Catholic Church faces increase in abuse allegations

The Catholic Church faced an increase in abuse allegations in 2008 compared with the previous year, the church’s safeguarding watchdog said in its first annual report today.


The National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, which was established in July 2008 to develop the church’s safeguarding policy in England and Wales and monitor compliance, said there were 51 allegations in 2008, up from 44 in 2007 and 41 in 2006.


Only three of the 51 resulted in a conviction, and while all cases were referred to statutory agencies, no further action was taken in 29 of them.


Allegations from past five years


Adrian Child, director of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS), which supports implementation of NCSC policies in practice, said much of the increase came from allegations of abuse that had taken place in the past five years, although the majority still related to abuse dating back 30 to 40 years.


The annual report also highlighted an increase in the number of parishes with no safeguarding representatives, from 92 in 2007 to 106 in 2008, representing 4% of parishes.


Child said recruitment was ongoing, aided by a safeguarding resource pack for parishes and different approaches to suit local circumstances.


For example, some parishes are looking to combine to set up teams of safeguarding representatives to work across wider areas.


Investigations protocol


CSAS has also distributed a protocol for independent investigations to the chairs of the church’s safeguarding committees.


These investigations would be undertaken after enquiries by statutory agencies conclude and where risk is evident but the case does not proceed to court.


Child said two requests for independent investigations had so far been made.


The annual report does not go as far as naming and shaming any church bodies whose policies fail to safeguard children and adults, as mooted last year by NCSC chair Bill Kilgallon.


Child said this was because “that level of unsafe or poor performance has not been identified or recognised”.


Vetting and barring


CSAS has run two presentations, attended by more than 2,000 members of the clergy, safeguarding representatives and volunteers, on the implications of the new vetting and barring scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults, which is due to come into force on 12 October.


Child said the Catholic Church’s recruitment procedures were “very rigorous” and would not be affected by the scheme, but it would have to “work hard” to ensure accurate information was in the public domain, following recent inaccuracies in media coverage.


The safeguarding commission and advisory service were set up following the 2007 Cumberlege review, which said the previous safeguarding body, the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, had struggled with the twin roles of advising church bodies and enforcing compliance with policies.


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