Nazir Afzal, the former Crown Prosecutor who leads the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency
(undated file photo)
The Church in England and Wales is getting a new organisation through which survivors of clerical abuse are to advise the bishops on safeguarding matters.
Part of wide-ranging child protection reforms, the new survivor reference panel replaces the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the now decommissioned National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, which has been replaced by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA).
The new 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.
According to a press release from the Standards Agency, the new panel is designed to “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.”
Appointments to the new panel have yet to be announced, but the Standards Agency release says leadership expect “the majority will replace SAP members who either have, or are imminently due to, complete their terms of office.”
A former Chief Crown Prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, recently appointed to head the new Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, said the Agency is committed to making sure victims have a say.
“At the centre of our work is ensuring that victims and survivors voices are heard,” Afzal said. “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.”
The press release also quotes two members of Catholic Survivors England, who were core participants at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse.
“We welcome the news of the setting up of the new survivor reference panel,” they said. “We hope that it is a positive indicator of the Church’s commitment to increased engagement with survivors.
One of the key recommendations of the report on safeguarding from independent inspector Ian Elliott was that that those who have been harmed through their involvement with the Church be heard and learnt from.
“It is imperative,” the Elliott report said, that such measures be “fully implemented and embedded in the culture of CSSA” from the outset.