All dioceses took part in the Church of England’s Past Cases Review (PCR) 2 including the Diocese of Lichfield which is home to more than 500 churches in Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Shropshire and the Black Country.
Lichfield Diocese was also one of seven dioceses asked to carry out further work to provide an updated and comprehensive version of the first Past Cases Review published in 2010.
Independent reviewers, who had professional experience of safeguarding and were from outside the diocese, carried out the wide-ranging work between 2019-2021, looking at files as far back as the 1960s. These included all historic safeguarding case files, concerns raised by parishes during the review and all personnel files for current and retired clergy, plus others who have ‘permission to officiate’ at churches in the diocese, and lay church officers.
In total, 1,897 files were reviewed, the bulk of these being routine personnel files for clergy. As a result, 31 new safeguarding cases* were identified. Over one third of these (12 cases) related to files that contained insufficient information that required clarification. Several of the 31 cases concerned clergy who were identified as survivors of abuse. All the cases have been - or are in the process of being - followed up by the Diocesan Safeguarding Team (DST).
Safeguarding provision in Lichfield Diocese began a significant transformation when a safeguarding professional (a registered Social Worker) took on the role of Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser (DSA) in 2017. The positive changes this led to are highlighted in the review which outlines shortcomings in the diocese prior to this point, improvement and good practice since 2017, and areas for further improvement.
Before 2017, the quality of safeguarding case files was ‘very poor’ showing a lack of comprehensive record keeping, potentially posing a risk to survivors. Paper filing systems were inconsistent and held in various buildings across the diocese with a lack of a central database. From 2017, a decision was made to centralise files electronically. Following this, the diocese has moved to an interim electronic safeguarding content management system (CMS) and has chosen to be part of the national Church’s new CMS, which will enhance information sharing across dioceses, when available later this year.
The review spotlighted a number of recent examples of well-handled complex cases, including one concerning domestic abuse and one which led to the creation of a new diocesan policy on ‘spiritual abuse.’ While improvements have been significant, there was still a need for decision-making, case management and recording to be more systematic and consistent.
There was also a need for improved processes to ensure that Local Lay Ministers (Readers) had up-to-date DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) certificates and safeguarding training. Action Plans for these areas have since been created.
Lichfield Diocese’s survivor policy demonstrated good practice in its commitment to supporting survivors through clear communication of information, pastoral care and specialist support. The review described a picture of ‘very encouraging improvement in the provision of support to victims/survivors’ since 2017. It outlined a comprehensive media campaign to appeal for survivors to come forward during the review, and diocesan plans to seek survivor representation on all future work streams and projects where possible.
Numerous examples of good work with other agencies, including police and social services, were highlighted, along with good evidence of offender management. The ongoing need to share information of potential risk with other agencies at the earliest opportunity and for closer multi-agency working on safeguarding contracts was also outlined.
The Diocesan Safeguarding Team has professionalised and expanded since 2017 to significantly improve safeguarding provision across the diocese. However, at times, largely due to issues with staff illness, its reduced capacity has impacted the team’s ability to respond consistently. This is being addressed through the recruitment of an additional locum Social Worker. The need for improvements to the coordinated management supervision and support for the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser have also been identified and acted on.
The review explained the positive step-change in safeguarding culture that had taken place since 2017. It recognised the arrival of the current Bishop of Lichfield, who came to the diocese at the end of 2016, as ‘hugely influential’ in this change, alongside the appointment of the current Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. This change is ongoing, and challenges still exist but, through safeguarding training, new policies and briefings plus a range of information provided on the diocesan website, positive steps have been taken to embed safeguarding into the culture of clergy and staff.
Implementation Of Local Recommendations
The review included 39 recommendations for the diocese which relate to the local themes above. Over half of the recommendations have already been actioned while those that remain are included in a comprehensive Action Plan whose implementation will be overseen by the Lichfield Diocese Safeguarding Scrutiny Panel (see below).
Role Of the Lichfield Diocese Safeguarding Scrutiny Panel
The Lichfield Diocese Safeguarding Scrutiny Panel (LDSSP) oversees and scrutinises safeguarding in the diocese, meeting regularly and having an Independent Chair. The review recommended that the panel should include a senior member of clergy – which it now does – and that it contained representatives from external safeguarding organisations, one of whom has been recently recruited. It also recommended that a survivor representative is included on the panel - a survivor is now actively being recruited.
Response from the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave:
“On behalf of the Diocese of Lichfield, I apologise unreservedly to people who have been victims of abuse in our churches whether as children or vulnerable adults. We recognise the ways in which positions of power and trust have been abused, causing inexcusable pain and hurt to survivors and their families.
“With this in mind, I welcome this review which shows the strides that have been taken in improving safeguarding action and culture across the diocese in the last five years. We want everyone to be able to take part in and enjoy activities in our churches in a loving, caring and safe atmosphere and we take the safeguarding of children and adults very seriously. As a result of this detailed review, and the progress made since 2017, I am now confident that this is much more of a reality. This is in no small part due to the hard work of our Diocesan Safeguarding Team who have persisted to drive change forward and ensure a professional, proactive, and survivor-focused safeguarding approach.
“Although there has been significant positive change, we are not complacent and know that there is still work to do to continually improve our safeguarding effectiveness. The role of the Lichfield Diocese Safeguarding Panel in this is crucial as its members oversee the ongoing improvements that need to be made in response to this review and ensure that the voice and needs of survivors are kept at the centre of all that we do. We need to continue to learn from our mistakes and listen to those who we have hurt – this is a key part of our mission as a Church which seeks to reflect the love of God who protects and cares for the vulnerable.”
Anyone who wants to discuss a safeguarding matter in Lichfield Diocese can contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team via their details on our website.
*New cases are defined as: ‘New information found pertaining to an individual or a concern that was previously unknown by local safeguarding teams or equivalent.’ Where cases were known (not new) but further action/clarification was required, a separate safeguarding referral was made.
The Lichfield Diocese review did not include files from Lichfield Cathedral, which is subject to separate independent review processes.
Read the national PCR2 report at: https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/past-cases-review-2