The Diocese of Leicester has published its local Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) Report and Action Plan as part of a major national independent review of the handling of church officer safeguarding cases across the Church of England over many years.
It is the most significant review of its kind ever undertaken by the Church. Critically, it includes input from victims and survivors and has resulted in recommendations which will be actioned and scrutinised.
The Bishop of Leicester echoed the apology made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York as the national PCR2 Report was published, and pledged to push for the changes the review recommends. You can watch his video message here.
Survivor experience has been central to the review. The Leicester PCR2 review included contributions from nine people who came forward to talk with the independent reviewer about their experience of how church related abuse was handled, and in some cases, how their own suffering was exacerbated by the system in place for handling safeguarding cases.
One of those people is willing to talk publicly (but anonymously) about how the national system that should have helped her when she disclosed non-recent abuse traumatised her more than the incident itself. You can read her comments here.
Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, said:
“I want to add my voice to the Archbishops’ apology for the Church’s failures, and to all who have been affected. We are indebted to people who have shared their experience of how church related abuse was handled. I am determined to work towards better processes in the Church of England, as well as ensuring that our local action plan is delivered.
“The Church of England’s out-dated system of policies and procedures for handling safeguarding complaints must be quickly and radically improved to better support those who have been abused, when they bravely try to bring perpetrators to account.
“Safeguarding continues to be a fundamental part of our mission. It lies at the heart of all that we are and all that we seek to be in the church in this city and county but the Church of England systems must be improved to overcome the shortcomings which have led to some of the additional suffering which victims and survivors have experienced when they come forward with a disclosure.
“I particularly want to thank the nine people who were willing to take part in this review and speak about their experience. Their courageous contributions have been costly to themselves but the sharing of their experience with independent experts has been invaluable in shedding light on what still needs to change right across the Church.
“This is not drawing a line under past mistakes but an important part of making sure the Church is handling safeguarding cases increasingly well, that we truly learn from the mistakes of the past, and action effective change. This is an ongoing journey to better serve victims but it is one of the utmost importance.”
A vast amount of work has gone into reviewing all files about church officers, going back over many decades in order to make sure the diocese has not failed to take proper action on any safeguarding matters.
In total 1,870 files about church officers from all Diocese of Leicester church settings, including the Cathedral, were reviewed for evidence of safeguarding failures in the past.
From those, 17 historic files were referred to the Lead Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser for further action. None of the issues identified posed any immediate safeguarding risk. The overriding theme of these related to past procedures that have been changed/updated since the appointment of the current Lead Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser along with improvements in national Church of England safeguarding policy and guidelines. The reviewers were satisfied there were no outstanding matters relating to those files.
Updates on progress of the Action Plan will be published twice a year.
Frequently Asked Questions about PCR2 are available by clicking here.
Report Summary and Recommendations
In her Summary and Recommendations in the report, lead Independent Reviewer Elaine Rabbitt, said:
“The PCR2 of the Diocese of Leicester has met all objectives as set out in the PCR2 Protocol and Practice Guidance. The Diocese of Leicester has evidenced excellent working practices. There are recommendations at a local and national level that have been discussed with the Lead Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, and the Reference Group. These are detailed in a separate action plan.
“Local recommendations related to improving the process, encouraging the voice of the child, standardising file management systems, and improving links with statutory agencies through a single point of contact, to build on the Survivor Strategy.
“National recommendations related to the introduction of a national recording system, streamlining process and practice across all diocese and cathedrals.
“The Independent Reviewers found the Safeguarding Team to be dedicated, professional, and committed to producing a high standard of work with the interests of the victims/survivors uppermost, this is supported throughout the diocese from a senior level down.”
Bishop Martyn also said:
“I am hugely grateful to our lead independent reviewer, Elaine Rabbitt and everyone who has played a role in this work including clergy and safeguarding officers in every church setting across the city and county, as well as our diocesan Safeguarding Team and those who have assisted them, who have been so diligent and thorough.”
He also thanked David Cooper who is the independent Chair of the Diocesan PCR2 Reference Group as well as the Diocesan Safeguarding Oversight Group, which includes representatives of the Church of England in Leicestershire as well as professionals with safeguarding expertise from outside agencies such as the police, local authority, local education and a specialist survivor service, who all help scrutinise and hold to account the diocese’s safeguarding work.
“I am very grateful to David Cooper for both his support and challenge during the PCR2 process. His many years of experience in safeguarding work have enabled him to provide appropriate challenge to our own safeguarding team and ensure that the PCR2 work has been thorough and survivor focussed,” said Bishop Martyn.
“I am pleased that the independent review has recognised the excellence of our current safeguarding provision for our worshipping communities across the Diocese of Leicester but there are clearly cases from the past where survivors of abuse have suffered because of previous shortcomings here and an historic lack of victim focus which the whole Church is guilty of across the country.
“My Leadership Team and I are fully committed to implementing the recommendations made by our independent reviewer as represented in our public Action Plan, and we will publish updates in a timely manner to ensure progress and further improvements are made and can be scrutinised.”
David Cooper, Independent Chair of the Diocese of Leicester’s PCR2 Reference Group, said:
“The diocese’s local PCR 2 report published today shows the progress which Leicester has made in its safeguarding arrangements in recent years. However, as the Independent Reviewer also indicates, this is not a time for complacency, and there is still much to do. Bishop Martyn and his leadership team need to commit to adequately resourcing safeguarding going forward. I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal thanks to the victims and survivors who gave of their time in support of the review. Their contribution was invaluable.”
Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser Rachael Spiers said:
“I am immensely grateful to those who spoke to the independent reviewers and to others who have given feedback and contributed to our learning in the diocese. I know this took courage to do. The people who did so were motivated to try to ensure that their experiences don’t happen to anybody else. Our team will continue to work hard with anybody who comes forward.
“It is recognised that when there is public attention on safeguarding matters, people who have been victims of abuse and often long-term survivors, come forward for the first time, so it is our priority to be available for anyone who wants to make contact in confidence.”
Support is available for anyone for whom this prompts the need to talk or seek help and the diocese is keen to help anyone who contacts them about safeguarding matters, however long ago they may have happened.
Contact details for the Safeguarding Team and the independent Safe Spaces service are as follows (also available online here):
Rachael Spiers, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser
M: 0793 081 9279 Rachael.Spiers@LeicesterCofE.org
Peter Holloway, Assistant Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser
M: 07930 887984 Peter.Holloway@LeicesterCofE.org
Safe Spaces: a new independent service providing vital support for survivors of church-related abuse. You can contact them on email: mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 0300 3031056.