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World News

Safeguarding consultation begins in new drive to achieve independent scrutiny of CofE

by Donna Birrell

A consultation has just begun in a bid to develop fully independent safeguarding in the Church of England.

It will take place over the next two months and be published by the end of December.

Professor Alexis Jay, the former chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), is leading the consultation as head of the new Future Church Safeguarding Programme. She and her team will visit six dioceses and conduct interviews with staff and stakeholders from within the church and outside as well as survivors of abuse. The dioceses - Newcastle, Exeter, Coventry, London, Portsmouth and Carlisle - have been selected in the hope of representing a diverse range of views across England.

Emails have been sent inviting people to take part: “If you or others live in these dioceses and are able to travel to these locations, you’ll be able to express interest in participating.”

The team, which also includes former IICSA secretary John O’Brien, has also launched an online survey which is said to take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete.

The Future Church Safeguarding Programme was established in July after the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) was disbanded. Former board members had criticised the Church saying it had interfered with its work and hampered attempts to achieve independent scrutiny.

Professor Jay said :

"The need to introduce a genuinely independent safeguarding model for the Church of England as soon as possible cannot be overstated. The views of those with recent experience of abuse, people who work or volunteer within the church, and others who have had cause to engage with the existing processes must inform this process if it is to be truly independent, fair, impartial, and effective.

“I hope that the diocesan visits and the online survey will help to build a full picture of people’s experiences of current safeguarding arrangements and of what will be needed in a future model. I look forward to hearing these views and using this process to help shape the recommendations I will make to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.”

The Future Church Safeguarding Programme says contributions are particularly welcome from anyone with experience of church safeguarding processes within the last five years, including victims and survivors of abuse, or their parents/carers; members of the clergy; church staff and volunteers; members of congregations and members of the public.

Martin Sewell, a former child protection lawyer and a member of General Synod, has given his reaction to Premier :

" There have been a few early technical glitches but overall I have confidence that the Jay Review is being professionally and independently managed. That said, there is still considerable wariness amongst the the aftermath of the ISB collapse. They thought they were getting “ the real deal” then. They remain alienated and unsupported, so nobody can blame them if they are not greeting these announcements with acclamation.

"I think you can have a fast answer, a thorough investigation or a cheap process but you cannot have all three. If Prof Jay wants a quick path to a well received outcome, then in my view the only show in town is an independent Regulator overseen by a Board comprised of a majority of non-CofE Trustees. The Church must follow standards imposed from outside which are no less rigorous than those found in secular safeguarding contexts.

"I fear that the Church Establishment will fight very hard to protect itself from this; we are a long way off a good outcome."

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