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Stephen Cottrell June 2023 banner.jpg
Stephen Cottrell June 2023.jpg
UK News

Archbishop of York rebuffs safeguarding board disbandment criticisms

by Sophie Drew

The Archbishop of York has attempted to set the record straight over the disbanding of the Church of England's Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), in a frustrated radio interview. 
Most Rev Stephen Cottrell appeared on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme but became increasingly annoyed by interviewer William Crawley's interruptions.

The ISB was disbanded after Archbishops' Council said working relationships with its two board members, Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves, had broken down. Meg Munn, the board's chair, has also had her contract terminated.

The move – which Archbishop Stephen says is part of a two-stage plan to seek complete independence for the ISB – has been met with staunch opposition from both survivors and critics since the announcement.

Archbishop Stephen claims much of the criticism comes as a result of "misunderstanding" and suggests relationships with board members broke down after a meeting was leaked to the press. 

He said: "Sadly, there was a breakdown of communication, a breakdown of trust, which left us in a position where, in order to reach the stage to full independence that I recognise is completely needed, which I'm committed to working towards, sadly, we were not reaching it through this route.
“I was going to be chairing a meeting to mediate between the ISB and the Archbishop's Council, and the Council was served a dispute notice, which was leaked to the press two hours before the meeting happened. 
“I found out about it on Twitter.”

"This is not the way to work together towards a common goal. So sadly, the council reached the decision that did."

He continued: "We need to move towards proper independence. I can't say how sorry I am that this first stage hasn't worked. And frankly, it wasn't working from the beginning. We lost the first chair very, very quickly. I realise the survivor community will be very, very troubled right now, listening to all of this. I can only say that we will be working hard towards that full independence and that work has already begun."

He said the disbanding of the ISB was fundamental in ensuring a "reset" could happen because the board had been "getting in the way".

Speaking to Premier Christian News earlier this week, former board member Jasvinder Sanghera said she no longer had trust in the C of E's safeguarding abilities. She said: "I have to say that I have experienced a disregard for the wishes of the survivor community at every point I've tried to represent those views.

"I've been an advocate for victims and survivors for over three decades, and I have never experienced anything like this before. They [the church] just do not listen. It's not safe for those victims and survivors who are seeking justice and a place of safety. I cannot say with conviction that it is safe. 

"I have the experience of being on an independent safeguarding board for 19 months, and with my colleague, Steve Reeves, have tried to push this agenda forward. But we have been met with frustration at every point. That for me is an indicator of a lack of safety. You either want independence or you don't, which is precisely what we said to both Archbishops in November 2022.

"The fact that you have removed us, for me, is compelling evidence that you don't want independence."

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