01 March 2022
The Methodist Church's response to the recommendations of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse
Response to the recommendations of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse: child protection in religious organisations and settings
The Methodist Church is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and has taken careful note of the conclusions and recommendations of the Investigation Report for the module of Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings.
In relation to the first Recommendation, the Church strongly agrees that the creation and review of child protection policies and procedures is essential. The Methodist Church has a detailed child protection policy with supporting procedures, which includes advice and guidance on responding to disclosures of abuse and the needs of victims and survivors. These documents are published on its website here.
The Church regularly reviews its policy and procedures for child protection and safeguarding vulnerable adults, with six-monthly updates taken to the Safeguarding Committee for approval before confirmation by the Methodist Council.
As part of its response to the investigation into Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings, the Church provided IICSA with a full copy of its policies and procedures and the contents were noted in the Investigation Report (Annex 3, Page 161).
Following the publication of the Investigation Report in September 2021, the Church has again reviewed its policy and made a number of changes and additions, including:
- The policy statement now includes a definition of “safeguarding” and why it is integral to the mission of the Methodist Church. It includes a definition of the term “abuse”, information about contextual safeguarding and examples of the various forms which abuse can take, including peer-on-peer abuse;
- The policy includes a "Code of safer working practice with children and young people”, which sets standards for appropriate conduct and provides a template for local churches to produce their own version of the document;
- It includes a section entitled “Procedures for responding well to safeguarding incidents” which gives guidance on how to respond to allegations and when to make referrals to statutory agencies;
- Safer recruitment procedures have been reviewed and amended;
- The role and purpose of District Safeguarding Groups have been made clearer and core standards and criteria have been introduced;
- A new comprehensive training programme for all those involved in monitoring and supporting those subject to safeguarding contracts is being piloted.
The Church recognises the dangers of resisting external scrutiny and managing responses to allegations internally. There are two areas of the Safeguarding policy that are currently subject to development and review:
- Proposals for a system of internal audit of all Methodists Districts by the Safeguarding Committee have been presented to members of the Methodist Council and consultation with District Safeguarding Officers is in progress, with a view to reporting back to the Council in April;
- A version of the Safeguarding policy document which uses more simple language is being drafted to increase accessibility.
The second recommendation relates to the introduction of legislation to amend the definition of full-time education to include any setting which is the pupil’s primary place of education, and to empower Ofsted to examine the quality of child protection when it undertakes inspections of suspected unregistered institutions.
The Church supports this recommendation and notes that all Methodist schools are already registered educational settings.
The Church recognises the issue of gender disparity in the life of the Church, which the Inquiry identified as a potential risk factor and barrier to disclosure (C6, page 29). In 2021, the Methodist Conference adopted a Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity which is intended to increase awareness of and to address issues of power and privilege in the life of the Church.
The safeguarding training which is mandatory for those in positions of leadership in the Church has recently been revised and the Methodist Council is confident that it covers the points raised in the IICSA report (paragraphs 14 and 15, page 113)
Whilst the Church is clear that it does not use its internal disciplinary processes as a substitute for external reporting of safeguarding matters, the Methodist Council acknowledges the potential for intersection between the Complaints and Discipline process and safeguarding matters and it has listened carefully to the evidence given to the Inquiry by the witness PR-A10. A review of the Church’s Standing Orders relating to Complaints and Discipline was directed by the Conference in 2019. That review has been taking advice from survivors (including an interview with PR-A10) and will now report to the Conference in 2023. This is a year later than originally planned, but allows the Conference fully to consider the implications of the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity Strategy and work that is being done to pilot reconciliation projects.
In conclusion, the Methodist Church has a detailed suite of policies and procedures which meet the requirements of the Inquiry’s first recommendation and which are publicly available online. The Church remains committed to regularly updating these documents in line with best practice and new developments in the field of child protection. The Church supports the second recommendation, noting that all Methodist schools are already registered institutions.
The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, Secretary of the Conference
Nicola Sylvester, SG Policy manager
Tim Carter, Director of Safeguarding