The Diocese of Lichfield has taken part in the most extensive review of safeguarding records ever conducted by the Church of England.
Almost 2,000 files were independently reviewed in the diocese during the Past Cases Review (PCR) 2. Lichfield 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, 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).
The review examined key local themes such as the quality of safeguarding case files, work with survivors of abuse, work with other agencies and safeguarding culture across the diocese. This has led to 39 recommendations for the diocese which have been, or are being, actioned, overseen by the Lichfield Diocese Safeguarding Scrutiny Panel. More information is available in this Executive Summary.
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “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.