A compensation scheme for survivors of Church abuse has progressed to the next stage, aiming for final implementation by the end of 2024.
The church's legislative body, the General Synod, approved the first consideration of the draft Redress Measure on Tuesday, providing more details on the scheme's workings and the necessary steps before it becomes operational.
Introducing the measure to Synod, Bishop of Winchester, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, called on the Church, as a whole, to take responsibility for its past failures.
He said: “We bring before you today a draft of the Measure for first consideration which, together, we will all work on in coming months to attempt to convey our heartfelt contrition and deep repentance for the failings of the Church.
“We have harmed many people, and allowed many people to be harmed and we must respond to those people together.”
Details in the draft measure include the establishment of a single redress body to manage the compensation scheme, with the announcement of the selected body expected in early 2024 and the need to keep the voice of survivors at the centre of it.
The scheme would provide financial payments, therapeutic, spiritual, and emotional support, acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Church, and an apology, aiming to aid in rebuilding lives.
Concerns about the fund's sufficiency and financial strain on dioceses and parishes were raised during the debate but in a bid to address worries about affordability, a funding formula with a means test and a contribution cap has been devised for fair inclusion of every parish and local accountable body.
The Church Commissioners have already allocated and £150 million to be released once the “key parameters” of the scheme are in place.
Speaking to Premier ahead of the vote, lead bishop for safeguarding, Bishop Joanne Grenfell, said: “This is what the Church Commissioners have set aside and they have been really clear that it's not a ceiling.
“Part of the Redress Scheme is that there is likely to be a contribution, sometimes from insurance companies where insurance has been in place, also from parishes, where that's appropriate, though really carefully means tested, because you wouldn't want to put an unnecessary financial burden on a tiny parish that just didn't have that available money. The Church Commissioners are there to underwrite the scheme.”
She continued: “It's really important that for anyone making a claim under the Redress Scheme, that they don't have to worry about, what happens behind the front door, they just need to knock on the front door and say, This is my case…The point of the £150 million is that that's the minimum of underwrite in order to make sure that this can happen really smoothly and then the other organisations work out behind that door exactly who's paying which proportion of it.”
A further update on the scheme is anticipated in February, with the revised measure expected to return to Synod in July, followed by final drafting and approval stages.