A new organisation made up of survivors of clerical abuse is to be set up to advise the Catholic bishops on safeguarding matters within the Church as part of wide-ranging child protection reforms. The new survivor reference panel will be made up of victims of clerical sexual abuse with the aim of ensuring they have a voice in the management of the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults within the Church and the issues arising from it.
The group will replace the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the now decommissioned National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, which has been replaced by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA). Previously, SAP provided the commission with advice and recommendations on matters relevant to survivors, including insights into how to improve responses in such areas as victim disclosures and pastoral support. It also helped to highlight unidentified areas of concern to safeguarding professionals.
The new panel will support and inform the work of the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency by ensuring that the voice of victims and survivors of clerical abuse is heard and learnt from. Although the appointments to the new panel will be announced a later date, it is expected that the majority will replace SAP members who either have, or are imminently due to, complete their terms of office.
The announcement of the new panel comes just a month after the bishops appointed Nazir Afzal, a former Chief Crown Prosecutor, as the first Chair of the CSSA.
Nazir Afzal, the Chair of CSSA, said: “At the centre of our work is ensuring that victims and survivors voices are heard. This refreshed Survivor Reference Panel is one important part of our overall engagement with victims and survivors, who we will seek to engage with in a number of different ways.
Two members of Catholic Survivors England, who were core participants at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, said in a statement: “We welcome the news of the setting up of the new survivor reference panel. We hope that it is a positive indicator of the Church’s commitment to increased engagement with survivors, so that Ian Elliott’s recommendation that ‘it is imperative that those who have been harmed through their involvement with the Church is heard and learnt from’ is fully implemented and embedded in the culture of CSSA from the outset.”
Carol Lawrence, a director of the CSSA, said: “SAP has been an important resource for the last six years supporting the work of NCSC. On behalf of the CSSA I should like to express my thanks to the members who have served on this panel for their contribution in that time”