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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report

Contents

H.4: Safe Spaces project

31. In 2013, the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales and the Church of England were considering – independently – the establishment of a service to enable victims and survivors to obtain pastoral support. Following discussions in 2015 between the national safeguarding leads for both Churches, the Churches decided to jointly procure an independent organisation to deliver the Safe Spaces project.[1] Safe Spaces is intended to “provide an independent national hub and local community network of therapeutic support services”.[2] This will include a national helpline operating five days a week (with some evening and weekend access), access to online counselling, and some advocacy provision for victims and survivors. Dr Colette Limbrick, Director of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS), said there would also be provision for small grants to develop localised services for the benefit of victims and survivors of abuse.[3]

32. Stephen Spear (a lay member of the NCSC from June 2016 to July 2019) was critical of the time taken to implement this project. He said:

Well, there is normal time and there is church time, and it is very, very, very slow and laborious … Safer Spaces, you know, five years after deciding, it’s still not up and running. In essence, it is a relatively simple helpline and support service that, in the normal course of events, I would have expected certainly within 12 months, if not within six to nine months, and we are still not there, after five years.[4]

33. At the public hearing in 2019, the Inquiry was told that the tender process was underway.[5] and that the “anticipated date” of commencement for Safe Spaces was February 2020.[6] In April 2020, the Inquiry was informed that the shortlisted bidder could not fulfil the project’s requirements and so further providers were sought and were in the process of being interviewed.[7]

34. Safe Spaces did not commence until September 2020. As stated in the Inquiry’s Anglican Church Investigation Report, the Church has been too slow in its progression of this project.[8]

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