations.

Given the importance of the review, the National Safeguarding Panel examined progress as the deadline for dioceses to submit reports approaches. Governance of PCR2is through a project board, chaired by Bishop Mark Sowerby.

At the National Safeguarding Panel meeting, Mark Sowerby was joined by Jason Tingley, the National Safeguarding Team Project Lead, Sam Nicol, the Project Manager and Peter Hay, Chair of the Oxford Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel.

Improving safeguarding?

The Panel began by asking whether the church will be a safer place following this review. Mark Sowerby believes the church will have a better knowledge and awareness of its safeguarding practices and this knowledge will inform safer approaches. Jason Tingley added that the understanding of practice had improved significantly, and a number of improvements had already been seen. Each diocese, working with their Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels, are focused on responding to the reviews in order to improve their safeguarding practice.

Managing the pressures

Feedback from some Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel chairs has highlighted that while the review started as an important way of checking whether safeguarding concerns had been followed up, it has in fact been a significant audit of the dioceses’ current practice. However this has been stressful, particularly for Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors.

Mark Sowerby recognised the pressures accompanying the review, but felt that as the results emerge people will recognise this was not an exercise in administration but was focused on safeguarding change and improvements.   

Jason Tingley commented that as a former Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, he had sympathy with this view.  While recognising the work being asked of staff, he feels that any professional should be open to feedback on safeguarding. Every diocese has been reviewed by someone independent and they have offered valuable insights.

Analysis of final reports

Every diocese will be submitting a final report, the deadline being the end of the 2021. The Panel asked how well prepared the project is to analysis the final reports and the number of recommendations. Jason Tingley expressed confidence in the abilities of the project team. Rigorous project planning will ensure there is sufficient capacity and each report will be reviewed to confirm it has met all the review objectives.


Jason Tingley advised that themes will be extrapolated from the recommendations in the reports. The response will include the establishment of working groups focused on particular issues. The expectation is that around 12 big themes would be identified which would take in a number of separate recommendations.

Survivor strategy

The Panel recommended in 2020 that there needed to be a clear survivor strategy for when the outcomes are published. We asked what steps had been taken. Mark Sowerby stated that every diocese has its own survivor strategy. Survivor representatives are part of the governance of the project and the national project team are working with them to ensure support will be in place. At national level there is recognition of the importance of being accountable to survivors.

Jason Tingley stated that some dioceses had been challenged as their reports didn’t sufficiently address this aspect of the review. Peter Hay said there is a high level of awareness of the needs of survivors and survivor themes are being raised in reports. The review process has strongly engaged with parishes and a conversation had developed which was more than just completing an administrative return. As a result, awareness of the experience of survivors at parish level has improved and there were now opportunities to develop this further. The review has also enabled some areas of good practice to be shared across dioceses.

Sam Nicol accepted however that there is more to learn. Workshops were held in April with dioceses to see how they were approaching support and engagement with survivors. She noted the quality and standards of this work were variable across different settings. Some had a strong strategy supported with budget and resource, access to independent reviewers, and as a consequence had developed rich case studies and testimony.

Report findings

The Panel asked about plans for publishing the outcomes and findings of the review process. Sam Nicol advised that the final national report would be a public document and would be supported with a publication plan. There had been significant debates on the best publication approach for dioceses and other settings. The National Safeguarding Team had offered guidance to the dioceses as each diocese is expected to provide a local statement on the day the national report is published.

Local publication of reports is not required. It is acknowledged that this had not been adequately addressed when the project was established. This means that many of those interviewed had not given consent to publication of information and that details even anonymised could lead to the identification of victims and survivors.

Although reports won’t be published at a diocesan level, the findings of the independent reviewers are shared with Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels and they have a responsibility to respond and set out local actions.

The Panel were keen to understand what additional actions would be taken to publicise outcomes. Jason Tingley emphasised the importance of targeted communications with stakeholders.

Peter Hay stated that confidence in the reviews would need to come from outside the church. Others who had been engaged in the process will be able to comment on the process and tell a story that can offer confidence.  The process and public outcomes need to offer a sense of faith and confidence in the work undertaken – credibility and transparency were important hallmarks.

Jason Tingley felt it would be more appropriate to publish nationally the number of safeguarding concerns and referrals, the number of files reviewed and details on the Known Case Lists.

The Panel recognised the complexities in publishing everything and suggested that the key focus should be how to create confidence in what has been a rigorous, independent review.

Links to the Quality Assurance Framework

At our meeting in October the Panel explored the development of the Quality Assurance Framework. We wanted to understand how the Past Cases Review 2 is being used to inform this work.

Mark Sowerby suggested that a number of the local recommendations would help inform the quality assurance work and where to focus the assurance processes. Joining up the lessons learnt, and the learning reviews would be necessary to avoid duplication

There was recognition that a number of other issues were being highlighted through the review, such as bullying and gender inequalities. These were either being captured in the final reports or shared by separate reports to the local reference groups. Assurance was given that these matters were being identified and raised. These are also matters that can be examined as part of the future quality assurance activity.

Sharing with other denominations

Sharing the learning from PCR2 is an important and necessary outcome. The Panel had previously recommended sharing outcomes with other denominations and faiths. Mark Sowerby advised that this had been discussed and would be further discussed when the national report is publicised. Wider ecumenical discussions were being considered by the National Safeguarding Steering Group. Interfaith engagement was also recognised as an important and valuable consideration.

Responding to identified risks

The emerging findings from the review highlight poor practices in a number of areas including risk management and administration. The Panel wanted to know what is being done to respond to these risks in the short term. Jason Tingley shared with the Panel a process that rates risks as ‘Red, Amber, Green’. There is a process for flagging high risks and allocation for immediate follow up actions. He expressed confidence with the way these risks were being addressed.

Deceased clergy

This issue was raised by the Panel last year. Members asked whether any missing links or gaps in risks have been identified that relate to deceased clergy. Mark Sowerby set out the expectations of Past Cases Review 2 in relation to deceased clergy. They are not subject to review as a separate cohort. However, independent reviewers have identified safeguarding links between current and deceased clergy and in those circumstances the deceased clergy file has been reviewed.

The Panel made the following recommendations:

  1. The Panel believe that consultation with survivors on the outcome of PCR2 and its recommendations is very important. It is recommended that further consideration be given by the National Safeguarding Team, looking both at the development of the National Survivor Consultative Group and the benefits of wider consultation.
  2. The Panel are encouraged by the work to gain evidence and data on survivor engagement and would like to see the plans to evaluate it for Past Cases Review 2, including how examples of good practice will be shared.
  3. The Panel are keen to see the development of the strengths-based approach to practice through learning events and best practice sessions. The National Safeguarding Team should share the proposals for disseminating good practice arising from Past Cases Review 2 with the National Safeguarding Panel for further discussion.
  4. The Panel recognises there are complex issues to consider when publishing outcome reports. The National Safeguarding Team and Project Team are encouraged to find ways of instilling credibility and confidence in the Past Cases Review 2 process and its outcomes which is not solely dependent on the publication of reports. 
  5. The National Safeguarding Panel wish to see the maximum transparency in the published reports, that is consistent with commitments made to those interviewed, and in protecting individuals from identification and potential harm. The National Safeguarding Team should ensure that issues related to report publication are addressed at the outset of projects.
  6. The Panel recommend that the experiences of the Methodist and Catholic churches is used to inform the publication and implementation of Past Cases Review 2 recommendations. Opportunities to consider wider inter-faith learning should be developed and shared with the Panel.
  7. The themes arising from Past Cases Review 2 should be integrated into the Quality Assurance Framework and be prioritised for assurance activity.
  8. The Panel continue to hold the view that there is a need to consider deceased clergy, where there is a link to current risk. While recognising the difficulties in identifying these, it is recommended that the National Safeguarding Team and Project Board should consider this issue again when all the reviews are submitted. A view should be taken on whether there continue to be potential risks and whether anything more should be done.