The Bishops of Rochester and Tonbridge have welcomed the publication today (Wednesday 5 October) of a major Church of England report reviewing safeguarding information across the Church nationally.
Called the Past Cases Review 2, its purpose was to identify both good practice and institutional failings in relation to how allegations of abuse have been handled, assess any identified risks and respond to these where appropriate, and to provide recommendations to the Church that will lead to improvements in its safeguarding work.
Initiated in 2019, more than 70,000 written and electronic records have since been independently scrutinised across the Church of England for any reference to a safeguarding matter or concern.
The report can be found on the Church of England website at: www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/past-cases-review-2
A national report informed by local reviews
The national report has been informed by independent reviews undertaken in each of the 42 dioceses of the Church of England, including the Diocese of Rochester, which covers the areas of Medway, north and west Kent, and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.
Responding to the national report in his capacity as Lead Bishop for Safeguarding in the Church of England, the Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the newly appointed Bishop of Rochester said:
“I want to add my voice to the Archbishops’ apology for the Church’s failures, and for all who have been affected by what we have not done well enough or failed to do.
We are indebted to the contributions of survivors, victims and those with a lived experience of abuse within the Church of England who come forward to speak to the PCR2 independent reviewers, acknowledging the cost to them in supporting this work.
“The evidence, particularly the case studies, shared by the independent reviewers makes harrowing reading and is a reminder that we still have much work to do.
"The report highlights a Church too willing to believe its own or to take matters in their own hands without consulting professionals.
“Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and like all institutions we must continue our development at every level to ensure this is part of our DNA, not an add-on, and to see this as a fundamental part of our Christian witness.
“I have been assured that all the new cases, whether failure to follow due process or take professional advice, or allegations of abuse that should have been referred to the statutory authorities, are all being managed.
“Working with survivors and victims is a key part of our ongoing safeguarding work and one of the national recommendations, particularly highlighted by the reviewers, is for a survivor and victims charter to ensure the voices of children are fully heard and understood.
“Our safeguarding practice has improved since the original PCR, and the report clearly sets out examples of good practice. But as a Church it is vital we continue to learn and work together as we implement the national recommendations which have all been accepted by the National Safeguarding Steering Group.”
In relation to the Diocese of Rochester he said:
“I know safeguarding is taken extremely seriously in the Diocese of Rochester, and I look forward to working with colleagues in the Diocese as we take forward the learnings and recommendations of the national and local reviews.”
Responding to the publication on behalf of the Diocese of Rochester, the Rt Rev Simon Burton-Jones, the Bishop of Tonbridge, said:
“I welcome the publication today of the national church’s Past Cases Review 2 Report, and I look forward to reading and digesting all it has to say to us.
“The Church has a long and shameful history of failure when it comes to how we have responded to allegations of abuse, and to victims and survivors of abuse.
“This is true in our own Diocese, for which I am deeply sorry.
“However, apology must be accompanied by change and action. It is therefore imperative that we take every opportunity we can to listen and to learn, in order to improve how we safeguard everyone we welcome into our midst.
“Today is another such opportunity that we must not squander. While we have already undertaken many of the recommendations outlined in the Diocese of Rochester’s own independent report, we know there is still much to do.”
Gratitude for local engagement
Bishop Simon went on to acknowledge those who had supported the process locally saying:
“I express my gratitude to all those who have contributed locally here in this Diocese to the Past Cases Review 2 process, and particularly to those victims and survivors who have so generously shared their stories, insights and experiences with us.”
As part of the process undertaken within the Diocese of Rochester:
- Over 3,700 files, records and pieces of information were examined.
- An appeal for information on all previously known safeguarding incidents was made to parishes and other organisations, to ensure that a record of the incident was held by the Diocesan Safeguarding Team, and to check appropriate action had been taken.
- Personal files of clergy, lay ministers and employed staff, including the files of those no longer holding office and those of deceased clergy were reviewed.
An overview of the findings and recommendations of the Diocese’s independent Past Cases Review 2 has been published on the safeguarding pages of the Diocese of Rochester website at: www.rochester.anglican.org/past-cases-review-2.php
Invitation to victims and survivors to help shape Diocesan response
Dr Liza Thompson, the independent Chair of the Diocese of Rochester’s Safeguarding Advisory Panel, a group of external safeguarding professionals who, along with senior clergy and officers of the Diocese and the Cathedral, provide quality assurance and challenge in regard to safeguarding, said:
“While I am encouraged by the Independent Reviewers’ acknowledgement that there has been significant progress within the Diocese around the culture and management of safeguarding, there is still much to do.
“I will continue to hold the Diocese of Rochester to account to ensure that the recommendations of the Reviewers, and particularly the Diocese’s strategy for supporting victims and survivors, is carried out and scrutinised.
“Victims and survivors have been let down too many times and we need to see action and movement.”
In a video message, she also made a personal invitation to anyone with a lived experience of abuse who would like to help shape and improve the Diocese's response to victims and survivors:
"People with experiences of abuse and interpersonal trauma face ongoing struggles to get what they need to recover. Some may want to be part of the process that changes things for others.
"As a panel, and as a Diocese, we want to hear from victims and survivors of church-based abuse who may want to drive change for other victims and survivors."
She can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the support available can be found on the Safeguarding pages of the Diocese of Rochester website at: www.rochester.anglican.org/safeguarding/
Additionally, Safe Spaces is an independent service supporting survivors of church-related abuse. This independent service is run by Splitz Support Service - which has been providing advocacy services for over 30 years and has previous experience in supporting victims and survivors of Church-related abuse.
The Safe Spaces initiative is funded by the Church of England together with the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church in Wales. It is free to access via telephone - 0300 303 1056 (answerphone available outside of opening times), email - email@example.com or visit: www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk