Reporting abuse and finding support
If you have information about a safeguarding situation where a child or adult is in immediate danger or requires immediate medical attention call the emergency services on 999. Do not delay.
The National Safeguarding Team, NST, is working to increase the capacity and expertise of parishes, dioceses and other Church of England institutions to respond to safeguarding concerns and support victims and survivors. We are not able to offer either an emergency or 24-hour response but there are Safeguarding Advisors in every diocese and Safeguarding Officers in every parish. Details of the safeguarding team based in your diocese can be found via the relevant diocesan website. Take a look at the map of the dioceses and click on the diocese where you live. This will take you to the relevant website where there will be contact information.
If you wish to report any safeguarding concerns directly to the NST please email [email protected]. We will ensure that any concerns are referred to the relevant diocese and/or statutory agency, as appropriate.
We understand reporting abuse may be very difficult and distressing to you and it may add to your hurt by our not being able to immediately assist you. Therefore here are the contact details of other agencies that are available to assist either on a 24-hour basis or through specialist helplines and services:
- NSPCC Child Protection Helpline: 0808 800 5000 (lines free and open 24 hours). Phone if you are worried about a child.
- Child-line: 0800 1111 (lines free and open 24 hours). Phone if you are a child or young person and are worried about anything.
- National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 ((lines free and open 24 hours). Phone if you are experiencing domestic abuse.
- Samaritans Helpline: 08457 90 90 90 (open 24 hours). Phone if you feel you are struggling to cope and need someone to talk to.
- Action on Elder Abuse Helpline: 080 8808 8141 ( free phone Monday to Friday 9-5pm)
Once alerted to the horrific abuse in the John Smyth case, following a Channel 4 News report in February 2017, the Church of England's National Safeguarding Team (NST) immediately convened a national core group, as per its policy in Responding to, assessing and managing concerns or allegations against church officers, and has been supporting survivors both nationally and through dioceses.
The NST has now agreed with the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) that their confidential helpline - 0303 003 11 11 or 01322 517817 - will take calls relating to the case. CCPAS is an independent Christian charity working across all denominations. The team has also arranged independent counselling support for alleged victims/survivors. The Church is working closely with Hampshire Police (Operation Cubic) - we would encourage people with relevant information to contact [email protected]
Going forward these dedicated systems will offer a consistent approach and support to all those affected by this very complex case.
John Smyth was a QC and Chair of the Trustees of Iwerne Trust, a non-denominational Christian charity, but a number of the young men who were survivors of the abuse, carried out between 1978-82, had links with the Church of England and have come forward to share their story.
I am worried that a child or adult may be at risk of abuse or neglect by someone in a family, household or community. What should I do?
Report the matter to the Local Authority Social Services department or Police (the telephone numbers for these will be in your local telephone directory or websites).
I am worried that a child or vulnerable adult may be being abused by a member of the clergy, or by an employee or volunteer within the Church. What should I do?
Immediately inform the Parish Safeguarding Officer. If you are unable to contact him/her, inform the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor. Details of the safeguarding team based in your diocese can be found via the relevant diocesan website. See above for details of how to find the relevant diocesan website.
I am being abused by someone in the Church. What should I do?
Tell someone as soon as possible. What you say will be taken seriously. You can choose to whom you talk. You can either contact the local Police or the local authority Local Authority Social Services child or adult protection team in your area (the telephone numbers for these will be in your local telephone directory or websites) and/or the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor or Parish Safeguarding Officer.
Alternatively, you may prefer to tell someone in the Church whom you already know. That individual will work to try and ensure that you can get the requisite help. He/she will need to contact one of the people mentioned in the above paragraph and inform them that a child or adult protection matter has occurred.
It is the policy of the Church to inform statutory authorities (Police and Local Authority Social Services) that abuse has been alleged if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse and to make sure that past abuse is properly dealt with.
I have suffered abuse by someone in the Church in the past. What should I do?
Understandably, many people find it difficult to tell anyone about the abuse they have suffered. It may be many years after the event before a disclosure is made, perhaps when the victim and/or Survivor is an adult. Even if the abuse occurred many years ago, the Church will still act. Tell someone about the abuse. You will be listened to and what you have to say will be taken seriously.
You can choose to whom you talk. You can contact the local Police or the Local Authority Social Services child or adult protection team (the telephone numbers for these will be in your local telephone directory or websites) and/or the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor or Parish Safeguarding Officer.
Alternatively, you may prefer to tell someone in the Church whom you already know. That individual will work to try and ensure that you can get the appropriate help. He/she will need to contact one of the people mentioned in the above paragraph and inform them that a child or adult protection matter has occurred.
It is the policy of the Church to inform statutory authorities (Police and Local Authority Social Services) that abuse has been alleged if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse and to make sure that past abuse is properly dealt with.
How does the Church support those who have suffered abuse?
In the past, there have been people who experienced abuse within a Church context and who found the response of the Church to be inadequate and uncaring. The Church is committed to continuing to learn how to respond in a supportive and healing way to the needs of those who have suffered abuse.
The Church has a number of roles that are available to support victims and survivors. This includes Parish Safeguarding Officers, Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors, Authorised Listeners trained pastoral workers and, in some dioceses, qualified counsellors and support workers. Please see Responding Well Practice Guidance.
The Church will endeavour to ensure support to victims and survivors is kept separate from but in consultation with any potential investigation of concerns/allegations. This is to ensure that no ongoing Police investigation is compromised or prejudiced in any way.
Details of independent support group
(this is not an exhaustive list)
NAPAC - National Association for People Abused in Childhood
They provide support to adults who have been abused in any way as children
Rape Crisis England & Wales
They provide support to women and girls who have experienced sexual trauma. Rape Crisis has branches all over the UK. Please check their website for your nearest branch.
The Survivors Trust
They provide support to men who have experienced sexual abuse, adult sexual assault or rape.
- Website: www.thesurvivorstrust.org
- Telephone: 01788 550554
- Email: [email protected]
- Twitter: @survivorstrust
MACSAS - Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors
They provide support to both women and men who have been sexually abused, as children or adults, by ministers, clergy or others under the guise of the Church.
The Lantern Project
They provide help and support for survivors of sexual abuse.
They provide support for all non-abusing parents and carers whose children have been sexually abused.
Stop it Now!
They campaign to stop child sexual abuse by encouraging abusers and potential abusers to seek help and by giving adults the information they need to protect children effectively.
ICAP - Immigrant Counselling & Psychotherapy
- Website: www.icap.org.uk
They provide advice and support to anyone affected by FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) including anyone who fears they or another are at risk.
- Website: www.forwarduk.org.uk
Salvation Army - Modern Slavery
They provide support services for adult victims of trafficking and modern slavery.
Women and Girls Network
They provide counselling and support for domestic or sexual violence, FGM and trafficking
- Website: www.wgn.org.uk
- Telephone: 0808 801 0660 Monday-Friday 10:00am-12:00pm, Monday-Friday 2:30pm-4:30pm, Tuesday-Thursday 6:30pm-9:00pm, Saturday 10:00am-1:00pm)
The Helen Bamber Foundation
They provide support for survivors of torture, wars, genocides, sex trafficking, slavery and extreme domestic violence; plus gender and sexuality-based persecution.
- Website: www.helenbamber.org
CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection)
They work towards eradicating the sexual abuse of children; part of UK policing helping to track and find offenders.
- Website: www.ceop.police.uk
Ann Craft Trust
They offer advice to professionals, parents, carers and family members on issues relating to the protection of disabled children and vulnerable adults.
- Telephone: 0115 9515 400 Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm
What will happen when I inform someone that a child or adult at risk of abuse or neglect may be being abused by someone working for the Church?
It is the policy of the Church to ensure that all allegations of abuse are referred immediately to the Police and Local Authority Social Services departments (statutory authorities). We do this in the interests of the vulnerable. To make sure that all information available is shared with those with the legal and professional responsibilities to investigate. In cases where the statutory authorities decide that they will not, or cannot investigate, but concerns remain about the safety of children or adults at risk of abuse or neglect, enquiries will be made by those with responsibility for safeguarding within the Church.
In all cases, the safety and welfare of the child/ren or adult/s at risk of abuse or neglect is the first consideration. Where allegations of abuse are made, the Church, where possible, will suspend the person accused from the role that brings them into contact with children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect, while investigations or enquiries are going on. These are neutral actions to ensure that cases can be investigated dispassionately and to protect all parties involved.
What about confidentiality?
The Church will treat all information connected with a safeguarding matter as confidential between the agencies working together to protect children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect. In very broad terms, information will be shared with the relevant authorities where there is a concern that a person may be suffering harm or in order to prevent another person suffering harm.
When the Church is told about abuse, the victim is supported in order that he/she can tell the Police and Local Authority Social Services what has happened. The reason for sharing information with the statutory authorities is to prevent further abuse and to try to make sure that something is done about the abuse that is alleged to have happened.
If the person who has suffered abuse does not want to tell, or cannot tell the Police or Local Authority Social Services him/herself, the Church will do so if there is a risk that others may continue to be at risk of abuse.
An alleged abuser does not have an automatic right to access information that is held about him or her. The Church will not automatically let an alleged abuser know who has made allegations about them. However if a complaint is raised against a member of the clergy under the Disciplinary procedures (commonly called the clergy discipline measure), the victim and/or survivors name will be shared, but not their contact details. This is to ensure that the disciplinary process is conducted in a fair manner.
What happens to people working in the Church who are accused of abuse?
All concerns and allegations are taken seriously by the Church, regardless to whom they relate to. The precise circumstances differ from case to case, but the following information gives an indication of what happens when an allegation is made:
- Information about the alleged abuse is shared with the Police and Local Authority Social Services as they have a statutory responsibility to investigate.
- After consultation with the Police and Local Authority Social Services, if the person accused of abuse is a member of the clergy, or is a paid worker or a volunteer, that person will, where possible, be suspended from the role that brings them into contact with children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect. It is important to acknowledge that these are neutral actions. They are precautionary to ensure that cases can be investigated dispassionately and to protect all parties involved. The final decisions are made following the completion of enquiries. It is possible that someone accused of abuse may be reinstated, depending on the circumstances of the case, once the matter is concluded.
- Enquiries will be made to find out if there is evidence to support the allegation. Sometimes people accused of abuse are arrested and after full investigations, some may be prosecuted.
- The Church supports all its members and considers what support a person accused of abuse may need.
- In seeking to meet the support needs of people accused of abuse, the Church will strive to minimise risks to others. The Church will use a written agreement (known as a 'worship safeguarding agreement') to make clear what conditions and restrictions apply to the accused person (e.g. he/she may have to worship in another Church, avoidance of specific activities), as well as what support will be made available.
What if the person accused of abuse is dead?
Even if information about abuse in a Church setting relates to an accused person who is dead, the Church will take this seriously and follow it up. It is still important for such information to be shared with the Police and Local Authority Social Services as it could be relevant to other enquiries.
How can people who have abused within the Church be prevented from carrying out further abuse?
When the Church receives information that someone has abused a child or adult at risk of abuse or neglect within a Church setting, it will help prevent that person from abusing in other organisations. The Church will make sure that Police and Local Authority Social Services are informed about the alleged abuse. In some cases, abusers will be prosecuted.
The precise circumstances differ from case to case, but the following information gives an indication of what may happen following an outcome of an investigation:
- For all clergy, whether or not there is a conviction in the criminal courts, consideration can be given to whether enough evidence exists to raise a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. If a member of the clergy is found to have committed an offence of misconduct under the measure there are a number of penalties that could be imposed, including prohibition for life from Church of England ministry. More information about clergy discipline here.
- For clergy with the Bishop's Permission to Officiate, Licensed Lay Ministers and those commissioned/licensed by the Bishop, the Bishop may withdraw his permission, commission or licence for that person to continue in his/her role.
- If a member of the clergy is found to have committed a misconduct offence and a penalty is imposed under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, his or her name and other relevant particulars will be included on the Archbishops' List. The information on the list will be available to diocesan bishops, diocesan registrars and the President of Tribunals in relation to clergy discipline, (it is not open to the general public). It can, for instance, be checked if a member of the clergy wishes to move jobs or is accused of a disciplinary offence.
- For non-clergy paid employees disciplinary processes will be considered at the conclusion of a criminal investigation. The services of volunteers may be terminated.
- In every relevant circumstance, following the completion of disciplinary processes, the Church will consider referring the names of people accused of abuse within a Church setting to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly Criminal Records Bureau (or CRB)) for consideration for barring from work with children and/or adults. Volunteers, as well as employees and officeholders, are reported in circumstances where they have been dismissed or have resigned due to a safeguarding concern.
When someone applies for a job or volunteer position working with vulnerable groups, the organisation that is recruiting must make appropriate criminal record checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service before a person can be appointed.
It is important to note that a criminal record check is only one part of the safer recruitment process. For instance, it is essential that references are taken up, gaps in employment are checked etc.
Policy and practice guidance
All the policy and practice guidance on this page have been approved by the House of Bishops and must, where relevant, be followed by all Church Bodies* and Church Officers**.
Please note under section 5 of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016*** all authorised clergy, bishops, archdeacons, licensed readers and lay workers, churchwardens and PCCs must have 'due regard' to safeguarding guidance issued by the House of Bishops (this will include both policy and practice guidance). A duty to have 'due regard' to guidance means that the person under the duty is not free to disregard it but is required to follow it unless there are cogent reasons for not doing so. ('Cogent' for this purpose means clear, logical and convincing.) Failure by clergy to comply with the duty imposed by the 2016 Measure may result in disciplinary action.
*Church Bodies includes PCCs, diocesan bodies, cathedrals, religious communities, theological training institutions and the National Church Institutions. This policy will apply to the whole of the provinces of Canterbury and York (including the Diocese in Europe subject to local variations/modifications). There is also an expectation that the policy will apply to the Channel Islands and Sodor and Man unless there is specific local legislation in a jurisdiction that would prevent adoption.
**A "Church Officer" is anyone appointed/elected by or on behalf of the Church to a post or role, whether they are ordained or lay, paid or unpaid.
***The Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 applies to the whole of the provinces of Canterbury and York (including the Diocese in Europe subject to local variations/modifications), with the exception of the Channel Islands and Sodor and Man. In order to extend the 2016 Measure to the Channel Islands or Sodor and Man legislation will need to be passed by the relevant island jurisdictions in accordance with section 12 of that Measure.
- Promoting a Safer Church; House of Bishops policy statement (2017)
- Protecting All God's Children (safeguarding policy for children and young people, 4th edition, 2010)
- Promoting a Safe Church (safeguarding policy for adults, 2006)
- Glossary reference document (2017)
- Key roles and responsibilities of church office holders and bodies practice guidance (2017)
- Responding to, assessing and managing concerns or allegations against church officers practice guidance (2017)
- Responding well to domestic abuse practice guidance (2017)
- Training and development practice guidance (2017)
- Safer recruitment practice guidance (2016)
- Responding well to those who have been sexually abused practice guidance (2011)
- Safeguarding in religious communities practice guidance (2015)
Joint Practice Guidance with The Methodist Church
- Safeguarding records: joint practice guidance for the Church of England and the Methodist Church (2015)
- Safeguarding joint practice guidance for single congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships (2015)
To access templates and useful resources relating to the practice guidance, please go to our training & resources section lower down the page.
How we work
Statement of safeguarding principles
We are committed to the safeguarding, care and nurture of everyone within our community.
The Church of England will:
- Promote a safer environment and culture
- Safely recruit and support all those with any responsibility related to children and vulnerable adults within the Church
- Respond promptly to every safeguarding concern or allegation
- Care pastorally for victims/survivors of abuse and other affected persons
- Care pastorally for those who are the subject of concerns or allegations of abuse and other affected persons
- Respond to those that may pose a present risk to others
These policy commitments are based on our five foundations:
- Human rights and the law
- Core principles
- Good safeguarding practice
- Learning from the past
Information on the National Safeguarding Team (NST)
- National Advisor - Graham Tilby
- National Policy Manager - Heather Reid
- National Casework Manager - Moira Murray
- IICSA Policy and Information Manager - Patricia Durr
- IICSA Administrative Officer - Barbara Chapman
- Provincial Casework Manager (Lambeth) - Caroline Venables
- Provincial Casework Manager (Bishopthorpe) - Anna Flower
- National Learning & Development Adviser - Andrea Watkins (maternity cover)
- Office Manager - Hannah Sinclair
- Communications - Rachel Harden
Reviews and reports
- Independent Review into Church's handling of Bishop George Bell case (2017) and annexes to the review
- NSSG response to Carlile Review recommendations
- An Abuse of Faith (2017) - independent review by Dame Moira Gibb into the Church's handling of the Peter Ball case
- NSSG response to Gibb Review recommendations
- Kendall House review (July 2016) and Kendall House Review update
- Elliott Review findings and response from Bishop Sarah Mullally (2016)
- Leicester report and action plan
- Bristol report and action plan
- Norwich report and action plan
- Canterbury report and action plan
- Chelmsford report
- Guildford report and action plan
- Hereford report
- Manchester report
- Derby report and action plan
- Oxford report
- Rochester report
- St Albans report
- Truro report
- Europe report
- Exeter report
- Peterborough report & action plan
- Birmingham report & action plan
- Southwell & Notts
- Ely report and action plan
- Worcester action plan
- York report & action plan
- Bath and Wells report and action plan
- Edmundsbury and Ipswich report & action plan
- Southwark report and action plan
- Newcastle report and action plan
- Chichester report
- Sheffield report and action plan
- Carlisle report and action plan
- Coventry report
Training and resources
The National Safeguarding Team has created a range of safeguarding modules for people in the Church of England to complete. The modules you will take depend on your role in the Church.
If you are involved in your local parish, speak to your Parish Safeguarding Officer or Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser about which safeguarding training modules you need to complete. If you aren't sure of how to contact your Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, please see our map which will take you to your diocesan safeguarding website.
The National Safeguarding Team launched a basic safeguarding awareness module (C0) in 2017. This course is available to everyone and is accessed online. Visit the website and view the instructions to help you in signing up.
If you have problems with the e-learning system, send an email to [email protected] and we will respond as soon as possible.
Training and development resources (2017)
- Forgiveness & Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Abuse (2017) - House of Bishops commended document from Faith and Order Commission
- The Gospel, Sexual Abuse and the Church: A theological resource for the local church (2016) - House of Bishops commended document from Faith and Order Commission
Both of these documents are available to purchase through Church House Publishing
- DBS eligibility FAQs (February 2017)
- Safer recruiting in the parish
- Model volunteer job role
- Application form template
- Reference form template
- Church of England confidential declaration form
- Model interview discussion template
- Eligibility for an enhanced criminal records check
- Church of England roles eligible for a criminal records check
- Letter of appointment template
- Statement of safeguarding principles
- What to do if...
- Guidance on resourcing safeguarding in dioceses
- Diocesan safeguarding advisory panel - model terms of reference
- Model role description of chair of diocesan safeguarding advisory panel
- Diocesan safeguarding advisor - model role description
- Safeguarding in your parish - who's who?
- Model safeguarding provision that can be attached to any hire of church premises agreement
- Model parish safeguarding checklist
- Model parish safeguarding officer role description
Independent Risk Assessments
Regulations which came into force in March 2017 state that safeguarding risk assessments in respect of members of clergy must be carried out by an independent person with relevant expertise from an approved list. The brief guidance document is aimed at Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers (DSAs) to support them in identifying the appropriate independent risk assessor from the Approved List, which can be found below.
Templates from Responding to, assessing & managing concerns or allegations against church officers practice guidance
- Template notification to follow safeguarding policy and procedures
- Template initial case summary
- Template interim safeguarding agreement
- Template case management update tool
- Template ongoing safeguarding agreement
- Template referral and terms of reference for an independent risk assessment
- Template letter of instruction for independent risk assessment
- Model ongoing safeguarding agreement with an offender
- Domestic abuse fact sheet
- Domestic abuse disclosure flowchart PDF / WORD DOC
- The legal context
- Diocesan statement on domestic abuse
- Parish statement on domestic abuse
- Template safety and exit plan
- Confidentiality and data protection
- Marriage preparation: recommended good practice
- Resources on domestic abuse
From 5-23 March the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is holding its first public hearing into the Church of England, focusing on the diocese of Chichester as a case study.
Read transcripts of the daily hearings.
The Inquiry will look at themes including the experiences of victims and survivors and the Church’s response to them and the culture of the Church. The Church of England has submitted 25,000 documents and 38 witness statements to the Inquiry.
For further background read the Q&A for parishes