Church’s safeguarding procedures under review
THE CHURCH’S insurer, Ecclesiastical (EIG), was this week facing allegations that it had advised bishops to sever ties with a victim of clerical sexual abuse in order ‘to protect the Anglican Church’.
Conclusions to the independent Elliott review, commissioned in September 2015, said that the victim had made several attempts to secure help from the Church, but concluded that the practice in this case ‘falls short’. In this case in question a disclosure of alleged abuse had been made several times by the victim.
“The reviewer holds the main policy document for the Church in high regard. Unfortunately, practice in this case does not comply with what is contained in this policy. It falls short of it in that it did not place the pastoral needs of the survivor in a position of priority. Financial interests were allowed to impact practice,” the report states.
The independent review found that the victim made a legal claim for compensation but that the letter was not passed on to Lambeth Palace. The review noted that the Church hierarchy felt ‘shackled by its advisers with regard to financial consideration’.
The conclusion also notes that the current safeguarding structure of the Church does not allow for a body that is outside of the diocese but within the Church to intervene and seek change where this is considered necessary.
The conclusions also note that the review was commissioned by the Church itself.
An EIG spokesman said that the advice given to the victim ‘that communications about the claim had to be made through his lawyer’, “was not intended to deflect the Church from any wish or intention to provide direct pastoral or counselling care.”
The report puts forward a series of 11 recommendations. Among these are that the Church should seek to create written-down guidance with regard to how it will respond to claims for compensation from survivors and that emphasis should be placed on ensuring that financial considerations are not given a priority that conflicts with the pastoral aims of the Church when engaging with survivors of abuse.
The report also recommends that the National Safeguarding Team should be given the power and responsibility to monitor practice and to intervene where it is thought necessary to do so. It cannot do this if it is limited to an advisory role alone.
“The reviewer would believe that this can be achieved without diminishing the authority of the bishop in their diocese if carefully constructed and approached as part of the structure of the Church as a whole body”.
The Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally, who received the report, issued a statement saying: “This report has published a series of important recommendations. The Archbishop of Canterbury has seen these recommendations and will ensure they are implemented as quickly as possible”.