The news that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is now planning to turn its attention to the Methodist Church and other faith organisations broke towards the end of last week, with no real advance warning. But one view is that it was only a matter of time before the Inquiry started to focus on other faith organisations beyond the C of E and the Catholic Church as more survivors came forward to tell their stories. So not really unexpected but now is a bit like the moment, if you are a teacher, when Ofsted tells you it’s about to visit. You gasp, then catch your breath and say ‘right, here we go’.
We have seen how other organisations have fared when the Inquiry asks searching questions, and hopefully we can learn from their experience. With the PCR complete, our policies refreshed, an engaged survivor reference group and our revised structure of casework supervisors designed to enhance consistency of practice across the country now in place, we are hopefully in a reasonable place to start planning for our involvement in the Inquiry whatever form it may take. However it is probably the case that the history of how our Church addressed abuse in the past will be of equal interest.
In due course further information will no doubt be sent out to advise on how the Inquiry’s approach will be shaped and how we will respond. But in the meantime, it’s probably helpful to think again about some of the key messages we shared when the Inquiry first started. Good record keeping, and showing that we apply robustly the policies that we have developed over the last few years will be critical. Auditing our practice to demonstrate how effectively we recognise and respond to allegations or concerns will also be important.
At this stage we don’t know quite what will be expected of us. So this column counsels caution about investing energy that is not properly focussed and before advice is received. But it makes sense to start asking ourselves the question of whether what we do now to keep children safe in our local churches can withstand external scrutiny. Are we satisfied we are doing the best job we can?