Today

Tue, November 30, 2021

Diocese of Paisley Annual Statement on Safeguarding 2021

Annual Safeguarding Announcement for use in Parishes
 
Safeguarding in the Catholic Church means doing everything in our power to try and prevent abuse; firstly, by having a safe system of recruitment for clergy, religious, employees and volunteers; which includes PVG checks, references and training; and secondly, by having a reporting system so people can come forward with disclosures and concerns, be listened to and have their disclosures acted upon. Here in (name of parish), our Parish Safeguarding Coordinator is (name of PSC).
A central part of safeguarding is care for survivors so that their wounds are tended and they are kept safe from further harm while we try to accompany them to safe paths of healing. This time last year we were pleased to welcome to the Diocese Fr Dominic Allain of ‘Grief to Grace’ who  made two presentations, one to clergy and one to the public on his outreach healing ministry to abuse survivors. Many survivors who have attended Grief to Grace have told us how helpful they found it. As soon as we can safely do so, we are hoping to run a retreat in Scotland for any abuse survivors who would like to attend. 
It is the responsibility of all of us, whether clergy or lay to try and reach out to those who have been harmed or abused by members of the Church, their families or any other person, whilst respecting that many will understandably feel unable to engage with us. Nevertheless, we can still pray for and care about them. It is also our responsibility to remain vigilant and to do everything in our power to keep our communities safe.  
 
We are all appalled by reports of abuse from around the world and of cover ups by some Bishops and Cardinals. We in this diocese remain committed to doing everything in our power to try and help survivors and to foster a culture where children and vulnerable adults are protected.
 
Our Diocesan safeguarding team includes the Vicar General for Safeguarding, Fr Joe Burke who ensures among other things that all visiting clergy are properly checked and vouched. The Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Mary Kearns advises Bishop John Keenan on best practice and ensures that all and any allegations of abuse received by the Diocese are reported to the police in accordance with the Church’s National Safeguarding Policy ‘In God’s Image’, which has just been updated and reissued and which you can find on the Bishops’ Conference website.
We also have a trained safeguarding co-ordinator in every parish. In this parish I am your safeguarding co-ordinator. My role is to ensure that all parish volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults are recruited safely and receive safeguarding training. You can also come to me if you have any safeguarding concerns.
We have a Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group, which advises the Bishop on safeguarding policy and which cascades vital information and best practice to clergy, parishes and Catholic organisations working in the Diocese, such as SSVP, Ozanam, SPRED, the Wayside Club, the Lourdes Pilgrimage and the Diocesan Pilgrimage. Those organisations all have representatives on the Advisory Group. 
In addition to the Advisory Group we have a Diocesan Risk Assessment and Management Team or DRAMT made up of mostly lay professionals. Our DRAMT is chaired by Julie Kelly, a very experienced criminal justice social worker.  The DRAMT also has a retired police officer, a retired Head Teacher, two GPs, a teacher, a lawyer and a canon lawyer. One of the jobs of the DRAMT professionals is to identify and assess risk and make recommendations to the Bishop on risk management wherever required. 
 
There are three Diocesan Safeguarding trainers: Mary Docherty, June Clunie and Philomena Muggins. Since 2016 they have provided part one safeguarding training to more than 1,000 volunteers who work with children and vulnerable groups in numerous training sessions. If you are a volunteer working with vulnerable groups you will have received ‘Safeguarding Induction Part 1’. The new ‘Safeguarding Part 2’ training for volunteers who attended Part 1 training 18 months ago was just getting underway when the lockdown happened. Although the lockdown and Government Coronavirus measures prevented us from delivering our training programme for much of last year, training is planned to restart shortly. Between August 2019 and March 2020 when the Covid lockdown began, 13 sessions were delivered to 528 volunteers. Our trainers work tirelessly to ensure that anyone working with vulnerable groups knows what to look for and how the Church’s reporting and referral system works.
 
In Scotland and in this diocese, we have worked hard again this year to seek out and adopt best practice in safeguarding.
When the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (BCOS) accepted in full the 2015 recommendations from the review into safeguarding chaired by Dr Andrew McLellan, they established an Independent Review Group (IRG) chaired by Baroness Helen Liddell to monitor the Church’s progress in implementing the McLellan Commission recommendations. One of the McLellan Commission recommendations was that there should be external scrutiny of the Church’s safeguarding practices and the Bishops agreed that each year for four years there should be an independent audit of safeguarding practice in two of the eight Scottish dioceses. The first two dioceses to be audited were the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Galloway Diocese. Their external audit reports were published in January 2020 and you can read them on the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland website. Since then, external audits of Aberdeen and Motherwell Dioceses have also been done and they are also available to read. Our own external audit is scheduled to take place from 14 to 16 June 2022. We will be the last of the Scottish Dioceses to be audited by the current IRG before they hand over to a new independent Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency.
In this Diocese we have taken careful note of the audit reports and the recommendations made by the external auditors in other dioceses and we have implemented them as appropriate via a strategic management plan.  During the Coronavirus lockdown our Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Mary Kearns collaborated with the Safeguarding Advisers of the other Scottish dioceses to prepare a full set of safeguarding policies, operating procedures and guidance notes on best practice. A ‘toolkit working group’ was established by the advisers who spent many hours on Zoom during lockdown discussing and sharing best practice and agreeing a set of policies. The group were grateful for a presentation given to them by a Chief Superintendent in Police Scotland Public Protection Unit to help them with this work, which will assist in meeting another of the McLellan recommendations of consistency in safeguarding practice across Scotland. 
 
In 2019, in the interests of transparency and accountability, the Scottish Bishops published a statistical review of all historical abuse cases reported in the Scottish Catholic Church over the past seventy years, from 1943 to 2005.  This completed an audit they published six years ago of all allegations of abuse disclosed in the period between 2006 and 2012. These two audits make public the figures for all allegations of abuse we have on record; they relate to the whole of the Catholic Church in Scotland, diocesan and religious; and they are available on the Bishops’ Conference website.
 
At the same time, our own diocese is committed to transparency and accountability, to mandatory reporting to the police of all disclosures of abuse, and to action against anyone responsible for abuse or cover up.
 
On our Diocesan website we have published hard copy annual safeguarding audits carried out since we began auditing in 2005. Digital audits were introduced in 2019.  In relation to this diocese, since the inception of the diocese in 1947 we have received 10 allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor. In one further case, the age of the victim was unknown. These 11 alleged offences were all reported to have been committed between 1964 and 2000. Most of the alleged perpetrators are dead. All allegations have been reported to the police and the decision about whether or not to proceed with any allegation always rests with the police and the prosecuting authorities. It goes without saying that with your help, we are committed to doing everything we can to create a culture of safeguarding within the Church and many hours, days and weeks have been devoted to this work this year.
 
The Church in Scotland has a mandatory reporting policy. This means that if an allegation of abuse is received it is immediately reported to the police. Our goal in all the work we are doing is that any abuse, historic or otherwise, will be met with justice, accountability and transparency, and our people’s trust in the Church be restored and assured. The procedures described above, together with the vigilance of those involved in parishes, help us ensure everyone feel safes when coming to Mass, services, groups or social events.
 
Bishop John, Fr (insert PP name here) and the Diocesan Safeguarding Team are grateful for all the hard work done by our Parish Co-ordinators and Volunteers in the parish of (insert name here).  The dedication and motivation of our parish continues to raise awareness of our safeguarding culture and highlights our shared responsibility in meeting our duty of care to all in our parish family. Thank you.

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