The account given in the IICSA Report of abuse known to be inflicted on children in the Catholic Church in England and Wales in the past 50 years is shocking and overwhelming. At our meeting this week, we Bishops have stood together in profound shame. We express our sorrow and contrition before God.
We have reflected on our need to reach out afresh to those who bear the wounds of permanent damage caused by this abuse. We commit ourselves to listen more intently to those who have been abused so as to learn from them and benefit from their wisdom. It is through learning from their testimony that hearts are changed.
We are grateful to those survivors who have come forward, not only to lay before us their experience of abuse, but to help us understand the depth of their pain. We invite anyone who has experienced abuse to come forward, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. We undertake to listen carefully to them with open heart and mind and support them on a journey of healing.
We have carefully considered the recommendations of the IICSA Report and formally accepted them. We have already begun work towards their implementation. The IICSA’s generic hearings into the Church began last October. Around that time we commissioned an Independent Review of our Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. This was carried out by Mr Ian Elliott, an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.
This week, alongside the IICSA Report, we have also examined in depth the Final Report of the Elliott Review and fully accepted its recommendations. It is a searching analysis of our safeguarding work, in its weaknesses and strengths. It proposes a number of remedial and forward-looking recommendations, which accord with the IICSA Report’s own recommendations. The work of implementation will begin immediately. It will be carried out in close cooperation with the Religious Orders who play such an important part in the life of the Church.
In all our activities, our desire and resolve is to be a Church in which every child and vulnerable person is not only safe but nurtured into human flourishing. These recommendations present us with steps towards this goal. Key to them is a standards-based approach to safeguarding together with a specially commissioned national body with powers of effective audit and oversight of safeguarding in both Dioceses and Religious Orders. Everyone in the Church will be required to work to clear, published standards of behaviour and action. Most significantly, the Elliott Report has been fashioned with the participation of survivors of abuse. Their insight and wisdom has been crucial. We thank them for their great courage and generosity in working with us and we look forward to continuing this growing collaboration.
The Elliott Report builds on all that has been achieved in our safeguarding ministry in the past 20 years, achievements also recognised in the IICSA Report. Therefore we thank profoundly all who contribute to the work of safeguarding in the Church today: the thousands of Parish Safeguarding Representatives, the professionals who work in our Safeguarding Offices in every Diocese, the Safeguarding Commissions who oversee this work and give objective and professional advice to guide our decisions, the staff of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service and those who serve on the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission. These, and many others, have contributed greatly to the current work of safeguarding in the Church. Today, however, we acknowledge without hesitation, our failings, our mistakes, our lack of adequate cooperation. We express our deep sorrow and ask forgiveness, especially from victims and survivors. We affirm our resolve to effect the next step in our work of safeguarding and care for survivors. In prayer we turn to Christ the Good Shepherd, the fount of healing and compassion, asking that this moment of painful truth becomes a time of grace as we strive to fulfil the ministry entrusted to us as bishops in an unshakeable unity of purpose.
Recommendations of the Independent Review of Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements
1. THE CATHOLIC SAFEGUARDING STANDARDS AGENCY AND SAFEGUARDING
These recommendations will detail the main proposals concerning a new central standards agency for safeguarding – the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA). The first four recommendations will outline the nature of the agency as well as the principal services that the agency will offer to partner organisations. Recommendations 5-7 will outline the audit and review function of the agency. The final recommendations 8-9 will describe the standards which will reflect the intent of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in respect of its safeguarding arrangements and practices.
The Review Panel recommends that a new body, the CSSA, is established as a professional standards agency to the dioceses and ICLSAL. This would operate by contractual arrangements with its constituents, being the twenty-eight organisations (dioceses and ICLSAL that have their own commissions) plus the new ICLSAL resource, providing a central point of accountability, policies, procedures, and support. It would build on the work of NCSC and CSAS, providing the day-to-day implementation of the general decree as intended by the Bishops of England and Wales.
It suggested that a mechanism is created to enable it to provide this service. We recommend that a group is established within CSSA which is named the Case Consultation Committee (CCC). This approach has been tried and been shown to be successful elsewhere both within the Church and within other settings. In the Irish Catholic Church, the National Case Management Committee (NCMC) has operated for several years successfully as part of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).
To provide an effective safeguarding service, it is imperative that the voice of those that have been harmed through their involvement with the Church, is heard and learnt from. Working within a formal committee is often challenging. The contribution of each person is more easily supported through personal conversations and opinions shared. Therefore, we recommend that a reference panel made up of survivors, who would wish to contribute their views to proposed policy and practice developments, should be developed within the CSSA. This would be situated within the standards and policy creation section.
We recommend that the current operation of safeguarding commissions should be revised to position them directly within the Church body structure, as a sub-committee of trustees. We acknowledge trustees’ responsibilities under charity law for safeguarding, and repositioning these bodies in this way, avoids any potential for skewing lines of accountability in the revised safeguarding structure.
The Review Panel recommends that the CSSA should develop an audit and review department, served by its own dedicated staff that have appropriate expertise in this area, and that they should provide an audit and review service that is independent of the Church body being reviewed, using an agreed methodology with an intention to place the findings and recommendations in the public domain.
We recommend the suggested audit and review methodology developed by the workstream, which is also outlined in Appendix 9, for the provision of the independent reviews that will be part of the service provided by the CSSA.
It is recommended that a template should be produced which can be used to gather current information on the existence of safeguarding resources within the parish. This will also confirm how support can be offered through training and tailored materials to meet the needs of parishes. The Panel notes that volunteers within the parish are a valuable resource for the Church and attention must be paid as to how their efforts can be best supported.
The Review Panel recommends the adoption of eight safeguarding standards that provide a framework against which all safeguarding practice across the Church can be assessed. These include the following:
1. Safeguarding is embedded in the Church’s Leadership, Governance, Ministry, and Culture
2. Communicating the Church’s safeguarding message
3. Engaging with and Caring for those that have been harmed
4. Effective Management of Allegations and Concerns
5. Support and Management of Respondents
6. Robust Human Resource Management
7. Training and Support for Safeguarding
8. Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement
For each safeguarding standard, we recommend the criteria identified along with the evidence that could be used to indicate compliance. Importantly, these eight standards should be continually worked on and refined to show their linkages to policies that have been nationally agreed.
Read the full Executive Summary here: