The IICSA Report and the Diocese of London’s Safer Churches Strategy
Ad clerum from the Bishop of London
As I read last week’s report into the Anglican Church, by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, I felt anger, shame, regret, sorrow – all of these emotions, and more. My thoughts and prayers were, and still are, with the survivors brave enough to tell their stories to the Inquiry, and to those who were not. We have let them all down. For their sake, and for others, we cannot rest until we have built a safer church for everyone.
IICSA spoke of the culture that has existed within the Church of England, allowing abuse to take place unchecked, magnifying the pain and suffering experienced. The voices of survivors should play a key role in realising profound and lasting culture change, as well as improving our policy-making and holding us to account.
As you are aware, the Past Cases Review 2, which runs until Spring 2021, is now well-advanced within the Diocese of London. Two of the five episcopal areas have had their review completed, and the remaining areas are approximately 50% complete. Our PCR2 Reference Group meets monthly to review progress and is made up of professionals from survivor charities, the Metropolitan Police, a local authority representative from social care and an independent chair, in addition to senior clergy and the Diocesan Safeguarding Manager. Survivors have had the opportunity to work with us in a series of focus groups, or to meet with the independent reviewers to discuss how their case was handled. Anonymous feedback can be provided via a questionnaire, which will help to develop further our support services.
Survivors are also central to the work that the Centre for Public Scrutiny has been carrying out for us. A number of proposals have been made which include survivor representation on our Diocesan Safeguarding Steering Group, the development of a survivor panel, clearer identification of key accountabilities for safeguarding, and how we identify its impact. We are currently developing a set of key actions which will form the backbone of our Safer Churches Strategy (2021-2025) and we will be consulting with clergy safeguarding supporters, survivor charities NAPAC and Victim Support, the Centre for Public Scrutiny, and a survivor panel in the Autumn as we finalise that roadmap.
We recognise that in the past we have not done enough to prevent abuse and have not always responded well when abuse has been reported. We are profoundly sorry – recognising this means that we need to learn from the past and ensure that we change. Much progress has been made but there is still much we need to do to be true to our Christian calling.
The care and protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults involved in church activities is the responsibility of the whole church, and everyone who participates in the life of the church has a role to play. Last week’s IICSA report was another harrowing reminder of where we have failed in the past, but we must use it to spur us on – not to hold us back.