Last updated 11th August 2023
Past Cases Review 2, Frequently Asked Questions
Q Why are we being asked to do this?
In 2007, the Church of England commissioned a Past Case Review which sought to look at the handling by the church of child protection cases over many years. This entailed an independent scrutiny of the files of clergy and church officers to identify any persons presenting on-going risks to children and young people (a child or young person is anyone under the age of 18) which had not been appropriately responded to at the time.
All Dioceses have now been asked to re-examine and extend the review. The House of Bishops wants to ensure that our churches and church related activities are as safe as possible for children and vulnerable adults. It is important that all known cases of concern about the behaviour of clergy and church officers towards children and vulnerable adults have been considered and dealt with appropriately.
Q How will submitted information be used?
Parishes are being asked to submit a list of ALL safeguarding concerns related to church officers; these will then be crosschecked against Diocesan records. Where a Diocesan record is found, no further action will be needed (unless otherwise indicated on the form). If no Diocesan record is found, the concern will be treated as a new safeguarding disclosure and the current national safeguarding procedures will be followed.
Where you believe that you have a safeguarding concern that has not previously been reported to the Diocese, the advice is that you contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team immediately by telephone to share the concern. Please then record the details of the concern and the date you contacted the team on the form.
Q Is this Review essential?
Yes. It has been approved and established by the Archbishop’s Council and it is a priority for each Incumbent to undertake the Review.
Q Is every Incumbent being asked to undertake the Review?
Yes. Where there is a vacancy or prolonged absence of an Incumbent or responsible member of Clergy, the Churchwardens or the PCC Secretary where there are no churchwardens are asked to take responsibility for this review. Please note that the letters for all the churchwardens in a relevant parish have been sent to one churchwarden for distribution and hence it is important that where there are multiple churches in a parish the wardens consult to coordinate a response.
Q Do I need to submit a Parish Declaration and Table 1A for every parish in my benefice?
Yes. A separate Declaration and ‘Table 1A sheet’ needs to be submitted for every parish. A 100% response rate from the Diocese’s parishes is required.
Q What is my responsibility as the Church officer leading this review in my parish?
You are required to examine all documentation kept within a parish that relates to any safeguarding concerns.
If you are unsure about the type of information you are collating or how to record any information you may have about a safeguarding concern, please contact the Safeguarding team – contact details below.
Q I am already very busy. I don’t have time for this.
As set out in the Bishop’s letter to all parishes sent on February 28, 2020, this Review is very important for the Diocese and should be treated as a priority. Working with your Parish Safeguarding Officers and Churchwardens is recommended as this will ease the burden on your time. As the Bishop says in his letter: “This … is a request for action by you under House of Bishops Practice Guidance which should therefore be considered mandatory.”
Q What if I am approached by someone who wants to disclose?
You may be approached by a victim or survivor which might result in some uncomfortable conversations and may bring up old wounds or uncover long buried hurts.
With permission of the victim/survivor, this should be referred to the Diocesan Safeguarding team. If permission is not granted, the Diocese can advise you about where the victim/survivor can receive support.
Q What will happen to all the information gathered by the parishes?
Any information sent to the Diocesan Safeguarding team will be assessed, and where necessary, referred to the appropriate authorities.
The outcome of the Diocese’s review will be sent to an independent reviewer for scrutiny and a final report produced for sign-off by the Diocese’s Past Cases Review Reference Group and the Diocesan Bishop.
It will then be passed to the national Past Cases Review management team.
Q What if I identify a potential example of abuse?
Please contact Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser Cath Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org or 07711485170 immediately.
Q What if I’m not sure whether something counts as an abuse?
Please contact Cath Smith, Diocesan Safeguarding Officer email@example.com or 07711485170 for advice.
Q Is the 5 April 2020 a firm deadline?
Yes, all signed responses must be submitted by the 5 April 2020. This is to allow time for the information to be reviewed, actions undertaken if required by the Diocesan Safeguarding team, and then for the information to independently evaluated to ensure the Diocese has taken appropriate safeguarding action.
Q How far back should we be looking?
It is important to review all files, no matter how old, because even though a perpetrator may now be deceased, their victims may still be alive and in need of pastoral care.
Q Checking the ‘collective memory of the community’ is likely to cause upset and reopen old wounds. What support is available for those troubled or affected by the Review?
The Diocese is working with Lancashire Victim Support to support those affected. Pastoral support will also be provided for those who would like it. Please contact Cath Smith, Diocesan Safeguarding Officer for details on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07711485170.
Q Will any support and/or counselling be made available to any victims/survivors who come forward?
Yes. Please contact the Diocesan Safeguarding team and check the safeguarding pages of the website for more information about support available.
Q Should I report a concern regarding a member of the Church Choir?
We are working on the basis if in doubt report. Choir membership can be a church officer as it is a role that a church appoints unless it is a casual choir that anyone can turn up and sing as part of the choir.
Q In the unlikely event we are contacted directly by the local press what do we do?
Please refer all enquiries from the media to Ronnie Semley, Communications Manager for the Diocese of Blackburn: email@example.com
Q Is there a template that I can use when making enquiries with people in the parish?
Yes, please request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Q Should I put something in the pew sheet or parish magazine to ask for people to come forward if they have anything they wish to offer?
Some suggested words have been put together to help you if you wish to share details of the review. You can find these on the past cases review page accessible via the homepage of the Diocesan website.
Q How do you define a church officer?
The national guidance says:
"A church officer is anyone appointed/elected by or on behalf of the Church to an office, post or role, whether they be ordained or lay, paid or unpaid."
The Church’s definition is open to some interpretation, but for the purposes of PCR2, it will certainly encompass all clergy, including those with PTO and clergy such as hospital, school and prison chaplains who hold the Bishop’s licence, readers and licensed lay workers and volunteers and diocesan and parish lay employees and volunteers whose role includes (or has included) direct involvement with children and vulnerable adults. This is a wide definition, however the judgement to be made is whether the role has in the past, does currently, or is likely in the future, to provide opportunities for the abuse or neglect of children or vulnerable adults whilst engaged in church organised activities and whether the role involves a relationship of trust.
Q How do you define a vulnerable adult?
The national guidance says:
”A vulnerable adult means a person aged 18 or over whose ability to protect himself or herself from violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation is significantly impaired through physical or mental disability or illness, old age, emotional fragility or distress, or otherwise; and for that purpose, the reference to being impaired is to being temporarily or indefinitely impaired.”
It is acknowledged that this is a broad definition and that discretion will need to be exercised in some cases having regard to the person’s entitlement to exercise choice and their mental capacity. Instances of alleged domestic violence should be included as indicating vulnerability and therefore, all allegations in relation to domestic abuse should be included in PCR2’s scope.
Q How can information be submitted more securely?
For many parishes, Table 1A will not contain any confidential information.
If Table 1A does contains confidential information, it should be sent recorded delivery to Cath Smith, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Clayton House, Walker Office Park, Blackburn, BB1 2QE.
Q How do we complete the submission form?
If you have no safeguarding concerns to report, please write NIL on the form. If you are reporting a concern for the first time, please leave the last two boxes on the line blank. Please print further copies of the form if you need to report more than four concerns.
Q Can we have more time?
Incumbents and priests-in-charge were asked to submit their parish forms by the date which was sent to you in the Bishop’s Letter. We need to make sure the Returns are back by this date and no later.
Q Were the Independent Reviewers chosen from the National Safeguarding Team’s list of approved Associates or was the process undertaken by Blackburn Diocese alone? Have all legalities been checked?
The reviewers are not on the national list as there are none based in our area. Like many dioceses in the Northern Province we have asked people who were recommended or who we have knowledge of with the correct professional background. They have been recruited following Safer Recruitment practice guidelines.
Q Is there help available for people affected by the Past Case Review Process?
Individuals who wish to make representations to the PCR2 process or who need to come forward with information or make any disclosures regarding church-related abuse are encouraged to make direct contact with their Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, who can provide pastoral support and access to support services. However, recognising that this may not feel safe for those with a lived experience of abuse from within the church, a dedicated telephone helpline - 0800 80 20 20 – operated independently from the church, by the NSPCC, has been set up.
We understand reporting abuse may be very difficult and distressing and it may add to a person’s feelings of harm by our not being able to immediately access assistance, therefore here are the contact details of other agencies that are available to assist either on a 24-hour basis or through specialist helplines and services:
Ronnie Semley, February, 2020