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World News

Former IICSA chair to develop independent safeguarding model for CofE

by Donna Birrell

The former chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Professor Alexis Jay, is to develop proposals for a fully independent structure to provide scrutiny of safeguarding in the Church of England.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have welcomed today’s announcement saying it will help the Church move quickly towards independent and resilient oversight of it's safeguarding. 

Professor Jay will be supported by the former secretary to IICSA , John O’Brien. 

Most Rev Justin Welby and Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, said: “We are very pleased that Professor Jay has agreed to take on this vital role to ensure we move quickly towards objective, independent, credible and resilient oversight of safeguarding in the Church of England. This work will be entirely in their hands and fully external and independent; we will welcome the scrutiny and challenge that rightly comes with that.

"As Archbishops we pledged to work as quickly as we can to get independent oversight of safeguarding back on track. We continue to reflect on recent events and this development is an important part of our safeguarding work with victims and survivors, children and vulnerable adults, as we make the Church a safer place for all.

"This proposal was discussed in depth at this week’s Archbishops’ Council and there was collective agreement about this being an important next step in the work on independent scrutiny.

"We have asked Professor Jay to give us independent and rigorous recommendations for achieving this urgent and vital outcome.”

Survivors of church-related sexual abuse have been critical in recent years about what they have perceived as a lack of independent safeguarding scrutiny in the Church of England. In the last few weeks, the Church disbanded its Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) by sacking its two board members Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves. Together with survivors they had been critical of what they called church interference in it's work.

Responding to today's announcement, Gilo who is a survivor and co-editor of Letters to a Broken Church told Premier:

"Will Professor Jay fight for justice from her first week in post? And will she hold Archbishops' Council clearly and publicly to account for its misconduct in the treatment of all survivors in both withdrawing support from people in very vulnerable situations at less than an hour's notice? No-one has yet been held to account for any of this misconduct."

Professor Jay and John O’Brien will publish their new report by the end of the year with a direct recommendation as to what a new body of safeguarding will look like. They’ll provide options and recommendations for forming an independent safeguarding scrutiny body for the Church of England and make recommendations for how further independence of safeguarding might be achieved. They will consult widely with stakeholders both inside and outside the church. 

The Archbishops’ Council, House of Bishops and General Synod will consider the final report and debate the recommendations. They then propose to consult the same individuals about implementing the chosen model so that the establishment of the body is accomplished with the same degree of independence.

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