The Catholic Church in England and Wales has appointed its first
director of child protection, writes Anabel Unity
Eileen Shearer will oversee the Catholic Church’s national
strategy for child protection, and in the new Catholic Office for
the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults will advise the
Church on best practice in the field. She will also co-ordinate the
development of policies and procedures on the prevention of abuse
and the protection of children, young people and vulnerable
The COPCA was established following a recommendation in last
November’s final report of the independent review on child
protection, which was chaired by Lord Nolan.
Shearer said: “I am absolutely convinced that the Roman Catholic
Church has listened to Lord Nolan’s report and is taking this
She said her first task was to discuss with the child protection
unit’s management board and a timescale for its work. This
includes awareness raising throughout the Church; reviewing the
selection procedures and training standards for staff and
volunteers, and responding to allegations of abuse.
Shearer, who admitted she was agnostic, has spent 25-years
working in children’s services including time with the NSPCC.
She said she accepted the job because she was “very committed to
making sure children are protected wherever they might be”.
Announcing her appointment, Archbishop Vincent Nichols,
chairperson of the COPCA management board, said the Catholic
community has worked hard to respond to the phenomenon of child
He added: “This appointment is a demonstration of our commitment
to take a serious and conscientious approach to the children in our
He dismissed claims that the child protection unit would not be
independent from the Catholic Church. “This office will be at a
clear distance from, for want of a better word, ecclesiastical
bureaucracy,” he said.