The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are being accused of kicking the issue of safeguarding 'into the long grass', by a member of the Church of England's General Synod.
Martin Sewell who is a former child protection lawyer, says he is furious at what he claims is a lack of progress on implementing reforms recommended by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
Speaking to Premier he said that the Archbishops have been reluctant to debate or respond to concerns from members of the Independent Safeguarding Board - and that a crucial opportunity was missed at this month's meeting of the General Synod in London :
“I think it was pushed off the agenda frankly. All we had at the very end of Synod when quite a lot of people were leaving to go back to Carlisle and Truro and Norwich was a presentation where we were told about work-streams.”
Sewell says that although the new National Director of Safeguarding did address the Synod, members of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) wanted an opportunity to outline their frustrations over their view that the Church of England’s culture is hampering an effective safeguarding service. They claim the ISB is not sufficiently independent from those it is scrutinising to be able to provide effective oversight.
Premier understands that the ISB members were given the opportunity to attend a fringe meeting about their concerns but felt it was too important and needed to be heard by the whole of General Synod.
Sewell says a document from a number of survivors detailing from their perspective the action the church still needs to take should also have been heard.
During the meeting, Sewell asked the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell directly whether they would break into the agenda to address safeguarding concerns. He says they had done so on matters of Brexit and the General Election, over which Synod has no responsibilities :
“I said we have a safeguarding crisis with the Independent Safeguarding Board telling us that they are unable to do their job properly. Everybody necessary to put this right is sitting here in the room right now. Will you please break into the agenda? Give us half an hour so that we can just tick off that we've noted the problem. We want to discuss it in July. We want an auditor’s report to tell us objectively why we got it so badly wrong last time. And the Archbishops sat on their hands and did nothing.
“When we look to the wider society who we are seeking to evangelise with the good news of Jesus Christ, we have two problem areas. One is our attitude to sexuality. The other thing that comes up time and time again, is that you can't even handle your abuse victims decently. You don’t want to know what went wrong and that is a big issue. I’m afraid the church at February Synod just declined, kicked it into the long grass and my survivor contacts will all say that that is what the church always does.”
In a statement to Premier, a Church of England spokesperson said : "Safeguarding is taken very seriously by General Synod and is included in every session which this time was dedicated to hearing form the new national director. The ISB participated in the last session of Synod and the Business Committee has noted their desire to present in July."