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World News

Safeguarding charity calls for more clarity on Jay recommendations for CofE

by Donna Birrell

The independent Christian safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight (31:8) has said more clarity is needed around new recommendations into Church of England safeguarding.

The charity has responded to the Future of Church Safeguarding in the Church of England report which was published earlier this week. Its author, Professor Alexis Jay made two main recommendations into how to ensure that there is fully independent safeguarding within the Church. She said two independent charities should be established – one would deliver all Church safeguarding activities, the other would be responsible for providing scrutiny and oversight of safeguarding.

However, while 31:8 welcomes the report, it says it’s concerned about the recommendation that operational responsibility for safeguarding should be removed from the Church.

Joint CEO Justin Humphreys said: “We believe that removing operational safeguarding from the Church risks a belief that safeguarding is no longer their responsibility. This may lead to unintended consequences due to gaps in ownership, understanding, and practice. If responsibility for safeguarding is perceived to lie elsewhere, it could weaken efforts to foster safe, healthy church cultures”.

He added that there must also be a process of support to address inadequacies and ensure safety.

“We believe that scrutiny and accountability work best where there is also support,” Humphreys said. “It is not adequate to only identify what is not working, there also needs to be wisdom and support in rectifying any areas that are inadequate or unsafe.”

The charity said the complex structure of the Church makes operational safeguarding a significant challenge with many in the Church believing it “gets in the way” of ministerial duties, and others reporting it is widely misused. 31:8 said it wants clarity on how an external body would be able to address these internal issues on a day-to-day basis, at all levels.

It's also concerned about the practicality and length of implementing the proposals and fears it would risk "more safeguarding gaps and lapses”.

“Further delays to effective safeguarding practices also risk re-traumatising those already harmed,” the charity said in a statement.

31:8 said it is also disappointed that the Jay report did not expressly support the use of the term “spiritual abuse”.

“While we understand that it is a complex issue, we believe that spiritual abuse is distinct from other forms of abuse and is a valid term to use,” it said.

“It remains our position that the Church of England should continue to recognise spiritual abuse as a unique form of abuse and as a distinct expression of emotional and psychological abuse. To not recognise the religious context in which it happens fails to acknowledge the trauma and harm already experienced.”

However, the organisation said it is encouraging the Church of England to give very careful consideration to all the recommendations made in the report.

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