Tag Archives: Bishop of Huddersfield Jonathan Gibbs – Lead Bishop on Safeguarding [replacing Bishop of Bath & Wells Peter Hancock]


“Gibbs: independent body will supervise Church’s safeguarding” – Church Times – Hattie Williams

INDEPENDENT trustees will hold the National Safeguarding Team of the C of E to account, the lead bishop of safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, has confirmed. In addition, an independent panel will be set up to approve support packages for survivors. “Whatever it costs, the money will be found,” he said.
Dr Gibbs, who is also the Bishop of Huddersfield, was speaking on Monday after the House of Bishops unanimously endorsed a motion to accept the investigation report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), and “unreservedly apologise” to victims and survivors for the harm done by the Church. The House also committed itself to “urgently implementing” the Inquiry’s recommendations.
One of these recommendations was to upgrade the post of diocesan safeguarding adviser (DSA) to diocesan safeguarding officer (DSO) in order to allow them to be able to take the lead on safeguarding matters, including reporting serious incidents and commissioning investigations and risk-assessments.
To do this, the House agreed unanimously to establish an independent safeguarding structure, with a new trustee body, to take over responsibility from the Archbishops’ Council. The Bishops also agreed that an interim arrangement be put in place for additional independent oversight of safeguarding before the new trustee body is established.
Dr Gibbs explained after the meeting: “The key thing is that we are all agreed that safeguarding needs to be independent: we can’t have bishops, diocesan secretaries, making decisions about safeguarding for two reasons: because they are not professionally qualified in safeguarding, and because there is an element of structural conflict of interest. They have a diocese to look after and to run, so there is always a potential conflict.”
He reported full support among the Bishops for the independence of diocesan safeguarding advisers. The Bishops were “very happy to explore changing their name and status to diocesan safeguarding officers, but really in order to be affective that needs to be picked up in terms of how we structure the whole question of independence. . . and accountability.”
He clarified that under current guidance, DSAs are already able to report safeguarding issues without seeking permission; “but the reality is that they are employed within the diocese and line-managed by diocesan secretaries and bishops, and we need to cut that.”
It was an issue of balance, Dr Gibbs said. “You need people to have a proper degree of independence; but, on the other hand, they need to be rooted and integrated in the diocese if they are really going to bring about culture change.”
The new trustee body would oversee the National Safeguarding Team and hold it to account, rather than the Archbishops’ Council, as at present. Whether or not the independent trustees would have any relationship to the Church was “still to be worked out”, he said. “It has to be credible, partly that they are not answerable to and being line-managed by the National Church Institutions.”
The Church Times understands that the body would be established, and members appointed by an independent body, such as the Charity Commission.
Dr Gibbs said that both Archbishops were keen to implement this “very soon”. There would be a management board with an independent chair and the equivalent of non-executive directors. “You then have to think who represents the Church on that; some have suggested the lead bishop; but there clearly needs to be a majority of independent members on that board who are holding the NST to account on their safeguarding work.”
The NST has been criticised recently for its handling of safeguarding cases, particularly in relation to core groups, as in the case of the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy (News, 11 September). Dr Gibbs said that a full review and consultation on the core group process was “imminent”.
“The [2017] guidelines were written for someone who had been alleged to have abused someone; the complicated cases we have been dealing with recently are whether this senior church person has properly handled the process: that is a different issue. . . We certainly need to clarify at what stage and how are people represented; what are the procedures for making sure that things are being done properly; what is the process for appealing.” There was “a lot to do”.
Asked about the interim redress scheme for survivors to provide immediate financial and pastoral need, Dr Gibbs said: “We are aware of particular cases where there is urgent financial need and for other kinds of support . . . counselling, therapy, life coaching, debt advice. . . We recognise that we have a lot to learn about how we do this, which is why it is a pilot scheme.”
He described a system designed to repair the damage caused not by the original abuse but by how complaints were handled subsequently. “We are not revisiting at this stage the original claim; that may come later in the [full] redress scheme. What we are looking at is what has happened to [survivors] since they have first disclosed: in particular how has the Church responded to them?
“Sadly, some survivors have found that the whole process of disclosure — and how that has been handled by the Church and its representatives, i.e. insurance companies and lawyers — has left them in a worse place than before they disclosed. That is deeply shocking.”
A “package of support” would be decided upon and offered by an independent panel, which is currently being convened so that decisions about the case are not made by the lead bishops or by members of the NST.
“That would include an independent chair who has worked with survivors, a survivor voice in the panel, and someone with expertise in understanding trauma: a psychologist background.”
There was a fund to get this started, and the Church Commissioners had been approached to work out when and how redress might be costed, Dr Gibbs said. “Even in the interim phase, we need access to serious money to do this job. The needs of survivors will be funded to the extent that they need to be funded; this is about compassion, justice, and, dare I say it, generosity.
“Whatever it costs, the money will be found. That is a matter of honour as far as I am concerned. We have failed people dreadfully in the past.”
A new “more demanding” suite of training had also been developed to change attitudes to safeguarding on the ground. It brought people face-to-face with the kind of clericalism and deference highlighted in recent television documentaries, he said, which were also used in training. Recruitments processes were also being revised.
What was significant at the meeting on Monday, Dr Gibbs said, “was the fact that we had 100-per-cent support from the bishops — to recognise not only the need for cultural change, but their role in helping to drive and lead cultural change.”
Dr Gibbs, who has two more years as lead safeguarding bishop, said that there was “a small window of opportunity” to listen to survivors in order to bring about cultural change and establish training and independence. He did not want to waste it.
“We are starting from a very low base of trust. I am well aware that there is a well of frustration, anger, hurt, about the way that survivors have been treated in the past. I am very grateful for their willingness to work with us at all. I am very conscious that we have a very small window of opportunity to take this forward.”
While his role is primarily strategic, he said, “my contacts with individuals also massively influences my whole perspective.”
The House of Bishops is due to release a full response to the IICSA report in the coming weeks.



Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

by Gilo

By no means a comprehensive list. Just a brief visit across a number of things we may probably see further comment upon after the Inquiry makes its final Anglican report.

Mandatory Reporting

It’s possible that any expecting to see the much needed recommendation for Mandatory Reporting as part of the statutory framework – will be disappointed. It is long overdue.

The argument is won.

And this presents an ideal moment as the Church has come round to acceptance of MR after a rather circuitous route of yes we do, no we don’t. Many of us suspect the Inquiry want to hold on to this as a ‘big ticket’ recommendation for the final report at the end of 2021. Why wait until then? Current policies across many institutions in regulated activities have been called “bags of bits” by Mandate Now; labyrinthine policy jungles which would become largely redundant with MR. Culture change will happen in a single weekend with its eventual introduction. But I think we have to wait until the Inquiry gets the last train home.


The Archbishops Council statement was notably vague on this. That the Church is keen to put this theme out just before the final Anglican report suggests that the Inquiry will call serious question to the Church’s fitness for self-governance. There is an overwhelming need for the National Safeguarding Team to be given independent oversight, well away from the control of Archbishops’ Council secretariat. The current NST is almost an entirely new team, but part of the difficulty facing Melissa Caslake and her newbies is picking their way through the considerable wreckage of the previous era which has left many survivors deeply suspicious of the NST.

Many disaster sites might have been avoided, or reached quicker resolution, if the NST hadn’t been shaped by the culture of Church House, its comms and lawyers and managers, and at times, the Church’s own dodgy reputation launderers.

The Christ Church core group debacle would in all likelihood have been avoided. I am told the probable outcome of this independence will be the formation of a new NCI (National Church Institution) – called Safeguarding – with independent members alongside Church appointees in an oversight committee to beef up scrutiny. We will have to wait and see how and when this happens.

Archbishops and Bishops

Many of us expect to see Archbishop Justin Welby and former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, criticised. Both their hearings were embarrassing. When each had an opportunity to apologise to a survivor sat directly behind them, they failed to do so despite being invited by the Inquiry. Those watching sensed that the Inquiry took a dim view. The wider existential crisis of the bishops – how many senior figures and their dioceses have responded, or failed to respond – is likely to come under heavy fire.

The walls of silence to major questions that so many of us have experienced as a pattern across the bishops is something we hope the Inquiry will highlight.

I know that Bishop Jonathan Gibbs is keen to see more vigorous accountability injected into the structure. At present it is at best variable, at worst: absent.

Some bishops are thrown under the bus. Others get away with run-for-the-hills behaviour and hope the fallout from their denial and distancing will not follow them.

The National Safeguarding Steering Group, the church’s current overarching board of governance, to many of us seems to resemble a shielding for senior figures who should be facing critical questions. It includes bishops who have managed to hide within the structure behind dysfunctional processes and a culture of protection.

Ecclesiastical Insurance

Many of us expect to see the church’s insurer take a substantial hit following the recall to IICSA when Ecclesiastical Insurance tried to pull the wool over a government inquiry.

It’s worth pointing out that Carl Beech is serving 18 years in prison for perverting the course of justice and lying under oath to the police. But Ecclesiastical, a big corporate, have managed so far to get away with apparent dissembling in front of a government inquiry – under oath!

It’s also notable that their lawyer, top QC Rory Phillips, had only one client at the Inquiry and a very small handful of statements to be across. What a mess he made. I don’t think anyone assumes he knew his client was being dishonest. But to be candid, he could have done an hour’s easy homework – and realised he was representing a client who was being considerably less than ‘sufficiently full and frank’ in their testimony. It took the Inquiry less than 45 mins to devastate their testimony on three significant counts. Now, much more is emerging about malevolent psychiatric reports used against survivors, ‘genetic predisposition’ defences, desk-topping, and other strategies deployed by EIG and their lawyer – much of this reflecting dubious ethics.

But I doubt these will be visited in the report as some of these have only recently started to emerge, despite being brought to the attention of senior church figures over the years. But I would expect to see the Church criticised for its duplicity in some aspects of its relationship to the insurer.

It has sought to protect a corrupted nexus, from whom it derives substantial income through the owner of the insurer, AllChurches Trust. It has been, as one cleric put it, “a very English form of corruption”.

Interim Support Scheme

This is not part of the Inquiry. But it’s definitely worth comment – as the Church announced this flagship scheme last week perhaps as an attempt to plea-bargain with the Inquiry, and certainly to address widespread concern at the lack of compassion towards survivors. My understanding is that this scheme will help up to ten people initially (to help create the structure) and then quickly scale up. Quickly being the operative word.

If it fails to do this, or rows back on its promises, and becomes another smoke and mirror delaying tactic – then it will raise much more ire.

The proof will be in the extent to which it is prepared to rescue economies of those left in wreckage as result of reporting and re-abuse. And not just the initial ten or so. But fifty, then a hundred, and so on. This is not the redress scheme and should not be confused with it. It is the interim support prior to redress. My understanding is that there is no figure attached to this scheme – instead the lead bishops have argued for an open credit line – which I think is the right approach. The final redress scheme will cost a great deal more. The figure that has been talked about in the longer term has been £200million. But many of us think this will not be sufficient.

What happens after?

Will the Church go back to sleep after the Inquiry? My sense is that the current lead bishops are keen to use this opportunity to bring about as much culture change as they can and I think they recognise that this is required across the top of their Church.

My own view is that a Truth & Reconciliation initiative may be needed, in which bishops end the long procession of crafted apology statements, and apologise for real. But that has to go hand in hand with real justice and genuine repair of lives.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues. View all posts by Stephen Parsons →

← Is the Church of England ready for new moves in Safeguarding?

2 thoughts on “Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday”

  1. Gilo BBC Radio Sunday. 25mins in. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n4vyReply
  2. Jane Chevous Thank you Gilo, your predictions sound spot on and give us some hope that things will change. I know that you and others are working behind the scenes to do this and am very grateful for all you do.
    I do hope the report calls for independent scrutiny & that this results in a total reform of the core group process, because this is where the real canker is. It’s unfit for purpose and often reabusive. And as you say, fails to hold abusers and especially bishops who do nothing, to account. Nothing is happening to either of the bishops who failed (refused) to respond to my report of clergy rape.
    A redress scheme doesn’t bring justice. I hope the idea of a restorative justice process, including a Truth & Reconciliation commission, does gain traction. Counselling and compensation alone do not bring justice, or repair the rupture of abuse




Lead Safeguarding Bishop to critics: “You don’t understand” – ‘Cranmer’


Safeguarding bishop sides with critics of the Church of England’s policy

17 AUGUST 2020


The Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, addresses the General Synod in February where he said that “serious money” was needed to fund redress for survivors of clerical abuse

THE lead bishop on safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, has agreed that the C of E’s system needs “root-and-branch change” in order to improve its response to survivors.

Last week, survivors, lawyers, academics, and members of the clergy and General Synod wrote to the chair of the Charity Commission, Baroness Stowell, urging her to intervene to address “the failures of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to devise a safe, consistent and fair system of redress” for victims and survivors of abuse (News, 14 August).

In his formal response last week, Dr Gibbs, who is the Bishop of Huddersfield and part of the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and Steering Group (NSST), deflected criticism of the NST and its core-groups system, adding that the NST should be trusted and respected.

He later told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday, however: “In one sense, I welcome this letter, because it adds weight to my desire to bring about the kind of root-and-branch change that we all long for: in particular in the way in which we respond to survivors, the way in which we deal with complaints, the way in which we change the culture of the Church.”

The letter to the Charity Commission, which also criticises the “impaired transparency and intermittent accountability” of the NST, calls for a complete reform of safeguarding practice and policy within the C of E. It urges the Church not to wait for the final report of the Anglican investigation by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is due to be published this autumn (News, 1 May), before acting.

Dr Gibbs told the programme: “There is no doubt that, in the past, our systems have failed considerably, and that was made very clear during IICSA. That made very painful listening for all of us involved in the Church and our hearts go out to and our principle focus must be on survivors, and improving the way in which we respond to survivors. . .

“There is still a long way to go. There is journey; but it is a journey to which we are absolutely committed. . . The direction of travel is going to be substantially influenced by the IICSA report when it comes out very shortly. We made clear our commitment to that journey of change especially in the debate at the General Synod back in February” (News, 14 February).

Dr Gibbs also remarked on the research, published in the Church Times last week, by Dr Josephine Anne Stein, who estimated that the Church spends between £20 and £25 million on safeguarding, but that just £55,000 of this went to survivors in the form of redress (News, 14 August).

“I welcome that piece of research; it is a great piece of work. . . The Church’s expenditure on safeguarding work has expanded very substantially in recent years and that is really important because that is part of making sure that we do begin to respond much better to all of these safeguarding concerns.”

He agreed that the money was not directly benefiting survivors, but “that is the commitment we made in February.” A staff member was being appointed “very soon” to begin advancing redress, he said.

“Even in advance of that work, I have written to the Archbishops and the heads of the Church Commissioners to say I want to set up an interim scheme that enables us to respond much sooner than the time it will take to put the full scheme in place. So, absolutely, not nearly enough has been done here on redress, and redress is not just about compensation, it is about helping people rebuild their lives, and that is underway. So, I welcome that; as far as I am concerned it is weight to help push forward.”

Dr Gibbs maintained, however, that he did not support all of the letter’s criticisms. “I recognise what lies behind the letter: its deep frustration with the Church’s failures, in particular to address the needs of survivors. [But] no, I don’t agree with the specifics of the criticisms there, and implications about a lack of integrity on the part of some of my colleagues. I think those are simply unfortunate.”

One of the signatories of the letter, Lord Carlile, who wrote the independent review into allegations against a former Bishop of Chichester, the late George Bell (News, 22 December 2017), said earlier in the programme: “The Church has a very haphazard way of approaching safeguarding cases. There are numerous conflicts of interest that arise; it doesn’t fit into any recognisable jurisdictional structure; neither complainants, nor people complained against are getting a fair hearing. Additionally, the process is far too slow.”

Dr Gibbs said: “Making change in a big institution always takes time; there is always a certain amount of institutional resistance that is just part of being part of large organisation. There is always a danger of thinking someone else is dealing with this issue.” He reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury shared his frustration with the present system.


“Pressure on Bishop of Huddersfield over lack of action on Church sex abuse” – Yorkshire Live