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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report

Contents

G.3: Audits carried out during the case studies

8. In preparation for the public hearings in the case studies, both the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) and the Archdiocese of Birmingham commissioned external audits or reviews of their own safeguarding practices and teams.

8.1. Ampleforth: In addition to scheduled inspections by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and an unsatisfactory statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission, in 2017 Ampleforth’s trustees commissioned Professor Susan Proctor to conduct an independent external review into child protection policies and practices at Ampleforth Abbey and school.[1] The Proctor report (published in March 2017) concluded that safeguarding “was taken seriously”, with “robust” policies for the recruitment and selection of staff, appropriate staff training and regular safeguarding training for the monastic community.[2] However, it stated that “No one is in overall charge of safeguarding for the organisation” and there was no safeguarding strategic plan for the school or the wider organisation.[3] Ampleforth accepted Professor Proctor’s 90 recommendations and told us that it “will in the future commission similar periodic independent external reviews”.[4]

8.2. Downside: In February and March 2018 (following our public hearings in the Ampleforth and Downside case study), the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) conducted an audit of safeguarding at Downside Abbey and the inter-relationship between the school and Abbey.[5] It found a “good safeguarding culture” at the school but that the culture was “less well-embedded” at the Abbey.[6] An examination of 14 cases “gave a reassuring picture of responses” with most cases (including non-recent abuse cases) “handled well”.[7] The audit identified some areas of practice requiring further consideration, including the need for Downside to consider “proper levels of disciplinary action in low-level cases” and whether the Abbey should appoint its own safeguarding professional.[8]

8.3. Birmingham: The Archdiocese of Birmingham commissioned an audit by SCIE in summer 2018. Its report (published in October 2018) identified a number of failures by the Archdiocese, including failures to adhere to CSAS policies and to adequately record work on case files. SCIE concluded that “a radical culture change is needed in order to professionalise the leadership, governance, management and delivery of safeguarding in the Archdiocese”.[9] SCIE identified 43 safeguarding files (the majority relating to adult offenders convicted of a sexual crime against a child or adult) that were incomplete and had not been reviewed.[10] Although the Archdiocese took some action in respect of these files, “the trustees were unable to provide the [Charity] Commission with sufficient assurance that all live risks were being managed as promptly and robustly as should be expected”.[11] As a result, the Charity Commission conducted a statutory inquiry between December 2018 and September 2019, which found “serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration … in relation to its safeguarding oversight and governance”.[12] It directed the trustees to “take further action necessary to address ongoing concerns with safeguarding governance”.[13]

8.4. Ealing: During the Ealing Abbey hearing, we were told that the safeguarding practices of all EBC monasteries, including Ealing Abbey, would be audited by summer 2019 by Praesidium (a secular, non-profit safeguarding organisation based in the US).[14] The preliminary status report (dated 4 September 2019) for Ealing Abbey found that across the risk management areas of “Prevention, Responding and Supervision”, the Abbey was either in full or partial compliance with Praesidium’s accreditation standards.[15]

9. The external audits of the EBC and Archdiocese of Birmingham were conducted at a time when CSAS was not carrying out its own audits and so it is not possible to say whether a CSAS audit would have identified the same (or similar) areas of good and bad practice.

References

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