On Tuesday 6th October 2020 the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its full report into the Anglican Church. This follows the interim report, which was published in May 2019 focusing upon case studies from the Diocese of Chichester and the abuses by Bishop Peter Ball.
The report has led its concluding remarks by drawing clear attention to the significant deficits in culture and practice that have existed across the Anglican Church:
The Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within their midst. In the past, the system of child protection was under-resourced. Safeguarding personnel were at times ignored and their advice overlooked, in favour of protecting the reputation of clergy and the Church. During the Inquiry’s hearings, senior leaders in the Church apologised for its actions, recognising that failings identified by this investigation and other reviews were “profoundly and deeply shocking”.
The Inquiry have identified eight recommendations in conclusion to the 170 pages of summarised detail gained from the investigation. Whilst this the entire report makes for very sobering reading and rightly highlights the depths of failings that have been identified over many decades, it is positive that the Church of England have responded positively to it and have already committed themselves to the existing process of change and to further efforts following this publication.
The recommendations relate to the following areas of concern:
- The structure of safeguarding (Church of England)
- Revising clergy discipline (Church of England)
- The structure of safeguarding (Church in Wales)
- Record-keeping (Church in Wales)
- Information sharing between the Church of England and Church in Wales (both)
- Information sharing between the Church and statutory partners (both)
- Support for victims and survivors (both)
- Auditing (both)
Justin Humphreys (Chief Executive, Safeguarding) says: “Whilst the report highlights a number of serious concerns about safeguarding across the Anglican Church, the recommendations lack the sufficient weight and clarity that is needed. Many of the recommendations concern areas that are already in progress, and other areas have received little or no real attention at all. This seems like a missed opportunity to make some real progress with matters that have been problematic for too long.”
"Many victims, survivors and their advocates had been calling upon the Inquiry to make some clear and strong recommendations about matters such as mandatory reporting, changes to existing position of trust legislation, independent and external scrutiny, redress schemes and effective survivor engagement. Whilst it is understandable that many of these issues extend beyond the scope of just the Anglican Church, it is disappointing to not see greater attention given to them and some commitment to continued scrutiny through the remaining investigations being led by the Inquiry."
Humphreys adds: “It appears that rather than make concrete recommendations on some key issues that have been addressed in the strongest language within the report, the Inquiry has handed the task back to the Anglican Church to join the dots and fill in the gaps. With the best will in the world, this places them in an extremely difficult position and risks denying the required confidence to those that deserve it most – victims and survivors. Bishop Gibbs, Sellin and Faull and the NST along with the many committed Safeguarding Advisers within dioceses have a monumental task ahead of them and I genuinely wish them well in making tangible progress where many others have tried and failed”.
The Church of England and the Church in Wales will now hope to clearly and swiftly demonstrate their commitment to improvement and change. The determination that has been expressed by some senior leaders will now need to bear fruit as suggested in today’s statement from Archbishop Justin Welby:
“To fail on safeguarding casts a profound stain across every good thing we do. I have said this before and I continue to stand by it. But I am acutely aware as we come towards the end of this year that while there is a genuine commitment for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults to be the highest priority of all parts of the Church, it is evident we still have not got it right…”
Listen to this interview Justin gave to TWR UK following the release of the report on some of the challenges and opportunities it poses for those seeking to respond to the recommendations of the report: