Safeguarding consultant calls C of E to account on abuse investigations

By staff writers
December 17, 2017

An internationally-recognised safeguarding expert has taken the highly unusual step of speaking out to "put the record straight" on the Church of England repeatedly protecting its insurer over attempts to discredit a major review into alleged sexual abuse committed by senior Church figures.

Ian Elliott, an internationally recognised safeguarding expert and reviewer, addressed his concerns to the BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' programme this morning (17 December 2017) in an interview with Ed Stourton. He has released additional comments today to the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and to the the group blogsite Thinking Anglicans, setting out his additional concerns.

Mr Elliott led the Elliott Review for the Church of England commissioned in 2015 and published in 2016. He has worked at national church and government level around the world. He is highly regarded for his work in Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.

In an article published by Ekklesia, he declares: "It has been said that there are [unspecified] 'actual inaccuracies' contained in the Report that I authored. I know of none."

Elliott continues: "Because of the repeated misleading comments that have been issued by Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) regarding the evidence that I had access to when undertaking the Review of the case of survivor B for the Church of England, I have decided to take the highly unusual step of confirming publicly what occurred.

"I have asked repeatedly for this to be done by those who commissioned the Report but to date, they have refused to do so. They are aware of what the records state just as I am. They gave me access to the case file, and facilitated my interviews, whilst undertaking the Review."

The article concludes: "In my view, survivor B, and others who have an interest in knowing the truth, deserve to be informed that this case was reviewed in a fair and objective way, and that the highest professional standards were applied to the assessment contained in the Review Report. There are no factual inaccuracies within it, and those that state otherwise are making false and misleading statements that should be withdrawn." 

Regarding the core groups with EIG presence, Ian Elliott has made a statement further to his BBC Radio 4 interview, adding material that was not covered in the broadcast interview.

He says: “I attended two Core Group meetings when undertaking the Review. A lawyer representing EIG was present at both of these meetings which struck me as being unusual. I would have thought that the survivor could have been invited as well, and contributed usefully to the meeting but this does not appear to be usual practice. In my experience, affording the subject of the meeting, the survivor, the opportunity to contribute to it, makes for much better outcomes. The Core Group meeting should have a pastoral focus but this was not my assessment of the ones that I attended. It is rooted in attitudes towards survivors which are totally misguided, misplaced, and unacceptable.“

Phil Johnson, chair of MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) commented today: “These core groups demonstrate the extent to which the church is more interested in financial considerations than the well-being and care for victims. Survivors haven’t known or been invited with their own legal representative and this is a huge imbalance of power. It gives the insurer massive informational and strategic advantage and potential opportunity to cover its tracks”

Abuse survivor Gilo, who wrote a recent Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, says: “I’ve been raising questions to the Church about its relationship to Ecclesiastical Insurance for two years now, but saw the questions discredited and ignored by their National Safeguarding and National Advisor.

"Yet all this time they’ve kept quiet about these core groups. I’m not the first to raise questions about the church and insurer working in close tandem. Survivors have been raising the skewered relationship in person to Archbishop Welby for the past five years."

Archbishop Justin Welby has provided only a polite, cursory response to the Open Letter so far, bypassing the key questions and challenges it poses. A bishop, academics, safeguarding experts and survivors have backed the Letter and called for a proper, detailed response from the Archbishop and the Church of England – including the introduction of manadatory reporting of abuse. 

Safeguarding expert Ian Elliott commented today: "Archbishop Welby’s letter in response to the thoughtful and in my view, helpful open letter [from Gilo], is misplaced. Kind words are not adequate. What is needed is action. Survivors need to see the church letting them know what changes will be made, when changes will be made, and how the church can be held to account in terms of those changes.

"The survivors I have spoken to want to feel that what’s happened to them is of enough concern to the church that it is keeping the hierarchy awake at night. They don’t see enough real concern or impetus for action. Survivors just don’t see that at present. So many of the problems the Church of England face are of their own making because of the inertia and resistance to any change.”

Simon Barrow, director of the think-tank Ekklesia, said: "It is appropriate and necessary to bring further public attention to the vital issues raised by  abuse survivors and safeguarding expert Ian Elliott. It is now vital for the health of the Church, but above all for the dignity and rights of those who have been abused, that an open, honest and action-focused response is now forthcoming from the C of E and from insurers EIG. 

"A Church previously in active denial over abuse has  learned to mask institutional damage-limitation with polite concern. What is needed instead is a transformation of heart and mind, manifested in accountability and openness toward past wrongs, decisive action in the present, and deep cultural change for the future."

* BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' programme interview with Ian Elliott (programme here; segement c29 minutes in)

* Read Ian Elliott's full article: Why I challenge the Church of England and EIG on safeguarding.

* Elliott Review findings (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document).

* Article on Thinking Anglicans.

Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS).

* Open Letter from survivor Gilo to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

* Archbishop pressed to bring in manadatory reporting of abuse.

[Ekk/3]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.