The Cumberlege Commission set up just over a year ago has now completed its report on the review of the Nolan Report.

In 2000 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor invited Lord Nolan to set a framework for best practice in the prevention of abuse and in responding to it. Lord Nolan’s final recommendation was that his report ‘A Programme for Action’, published in 2001, should be reviewed in five years’ time. The task of the Cumberlege Commission has been to carry out this review.

photo of Baroness Cumberlege by Simon Caldwell

(Baroness Cumberlege, who chaired the first five-yearly review of child protection procedures in the Catholic Church in England and Wales – photograph by Simon Caldwell)

The Commission has spent the year in visiting, listening, thinking, talking, writing and praying in order to fulfil the task. They interviewed people, clergy, religious and laity, people who take safeguarding children and vulnerable adults as a serious and sensitive subject that needs to be addressed and not hidden or swept away.

Much progress has been made and we have seen in our own Diocese the introduction of CRB checks for all volunteers working with children and are now in a number of parishes checking those who work with Vulnerable Adults, Eucharistic Ministers and St Vincent de Paul members. The introduction of policies on Organisational Structures, Creating a Safe Environment and Handling Allegations. The report states that there is still room for improvement and that it is in the parishes – the heartbeat of the Church – where it is most important that these policies are carried out.

The Cumberlege Commission Report gives four priorities for moving forward:

  • Embedding a One Church approach to safeguarding in religious congregations and in the diocese;
  • Extending and adapting the Church’s policies and practices for protecting children to vulnerable adults;
  • Implementing procedures for investigating and managing allegations of abuse that are effective, fair and transparent; procedures that must continue to be based on the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount;
  • Disseminating safeguarding policies that are readily understandable, and ensuring that these are followed throughout the Church.

The Bishops’ and Congregational leaders are urged to take firm leadership and to ensure that the work is adequately resourced.

The report makes 72 recommendations of which there are five key recommendations:

  • The setting up of a new National Safeguarding Commission at the heart of the organisation, spanning the Bishops’ Conference and Conference of Religious. With transparent processes and an independent chair, authority will be strengthened to set strategic direction, to provide a proper forum for debate and to take responsibility for ensuring national policies are followed.
  • A re-balancing of the role of the Church’s central safeguarding unit (COPCA) which would be renamed and called the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service. This will put a greater emphasis on raising awareness and on identifying and sharing good practice. They also recommend changes to COPCA’s management and accountability to make it genuinely a part of the Church’s mainstream ‘thinking and doing’.
  • Much more focus on safeguarding vulnerable adults, but not at the expense of safeguarding children.
  • Proposals with the aim of reforming and strengthening the Church’s procedures for investigating and managing allegations of abuse. The goal has been to ensure a process that fits with the Church’s universal laws and the concept of natural justice, a process that makes the procedures quicker, more efficient and more transparent; a process that serves victims of abuse and those accused of perpetrating abuse.
  • Arrangements to ensure these recommendations are implemented effectively and kept under review.

The full report can be accessed on the Cumberlege website – www.cumberlegecommission.org.uk – or can be obtained from the CTS.

photo of Reverend John Steel

A group has been set up in the Diocese chaired by Carole Moffat, the Chair of the Diocesan Child Protection Commission, to look at the recommendations and send a Diocesan view on the proposals. If you have any comments, please forward them to Rev John B Steel, the Child Protection Coordinator for the Diocese and he will ensure that they are noted in the submission. Rev Steel is based at the Curial Office, 50a The Avenue, Linthorpe, Middlesbrough, TS5 6QT.