Following publication of 'Past Cases Review 2', a national independent review of the handling of safeguarding cases in the Church of England over many years, the Diocese of Leeds has published its own executive summary which may be read below.
The Church of England has now published its national report on the Safeguarding Past Cases Review 2019 (PCR2) and this is a summary of a report by independent reviewers on safeguarding files held by the Diocese of Leeds. As a result of this local review, it is possible to state that the specific objectives of PCR2 have been met in the Diocese of Leeds.
In 2019, the Church of England instigated a second review of all known safeguarding cases. This followed the first review in 2007-2009. The former was a large-scale review of the handling by the Church of child protection cases over many years. This second review included both child and adult cases.
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”.
The Diocese of Leeds was founded in 2014, following a scheme by the Dioceses Commission to dissolve the historic Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield, and create one new diocese. This creation followed a three-year process of debate and consultation driven by the Dioceses Commission. The Diocese is in the ecclesiastical province of York, and covers West Yorkshire, the western part of North Yorkshire, parts of South Yorkshire, east Lancashire and County Durham. The Diocese is unique, across the Church of England, in having three cathedrals: Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield. Within the Diocese, there are two independent training institutions, St Hild and the College of the Resurrection, (both based in Mirfield), and the religious communities of The Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, The Community of St Peter, Horbury and The Society of St Francis, Leeds.
The Diocese of Leeds is led by the first Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Reverend Nicholas Baines. It is divided into five episcopal areas – Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield - which are co-terminus with five archdeaconries – Bradford, Halifax, Leeds, Richmond and Craven and Pontefract. There are five area bishops working with the Diocesan Bishop and five archdeacons. There are over 600 churches, in 450 parishes, and around 325 fulltime equivalent clergy. Alongside the stipendiary clergy are approximately 80 self-supporting clergy and 450 Readers and lay ministers. There are 240 church schools. The Diocese covers an area of 2425 square miles, with a population of circa 2.6m.
The independent review of files in the Diocese of Leeds was completed successfully at the end of November 2021.
The total number of files reviewed as part of the personal file review was (c 2000 files) including 1360 clergy files and 589 Reader files.
Eleven cases were added to the Known Cases List (KCL) as a result of the review. The names represent one clergy with PTO and six retired (non-active) clergy, the majority of whom are no longer in the diocese. The concerns added related to instances that had occurred over 10 years ago and did not involve other perpetrators. No statutory referrals were required, which is an indication that no serious criminal offending has been uncovered as a result of this review.
In those eleven cases added to the KCL, the Independent Reviewers were satisfied that appropriate action had been taken by the DSA, information shared as necessary, and management was in line with best practice guidance.
All files presented to the Independent Reviewers within the Diocese, including those from our three cathedrals, two training institutions and two religious communities, of living clergy or former clergy and church officers or former church officers, were inspected.
All identified risks were assessed, and any existing concerns were discussed with the Project Leads and Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors as appropriate.
The main findings of the review relate to systems and processes, and particularly around historical concerns, and it is apparent that current systems have improved. Only a small number of cases identified concerns, which indicated that risk was and is managed appropriately.
The Independent Reviews concluded that given how the diocese was created, it is understandable that the review found different processes and systems between the various episcopal areas. The review involved the inspection of paper-based files, and a small number of electronic files. Historically, the recording of safeguarding concerns was not of the same standard as it is now.
Support for survivors was evident and there was evidence of effective working and involvement of statutory agencies. An example of good practice was identified on a safeguarding file where the Diocesan Bishop and DSA responded well to a letter from an individual who disclosed a concern about an incident occurring a number of years ago. This person was offered support and appropriate advice about reporting.
Another example of good practice was seen on the file of a man who came forward in late middle age after his abuser had died. He had been abused for a prolonged period as a young teenager and faced many mental and physical health challenges throughout his life. He had come to a point where he wanted his story to be heard and acknowledged by the church. He was already supported in the community by various mental health services and counselling and after conversations with the DSA he was able to ask for and receive an apology.
The work of the DSAs was universally recognised and the current staff have developed excellent relationship with parishes, cathedrals, and other religious establishments as well as external agencies.
All files presented to the Independent Reviewers within the Diocese: from three cathedrals, two training institutions and two religious’ communities, KCL, of living clergy or former clergy and church officers or former church officers, were inspected. All identified risks were assessed, and any existing concerns were discussed with the Project Leads and Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors as appropriate. Where required, further investigations were carried by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors.
The main findings of this review relate to systems and processes, and particularly around historical concerns, and it is apparent that current systems have improved, and future proposals will strengthen this area. Only a small number of cases identified concerns which indicates that risk was and is managed appropriately, with proportionate measures for those who may pose a risk.
Support for survivors was evident and there is evidence of effective working and involvement of statutory agencies, but there are challenges, given the increasing complexity within the wider safeguarding arena. Examples of learning and good practice have been highlighted, and recommendations made as to future practice. As a result, it is possible to state that the specific objectives of PCR2 have been met.
- The development of a single Reader application form for use in all Episcopal Areas following a review of the current application form and information required. The three cathedrals should consider agreeing a single set of working practices to enable the sharing of information, good practice and safeguarding processes. The cathedrals’ system of recruitment, vetting and training forms could be applied to Readers.
- All employed, and volunteer roles should have agreed criteria for recruitment, safeguarding training, DBS and self-certifications, recorded electronically.
- Improved record-keeping for all files relating to clergy, officers and volunteers by means of a unified file management system across the Diocese employing appropriate resource, training and IT infrastructure.
- As part of a unified approach to record keeping, there should be a consistency of approach in all files relating to clergy, church officers, and all other staff and volunteers across the Episcopal areas.
- Concerns or incidents should be recorded clearly and accurately, in an agreed format which includes decision making, an outcome of the incident and where applicable a future review of risk.
- Files for Cathedral, Clergy, Readers, Volunteers and employed staff should clearly identify the existence of safeguarding files (KCLs) and CDM files.
- The use of an IT system would benefit the management of safeguarding concerns, those who pose a risk, low-level concerns and information sharing within the Diocese. The use of ChurchSuite may be a short-term solution.
While the review has concluded, we are aware that those who have suffered abuse may still wish to report it, and we ask that any individuals who wish to come forward with information or make any disclosures regarding church related abuse are encouraged to make direct contact with the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisors.
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Office number: 0113 353 0257