IICSA Investigation report: The Anglican Church
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”) has published its report into the Anglican Church in England and Wales following a series of hearings in 2019. In compiling its report and setting out its conclusions and recommendations, the Inquiry also used the investigation and reports from previous hearings in 2018 relating to Chichester Diocese and Bishop Peter Ball to assist them.
This investigation considered the extent to which the Church of England and the Church in Wales had historically protected children from sexual abuse. It also examined the effectiveness of current safeguarding arrangements such as governance, training, recruitment, leadership, reporting and investigation of child sexual abuse, disciplinary procedures and reparation.
Church of England
The Church of England is the largest Christian denomination in the country, with over a
million regular worshippers. The investigation noted that the culture of the Church of England had created a place where abusers could hide, forming an environment where alleged perpetrators were supported more than the victims which in turn created barriers to disclosure that many victims could not overcome. Despite there being specific legislation and guidance about child sexual abuse developed from the late 1980’s, the Church of England acknowledged that its child protection systems were inadequate at a national and diocesan level until 2013. Since then a number of safeguarding panels and groups have been created and now all dioceses have some form of safeguarding strategy or plan in place as well as a system for responding to and recording safeguarding concerns and allegations. However, whilst funding for safeguarding has increased significantly it still varies considerably between dioceses.
Church in Wales
The Church in Wales is a Province of the Anglican Communion. It has six dioceses, with 1,295
churches organised into 594 parishes. In 2018, the electoral roll showed more than 42,000 worshippers in the Church in Wales. Within the report, the Church in Wales was particularly criticised for not having enough safeguarding officers to carry out the work required; and in its attempts to try and understand past safeguarding issues the Inquiry found that record-keeping was almost non-existent.
Following the investigation, the Chair and Panel made the following recommendations. Some relate to the Church of England and the Church in Wales separately whereas others are applicable to both.
The Church of England should:
- Create the role of a diocesan safeguarding officer (DSO) to replace the current role of diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA). Diocesan safeguarding officers should have the authority to make decisions independently of the diocesan bishop in respect of key safeguarding tasks.
- Make changes and improvements to the way in which it responds to safeguarding complaints.
The Church in Wales should:
- Make clear that the operational advice of provincial safeguarding officers must be followed by all members of the clergy and other Church officers.
- Introduce record‑keeping policies relating to safeguarding, complaints and whistleblowing. These should be implemented consistently across dioceses.
Both the Church of England and the Church in Wales should:
- Agree and implement a formal information‑sharing protocol. This should include the sharing of information about clergy who move between the two Churches.
- Ensure, together with statutory partners that information‑sharing protocols are in place at a local level between dioceses and those statutory partners.
- Introduce a Church‑wide policy on the funding and provision of support to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse concerning clergy, Church officers or those with some connection to the Church. It should be mandatory for the policy to be implemented across all dioceses.
Finally, with specific reference to auditing of these recommended systems:
The Church in Wales should introduce independent external auditing of its safeguarding
policies and procedures, as well as the effectiveness of safeguarding practice in dioceses,
cathedrals and other church organisations. Audits should be conducted regularly and
reports should be published. The Church of England is already undertaking external audits and should continue to do so.
During the Inquiry’s hearings, senior leaders in the Church apologised, recognising that failings identified by this investigation and other reviews were “profoundly and deeply shocking”. However the Church has said that it is committed to “leading the way forward and pioneering
best practice in safeguarding, not just nationally but globally.” The report acknowledges that whilst some improvement has been made in recent years, the Anglican Church still has some way to go in order to rebuild and regain the trust of victims and survivors of abuse. It has been slow in its progression to find ways to engage effectively with victims and survivors or to learn from their experiences.
This report is not the final report relating to the Anglican Church. The Inquiry intends to publish further, separate, reports in relation to the seal of confession, mandatory reporting and how the disclosure and barring regime applies to volunteers and religious organisations. Those reports are not expected until spring 2022.
For more information, please contact Lauranne Nolan, Solicitor.