This report covers the work of the National Safeguarding Panel during the calendar year 2021. The Panel continued to adapt to the Covid 19 pandemic, holding meetings in the early part of the year on Zoom. In July, the Panel hosted a series of webinars before holding two hybrid meetings. In October, most people joined online, in November the majority of people were present in Church House with a smaller number online.
The Panel continued to scrutinise one safeguarding issue in depth at each meeting. Relevant people were invited to submit written information and attend the meeting to answer questions. The Panel makes recommendations and reports to the National Safeguarding Steering Group, which has oversight of national safeguarding within the Church. In addition, the Panel receives updates and comments on the work of the National Safeguarding Team and developments in safeguarding in the Church.
During the year, the Panel also discussed how it can achieve greater impact. The format of in-depth examination of one issue per meeting is seen as effective. Recommendations should specify clearly what actions should be taken and by whom. There should be regular follow-up of the recommendations with reports back to the Panel. The lack of face-to-face meetings and wider engagement with those active in safeguarding in the Church was recognised as a factor in limiting the Panel’s influence. Panel members expressed a wish for in person engagement in 2022, both with those working in safeguarding roles and those with positions of influence.
In January 2021 the Panel were saddened to learn of the death of Chris Pearson, the Catholic Church’s representative on the Panel. Due to changes in the Catholic Church’s safeguarding infrastructure, it was some time before a new representative was agreed. We are pleased to welcome Steve Ashley, Deputy Chair of the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency.
Two survivor representatives, who had served on the Panel since its inception, came to the end of their terms of office: Graham Wilmer, from the Lantern project and Jo Kind, from MACSAS (Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors). Graham and Jo made a huge contribution to the work of the Panel over many years. They demonstrated dedication to improving safeguarding within the Church and were diligent in their attendance at the Panel.
Two new representatives were recruited: Jane Chevous from Survivors Voices and Maxine Leigh from Support for Survivors. Despite the difficulties of joining the Panel during the Pandemic, both are making important contributions to our work.
Towards the end of 2021 two new expert members joined the panel. Kashmir Garton has expertise in working with offenders and takes over from Donald Findlater, who retired from the Panel having completed his term of office. Donald had also been a member since the Panel’s inception and in addition to his expertise in working with offenders, he continually urged the Church to put more time and resources into prevention. Jasvinder Sanghera left the Panel having been appointed first to chair the Safe Spaces project and subsequently as survivor advocate on the new Independent Safeguarding Board. Jasvinder was only a Panel member for a short time, but nonetheless made important contributions. The Panel look forward to engaging with her, in her new role. Lindsey Bampton has been appointed in her place as a member with expertise in adult safeguarding.
Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth and Daphne Green, representing Bishopthorpe both left their roles during the year and so left the Panel. Andrew Brown, Deputy Chief Executive at Bishopthorpe has replaced Daphne Green. Final arrangements for the representation from Lambeth are to be agreed. In the interim, Andrew Brown has maintained the link to Lambeth.
Andrew Bickley was recruited to the role of associate in early 2021. Andrew provides briefings for each Panel meeting, takes notes of the scrutiny session and follows up recommendations. His support was invaluable in the preparation and staging of the webinars in July.
The Panel seeks to examine issues at a time when it can influence the thinking of the Church and therefore have impact. Below is a summary of the issues and key recommendations. The Chair writes a regular blog and more detail of the discussions and recommendations can be found at https://chairnsp.org/
Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse
Our first meeting of the year focused on the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). We welcomed Zena Marshall, Interim Safeguarding Director, 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. We heard 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. A holistic and coherent response had been developed set against the complexity of the Church organisation.
The discussion focused on the need to manage change particularly focusing on cultural change. The Panel highlighted the importance of engaging with resistance as a means of educating those within the church. This means recognising different points of view and adapting change programmes accordingly. The Panel also highlighted the need to ensure that the focus on safeguarding is not lost once the IICSA process is complete.
Clergy Discipline Measure
In 2019, the National Safeguarding Panel considered the difficulties with the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) in relation to safeguarding. The Church had begun to consider the need for reform of the Measure and set up a Working Group chaired by the Bishop at Lambeth, Tim Thornton. The Ecclesiastical Law Society also convened a Working Group to review the CDM and published an extensive report in 21 February 2021. It was therefore appropriate for the Panel to hear about the work of these two groups and their proposals.
The Panel concluded that the Clergy Discipline Measure is a key part of ensuring a safer church. We were supportive of work being undertaken to update the measure. There should not be time limits by which any safeguarding complaints should be made. Those involved in the process of clergy discipline in a safeguarding matter whether complainant, witness or clergy should be offered advocacy and / or support as should the families of clergy.
Current data is limited and provides little confidence to survivors. The Church should set out how it intends to improve transparency and accessibility of clergy discipline data. The Panel recommended that there should be improved scrutiny and oversight of clergy discipline.
We welcomed developments with the early assessment of risk through a triage process. However, the policy on the function, purpose and ownership of risk assessments should be further developed by the National Safeguarding Team and clearly identify how they relate to the discipline process.
Quality Assurance Framework
In 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. This is linked to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommendations 1 and 8 which include a recommendation for the continuation of independent external auditing.
The National Safeguarding Panel examined the work that has been undertaken to date, as well as plans for the future. Invitees to the scrutiny session were David Worlock, Deputy Director, National Safeguarding Team, and Kathy Batt, who is the Independent Chair of two Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels.
One of the key findings of our session was that the project, Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2), has been a significant audit of safeguarding activity conducted by independent reviewers. The implementation of a quality assurance framework must not detract from responding to PCR2. Ensuring integration of the outcomes of that project with work on the new framework is essential. The Panel also expressed the view that the current proposal includes a large number of potential criteria which would benefit from rationalisation. The Panel is supportive of the pilot process to achieve this. Without additional resources there is little hope of implementing such a framework. It should also more strongly reflect and utilise the role and resources of Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels. 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.
Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2)
The final meeting of the year, was a second look at the Past Cases Review 2 project, building on a scrutiny session held in 2020. We continued to focus on how the process will be used to drive improvements in safeguarding. Picking up from the previous session on quality assurance, we were told that the recommendations from PCR2 will be integrated into that work. The intention is to identify a number of themes which will be grouped into recommendations. This should facilitate the process of developing appropriate responses and avoid producing a long list of recommendations that would be difficult to implement.
The Panel concluded that it is important not only to present full information arising out of the review but to ensure that communication about the outcome of the review describes how the review was undertaken including the key role of independent reviewers. It is also essential that there is help and support available for all victims and survivors who may be impacted by the publication of the outcome.
The Panel remains concerned that deceased clergy have not been included in all reviews. Some reassurance was given that reviewers who have identified links to deceased clergy have reviewed relevant cases.
Good practice webinars
This event in July offered an opportunity to present and highlight good safeguarding practice and initiatives being undertaken in Church settings. It was an opportunity to recognise the importance of sharing good practice particularly during a time of limited opportunities for face-to-face events. Each webinar lasted 30 minutes and included two speakers and a facilitator, with a question-and-answer session.
The four topics chosen were safeguarding training, good communication with victims and survivors, case review and audit, and reflective supervision for clergy. Over 50 people joined each session with the largest attendance of over 80 for the session on good communication with victims and survivors. The approach provided an opportunity for a wide range of people to listen to and ask questions about important issues. The recordings are available to people within the Church as a means of continuing to share good practice.
The Panel was grateful to the presenters who took part in the webinars and particularly grateful to Emma Stradwick, Business Support Manager for the National Safeguarding Team, who undertook all the technical and administrative support and ensured that the event ran without difficulty.
The Panel will be guided by relevant advice and policy on face-to-face meetings but hopes to continue to hold its meetings in a hybrid format at least for the early part of 2022 with the possibility of full face-to-face meetings later in the year.
The Panel felt there was a need to strengthen the parish perspective. The National Safeguarding Steering Group has therefore agreed that a member of clergy from a parish should join the Panel. The person will be recruited through an application process in early 2022. The Panel will also seek to continue to invite Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel Chairs to take part in the scrutiny sessions where appropriate, as another means of hearing local perspectives.
Possible subjects for meetings in 2022 include the implementation of the safer recruitment policy, safeguarding assessments and survivor engagement. The Panel are giving consideration either to a further session of good practice webinars online or if it is possible to meet in person, to hold a conference bringing together other denominations and faiths to promote the exchange of ideas and good practice.
Early in 2022, discussions will be held with the newly established Independent Safeguarding Board to reflect on the role of the National Safeguarding Panel within a new context and to consider whether there should be changes to the terms of reference.