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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Case Study: Archdiocese of Birmingham Investigation Report

C.6: COPCA and CSAS audits of the Archdiocese

64. In 2006, COPCA began auditing the Church, including the Archdiocese of Birmingham. The audit consisted of a self-assessment with a series of basic questions, including whether the Archdiocese had access to national procedures,[1] whether it had a commission that met quarterly and had an independent chair, and how many allegations it had received.[2]

65. The Archdiocese was also asked to provide COPCA with the number of volunteers required to have a CRB check. The answer given by the Archdiocese on the relevant form was “?”. The Archdiocese wrote:

Questions about CRB checks and Volunteers are very difficult for us to answer accurately. In this diocese other agencies also process some applications. At the moment we have no way of knowing the total number of volunteers at any given time and even if we were able to ascertain that number it would change on a daily basis. We also have some difficulty in identifying volunteers from the database because insufficient information was registered in the early days of use of the database.[3]

66. COPCA audited the self-assessment response.[4] A number of points of concern were highlighted, in particular, the Archdiocese’s inability to monitor how many CRB checks were outstanding for its volunteers. COPCA said “Without an approximate figure of total volunteers it is not known how many CRB checks (approximately) are outstanding”. Consequently, COPCA recommended that the Archdiocese should have an internal monitoring system that would monitor how many CRB checks were outstanding.

67. In 2009, the Chair of the NCSC, Bill Kilgallon, received a letter from Archbishop Nichols[5] which enclosed a paper written by Mrs Jones.[6] In this correspondence, the Archbishop queried whether it was necessary for everyone that fell within the scope of the CRB regime to undergo a CRB check, whether the confidential declaration form was excessive, and referred to a debate around the term ‘volunteer’. This latter point was connected to a passage in the enclosed paper which appeared to suggest that people ‘well known’ within the parish who took on parish roles should not be required to complete a CRB check.

68. This correspondence caused both the NCSC and Mr Child concern.[7] Mr Child was troubled because there appeared to him to be a suggestion from the Archdiocese that national standards did not need to be followed if people within parishes were known in the Church community.

69. As a result, the Archdiocese of Birmingham was selected again for audit. The 2009 audit was also a self-assessment which asked similar questions to 2006.[8] Again, the Archdiocese could not say how many volunteers[9] needed to be CRB checked. It did, however, record that 5,016 volunteers had been CRB checked.[10] CSAS wrote to the Archdiocese on 25 September 2009, noting that an internal monitoring system was still not in place and recommended that Mrs Jones take action in this regard.[11]

70. In 2010, CSAS audited the Archdiocese for a third time to determine compliance with CSAS guidelines and other relevant safeguarding practices. In its self-assessment, the Archdiocese considered that it met the highest standards in all but two areas.[12]

71. The findings of the CSAS audit were rather different. The Archdiocese was assessed as either ‘not compliant’ or ‘improvements needed’ in every area of two sections concerning ‘Induction, supervision, support and training’ and ‘Casework and recording practice’. As regards the third section – ‘CRB and safer recruitment practice’ – the Archdiocese was fully compliant in all but two of the seven areas inspected.[13] There was no reference to the establishment of an internal monitoring system in this audit.

72. The failings included:

72.1. In relation to record keeping, the case files had no obvious structure and notes were unsigned, and in some cases undated. The Archdiocese was one of only two dioceses where cases had to be referred back to the Commission for urgent review because the way the cases were managed caused immediate concern.[14]

72.2. A lack of understanding between the Safeguarding Commission and the safeguarding coordinator about their respective roles and responsibilities.[15] There was “no structured adherence to ‘responding to allegations’ procedure”, the “role of safeguarding coordinator [was] blurred eg advocate for victim, for accused, risk manager, pastoral support provider etc?”, and “in 1 case [an] indication that not all potentially relevant information was shared with the statutory agencies”.[16]

73. Mr Child felt the Archdiocese was reluctant to be audited and that, following the delivery of the audit report, “there was quite a lot of discontent expressed”.[17] However, in due course, the Commission met with Mr Child and the mood was more positive. An action plan was prepared by a member of the Commission to deal with the shortcomings[18] and the Commission provided the NCSC with an update on the actions taken in response to the audit.[19]

74. The audits demonstrate that some progress had been made by the Archdiocese. For example, over 5,000 volunteers had been CRB checked, which was clearly a large and onerous task. However, the audits also uncovered a number of fundamental problems within the Archdiocese. It was of particular concern that relevant information in one case may not have been shared with the statutory authorities. Case files were in a disordered state. A decade after the Nolan report, the Archdiocese had not put in place effective systems of record keeping and the 2010 audit found deficiencies within each of the three areas[iicsa-references:{"title":"‘Induction, supervision support and training’, ’Casework and recording practice’ and ‘CRB and safer recruitment practice’","url":"","text":""}.] that were reviewed.

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