The strategic responsibility and focus which governing bodies must have for safeguarding can now be seen from the IICSA report published today. As part of the Roman Catholic Investigation, IICSA considered the Archdiocese of Birmingham. The case study considered the extent of abuse, failures to protect children, adequacy of responses, lessons learned and changes thereafter implemented.
The report identifies the extent of allegations of abuse and of failings over a long period of time. Many of these echo what has been identified in earlier reports.
Consideration was also made of the current safeguarding practices within the Archdiocese. The report is highly critical of the Archdiocese and its attitude to safeguarding in 2018. Whilst the facts are specific to the Archdiocese the wider issues are of relevance for any organisations involved in safeguarding now. In particular, any organisation should be asking:
- Do we have the right safeguarding team? Is it appropriately funded and supported? Are its members appropriately qualified and empowered? Is it properly managed and overseen?
- Is the case management system for safeguarding fit for purpose? Can we evidence implementation of policies and procedures throughout all our work? Is the way in which records of disclosures are made and kept such that they are clear, actions implemented and reviews undertaken?
Consideration of the above questions should be made by the governing body of any organisation. When answers are provided and recommendations made they should be progressed. Independent assessments may be appropriate. The Archdiocese of Birmingham is criticised for having failed to act on recommendations it received. Those failures have led to the Charity Commission opening a statutory inquiry into the Birmingham Diocesan Trust. That inquiry is focussed on the charity’s safeguarding and the adequacy of its response to recent safeguarding reviews. It would have been much better for all if the right questions had been asked, the recommendations been implemented and the need for greater involvement of the Charity Commission had been avoided. Governing bodies should take heed and act now.
Authored by Paula Jefferson, Partner, BLM