At its last meeting the National Safeguarding Panel scrutinised the Interim Support Scheme.
The Panel questioned:
- Simon Stanley, Development Manager, Redress Scheme
- Alvin Lee, Secretary and Adviser to the Independent Support Scheme
- Sue Monckton-Rickett, Chair of the Interim Support Scheme Panel
- Phil Johnson, Member of the Interim Support Scheme Panel
The Archbishops Council established the Interim Support Scheme in September 2021, the scheme having initially operated as a pilot since October 2020. The scheme seeks to address the immediate short-term needs of survivors and victims of abuse in line with its charitable obligations and stewardship of charitable funds. Support can be offered initially for up to six months, with the possibility of consideration of additional support for a further six months. As a result of audits and reviews, there have been a number of improvements since the scheme was first established.
The scheme aims to improve the Church’s approach to all survivors of Church-related abuse. It provides immediate support to survivors, whose life circumstances have been significantly affected by abuse, to help in the short term put their life back on track. It is not intended to provide compensation, restitution nor redress although any payment under the scheme can be taken into consideration for the purposes of future redress.
Any support provided is on a voluntary basis without any admission of liability. Any provision from the scheme is not a substitute for assistance provided by statutory authorities or any form of state benefits.
A survivor is eligible to apply under the scheme if they meet the required eligibility criteria, namely:
- A belief that the survivor has experienced Church related abuse on the available information and
- The survivor needs immediate support to either avoid a substantial risk to their mental or physical health or there is a substantial risk that they will not be able to carry out normal day-day activities and
- A belief that the need arises from Church related abuse.
Decision Making Panel
Every request for support under the scheme is assessed by a decision-making panel. Each panel has at least 3 members including:
- An independent chair
- A Church of England representative nominated by the lead safeguarding bishops
- A survivor representative.
Both the chair and survivor representative are appointed through an open recruitment process. Independent panel members and survivor representatives are remunerated. The Archbishops’ Council maintain a pool of suitably qualified panel members with a trauma informed understanding of abuse.
At the outset of the scrutiny session, it was confirmed that it is not intended that the scheme will continue once a redress scheme is in place. The Redress Scheme will need to act swiftly and in an agile way, absorbing the functions of the Interim Support Scheme to ensure urgent and immediate needs are met.
Links to Dioceses
The Panel asked about the relationship between the scheme and diocesan based support, and referrals to statutory or community-based partners. Simon Stanley said that there is not a formal connection between the scheme and Diocesan support. Therapy can be offered and financed at diocesan level. Alvin Lee added that the first port of call for funding for therapy is with the diocese and if they are unable to provide this then the Interim Support Scheme can assist. Diocesan support is mainly for counselling while the Interim Support Scheme has a wider scope and can cover other urgent needs.
It was queried whether there is a need for a more consistent approach. Simon Stanley stated that the National Safeguarding Team are working to ensure that approaches are consistent.
Phil Johnson added that the key interaction with dioceses is on verification of cases and case history. Concerns have been raised that dioceses could use the Interim Support Scheme to fund support that they should be providing. It was noted that dioceses have different levels of resource.
The Panel asked whether the Scheme offers restorative approaches as well as monetary grants. Simon Stanley said that this had been envisaged for the Scheme but in practice this has only happened on an ad hoc basis. The remit is urgent and immediate, and generally restorative action falls outside of this. It was queried whether this was due to capacity or if other matters were being prioritised. Simon Stanley stated that other needs usually have to be addressed first.
Sue Monckton-Rickett added that this piece of work will sit within the Redress scheme. It is not the role of the ISS to put right what has gone wrong; it is to meet the immediate needs of applicants. Restorative approaches are important but this will be taken up by the Redress Scheme.
Culture of Dependency?
The Panel noted that £880,000, a significant sum of money, has been paid out and asked whether the Church has created a culture of dependency on these funds and potentially compromised the schemes intended urgent and short-term focus?
Simon Stanley stated that the scheme is aware of this as it is intended to get people back on their feet rather than for long term support.
The 12-month Limit
The scheme can initially provide support for up to 6 months, which can then be extended to 12 months. The Panel queried this limit.
Phil Johnson’s understanding was that the intention was for the Interim Support Scheme to act as a life boat until the Redress Scheme is set up. He expressed concern that the withdrawal of support at 12 months can and has caused more harm, particularly if the support provided is therapy. Sue Monckton-Rickett added that counselling can take several years to be successful. Jonathan Gibbs has raised these concerns with the Archbishops’ Council in his capacity as Lead Bishop for Safeguarding. Sue Monckton-Rickett has also raised these concerns in a meeting with the trustees of the Archbishops’ Council and in her view, therapy should not be withdrawn.
Governance and Oversight
The Panel asked what oversight and challenge is provided by the Archbishops’ Council?
Simon Stanley said that oversight takes place but it is not proactive. The Interim Support Scheme management raise issues with the Council and panel members raise them with the two Trustees and the legal advisor. They are helpful and generous.
It was noted that problems can arise with unforeseen legal issues. Phil Johnson explained that there have been occasions when a panel has not recommended an award because it cannot be legally done with charitable funds. Offer letters are now scrutinised by the panel to ensure there are several levels of checks. In his view the scheme is less nimble than when initially started but it is now less likely to make mistakes.
As part of oversight, an audit was commissioned by the Interim Director of Safeguarding on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council. The process took several months. It was a forensic piece of work and was considered by the Archbishops’ Council in Sept 2021. The audit was concerned about practices that were not backed up by paperwork and the agreed, published approach.
It was noted that the scheme was set up quickly without written governance with an aspiration to be as generous as possible. It became clear that more formality was needed and written governance was produced. Greater awareness of the limit of charitable funds was developed. There are now guidance notes for applicants and a process to ensure financial controls are in place and being observed.
Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels
The Panel wanted to know whether Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels have contributed as they have a key role with overseeing and monitoring the safeguarding system at a local level.
Simon Stanley responded that to date they have not been involved.
It was noted that this will be a consideration for the future and that there needs to be consistency in the way each diocese responds. It is also the case that Diocesan Boards of Finance may award discretionary funds but there is not the budget within many dioceses to provide significant support without a change in policy and funding allocation.
The Panel asked how well known the scheme is in parishes and dioceses and whether it is promoted across the Church and with partner organisations such as Victim Support, Safe Spaces, NSPCC?
Simon Stanley said it is not fully known how well dioceses promote the scheme but most applicants come through diocesan channels. Alvin Lee added that Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors should know about the scheme and the website has information published.
Phil Johnson added that panels include survivors who are often members of, or in contact with organisations such as the National Association for People Abused in Childhood and Survivor Voices. These will also signpost potential applicants to the scheme. There is no formal contact with the NSPCC. Safe Spaces signpost people to the scheme.
It was asked if all applicants are entitled to advocates. Sue Monckton-Rickett responded the scheme will fund up to £2,000 for each applicant for an advocate. This can be one appointed by the scheme or one of the applicants choosing. It was confirmed that local advocates can be used and the choice is for the applicant.
The Panel asked how the scheme is supporting adult abuse survivors and whether it includes those who have experienced domestic abuse?
Sue Monckton-Rickett responded that the scheme has supported people who have experienced abuse as adults. The eligibility criteria are that the abuse has to be connected to the Church but that the abuse can take any form and could happen at any age.
Evaluation and Learning
The Panel wanted to understand how the scheme is being evaluated.
There has been a Learning Lessons Review and this involved survivors who are Interim Support Scheme panel members; there is survivor representation on every panel. Phil Johnson stated however that he feels the views of survivors do not necessarily inform or shape outcomes. Simon Stanley responded that the Learning Lessons Review process is not yet complete and so it has not yet been possible to implement all suggestions.
A query was raised whether feedback has been received from survivor advocates and survivors who are beneficiaries. Sue Monckton-Rickett stated it was considered to be too intrusive to ask for feedback. Simon Stanley added that advocates could be the supported to do this.
The Panel suggested that there needs to be a focus on ensuring that the learning is addressed within the Redress scheme.
The Panel asked whether outcomes are being assessed. Simon Stanley said that the Scheme is not assessing outcomes and data is limited. This is considered to be a piece of work that sits more appropriately with diocesan safeguarding teams.
The Panel recognises that the cases dealt with by the scheme are often complex and always sensitive. They asked what training is offered to Interim Support Scheme Panel members to help them develop the necessary skills and competencies to successfully manage these cases?
Simon Stanley responded that this is an area that requires further development. The team make enquiries when people are interviewed to ascertain their robustness and how they have responded to these things in the past. Panel members are generally experienced and two monthly meetings with panel members are held to address any issues and to provide support.
Conclusions & Recommendations
The Panel recognises the interim nature of the scheme and that it was set up to meet immediate and urgent needs. There has been a process of learning through experience. The Panel makes a few recommendations to enhance its operation. Other recommendations arise out of the experience of the Interim Support Scheme and should be addressed in the Redress Scheme. The Panel therefore agreed to review the development of the Redress Scheme at a future scrutiny session.
National Safeguarding Team
- The Panel are of the view that 6 months or 12 months counselling is unlikely to be sufficient for victims and survivors of abuse. Whilst noting the complexities, the Panel are concerned about the rigidity of these time limits. There should be a review of the need for the 6-month time limit and a recognition that support should not be limited by an arbitrary time limit. Consideration should be also given to tapering arrangements to ensure survivors can establish long term relationships and have continuity of therapeutic support.
- The Panel noted that there is good knowledge about the scheme within the Church and in some related organisations such as Victim Support. The Panel noted the benefits of raising awareness and promoting the scheme to a wider network of safeguarding partners. Consideration should be given to wider dissemination of the existence and role of the scheme at national and local levels.
- When finalised, the Learning Lessons Review should be shared with the Panel.
- As part of the development of the Redress Scheme, consideration should be given to processes for monitoring and evaluation and impact analysis. This should include considering how this could be addressed through the Quality Assurance Framework.
- While it was encouraging to hear that the survivors had been consulted regarding improvements to the Interim Support Scheme, they had not had the opportunity to help shape the ensuing changes. The National Safeguarding Team should review how survivors involved in consultation processes can shape and influence changes to policy and practice.
- Consideration should be given to improving learning and development opportunities for the Schemes’ panel members. There should also be recognition of the stressful nature of the role and consideration should be given to measures to support panel members’ wellbeing.
Redress Project Board
- There should be protocols to ensure consistency and equity of access to the redress scheme and its benefits across dioceses and other settings.
- The role of the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels should be considered in relation to overseeing the response to survivors including the local support to survivors and access to the national redress scheme.
- Further consideration should be given to integrating restorative justice approaches into the scheme’s terms of reference.
- The Panel noted the positive feedback on the different oversight and scrutiny of arrangements for the Interim Support Scheme and that this works for a short term scheme. However there is a need for proactive governance and oversight of the Redress Scheme which must be built into the arrangements for the operation of the Scheme.
In relation to recommendation 1, since the meeting of the Panel, there has been agreement that the Interim Support Scheme can fund counselling for longer than 12 months.