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Church News

Safeguarding bishop admits Church of England needs 'root-and-branch change' to better support abuse survivors

by Premier Journalist

The bishop in charge of safeguarding for the Church of England has said that much more needs to be done in order to support victims of abuse.

Dr Jonathan Gibbs said for “root-and-branch change” a week after a collective of survivors, lawyers, academics, and members of the clergy and General Synod called on the chair of the Charity Commission to intervene and address “the failures of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to devise a safe, consistent and fair system of redress” for victims of abuse. 

Responding to the letter, Dr Gibbs, the Bishop of Huddersfield, backed the C of E's National Safeguarding Team (NST), though he said the systems employed by the Church to handle cases of abuse must be improved. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme this week, he said: “In one sense, I welcome this letter, because it adds weight to my desire to bring about the kind of root-and-branch change that we all long for: in particular in the way in which we respond to survivors, the way in which we deal with complaints, the way in which we change the culture of the Church.

The letter to the Charity Commission calls for an overhaul of the Church of England's safeguarding practice and policy ahead of a report on the C of E by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is due to be released in the autumn.

Gibbs added: "There is no doubt that, in the past, our systems have failed considerably, and that was made very clear during IICSA. That made very painful listening for all of us involved in the Church and our hearts go out to and our principle focus must be on survivors, and improving the way in which we respond to survivors.

"There is still a long way to go. There is a journey; but it is a journey to which we are absolutely committed...The direction of travel is going to be substantially influenced by the IICSA report when it comes out very shortly. We made clear our commitment to that journey of change especially in the debate at the General Synod back in February." 

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