Safeguarding General Synod July 2019


Presentation from lead safeguarding bishop, Peter Hancock, is below. Synod also heard from Meg Munn, Independent chair of the National Safeguarding Panel and survivor, Phil Johnson.

Megs regular blog can be read here

Safeguarding questions start at no. 92.

Synod safeguarding progress report.


Rt Revd Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells and Lead Bishop for Safeguarding:

I know that there have already been calls this Synod for Bishops to speak from the heart. The need for compassion and pastoral care is clear. And whilst words are important, ultimately actions speak louder. It takes action to change policy. It takes actions to respond properly to disclosures and instigate independent reviews. It is action that will bring reform, support survivors and ensure that we keep prevention at the forefront of our work. I am pleased that I can report on actions today, but there is much more still to do, and that takes people and it takes resources.

There are current questions about major policy shifts, the level of independence in our safeguarding teams, the concepts of a national and/or wholly independent safeguarding service require proper detailed consideration, exploration and discussion. I cannot address all of those in any detail here, but it is important that the Synod is aware of these significant matters.

However, I would make two important observations:

  • Firstly, we absolutely must have these conversations. We need to discuss the management of safeguarding and how to ensure the best possible practice is achieved. As the letter originating from Blackburn Diocese powerfully expressed “there are very few areas of our common life that we will not need to look at very closely and honestly in the years to come. Vague and evasive talk of ‘culture change’ is not enough, because culture change is driven and determined by structures, appointments and decisions”.
  • Secondly, whatever happens, we ALL have a role to play in safeguarding. It is not something that can be “done to” the Church. It is instead integral to the Church’s very life and it remains at the heart of the Christian message.

With this in mind, I would today like to take the opportunity to update you on the developments which are being in made in building a safer Church and to draw Synod’s attention to the Progress Report by the National Safeguarding Steering Group, the NSSG,(GS2134).  That Report contains information and details of progress since the debate which was held here in July 2018 and so this presentation focuses more briefly on four matters.

Firstly, we have made changes already to the leadership and management of safeguarding, which will help to cement the position of safeguarding in the Church as being of the utmost importance.  The NSSG now meets more often and for longer, allowing us a greater ability to maintain a better strategic overview and to commission and scrutinise new developments. There have also been significant changes to the National Safeguarding Panel, which I know that Meg Munn will update you on.

I am also pleased to confirm to Synod the appointment of Melissa Caslake as the first permanent Director of Safeguarding.  Melissa is currently the executive Director of Children’s services for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster. She will be taking up her post later this month and her extensive experience of safeguarding, combined with her strategic and leadership qualities will enable the Church to become a safer place for everyone.  Melissa has also overseen the provision of support for children affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and demonstrates a real understanding of the needs of victims and survivors. The change from an Adviser to a Director of Safeguarding is a significant development and will help to ensure that safeguarding is fully integrated into the structures and priorities of the Church.  I look forward to welcoming her and working with her.

Second, as Synod will be aware, we are currently halfway through the third IICSA hearing. This Inquiry has not been an easy experience for the Church and some justifiably difficult questions are being asked of us. We know that we have a long way still to travel on our safeguarding journey and IICSA has shone a helpful spotlight on the Church’s safeguarding.

Given the timing of this Synod, it would not be appropriate for me to discuss the Inquiry in detail, but I would draw Synod’s attention to two very significant documents. The first is the IICSA interim report on the Chichester and Peter Ball case studies.  The Report addresses highly complex issues very clearly and the key themes which emerge from the Report emphasise the need to continue to improve safeguarding practice in the Church.

The second Report is the Truth Project’s Thematic Report into Child Sexual Abuse in the context of Religious Institutions. The key findings identified by the Truth Project mirror the themes from the Interim Report, with issues of clericalism and deference causing significant harm.

These reports are difficult to read and the accounts within them are harrowing. At the May House of Bishops meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury instructed all Bishops to read these two reports. I am sure Synod will join with me in welcoming the letter from Blackburn Diocese and that Synod is encouraged that many Dioceses have urged their clergy and parishes to read them.

I cannot overstate how important it is that you all read them: the whole Church – every Parish, Diocese, Cathedral, TEI, Religious Community, National Institution and this very Synod – has a role to play in improving safeguarding practice. If we are to move forward and change how we respond to victims and survivors and how we are seen by them, we must be willing to have these difficult discussions and to make proactive decisions.

Thirdly, I would like to briefly touch on some key developments nationally:

  • A Project Manager is in place to lead on the development of the Case Management System. This will provide a National recording system for our local and National safeguarding advisors and is something that we have been sorely lacking. This will be available to the NST next month and rolled out across the Dioceses in 2020.
  • I am pleased to confirm three national learning lessons reviews into the cases of John Smyth, Trevor Devamanikkam and Victor Whitsey. Whilst there have been delays in being able to announce these reviews, this is a highly significant development. For victims and survivors who have waited a long time for these reviews, I hope that this announcement will be welcome news.
  • A working group has been formed to consider the Clergy Discipline Measure and will meet for the first time in October 2019. This will build on the consultations which have already been undertaken by the Bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln and consultation by the National Safeguarding Team. We know that the operation of the CDM is also a matter of interest to the Inquiry.

Finally, and perhaps the most important area on which I wish to update Synod is the Church’s engagement with victims and survivors. There is no doubt that our response to survivors in the past has been inadequate. Both the NSSG and the NST have committed to addressing this and I would like to end this presentation by updating you on a few of the developments in this area:

  • Since last years July Synod, the group of survivors who attended have continued to meet, facilitated by SCIE and supported by MACSAS. This group, now known as the Survivor Reference Group (SRG) are working together to develop a survivor-led framework for what future engagement with the Church of England might look like. It is my personal hope that in the future the SRG and the Church will continue to work closely together to co-produce safeguarding policies and that a National Survivors Panel may develop from the initial work of the SRG.
  • There is also significant progress with the Safe Spaces project. It is a prime example of the positive outcomes that can come from co-production and whilst there have been delays and frustrations in the development and procurement of this scheme, I look forward to seeing the scheme beginning to deliver independent advice, support and advocacy to survivors of church-related abuse in 2020.
  • In September 2019, the NST are hosting a National Safeguarding Summit here at York University. This will bring together, for the first time, the National Safeguarding Steering Group, the National Safeguarding Panel, survivors of church related abuse, Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors and the National Safeguarding Team. For me, this is an exciting and significant step forwards that survivors and the Church are making together.
  • The Church has committed to co-producing a National Victim and Survivor’s Charter, which will outline the key statements and principles we agree to adhere to when working with victims and survivors. We anticipate this will be a key topic at the summit.
  • Exploration work has begun on introducing Restorative Justice practice to the Church. This will mark an important milestone in our journey to ensure the voices of victims and survivors are heard and acted on.
  • We remain committed to exploring what a redress scheme might look like for the Church. This is no small task and requires the input and engagement of all our stakeholders, but I can confirm that this work is now starting. This will need to be run in conjunction with any recommendations which may come to the Church from the Inquiry.

My challenge to Synod is that if you are concerned about safeguarding in the Church, now is the time to stand up, get involved and be counted. Come and talk to Sir Roger Singleton, Emily Denne (Advisor for Survivor Engagement) or me after this presentation. I look forward to questions in a moment and to continuing to update Synod on safeguarding matters in the future.