[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A new safeguarding strategy to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults will be launched by the Church in Wales tomorrow (Wednesday). The Church has strengthened its team of safeguarding officers and now has a head of safeguarding, Elaine Cloke, as well as two provincial safeguarding officers for north and south Wales who will respond to safeguarding concerns and allegations. In addition, there are additional safeguarding support officers based in each of the province’s six dioceses.
The church said that the new safeguarding team – with backgrounds in the police, social services and health – is “at the heart of [its] major new strategy aimed at ensuring churches are safe places for everyone.”
“We want to make sure the Church in Wales is a safe place for our children to grow up in and to be nourished in the Christian faith,” the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said ahead of the strategy’s launch at the Church in Wales Governing Body meeting in Lampeter tomorrow (Wednesday). “Caring for them and for all vulnerable people is of paramount importance to us – whether they come to us through worship, Sunday schools, choirs or clubs.
“This is why we are investing in a robust safeguarding team with officers covering every part of Wales. They will offer help, support and advice to our churches, ensuring our safeguarding policies are properly implemented and that we are doing all we possibly can to keep people safe from abuse.”
The new safeguarding policy and strategy follows an independent 2011 Church-commissioned review into historic cases of child abuse within the Church in Wales. The review was carried out by a specialist social worker, seconded from the office of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, and involved examining the Church’s files of all existing and retired clergy to ensure any previously-raised concerns had been properly managed.
“Following the report, no criminal proceedings were taken against any cleric,” a spokeswoman for the Church in Wales said. “However, the report made a number of recommendations for improving the Church’s safeguarding policy and these are addressed in the new policy.”
The Church in Wales and the Church of England are, together, a strand of the UK government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which continues at a preliminary stage.
Following the Church’s own review, the Archbishop of Wales has had an annual meeting with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Professor Sally Holland. And the Commissioner has welcomed the new policy.
“Any organisation working with children and young people has a responsibility to provide a robust and effective child protection system,” Professor Holland said. “I am very encouraged by the steps taken by the Church in Wales to avoid placing their corporate reputation ahead of children’s best interests and are instead promoting a culture where children’s dignity is respected.
“I hope their Wales-wide safeguarding team will give genuine effect to the commitments articulated in this new policy. As Children’s Commissioner tasked with promoting and protecting children’s rights and welfare in Wales, I’ll be keeping a watching brief on its implementation and encouraging other faith groups across the country to follow suit.”