The Church of England Safeguarding Past Cases Review 2019 (PCR2)

Background

In 2019, the Church of England instigated a second review of all known safeguarding cases. This follows the first review in 2007-2009.  The PCR 2007-2009 was a large-scale review of the handling by the Church of child protection cases over many years. It involved a scrutiny of clergy and church officers’ files to identify persons presenting on-going risks to children, but whose cases had not been acted upon appropriately. However, in 2015 there was concern that there were limitations to this review.  An independent assessment was commissioned and a full report published. No concerns were raised with the work done by the 3 former dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield, but in line with national guidance, we were still required to undertake PCR2, which has been extended to include vulnerable adults as well as children.

The objective of PCR2 and aspiration of the Archbishops’ Council is that: “By the end of the process, independent review work will have been carried out in every diocese and church institution within both the letter and the spirit of the protocol and practice guidance. Any file that could contain information regarding a concern, allegation or conviction in relation to abusive behaviour by a living member of the clergy or church officer, (whether still in that position or not) will have been identified, read and analysed by independent safeguarding professionals."

At the completion of the review process it will be possible to state that:

  • all known safeguarding cases have been appropriately managed and reported to statutory agencies or the police where appropriate
  • that the needs of any known victims have been considered and that sources of support have been identified and offered where this is appropriate
  • that all identified risks have been assessed and mitigated as far as is reasonably possible”.

This requires every diocese to obtain the services of Independent Reviewer to check the personal files of every licensed clergy person and Reader, everyone with PTO, every employee whose role involves children or vulnerable adults.  The personnel files of cathedrals, theological education institutions (‘TEI’) and religious communities must also be checked. 

Update

In order to be as sure as possible that all cases known to those in the parish have been reported and dealt with correctly, Bishop Nick wrote to every incumbent/churchwardens in a vacancy, to check that all safeguarding concerns about the behaviour of any parish officer, employee or volunteer towards children and/or adults, both current and historic, have been notified to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers (‘DSA’). Parishes were required to complete a pro-forma, sign and return it to the Diocesan Office, to confirm that this has taken place.  A nil return is required so we have confirmation from every parish, that this has taken place.  To date there are only 4 outstanding returns. Thank you to everyone who has put in so much time to ensure this work was done in the parish and the form returned to the Office.

While we realise this is neither perfect nor foolproof, the Diocese of Leeds wishes to ensure that our churches and church-related activities are as safe as possible for children and vulnerable adults. In the spirit of the Gospel we all want to protect and care for those who are vulnerable, and at a time when the Church’s safeguarding policies and practices are under close scrutiny, you will recognise the importance of being as sure as possible that all known instances of concern have been addressed.

Any individuals who wish to make representations to the PCR2 process or who need to come forward with information or make any disclosures regarding church related abuse are encouraged to make direct contact with the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors. Call 0113 353 0257 or Email: safeguarding [at] leeds.anglican.org

However, recognising that this may not feel safe for those with a lived experience of abuse from within the church, a dedicated telephone helpline - 0800 80 20 20 - operated independently from the church, by the NSPCC, has been set up.
Anyone can use the helpline to provide information or to raise concerns regarding abuse within the Church of England context; whether they are reporting issues relating to children, adults or seeking to whistle blow about poor safeguarding practice. 

Those who are survivors of abuse were not invited to contribute to the 2007 -2009 Review and the Church of England recognises that listening to survivor voices is one of the most important elements of the current review.

The Diocese, as required, has set up a PCR2 Project Reference Group to ensure robust risk management of the Review, and to ensure support for anyone impacted by this work, specifically to ensure that those who have survived abuse are appropriately supported and cared for. To that end, the Project Reference Group has appointed an advocate to lead on survivor support and engagement.  

At least half of the Reference Group comprises of people who are independent of the Church - experienced safeguarding professionals - and there is representation from both the Police and a Local Authority.  The Reference Group has an independent chair.

The Project Reference Group, held its first meeting in March, a second in July and a third in September. It has considered the terms of reference, a survivor strategy (which we must have in place) and an initial report from the independent reviewers.

We appointed three part time (1 – 1.5 days per week) Independent Reviewers who began the work in late February and then had to stop in late March!  We have over 2000 files to review.  This work has now begun again, and at present, the Reviewers are based at Hollin House checking the files held there.  This is a huge task, even for individuals who are experienced at reviewing. This exercise brings additional demands on our Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers, who, while continuing to deal with day-to-day casework, which is in itself demanding, are responding to additional historic allegations of abuse.

The original intention was to complete the Review by the end of 2020, but delays suggest it will be late spring 2021. It remains difficult to estimate timings as the Reviewers have only just returned to the work.

Further updates will be available and there are links to the various documents mentioned.

Debbie Child
PCR2 Project Lead 
August 2020

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