By Lisa Zengarini
Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (CBCEW) have announced the creation of a new survivor reference panel made up of victims of clerical sexual abuse so to ensure that their voices are heard and learnt from.
The 'IICSA Report'
The move follows the establishment of the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CCSA), which earlier this year replaced the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) and the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS). Both measures are part of the wide-ranging child protection reforms which the CBCEW decided in November 2020, after the publication of the ‘IICSA Report’, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse instructed by the British Government, and of the ‘Elliot Review’, an internal inquiry commissioned by the bishops in 2019 in order to improve safeguarding structures. The reports highlighted some critical aspects in abuse-prevention and proposed a series of recommendations.
Ensuring victims' voices are heard
The aim of the reform process is to ensure victims have a voice in the management of the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults within the Church and the issues arising from it, in line with one of the recommendations of the ‘Elliot Review’.
The new group will replace the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) and will support and inform the work of the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency. Previously, SAP provided the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission with advice and recommendations on matters relevant to survivors, including insights into how to improve responses in such areas as victim disclosures and pastoral support. It also helped to highlight unidentified areas of concern to safeguarding professionals.
Positive reaction by Catholic survivors
Two members of Catholic Survivors England, who were core participants at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, have welcomed the announcement: “We hope that it is a positive indicator of the Church’s commitment to increased engagement with survivors, so that Ian Elliott’s recommendation that ‘it is imperative that those who have been harmed through their involvement with the Church is heard and learnt from’ is fully implemented and embedded in the culture of CSSA from the outset.”, they said.
Enhanced engagement with victims and survivors
Nazir Afzal, a former Chief Crown Prosecutor who bishops appointed as the first Chair of the CSSA in May, pointed out, on his part, that “ensuring that victims and survivors voices are heard” is at the centre of the Agency’s work. “This refreshed Survivor Reference Panel is one important part of our overall engagement with victims and survivors, who we will seek to engage with in a number of different ways”, he said.
The 'Elliot Review'
The 'Elliot Review' was the third independent enquiry commissioned by the CBCEW on Church Safeguarding Structures against abuse, after the “Nolan Report” del 2001 e la “Cumberlege Review” del 2007. One of key proposals of the Review, which was issued on November 20 2020, is the creation of a national body with powers of effective audit and oversight of safeguarding in both Dioceses and Religious Orders. It also suggests the creation of an independent tribunal dealing with the canonical issues related to abuse and the creation of a second authority for the prevention of abuses in Religious Orders.