Church of England Past Cases Review 2 Report Published
5 October 2022
The Church of England has completed a review of more than 75,000 files, some dating back to the 1940s, with the publication today of its national Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) report. Like most Church of England Dioceses, Chelmsford Diocese has also published an Executive Summary of its own Past Cases Review 2 Report.
The purpose of PCR2 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.
If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the publication of this report and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or visit www.safespacesenglandandwales.org.uk
PCR2, believed to be the most extensive file review undertaken by the Church, was commissioned after an independent scrutiny team concluded that the original Past Cases Review (PCR) in 2007 was not a thorough process with particular criticism of lack of survivor engagement. PCR2 was carried out by independent reviewers across all 42 dioceses, as well as Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces and the National Safeguarding Team (NST).
The review has found 383 new cases which are now all being actively managed by local safeguarding leads under the House of Bishops guidance. These are cases that were identified by independent reviewers as requiring further assessment by today’s safeguarding standards and, where necessary, further action.
These cover a range of cases, from those resulting in referrals to statutory authorities, to failures to carry out best practice. Reviewers found allegations were often dealt with informally, without appropriate investigations or records or referrals to the appropriate diocesan safeguarding professionals
The independent reviewers found that of the 383 new cases 168 related to children, 149 to vulnerable adults, with 27 recorded as both and 39 with no recorded data.
Data on the alleged perpetrators shows 242 cases related to clergy, with 53 relating to church officers and 41 relating to volunteers whose role included engagement with children.
The report lists 26 national recommendations, developed from the 800 plus recommendations in the 45 local reports. These have been set out thematically and are prioritised under three headings: “Keep doing well”, “Continue to do, but more effectively and consistently”, and “Must improve”.
A survivor and victim centred approach was adopted with the guidance for reviewers compiled from trauma-informed safeguarding practitioners and feedback, both positive and negative, from those previously raising concerns and complaints about their abuse allegations.
The recommendations include a charter to ensure the voices of children are heard and for the NST to develop a charter to set out the minimum standards of service and timescales that should be delivered following a safeguarding disclosure or referral.
An overarching area for improvement was more consistency across the Church’s safeguarding work.
The National Safeguarding Steering Group has accepted the report and is committed to implementing the recommendations. Dioceses, both Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces and the National Safeguarding Team are publishing their own report summaries and actions.
In a foreword, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said:
“It is always with great sadness and profound shame that we, again and again, come face-to-face with the brokenness and failings of our church in its day-to-day interactions and in its processes and leadership.
“There are no possible excuses, no rationalisations for our church’s failure to share the love of God and value each and every person.
“PCR2 was our next step in extending our search for the truth and being satisfied that past abuses and the misery suffered by survivors, victims and their families was uncovered. As a matter of priority, we took immediate action to manage concerns with procedures in place to best support the needs of the victim. This was the very least that children and vulnerable adults who have experienced such abuse deserved and was at the heart of our approach.
“Our aspiration is for a church where children, young people and the vulnerable can worship, learn, socialise and develop in a safe and caring environment, with the knowledge they have a voice and can confidently raise concerns.
“We sincerely apologise for our failures and want to reach out to those who are still suffering from the pain and misery they endured. We extend this apology to wider family members affected from this past abuse. We are so sorry that this ever happened. It was not your fault and you are not to blame. We should have been better at listening and responding to survivors’ and victims’ concerns. Our faith compels us to take safeguarding with the utmost seriousness; to prevent abuse from occurring; responding appropriately where it has in support of our undertaking to making church communities and institutions safer places.
“We want to extend our thanks to all those who have been involved in the PCR2 process. It has been a huge undertaking throughout the Church – in parishes, chaplaincies, religious communities and theological colleges. It has taken many people in many different places to be able to do this, safeguarding advisers, administrative support staff, National Safeguarding Team, safeguarding professionals, drafters, diocesan staff, clergy and lay people, the National Safeguarding Steering Group and Project Management Board, and the Church Commissioners who made funding available. But most of all, thank you to all survivors and victims who trusted us with their stories and shared their experience. What you have shared is invaluable, and we hold it with gratitude, sorrow and prayer, as we commit ourselves to continue to work to make our churches safer places.”
Like most other Church of England Dioceses, Chelmsford has today published an executive summary of its own Past Cases Review 2 report.
The Report of the Independent Reviewers in Chelmsford Diocese was welcomed by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani who committed to implementing its recommendations in full. In her introduction to the Executive Summary, Bishop Guli said:
“The cases of abuse in the Church of England over many years have shocked us all. Time and again we have heard testimonies from those whose lives have been so deeply damaged and impacted. I echo the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in saying sorry to all those who have suffered abuse in the Church. I also extend that apology to family members who have been affected. It is a priority for me as the Bishop of Chelmsford to work with and support our parishes and safeguarding professionals to make sure that all our churches and worshipping communities are safe places for children and vulnerable adults.
“I very much welcome the findings of the Chelmsford Diocese report and the recommendations of the Independent Reviewers. Their review was robust and thorough and the fact that no new cases have been identified is reassuring. But in safeguarding we must continually strive for improvement by working closely with those who have experienced abuse; listening to and learning about what must be done better in the future. The reviewers have identified a number of important recommendations and alongside the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel, I commit to implementing them in full. Indeed, we have already taken some significant steps in doing so which are detailed throughout the Executive Summary.”
“I want to pay tribute to and thank those who have been involved in producing the Chelmsford Diocese Past Cases Review 2 report. In particular, I want to thank those who have suffered abuse who have given their time to help us learn and improve, both during the PCR2 and on an ongoing basis in recent years. I recognise that doing so may be extremely painful and difficult.”
Deborah*, who has herself suffered abuse in the Church of England, was part of the Chelmsford Diocese Past Cases Review 2 Reference Group and commented on the PCR 2:
“Some would call me a survivor of Clergy Abuse, some might call me a victim of it. In my opinion neither term really does justice to the life-altering, soul destroying, burden laden experience that is having someone in God-given authority over you using that power for their own needs and wants.
“Every experience is different. And the challenge of being part of the survivor/ victim strategy is knowing that one-size- doesn’t -fit-all. At Chelmsford, the safeguarding team really know that. One of us may want lots of contact, another may want to never hear from us again. We get that.
“Choosing to tell my experience from 30 years ago to the church now has been a good thing for me. It hasn’t been easy, it certainly hasn’t been pleasant, but it has been good. The team have kept me safe, the church has cared for me.
“My prayer is that others will find a safe place too, with a team that truly know that every one of us is different and who respond to each of us in a way that we need. I believe that is the heart of Christ too.”
Nick Alston CBE DL, who is the Independent Chair of the Chelmsford Diocese Safeguarding Advisory Panel said:
“I want to thank the Independent Reviewers for their thorough review of our safeguarding cases, policies and practices. They have provided us with important and valuable recommendations. We are committed to avoiding any complacency in this vital work in the future and will implement the recommendations in full. I also welcome the recommendations in the national PCR2 report published today. We will now study them quickly to understand how they relate to our own policy and practice so we can identify where improvements can be made. Finally, I join Bishop Guli in paying tribute to those who have suffered abuse who have informed this report and continue to inform our approach to safeguarding by sharing their own difficult and painful experiences. By doing so, they help us to better protect children and vulnerable adults”
The Rt Revd Roger Morris, the Bishop of Colchester is the delegated lead for Safeguarding in Chelmsford Diocese. Commenting on the PCR 2 reports, Bishop Roger said:
“The national Church PCR 2 report and the Chelmsford Diocese PCR 2 report remind us that we must continually strive to be a church where all are welcome and safe, especially the young and vulnerable. The reports also remind us of the cost of failure, the deep and painful harm and damage that is experienced by those who suffer abuse. Our PCR 2 reviewers have given us clear and helpful recommendations for the future. I look forward to working with our excellent diocesan safeguarding team and parish safeguarding officers as we continue to implement them.”
*For anonymity a substitute name has been used
Further news information
- Church of England Past Cases Review 2
- Chelmsford Diocese Past Cases Review 2 Executive Summary
- Chelmsford Diocese Safeguarding web pages
- Nick Alston appointed as the new Independent Chair of the Chelmsford Diocese Safeguarding Advisory Panel