News roundup: September 2019

01 October 2019, Thirtyone:eight

Here are our top safeguarding stories from September 2019.  To access or view the full articles click on the link embedded in the title:

>> Safeguarding becomes number one whistleblowing disclosures to Charity Commission

The Charity Commission published a report outlining their approach to whistleblowing and the type of disclosures reported from 2018 to 2019, with safeguarding being the number one issue. The report explained what the Charity Commission did in response to the disclosures and how they contributed to their regulatory work. The commission stated it believed this increase was probably influenced by the high profile nature of safeguarding incidents emerging from the charity sector this year, which may have encouraged others to come forward with concerns. Importantly the report now also includes disclosures made by charity volunteers as well as workers.

>> Learning from survivors of church sexual abuse

David and Yvonne Shemmings of the University of Kent shared their findings from their research into abuse by the clergy in Chichester Diocese. They said by listening to and learning from survivors’ experiences, practitioners are in a strong position to recognise signs of abuse and find ways to support victims to disclose what is happening and protect them, as well as gain the trust of survivors in order to help and support them. 

>> Jonathan Fletcher ‘has minimised allegations’ made against him

A group of clerics has condemned the public response of the Reverend Jonathan Fletcher to allegations made against him. The allegations involve physical beatings, reminiscent of the beatings administered by John Smyth. Mr Fletcher, who was Minister of Emmanuel Ridgway Proprietary Chapel, Wimbledon, from 1982 to 2012, has admitted that beatings took place, but has described them as “light-hearted forfeits” in a “system of mutual encouragement.” The clerics said he “continues his self-deception” and is attempting to “feign astonishment that anyone should find his blatantly bizarre and abusive behaviour inappropriate”. Thirtyone:eight have been asked by the Diocese of Southwark to offer an independent, confidential helpline for anyone affected by the recent allegations.

>> Hollywood film credited for rise in abuse allegations against Catholic priests

The Catholic Church has seen a 50 per cent rise in abuse allegations made by adults. Phil Johnson, chairman of the support group, Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said the rise was primarily due to increased awareness on reporting abuse. He said the 2015 film, Spotlight, which depicted the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered widespread sexual abuse of children by the clergy, also helped to raise awareness. The film starred Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams and won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

>> Inquiry finds Catholic Diocesan ‘failed’ to safeguard beneficiaries

Trustees of the Birmingham Diocesan Trust are responsible for “mismanagement and/or misconduct” in the administration of charity over “failings in the oversight and governance of safeguarding”, the Charity Commission has found. The Trust, which oversees the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, and provides services accessed weekly by around 60,000 people, has been investigated by the Charity Commission over concerns about its record on safeguarding, which came to light when the charity was selected as a case study by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

>> Trustee who failed to act on knowledge of ‘serious abuse’ permanently banned

A trustee has been permanently removed by the Charity Commission after "failing to respond appropriately to serious abuse" within a charity called Rigpa Fellowship. A statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission found that trustee Susan Burrows “had knowledge of instances and allegations of improper acts and sexual and physical abuse against students at the charity, but failed to take appropriate action in response.” The Commission has been engaging with Rigpa Fellowship since August 2017 over serious concerns about adult safeguarding.

>> One third of church youth workers do not have a relevant qualification, new survey shows

A new survey commissioned by the Bishop of Leicester, has found that one third of youth and children’s workers in the UK — mostly in the Church of England — do not have a relevant qualification. The report Terms and Conditions of Salaried Workers Survey was published in advance of Youth Work Sunday and  states: “CPD [Continuing Professional Development training] is offered, piecemeal, depending on the diocese a youth worker might be in — unless they seek their own development, and pay for it themselves, few are afforded the kind of training they might value and that would enhance their ministry work.”  More than 630 people took part in the survey which was conducted earlier this year by a youth and children’s ministry consultant.  

>> Sally Challen on being coercively controlled by the husband she killed

In 2010, Sally Challen battered her husband to death with a hammer after years of being psychologically and physically abused by him. He controlled every aspect of her life – refusing to let her keep her salary, belittling her appearance, and raping her. When she finally snapped, she spent nine years in prison for his murder. But in 2015 the law changed, making “coercive control” an offence. In a landmark case, in which she was supported by her two sons, Mrs Challen appealed her conviction and finally walked free in June this year. Channel 4 talks to her about her experiences.