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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

D.4: Parish review

15. Archbishop Longley explained that the original intention was for SCIE to also conduct a review of safeguarding work at parish level. Timescales were such that SCIE was unable to undertake this work and so Jan Pickles was asked to conduct the parish review.

16. Between September and October 2018, Mrs Pickles visited six parishes chosen at random from a cross‑section of socio‑economic and geographic backgrounds. She met with clergy and other parish volunteers, and she observed two children’s liturgies and four masses.

17. The review found that, across the range of parishes visited, “within the Parish everyone was completely committed to the principle and importance of safeguarding”.[1] The parish safeguarding representatives had backgrounds in professions where safeguarding had either been their job or a significant element of their job.

18. Although most people were not able to describe the Archdiocese’s policies and procedures in any detail, most people were aware of the safeguarding team and said they would contact the team if they were concerned about a child. They spoke positively about the team, in particular about Jane Jones and the support she provided. Those spoken to did not consider that the Archdiocese’s website was easy to use and there was limited awareness of the CSAS website.[2]

19. One area of concern at parish level was what was described in the report as “The ability to identify risk”.[3] Mrs Pickles found that most lay and ordained members of the parish were aware of the need to ensure that children were not left alone with a priest and to be careful in situations where they may encounter a lone child. What was not evident, however, was an ability to identify behaviours that might indicate that a child was being groomed or sexually exploited. For example, when asked ‘what would you do if you had a concern?’, all those asked stated that they would contact the safeguarding team. As the review acknowledges, this “is the right thing to do”. However, Mrs Pickles did not observe any evidence that indicators of abuse (such as missed appointments or changes in behaviour) might be picked up and acted upon. Training to identify that a child is being abused is an essential feature of safeguarding.

20. Jan Pickles considered that there was a high level of dependence on the safeguarding team and notably on Jane Jones.

The Safeguarding Unit is a limited resource and does not appear to meet the level of demands that are made on it.”[4]

Jane Jones did not accept this, saying “I think we have met the demands placed on us pretty well for a long time”.[5]

21. The parish review states that the practical effect of this demand was that other areas of work, such as updating and simplifying the policies and procedures or referral forms that were to be used in the parishes, could not be undertaken. Jane Jones rejected the suggestion that she or the safeguarding team was responsible for simplifying policies and procedures, saying “That’s a CSAS role”.[6] Having undertaken her role as child protection and safeguarding coordinator for a number of years, Mrs Jones felt the reports were critical of her. She displayed a reluctance to accept the problems uncovered by the reports.[7]

22. The SCIE report has recommended that where the safeguarding coordinator and assistant safeguarding coordinator are qualified social workers, they ought to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to help professionalise the role within the Archdiocese.

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