News roundup: February 2021

05 February 2021, Thirtyone:eight

Here are our top safeguarding stories from February 2021. To access or view the full articles click on the link embedded in the title:

News headlines:

New research project to examine Covid-19's impact on safeguarding in churches 

Thirtyone:eight will work alongside the University of Chester to research the impact of Covid-19 on safeguarding in churches and other organisations. The study will look at the experiences of safeguarding leads in their roles within Christian faith contexts, with a view to comparing these before, during and after the pandemic. They will be asked about their roles, good practice, challenges, and the future of safeguarding post-Covid. It is hoped that the findings from the survey will help to understand their roles better and improve future safeguarding training and support.  

New public database to reveal details of every clergy member in the Church of England 

A new database which will contain the name and ministerial authority of every clergy member in the Church of England is set to go live in May. The database was initially recommended as part of the 2017 Gibb review. It will detail each cleric’s title and name, current post or licence, and the diocese, area, or benefice in which they are ministering.  

The register can be searched to verify that clergy members possess a valid licence to hold office or permission to officiate (PTO) - any member of the public will be free to conduct such a check. After the launch, the database will extend to including all lay ministry.  

Female child sex abuse 'remains taboo' while victims struggle 

Victims of female child sexual abusers face "enormous stigma and shame", according to police and charities. Figures from BBC Radio 4's File on 4 show there were over 10,400 reports of this type of abuse from 2015 to 2019 - equivalent to an average of 40 a week. Experts say there is still a "lack of understanding" about the extent of such abuse. 

The British government said it would not allow "any safe space for sex offenders to operate - male or female". Between 2015 and 2019, the numbers of reported cases of female-perpetrated child sexual abuse to police in England and Wales rose from 1,249 to 2,297 - an increase of 84%.  

Facebook under pressure to resume scanning messages for child abuse in the European Union 

Facebook has been criticised for shutting down its programme that scanned private messages for indications of child abuse in the European UnionRecent changes to the European commission’s e-privacy directive require messaging services to follow strict new restrictions on the privacy of message data. Facebook blamed that directive for shutting down the child protection operation.  

In the United Kingdom, which is no longer covered by the directive, Facebook continues to operate its scanning programme, as it does in the rest of the world.  

Northern Ireland mother-and-baby homes: Investigation promised into 'significant wrongs' 

The voices of survivors of mother-and-baby homes in Northern Ireland will be heard "loudly and clearly" with a new independent investigation, Arlene Foster has said. The first minister's comments follow the publication of a long-awaited report into mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland. The Stormont-commissioned research was carried out by Queen's University and Ulster University and examined whether a public inquiry should be held into the homes. Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was "really, really important that victims and survivors are at the centre of what comes next." 

Covid-19: Rise in suspected child abuse cases after lockdown 

The number of reported incidents of children dying or being seriously harmed after suspected abuse or neglect rose by a quarter after England's first lockdown last year, figures indicate. The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel received 285 serious incident notifications from April to September. This is an increase of 27% from 225 in the same period the previous year. The data also includes children who were in care and died, regardless of whether abuse or neglect was suspected.  

More than half of Church of England's parishes close for Sunday services amid Covid crisis 

Thousands of churches across Englandhave closed for services on Sundays amid concern about the risk of Covid-19 spreading among worshippers. Although the lockdown rules allow places of worship to remain open for communal services, the Church of England said more than half of England’s 12,500 parishes had taken the decision to shut their doors. 

Many mosques, synagogues and other places of worship have also decided to close in order to protect their congregations from the possibility of Covid transmission. Senior faith leaders have urged local places of worship to carefully consider the risks, and not open if they believe safety could be compromised. 

Religious settings second most common place for child abuse among institutions, after schools 

An inquiry into historical child sexual abuse has found that among over 5,000 people, schools were the most likely place for a child to have been abused if it was within an institution, followed by religious institutions and then children's homes. The Truth Project, which is part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, is documenting people's experiences so they can inform the recommendations in the IICSA's final report in 2022.  


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