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Church News

Independent Safeguarding Board for CofE to ‘reset’ following ‘broken relationships’ with trustees

by Kelly Valencia

The Archbishop’s Council has announced that the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) will cease to exist as the relationship between two of the trustees and the Council have “broken down”.

Created in 2021, the ISB was established to scrutinise the Church’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) work and hold the Church accountable for safeguarding matters. It follows recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The Archbishop of Canterbury and York acknowledged the decision is a “serious setback” that will “damaged confidence” but “believe this is the only way to get independent oversight of safeguarding back on track and move forward as quickly as we can”.

They said: “We bitterly regret that we have reached this point, and the Archbishops’ Council has not reached this decision lightly. We know this is a serious setback and we do not shy away from that – we lament it.

“But it is clear that there is no prospect of resolving the disagreement and that it is getting in the way of the vital work of serving victims and survivors. So the Council has very reluctantly concluded that we need a reset so that we can move swiftly towards a new scrutiny body that is fully independent of the Church.

“And in the immediate term, we want to reassure victims and survivors that the work of independent case reviews will not stop.”

Earlier this year, Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves, who sat on the Board, accused the Church of “interfering” with their work and described working with church officials as “an uphill battle and unnecessarily challenging”.

Last month, they served the Council with a formal dispute resolution notice, sharing their frustration with the Council saying it continued to frustrate their work.

Several survivors had also raised concerns about the ISB’s independence – concerns that were aggravated by the appointment of former govern minister Meg Munn, whom they believed created a significant conflict of interest and called for her to stand down. 

The announcement said that “interim arrangements” will be put in place to “continue the independent oversight of existing case reviews”.

“Those reviews will be carried out by independent experts qualified to conduct case reviews, just as at present, and they will be independently commissioned.

“In the very immediate future, we have asked Meg Munn to provide business continuity for the remaining business of this phase of the ISB’s work. Case reviews will be overseen by one or more independent chairs of Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels,” the statement read.

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