The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse released its final report in the Church of England yesterday. The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Rt Rev Peter Hancock and the Bishop of Taunton, Rt Rev Ruth Worsley have responded:
“We accept with great shame the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which Bishop Peter, then lead safeguarding bishop* for the Church of England, appeared before on behalf of the Church. We know that apologies will not ever be enough on their own, yet we are truly sorry for all those who have been failed by the Church. The failure to respond to survivors correctly and with compassion has compounded the abuse perpetrated by those they should have been able to trust. We pledge ourselves to listen, to learn and to act in every way we can to support survivors, and to ensure our churches are safe places for everyone.
“We welcome the report’s recommendations and will study them in detail in order to learn every lesson possible from them.
“Currently in this diocese, as across the Church of England, we are in the middle of the Past Cases Review 2 process, in which an independent reviewer is reviewing all our files and paperwork to re-examine historic safeguarding decisions. All parishes have been asked to submit any details or files they have and they are participating willingly in this process. We will report the findings of the review to the national Church on time by the end of the year and will act immediately on anything that may not have been correctly or compassionately dealt with in the past.”
Anyone who has been distressed by the report, and survivors of abuse can contact the new independent Safe Spaces service for survivors of church-related abuse, which ensures survivors can access independent specialist support and advice.
The Diocesan Safeguarding team can be contacted here.
Diocesan Safeguarding Manager Glenys Armstrong has also welcomed the IICSA report. She said: “Since Bishop Peter came to Bath and Wells he has made very clear that any decisions made about safeguarding are to be made by those with appropriate professional responsibility and qualifications – the Safeguarding Team have his full authority to make safeguarding related decisions about clergy cases without the need for further permission from him. As a team, we have long felt that there needs to be more regional working, and closer links with the NST, and welcome the idea of a Regional Safeguarding Manager whose role will be to provide that support and consistency across the region.”
*Bishop Peter stepped down as lead safeguarding bishop earlier this year. He is currently in hospital undergoing treatment for leukaemia.