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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report


D.1: Conclusions in respect of the Church of England

1. The Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within their midst. In the past, the system of child protection was under-resourced. Safeguarding personnel were at times ignored and their advice overlooked, in favour of protecting the reputation of clergy and the Church. During the Inquiry’s hearings, senior leaders in the Church apologised for its actions, recognising that failings identified by this investigation and other reviews were “profoundly and deeply shocking”.[1]

2. Since the publication of the Archbishop’s Visitation to the Diocese of Chichester in 2013 much has improved, in terms of governance, training, audit, personnel, policies and procedures. However, there is still more to be done. Senior leaders have demonstrated a determination to make necessary changes to keep children safe but, to be effective, this determination needs to be translated into action throughout the Church of England. There is a lack of challenge in decision-making; there remain areas of insufficient oversight. Engagement with and support for victims and survivors requires improvement.

Engaging with victims and survivors

3. The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) final overview report, published in July 2019 following an extensive programme of audits, found that the Church of England is yet to regain fully the trust of those who have been abused. It has been slow to find ways to engage effectively with victims and survivors or to learn from their experiences.

4. The Safe Spaces project, which was first proposed six years ago as an online resource and national helpline for survivors in partnership with the Catholic Church, has taken too long to implement.

Safeguarding policies and practices

5. Prior to 2013 (and the publication of the report of the Archbishop’s Visitation to the Diocese of Chichester), many of the Church of England’s safeguarding policies had significant weaknesses and implementation of those policies was patchy.

6. The review and redraft of the policies by the National Safeguarding Team since 2015 has been comprehensive. For example, the Parish Safeguarding Handbook (launched in 2019) and the e-safeguarding manual help to reinforce and simplify the safeguarding message.[2]

7. There are still improvements to be made to the development of policies and practice. The comments made by SCIE[3] and by Mrs Edina Carmi during the course of this investigation, including that the volume of guidance has created some confusion and should be rationalised into one simple and accessible set of procedures, merit consideration by the Church in order to see whether any action should be taken.

The structure of safeguarding in the Church of England

8. The Church of England has struggled to develop a model for effective safeguarding within its organisational structure. The building blocks of the Church are the dioceses. The Church of England has not resolved the need for safeguarding to function at a diocesan level with the requirement for sufficient accountability to and oversight from the National Safeguarding Team to ensure consistency of decision-making.

9. Effective safeguarding is required at parish, diocesan and Church-wide levels. The model suggested by Mr Colin Perkins, the Chichester diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA), provides a helpful starting point for the Church to consider. In particular, Mr Perkins’ suggestion that the DSA should become a diocesan safeguarding officer (DSO). The change in title is significant. It indicates that DSOs should be taking decisions, not only providing advice. It is essential that operational decisions about safeguarding are made by safeguarding professionals.

10. DSOs need sufficient authority to take action, without the approval of the diocesan bishop, in respect of key safeguarding tasks, in particular:

  • reporting all safeguarding matters to statutory authorities;
  • managing or commissioning lessons learned reviews;
  • commissioning investigations;
  • commissioning and instructing risk assessments during or following safeguarding investigations;
  • ensuring that pastoral support is given to complainants in safeguarding investigations (including during police or Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) investigations);
  • reporting safeguarding-related matters to the National Safeguarding Team; and
  • reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission.

11. The SCIE recommendation for the introduction of a national arrangement for the appointment, management and supervision of DSAs or DSOs would replace the local ownership of DSAs that currently exists and may help to increase their independence by providing a route, outside of the diocese, through which concerns could be raised.

12. The National Safeguarding Team has proposed by the end of 2020 a regional leadership structure with regional safeguarding advisers to provide a point of escalation for disputes and professional supervision for DSAs. They will also monitor and seek to provide consistency between dioceses and to lead work on survivor engagement. Such a proposal may help to provide the level of oversight which was previously lacking.[4]

13. DSOs – not clergy – are best placed to decide which cases to refer to the police or social services, and what action should be taken by the Church to keep children safe. Diocesan bishops have an important role to play, in particular to help congregations and clergy to understand safeguarding and to make it a priority, “intrinsic to the beliefs of the Church of England, but they should not hold operational responsibility for safeguarding.[5]

14. The theological work undertaken by the Faith and Order Commission is valuable in the development of a theology of safeguarding and its spiritual underpinning.

The role of the National Safeguarding Team

15. As the reports of SCIE demonstrate, there are some continuing weaknesses with aspects of the Church’s policies, in particular with the escalation process for raising concerns about how a diocese manages safeguarding.[6] The policies lack clarity about what needs to be referred to whom and when.[7] The National Safeguarding Team does not have the power to intervene in a diocese, even where it appears that safeguarding is being inadequately managed or handled prior to any crisis arising. The only legal power currently available is that of an Archbishop’s Visitation. While the CDM can be used against individuals, it does not solve systemic problems with Church organisation. A Visitation is not an appropriate tool to address emerging safeguarding issues at a diocesan level.

16. To be effective, the role of the National Director of Safeguarding requires overall responsibility for managing safeguarding within the Church and providing oversight of those operating at a diocesan level. It is the responsibility of the National Safeguarding Team to ensure that safeguarding policies and practices are of a good standard and are properly implemented within dioceses.

Funding of safeguarding

17. Until 2015 the funding of safeguarding was piecemeal and insufficient. Since then, there has been a significant increase in funding of safeguarding activity at all levels of the Church (parish, diocesan and central) but from a very low base.[8] There is still a disparity between needs and resources across some dioceses.

18. Every diocesan safeguarding team requires sufficient resources to fulfil its essential functions, having regard to the size and needs of that diocese.

External monitoring

19. The Church’s programme of external audits has provided a valuable source of independent scrutiny of its safeguarding policies and procedures, as well as its practice on the ground. The Church would also benefit from a suitable programme of regular internal progress reviews.

20. When independent reviews of individual cases are commissioned about the most serious safeguarding cases, the process for their commissioning could benefit from liaison with the victim or survivor as well as other relevant parties.


21. Although cathedrals are situated within dioceses, they are independent and are separately governed by the cathedral chapter. The diocesan bishop has no executive role and is not involved on a day-to-day basis in the administration of a cathedral’s affairs.

22. The Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report dealt with safeguarding concerns which had arisen in respect of cathedrals.[9] Since the publication of that report, SCIE has commenced a series of audits of the safeguarding arrangements in cathedrals. The preliminary results of those audits indicate continuing problems with the safeguarding governance of the cathedrals audited so far.

23. The Church of England’s own cathedrals working group identified that, in comparison to dioceses, cathedrals still had much more to do in respect of safeguarding.[10] The concerns set out in that working group report have led the Church to promote a new Cathedrals Measure[11] which will amend the governance structure of cathedrals and set out the relationship between a cathedral and a diocese. Cathedrals will become charitable organisations regulated by the Charity Commission, which will be the first time that cathedrals become externally accountable.[12]

24. The guidance and the cathedrals working group have now made clear that the dean of a cathedral is accountable to the diocesan bishop on safeguarding matters,[13] and that the diocesan bishop must ensure that there are clear safeguarding arrangements in place. These changes resolve a number of the concerns which we have previously expressed but it remains important that the cathedral safeguarding arrangements are compatible with those of the diocese. It is likely, given the emerging findings from the SCIE cathedrals audits, that cathedrals will require considerably greater resourcing.

25. Where a cathedral has links with choir schools, clarity is required between each cathedral and school to ensure that there are commonly understood policies. There should be no ambiguity about where responsibility for responding to safeguarding concerns lies.

Civil claims

26. Sensitivity and tact are required throughout the management of civil claims relating to child sexual abuse. Those managing claims need to demonstrate an understanding of the psychological effects of child sexual abuse and the potential for additional distress to be caused by the litigation process.

27. Over time, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office (EIO) has developed its understanding of handling civil claims about child sexual abuse. It has acknowledged that it has improved its practices and procedures in the light of what it calls “sometimes bitter experience”.[14] The EIO’s Guiding Principles for managing claims of child sexual abuse are constructive. The Guiding Principles should also be used by the Church as a starting point in assessing uninsured cases.

28. However, the Guiding Principles are only effective if they are followed and if they are reflected in the advice provided to the Church of England. The case of AN-A4 showed the Church of England being provided with unclear advice, the result of which was that pastoral support was withdrawn from a highly vulnerable individual at a time of need. This is not acceptable. It is disappointing that the EIO was unable to recognise or accept its failings in that case upon the publication of the Elliott review. This was compounded by its failure to provide evidence to this Inquiry in a candid manner, requiring us to recall a witness to explain why the information previously given to us was incomplete.[15]

29. While the Church is not directly responsible for the management of an insured claim, in which its insurer acts on its behalf, the Church retains responsibility for providing pastoral support to complainants, victims and survivors.[16] What many victims and survivors want is a genuine and meaningful apology. The EIO has made plain that it does not apologise on the Church’s behalf and does not prevent the Church from doing so. It is a matter for the Church as to how such apologies should be made and who would be the appropriate person to do this.

Recruitment, training and professional development

Recruitment and training of clergy

30. As set out in the Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report, there are examples of clergy being ordained despite a history of child sexual offences and examples of clergy who were unable or unwilling to properly fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities.

31. Whilst the Church has reviewed and developed its approach to recruiting and training clergy, it accepts that even now the criteria against which candidates’ suitability for ordination are judged do not specifically include safeguarding. The Church says that it is addressing this through the ongoing work of the Future Clergy Review.

32. Attitudes to safeguarding ought to be an important element of the selection and training of clergy.

33. Psychological assessment of candidates is a valuable mechanism for use in the selection of clergy for ordination. Nevertheless, the Church has yet to make a decision about how it is going to make use of psychological assessment within its recruitment process, and how it will ensure that this is used consistently.

Disclosure and Barring Service checks

34. In all three hearings for this investigation we heard concerns, including from DSAs and the national safeguarding adviser, about the difficulty in identifying who is eligible for an enhanced criminal record (Disclosure and Barring Service or DBS) check. This arises because the current definition of ‘regulated activity’ within the statutory guidance is unclear and narrow. It focuses exclusively on the time spent with an individual, rather than the nature of the relationship that individual may have with a child.

35. The definition does not transfer easily to a religious organisation like the Church of England or the Church in Wales.

36. A DBS check is one part of the process of safer recruitment. It is a valuable tool, particularly to identify those who may not have been convicted of offences but whose behaviour may have placed them on the barred list for children or vulnerable adults.

Ministerial development for ordained clergy

37. The current bi-annual reviews of clergy ministerial development do not assess or monitor the performance or understanding of their safeguarding functions. Considering safeguarding in these reviews would be a logical continuation of its inclusion in the consideration of a candidate’s suitability for ordination.

38. The current capability procedures do not effectively deal with performance concerns about safeguarding. The responsibilities of members of clergy can be difficult to fulfil. As can be seen from some of the sampling cases, they have to make difficult decisions or investigate with only limited assistance. Ordained clergy lack a system of assistance, support and performance management.

Clergy Discipline Measure

39. The Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) is a complex process that takes too long to reach a conclusion in relation to safeguarding matters.

40. A 12-month limit for bringing a complaint continues to apply to allegations that a member of clergy has failed to have “due regard” to safeguarding policies in their response to a disclosure of abuse or management of a safeguarding matter. This is not appropriate. Victims and survivors often find it difficult to report abuse until some time after the event. As a result, safeguarding failures are equally likely to come to light outside of the 12-month limit.

41. In addition, we have seen from our sampling exercise that some bishops are still reluctant to start proceedings against those who have failed in their safeguarding duties. It is possible that the proposals endorsed above for enhancing the powers of the DSO and the National Safeguarding Team may, in part, address such concerns.

42. The CDM needs to be reviewed in respect of how it manages allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and how it treats complaints about a failure to have “due regard” to safeguarding guidance in responding to allegations of abuse. The most significant flaws are:

  • The initial investigation of complaints which concern safeguarding that would merit ‘rebuke’ (a warning) or more serious disciplinary action is not independent of the diocese.
  • There are no alternative processes, similar to capability reviews, through which concerns that someone is struggling to manage safeguarding issues effectively could be dealt with outside of the CDM.
  • There is no suitable pastoral support, guidance and counselling available for victims and survivors if they have to engage in the CDM process as complainants or witnesses.
  • Case management does not effectively ensure that CDM cases, particularly those involving safeguarding, are dealt with expeditiously.
  • Individuals carrying out fact-finding investigations, which involve taking evidence from complainants, victims and survivors, do not have specialist training in interviewing complainants.

43. The penalty of deposition from holy orders (through which clergy are stripped of their clerical title) retains symbolic importance, particularly to victims and survivors. It is not available in the Church of England for those convicted of or disciplined for child sexual abuse.

Seal of the confessional

44. The Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York both advocated a Church of England internal policy of mandatory reporting. We heard powerful evidence from an eminent canon lawyer, who is also a survivor of sexual abuse, and from others, that the seal of the confessional should be removed in cases of child sexual offending. Whilst there has been considerable discussion of this topic within the Church of England, it cannot agree internally. This was well-illustrated by the failure of the seal of the confessional working party to make any conclusions or recommendations on its subject matter.

45. This issue is one of significance in other Inquiry investigations. We will consider the evidence and return to it in the Inquiry’s final report.

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