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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 Roman Catholic Church Investigation Report


E.1: The Church’s child protection structure post-Cumberlege

1. In response to the Cumberlege report, the Roman Catholic Church made a number of changes to its child protection structure, many of which remain in place today.

The current Catholic Church safeguarding structure
Long Description

Catholic Safeguarding Structure

  • National Structure
    1. National Catholic Safeguarding Commission is mandated by Conference of Bishops and Conference of Religious. Responsible for setting strategic direction, implementing policy and monitoring standards.
      • Survivor Advisory Panel is a sub group of the NCSC
      • Catholic Trust for England and Wales (CaTEW)
        • Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service is employed by CaTEW. Reports and is accountable to the Bishops' Conference and Conference of Religious through and NCSC. Responsible for driving and supporting improvements in safeguarding practice.
  • Dioceses Religious Congregations Seminaries
    1. Safeguarding Commissions is independently chaired but accountable to Bishop and Trustees of the Dioceses or Leaders and Trustees of the Religious Congregations. Leads strategic direction of safeguarding, provides independent oversight, scrutiny, advice and guidance
    2. Safeguarding Coordinators are employed/appointed by dioceses, religious congregations or seminaries. Accountable to the Bishop, Congregational Leader or Seminary Rector and appropriate Trustee Body for leading and managing the development of safeguarding practice and the implementation of policy and procedures within the Diocese Congregation or Seminary
    3. Parish Safeguarding Representatives and Religious Safeguarding Representatives is the link between the Parish or Congregation and the Safeguarding Coordinator. Has responsibility for promoting good and safe practices in all activities involving children, young people and adults and for providing advice on child and adult safeguarding matters within the Parish or Congregation

The current Catholic Church safeguarding structure
Source: Based on NCS000002_002

National Catholic Safeguarding Commission

2. The National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) was created in July 2008.[1] It is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the Church’s safeguarding policy (with the agreement of the Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of Religious (CoR)) and monitoring compliance to ensure that child protection standards are met and policies implemented.[2] It does not have any role in investigating individual allegations of child sexual abuse.[3] The NCSC is chaired by a lay member (currently Christopher Pearson) and its membership includes other lay members as well as representatives from the Bishops’ Conference and the CoR.[4]

Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service

3. The Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) is “the national agency for driving and supporting improvements in safeguarding practice within the Catholic Church”.[5] Its functions include:

  • acting as an advisory service to those within the Church in England and Wales;[6]
  • processing criminal record disclosure applications to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) on behalf of the Church;[7]
  • quality assurance and auditing to ensure effective arrangements are implemented in the dioceses and religious institutes;
  • developing and supporting safeguarding training; and
  • producing and revising policy and procedure.[8]

4. CSAS is accountable to the Bishops’ Conference and the CoR. The Director of CSAS, Dr Colette Limbrick, has meetings with both Conferences, but she told us that they do not exert any influence over safeguarding “in terms of the day-to-day work of CSAS”.[9]

5. CSAS’ involvement in a safeguarding case predominantly arises in two ways:[10]

  • When an allegation is made against a bishop, CSAS must be informed and a different diocese assumes management of the complaint. CSAS monitors the progress of the complaint and may provide advice to whoever is managing the complaint. CSAS also informs the Chair of the NCSC about the case.[11] Dr Limbrick could not recall a case that she was monitoring being dealt with in a way that was not compliant with CSAS procedures.[12]
  • When CSAS is contacted for advice,[13] Dr Limbrick said the advice is often regarding a procedural rather than case-specific point and that CSAS rarely has any further involvement once the advice is provided.[14]

Safeguarding commissions

6. Each diocese in England and Wales has a safeguarding commission, accountable to the bishop and the trustees. The safeguarding commission has a “regulatory, advisory and supportive function and it exists to discharge these functions at a strategic level in all matters relating to Safeguarding in the Diocese or Religious Congregation it serves”.[15] CSAS policy requires the commission to have an independent chair and members with direct experience of safeguarding.[16]

Alignment of religious institutes with diocesan safeguarding commissions

7. In 2010, an NCSC working group identified “shortfalls” in the work of the four regional religious safeguarding commissions.[17] In 2012, the Bishops’ Conference and CoR endorsed an NCSC proposal that a religious institute must either align with a diocesan safeguarding commission or establish its own commission. Six religious institutes established independent religious safeguarding commissions.[18]

8. The Inquiry was told that, as at May 2019, with a small number of exceptions, all other religious institutes are aligned to diocesan safeguarding commissions.[19] In April 2020, the Bishops’ Conference agreed that “all domiciled religious orders who are undertaking ministry … but are not currently aligned, are advised that they must sign an alignment agreement.[20] The alignment of religious institutes to a diocesan safeguarding commission is an important part of facilitating the ‘One Church’ approach and the remaining non-aligned institutes should sign an agreement as soon as practicable.

9. All diocesan and independent religious safeguarding commissions are expected to adhere to the NCSC and CSAS standards and procedures.[21] The standards are set out in the document Towards a Culture of Safeguarding, which was approved by the NCSC and both Conferences in 2012.[22] In the same year, the NCSC created link roles in which NCSC members are ‘linked’ to the safeguarding commissions. The link member helps the NCSC understand how ‘One Church’ is operating “on the ground” and reports back on local practice and any challenges faced by the commissions.[23]

Safeguarding coordinators

10. Safeguarding coordinators play a vital role within the safeguarding team of a diocese or religious institute. They are often a key point of contact and support for victims and survivors who report allegations of child sexual abuse and are responsible for making or overseeing referrals to the police and other external agencies. They are also accountable to the bishop, religious leader (or seminary rector) and the appropriate trustees for:

  • leading on implementation and management of safeguarding and child (and adult) protection policy and practice within the diocese, religious institute or seminary;
  • developing and implementing best practice in national and local initiatives to minimise the opportunity for abuse to occur;
  • informing and advising the bishop or religious leader on best practice in managing concerns and allegations relating to children (and adults) at risk;
  • assisting the bishop or religious leader to identify support needs for those accused of child sexual abuse; and
  • providing national safeguarding training modules.[24]

Parish safeguarding representative

11. Each parish and religious institute is required to have a parish safeguarding representative (PSR) to act as the link between it and the safeguarding coordinator. He or she is responsible for “good and safe practices in all activities involving children, young people and adults and for providing advice on child and adult safeguarding matters within the Parish or Congregation”.[25]

12. CSAS prescribes that PSRs should have minimum standards of induction, a clear job description, training on the national policies and procedures and know who to contact if a concern or allegation is raised.[26] Adrian Child, former director of CSAS, said that in his view safeguarding within the Church “relies on the parish reps”. He said:

Generally speaking, I believe it works well, reliant as it is on the tireless efforts of volunteers at parish level and mainly appropriately qualified staff in the safeguarding offices. A good level of competence and understanding has been built up since 2000.[27]

13. As at the end of 2018, 2,126 of 2,227 parishes had safeguarding representatives.[28]

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