The Bishop of Truro has told Premier there will be no limit on the amount the Church of England is prepared to spend on its redress scheme for survivors of church-related abuse.
Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen was speaking after the Church announced a £150 million scheme to "demonstrate in tangible and practical ways that the Church is truly sorry for its past failings relating to safeguarding."
In a statement on its website, the Church of England said its proposals are "about more than money; financial payments will be offered alongside therapeutic, spiritual and emotional support, acknowledgment of wrongdoing on the part of the Church, and apology and support for rebuilding lives."
All survivors of sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional abuse (including spiritual abuse) relating to the Church will be eligible to apply for redress.
Bishop Philip who chairs the church’s Redress Project Board told Premier :
“This scheme has been in development for quite some time. Now we want to bring people up to speed, help people know what it is that we've been doing and understand the direction of travel for the future.
“It’s our desire to produce a scheme that is fit for purpose and robust. This is a very, very complex piece of work. It needs to work across the whole of the Church of England.
“The scheme will be funded from multiple sources. Safeguarding is everyone's business and we can't outsource our moral responsibility to another party. So some of the money undoubtedly will come from public liability insurance policies, but the Church Commissioners have made this commitment to allocate 150 million pounds to front-load the scheme and kick start it.
“But it’s really important to say that the scheme is not limited to 150 million, this is not a ceiling towards which we will work. This is a significant contribution that the Church Commissioners are making to get the scheme up and running, but it will not be the only source of funding.”
The Bishop hasn’t ruled out individual dioceses being asked to contribute towards the scheme.
Survivors had criticised the figure of £150 million saying that at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in 2018 the Archbishop of Canterbury Most Rev Justin Welby cited a figure of around £200 million which had been referenced earlier by the then lead bishop for safeguarding Paul Butler.
Bishop Philip however clarified the situation :
“The key financial issue here is not what a headline figure might be, but the assurance that I want to give that we will put in place a proper process for the assessment of financial redress that will be based on a consistent, transparent process. There is no ceiling to this scheme.”
Asked whether this approach may lead to serious financial difficulty for the Church, Bishop Philip said :
“The Church of England faces many challenges but a lack of money centrally is not one of them. Certainly people will feel the pinch, we feel the pinch in our diocese, but essentially the Church of England's resources are significant.”
Survivors have given the scheme a cautious welcome but would like more details. Gilo, a survivor of clergy abuse told Premier :
“I think it's very light on detail. There's not much to it and it feels like they've only just left the starting gate. To be honest, they’ve had a lot of time to prepare and it feels like they haven't done a great deal.”
Julian Whiting who suffered abuse at a church-run boarding school gave his reaction to Premier :
“I'm nervously cautious to be honest. If there's a genuine desire now to reach out to the survivors, to get this nailed, well, that's a very good thing. But because of history, we're very nervous as survivors. But let's see, maybe the Lord has spoken to a lot of people in this field. This is an opportunity for bishops and the Archbishops’ Council to engage with survivors. We know it’s tough, but there's some lovely people out there.”
The Church of England says there will be a presentation and debate at the Church’s General Synod next month and it is hoped legislation will progress through Synod in forthcoming sessions after which it will need Parliamentary approval.