Diocesan Synod this month formally adopted the ‘Safeguarding Matters’ policy, which all parishes received last year. We spoke to Archdeacon Ricky, the Bishop’s Core Lead on safeguarding, about why this is a vital time to review how we keep everyone in our communities safe.
Q: What makes this an opportune moment for everyone in our diocese with responsibility for safeguarding?
The Church of England is an early participant in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, known as the Goddard Inquiry. This will focus on how well we have handled historic allegations of abuse, and what lessons we have learned in the process.
We will be challenged on our past cases reviews and on our response to survivors of abuse. We are going to have to look even more carefully and, if our processes have been less than totally diligent, we will have to come clean, learn from it and develop new practices. It's a lot of work, but it is important work to show a positive response in a vital area. We're gearing up for this - but we need all parishes to be responding positively as well.
Q: What does this mean for our diocese?
It means a programme of meetings and very tight deadlines in which huge amounts of information must be provided. Our safeguarding team has been preparing, but it comes as a major additional burden on a team that’s stretched anyway in meeting current safeguarding demands.
What about training for Clergy, Readers and Parish Volunteers
This is incredibly important. This year
all our Readers have to undergo three hours of face to face training for their licences to remain valid,
all clergy need to have six hours every three years on a rolling programme,
plus the hundreds of parish volunteers and workers who also need to access appropriate training
We have our online safeguarding training
which should make it easier to do the basics
But it is vital that everyone in every church takes personal responsibility for their training and meets, at the very least, the basic requirements. We will hold everyone accountable for that
Q: Then there is the Safeguarding audit - Safeguarding's Ofsted
Yes, in July this year our diocese will be audited by an external organisation- a Safeguarding Ofsted.The nationally commissioned team wil spend three days examining all aspects of our current practices – our implementation of policies and procedures around recruitment, record-keeping, management of known offenders and particularly how we are rolling out these practices across all our parishes and churches.
We’ve already started meeting to plan our response, which includes an internal audit - a lengthy questionnaire about every aspect of our Safeguarding Team’s work.
We really hope every parish will take the opportunity to review their practices over the next few months, as the auditors will visit several parishes as part of their enquiries.
Q: How has the national Church responded to the safeguarding issue?
In the current climate of publicity over serial abusers who have misused their celebrity status, as well as horrific revelations about grooming gangs in towns and cities, and sadly high profile cases involving clergy, some very senior, it’s not surprising that the national Church sees this as an important area to get right and do well. And we want the Diocese of Liverpool to be at the forefront of a positive response.
So what was a one-person outfit a few years ago is now a major team in London guiding the transformation of the church towards becoming a safer place for everyone.
Q: What does this mean for our parishes?
Every parish must follow best practice with regard to safeguarding policies and procedures. There is no excuses, there can be no exceptions. If you are responsible for safeguarding in your parish you must keep on top of safeguarding.
We must sharpen up our recruitment of those looking after children and young people, address the vulnerability of many adults, and be aware of the prevalence of domestic violence, internet abuse and bullying. And the whole area of support for victims and survivors of abuse is one where I believe we have much to learn, through listening and finding ways of caring appropriately.
Q: How can the diocese help?
Up to now our minitoring of safeguarding practices in our parishes has been what we learn through training sessions, statements in Annual Reports, and the Archdeacon’s Parish Reviews.
From now we will make sure all Parish Reviews will involve a much more thorough questionnaire, which a Parish Safeguarding Lead (PSL) will need to complete.
So your parish will need to identify who that person is - it may be a co-ordinator or a verifier or another person with the necessary skills. We hope that as the questionnaires come in, our Safeguarding Team will be able to respond effectively to parishes’ particular needs or requests.
You can download your questionnaire and start that process now.
Every parish must take the opportunity to review their practices as the external auditors will visit several parishes as part of their enquiries.