This report covers the work of the National Safeguarding Panel during the calendar year 2022. The Panel continued to adapt both to the Covid 19 pandemic and the excessive summer heat, holding hybrid meetings throughout the year. In September the Panel held its second annual series of webinars.
The Panel continues to scrutinise one safeguarding issue in depth at each meeting. Relevant people are invited to submit written information and attend the meeting to answer questions. The Panel then makes recommendations and reports to the National Safeguarding Steering Group, which has oversight of safeguarding within the Church. In addition, the Panel receives updates about and comments on the work of the National Safeguarding Team and developments in safeguarding in the Church.
During the year, the Panel continued to monitor where its previous reports have had impact. The format of in-depth examination of one issue per meeting is seen as effective. We have returned to consider a number of issues again this year and have been pleased to see previous recommendations referenced in briefing papers.
Over the year the Panel membership remained largely stable. We were however pleased to welcome a new member recruited in the early part of 2022. The Panel felt there was a need to strengthen the parish perspective and the National Safeguarding Steering Group agreed that a member of clergy serving in a parish should join the Panel. The Reverend Lynda Davies, Rector of All Saints Cottenham in the Diocese of Ely, was appointed through an open recruitment process. She brings a combination of experience including a 26 year career in local authority social work with specific roles in children protection and her experience as a parish priest following her ordination in 2013. As a member of her local church, Lynda acted as Parish Safeguarding Officer for many years and is currently the clergy representative on Ely’s Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group.
Two members of the Panel have reached the end of their terms of office. Phil Johnson, a survivor representative from MACSAS (Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors), has served on the Panel since it inception. He has made a huge contribution to its work over many years, showing a desire to see improvements in safeguarding within the Church. Phil has been one of the most diligent attenders at the Panel. Amanda Edwards, former Deputy Chief Executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, has extensive experience in both adult and children’s social work. Amanda has also been on the Panel for a number of years and has made a significant contribution to our work. Due to pressures on the Human Resources team of the Church of England we have not yet been able to launch the recruitment process for their replacements. We hope to do this in early 2023. Phil and Amanda have agreed to continue until replacements are in place.
During the year Deputy Lead Bishop Debbie Sellin left the role and we welcomed Julie Conalty, Bishop of Birkenhead. Andrew Brown, Deputy Chief Executive at Bishopthorpe has continued to attend, at times representing both Bishopthorpe and Lambeth. We are also pleased to have welcomed Emma Ineson, Bishop to the Archbishops, who has also represented both palaces.
Andrew Bickley is now into his second year supporting the Panel with briefings and questions for the scrutiny part of each meeting. He also supported the preparation for the good practice webinars in September.
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/
Safer recruitment and people management
The Safer Recruitment and People Management Guidance was approved by the National Safeguarding Steering Group in April 2021 and, following the development of a detailed implementation plan, came into effect on the 4 January 2022. The policy is one way in which the Church aims to fulfil its commitment to ‘Promoting a Safer Church’ and sets out the minimum requirements for safer recruitment and appointments whilst also ensuring continued vigilance once someone is in a role. The policy applies to paid roles and voluntary positions where there is substantial contact with children and/or vulnerable adults.
The Guidance has not previously been examined by the National Safeguarding Panel, although the Panel took part in an online consultation in 2020 as the policy was being developed. The Panel welcomed the development of the policy, including “sense checks” with people who would be operating the policy. This helps ensure it achieves its intended policy objectives.
The Panel made a number of recommendations around consultation on policies. This included the importance of being specific about how survivors would be asked to contribute to policy development. The Panel also recommended that the National Safeguarding Steering Group should consider where the accountability lies for monitoring and evaluating policy implementation across church institutions. The Panel recommended that Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels should have a role to play Their role should be standardised to ensure that all dioceses are monitoring and evaluating policies and procedures. The Panel were also keen that safeguarding in people management is properly monitored as it is as important as recruitment.
Interim Support Scheme
The Archbishops’ Council established the Interim Support Scheme in September 2021, the scheme having initially operated as a pilot since October 2020. It seeks to address the immediate short-term needs of survivors and victims of abuse. The Panel recognised 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 made a few recommendations to enhance its operation.
The Panel were of the view that 6 months or 12 months counselling is unlikely to be sufficient for victims and survivors of abuse and were concerned about the rigidity of these time limits. We were pleased to note that subsequently a change was agreed so that therapeutic support could continue while needed. The Panel recommended wider dissemination of the existence and role of the scheme at national and local levels.
Other recommendations arose out of the experience of the Interim Support Scheme and should be addressed in the Redress Scheme. Consideration should be given to enabling processes for monitoring and evaluation with impact analysis which includes considering how this could be addressed through the Quality Assurance Framework.
Specific recommendations in relation to the Redress Scheme were that there should be protocols to ensure consistency and equity of access across dioceses and in 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 for them. Further consideration should be given to integrating restorative justice approaches into the scheme’s terms of reference. The Panel also agreed to review the development of the Redress Scheme at a future scrutiny session.
Clergy Discipline Measure / Clergy Conduct Measure
Over the last three years the Panel has scrutinised concerns about safeguarding and the Clergy Discipline Measure in several sessions. In 2021 a scrutiny session considered proposals for reform. In 2022 we scrutinised the proposal to introduce a Clergy Conduct Measure (CCM) to replace the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM).
The new measure will distinguish between grievances and matters of misconduct. Grievances are subject to a 12-month time limit with no opportunity to extend this period. Matters of misconduct are either considered to be misconduct or serious misconduct. There are no time limitations on allegations categorised as serious misconduct, but those cases categorised as simply misconduct will be subject to a 12-month time limit. This can be extended by a judge. The Panel were concerned at the proposal to apply time limits for safeguarding cases that are judged not to meet the threshold of serious misconduct. It would create the potential for introducing a perverse incentive to categorise all safeguarding concerns as serious misconduct, in order that they can be considered. The Panel remained of the view that there should be no time limit for any safeguarding allegation and asked that the Implementation Group note and respond to this feedback.
The Panel recognised that the proposed Clergy Conduct Measure is a significant improvement on the Clergy Discipline Measure. Many aspects reflect the Panel’s previous scrutiny findings and feedback from other stakeholders. The Panel noted that further consultations will be taking place and that there will be more work before the proposals are finalised. The Panel therefore agreed to review the development of the Measure at a future scrutiny session.
The Panel welcomed the various measures that will be put in place to provide greater support to complainants and respondents. These will need to be properly resourced and appropriate training given to those involved.
The Panel were concerned that where a church locally decides not to take a complaint through the Clergy Conduct Measure route, there may be a denial of access to justice for the complainant. Clarity should be provided as to whether Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors and core groups hold ‘proper interest’ to raise complaints on behalf of complainants in such situations.
Assessing and managing risk
The risk assessment process is included in Practice Guidance developed by the National Safeguarding Team: ‘Responding to, assessing, and managing safeguarding concerns or allegations against church officers.’ The management of safeguarding risks and the use of risk assessments feature significantly in the work of diocesan and other safeguarding professionals in the Church. The guidance is being reviewed by the National Safeguarding Team and will incorporate a period for consultation. It is anticipated that the review will be completed and signed off by July 2023.
The Panel scrutinised how the safeguarding risk assessment would interface with other processes such as the new Clergy Conduct Measure and safer recruitment policies and practice. The requirements and processes for information sharing were discussed, including the interface with statutory services and the MAPPA (Multi-agency public protection arrangements) processes.
The Panel recommended that there needed to be close liaison with the Clergy Conduct Measure implementation group. We welcomed the focus on improving the quality of risk assessments. The Panel also recommended the strengthening of approaches in assessing the needs of victims, survivors, complainants, and respondents from the onset of any safeguarding process to ensure all potential risks are identified and appropriately managed.
The Panel scrutinised initial proposals for the scheme in 2020. We made further recommendations as part of the scrutiny session on the Interim Support Scheme earlier in 2022, described above.
At this scrutiny session, the Panel were updated on responses to previous recommendations. It was good to note that the recommendation of the greater involvement of survivors had led to the establishment of a working group specifically for the development of the scheme. The recommendation that there should be a requirement for individual assessments of needs of applicants to achieve a fair resolution drawing on the principles of restorative justice has been accepted. This will form part of the service specification.
The Panel heard that there is still further work to be done on governance of the scheme. Significant thought has gone into developing options of non-financial redress and the Panel urged consideration of working with an organisation experienced in restorative justice.
The Panel agreed with the principle that responsibility for abuse should be accepted and paid as close as possible to where the abuse occurred. This is known as the principle of subsidiarity. The Panel recommended early engagement with dioceses including Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels, to establish the frameworks for financial and non-financial redress and training to ensure that subsidiarity does not lead to inequity for applicants across different dioceses.
The Panel recognised that establishing the scheme is a complex process without any similar models from which to learn lessons. It recommended that given the time it will take to establish the scheme, there should be communication with interested parties to ensure that they are aware of progress and can contribute appropriately to consultations.
Good practice webinars
The event in September presented good safeguarding practice and initiatives being undertaken in Church settings. It was an opportunity to share 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 sessions were:
1. If I Told You What Would You Do?
A session exploring creative projects designed and delivered by those who have experienced trauma and abuse in the Church. It presented materials to build up the church’s resources of compassion, and to engender confidence to promote the physical, psychological and spiritual well-being of those who have been hurt and harmed.
2. Survivor support and advocacy: a suggested model for Diocesan practice
This session heard from a Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, an Independent Survivor Advocate and a survivor with substantial experience of a model of support and advocacy, with a view to encouraging others to adopt this approach.
3. Navigating the Challenges of Information Sharing in Safeguarding
This session explored the development of information sharing in a safeguarding context from the perspective of the Church and the Probation Service. This included the work being done to respond to a recommendation on information sharing by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
4. Good Practice in Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels (DSAPs)
Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels are an important part of safeguarding in dioceses, bringing professional expertise and carrying out oversight. This session highlighted good practice by Panels.
Online Consultation – Learning Lessons Reviews
In addition to the scrutiny sessions the Panel took part in an online consultation with the National Safeguarding Team to discuss the draft guidance on Learning Lessons Case Reviews. These reviews are commissioned by the Church, dioceses or nationally, to understand what happened in safeguarding cases in order to learn lessons for the future. The revised policy is designed both to offer more guidance to those commissioning and undertaking reviews, and to make it clearer to victims, survivors and other interested people the purpose of reviews and what can be expected.
The primary purpose is not seeking who may be to blame, but understanding the context in which mistakes were made. This includes organisational culture, resource levels and whether policies are appropriate. The aim is to identify these issues to prevent similar failures in the future. Members of the National Safeguarding Panel reflected that this approach is positive in terms of encouraging learning but that there must be other processes of accountability. Panel members endorsed the need to identify good practice through reviews as well as those things that have not gone well. Good practice needs to be shared as well as lessons to be learned.
Panel members raised the issue of governance. It was recognised that governance arrangements depend on whether the review is undertaken within a local diocese or nationally. Within dioceses, Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels have a very important role. It was agreed that there needs to be greater contact between the Panels and the National Safeguarding Team with more work done to encourage consistency across dioceses. It was suggested that regardless of whether a review was undertaken at national or local level, that there should be a central repository of reviews that is accessible. This would assist in ensuring that learning can be shared.
The Panel is hopeful that there can be a full return to face to face meetings in 2023. We may have to navigate rail strikes or other disruption but the preference will be for fully in person. Early in 2023 the Panel will hold a session on improving its impact and will consider the subjects for scrutiny sessions to be held during the year. Following two successful years, further good practice webinars are planned for July.