I am very grateful to Jo Kind (MACSAS), Shelia Fish (SCIE) and those survivors who attended the fringe session and the debate at General Synod today. I know that there was a cost for them.
At the fringe event as I listened to their stories and I was again saddened. I continue to find it hard to comprehend how individuals who speak and preach of the love of God have abused the trust that was put in them. I also regret that as a church we have not always responded well in the past and I have seen the cost that this has had and continues to have on those individuals. I am sorry that in the midst of this some have lost their sense of God.
It is a personal frustration that we are not moving quicker and I know we have not yet involved survivors and victims in a way that they, or I, would have liked. The involvement of survivors last night and today demonstrate why we need to move towards co-production. They will help us to understand what good looks like and how we put victims and survivors at the heart of what we do. In the words of Jo Kind “walking towards and among survivors borrowing some of their courage”
I believe that we are on a journey and we have made progress over the last few years including in our culture ‘the way we do things around here.’
For culture to continue to change the leadership for safeguarding must remain within the Church. I am clear about my responsibility and I believe that that it is time that further work is undertaken to reflect on the balance between responsibility and independence.
We also need to become more sophisticated in drawing a distinction between safeguarding activity:
- Firstly, the activity which we undertake to keep our churches safe places today; for example policies and procedures must be implemented by those in the parishes who are supported by safeguarding officers appropriately trained and resourced within the diocese to ensure a safe church.
- Secondly, how we respond to those who chose to disclose abuse in a church context but where the abuse did not occur in the church context again locally provided.
- And, finally the processes that are in place to respond to those that have been abused by church officers which may be more appropriately provided independently.
Separate activity managed in different and appropriate ways.
Having listened to survivors I do believe that:
- There is a need for more independent scrutiny of what we do
- I would support the principle of an independent place where people who have been a victim of abuse by an officer of the church can disclose to, where they will then be appropriately and professionally supported throughout an investigation and an independent advocate allocated.
- I also think we need to consider how best the mental and physical health of those that disclose can be better met and not just at disclosure but on into the future.
Finally Jo Kind brought us back to the issue of power and trust and its abuse ,this is something which we need to talk about more seriously.
I wish change could occur overnight – it can’t, but I hope to match the tenacity shown by survivors by ensuring that change does occur. The actions discussed today may not be where we want to get to but it is a point on the way.