“The Catholic Church, in Scotland and around the world, has been the focus of considerable criticism in recent years about the safety and care of the most vulnerable in our communities. Here in Scotland, the Bishops had the courage to establish a Commission under former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Dr Andrew McLellan, to conduct a review into the safeguarding policies, procedures and practices within the Catholic Church. Out of that review came the Independent Review Group, which I was invited to Chair, and where I am joined by a team of acknowledged and experienced professionals in the field of safeguarding.
The first meeting of the IRG was in May 2017 and today we publish our first report into our review of the implementation of the McLellan recommendations.
The problem of how the Church is perceived is a universal one and signals the need for real and far reaching change. The vigour with which change is brought about, and is seen to be brought about, will determine whether credibility and trust can ever be restored. There needs to be a change in culture, in capacity, in capability and that needs training, learning, reflection, the utmost transparency, and it needs leadership.
We have found a willingness to adopt that change, but true progress can only come about as a result of deep analysis of strengths and weaknesses.
Safeguarding is often misunderstood; it is about much more than ticking boxes. It must be deeply embedded in the culture and theology of the Church. One of the first acts of the IRG was to review the self administered audits of diocesan safeguarding conducted across Scotland in 2017. The results gave cause for concern. There was a willingness to meet basic compliance standards but little evidence of the requirements of a safer culture. There was also no way to check the accuracy of the results, and a lack of clarity regarding the needs of, and support for, the victims of abuse.
As a result of the comments by the IRG, substantial changes were made to the 2018 audit.
It is clear, with the publication of the document “In God’s Image”, that there is a determination to learn and move forward. However, there is a need for greater consistency, independent analysis and professionalism in monitoring progress.
The IRG have concluded that there is a need to again review the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Service to ensure it is properly resourced and empowered to give standardised and unconditional support and scrutiny to every diocese in ensuring high quality safeguarding practice and the right culture. It is also essential to look again at ensuring robust processes for “whistle blowing”.
The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland agreed to the commissioning of independent audits of Scottish Dioceses by the Social Care Institute for Excellence together with Children in Scotland. Two audits have just been completed of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and the Diocese of Galloway. The results of the audits are in the final stages of checking and will be published fully when completed. Two audits a year will be undertaken until all eight dioceses have been scrutinised. This is a major undertaking, unique in Scotland, and the Bishops have shown a willingness to submit their Dioceses to the utmost scrutiny.
Much remains to be done, as we move forward the IRG will work further with the Religious congregations in Scotland, and our programme of outreach around Scotland will take us to every Diocese. We will also seek to reach out to survivors to learn from them. We will also build on our learning from the outcomes of the Independent audits.
We are grateful for all the help and cooperation we have received. I am particularly grateful for the dedication and hard work of the members of the IRG who have given of their professionalism and experience so willingly.
We owe it to the vulnerable in our communities to be relentless in our pursuit of their safety and care. Our focus is to ensure we do not let them down”.
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke
June 15 2019