Briefing: Safeguarding and Independence

July 1, 2022

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This paper summarises work undertaken by the National Safeguarding Panel and the Independent Safeguarding Board since the February meeting of Synod, and explores emerging ideas for Phase 2 of independent oversight of safeguarding.

Meg led a review of the National Safeguarding Panel's terms of reference, which led to a clearer focus on providing safeguarding advice and scrutinising policies, procedures and implementation. The Panel meets six times a year for two hours, and makes recommendations on safeguarding policy.

The Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) was launched in January 2022 by Professor Maggie Atkinson, Survivor Advocate Jasvinder Sanghera and Independent Member Steve Reeves. The ISB is contactable via and has an individual email address. Deborah McGovern devotes a certain number of days per month to ISB activities. The ISB has appointed Plexus Legal LLP to ensure an independent legal offer and support to the ISB, and has agreed to the contents of, and now signed, the NCIs' Information Sharing Agreement. We appointed an independent web design and branding business to help us develop and launch the ISB website, which will feature governance content, our work plans, and in due course, webinars and blogs, FAQs and other materials. The Board has had one away day and two business meetings to date, and plans a longer strategic session in late July. It will include advice to all in the C of E on safeguarding issues. The Board doesn't review or report on issues unless it originated the work. In Phase 1, it oversees the NST, and will advise on how independence and authority should be assured in Phase 2 and beyond. The ISB is charged with making safeguarding a habit of everyday practice across the C of E, and can scrutinise or review how the Church has handled a particular case. The ISB liaises with the NST and Archbishops' Council, and briefs them on its work.

The ISB's Survivor Advocate met with survivors and victims, and listened to their concerns. Her report is now part of the ISB's work.

The ISB is working with DSAs/DSOs, DSAPs and their Chairs, and C of E bodies responsible for ensuring good practice in safeguarding to develop a report that will be a prominent first report on the ISB's new website. This discussion was at the centre of ISB discussions with the AC and the HoB in Spring 2022, and of the NSP/ISB Fringe discussion at lunchtime today. The ISB has offered to coordinate the discussions on Phase 2, and to advise the C of E on achieving what survivors consider necessary. The ISB will continue to advise on improvements to safeguarding in the church and highlight good work in parishes, dioceses and the community.

The ISB will focus on the following in 2022 and 2023, helping to land Phase 2.

We believe the C of E is sincere in wishing to improve safeguarding, but current governance does not clearly outline who has authority to ensure the delivery of that intent. We also believe the C of E needs to look beyond its own boundaries and structures to learn from safeguarding in localities.

The report highlights several issues with safeguarding, including hard-to-navigate structures, a sense of "not knowing who can help me" and slow, defensive responses. It also highlights the need for development of a child-friendly approach to help, advice or redress.