Here is the statement from Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, in response to the report released today by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).
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On behalf of the Diocese of Down and Connor, I publish today the review of safeguarding in the Diocese of Down and Connor which was undertaken from 9th-10th and 22nd-23rd May 2013 by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland. (NBSCCCI) I am grateful to the specialised members of the National Board and the National Office of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, led now by Ms Teresa Devlin and previously by Mr Ian Elliott, for conducting this review, for their guidance and recommendations which will be acted upon.
As I publish this Report, my thoughts and prayers are firstly with victims of child abuse and their families. They have experienced much suffering and pain and the church will always bear this wound. I pledge to continue to put all resources in place to help and support victims. As I have in the past, I offer my unreserved apology for the pain of child abuse carried out by some clergy within this diocese and for the failure of the church when dealing with those so wrongfully hurt.
The National Board review, published today, clearly illustrates ‘the very successful and effective investment of time and resources by the Diocese of Down and Connor in its Child Safeguarding services over the past five years’ and reports that the ‘review of the case material indicates that current practice places emphasis on a timely reporting of the concerning information to the PSNI and to the relevant HSC Trust’. This report also finds that all concerns/allegations reviewed have been properly managed by the Diocese of Down and Connor.
In compliance with Standard 7 of the ‘Standards and Guidance’ document (NBSCCCI), and with a firm commitment to reviewing and enhancing the Safeguarding policy and procedures in this diocese in an open and accountable manner, I have already commissioned two previous Independent Reviews into our safeguarding structures and procedures and published these in October 2011 and November 2013. Along with these other reviews, I welcome this National Board audit both for its commendation of the Diocese’s safeguarding policy and procedures and for its recommendations.
I am encouraged, and I hope that all those who take the opportunity to read the review, (www.downandconnor.org) will be reassured and take confidence in the overall endorsement of the current diocesan policies and procedures and established best practice. This review confirms that when people come forward today that they will be listened to and action will be taken promptly in conjunction with the relevant statutory authorities. Sadly for survivors, this improvement has come far too late. But I am encouraged for the safeguarding team of dedicated personnel and for the hundreds of volunteers in parishes throughout the diocese; this Report bears testimony to their committed service to the care of children and to the Church.
The National Board review examined case files from 1st January 1975 to May 2013 and interviewed key personnel to assess safeguarding practices against seven national standards and 48 criteria. I am also heartened that the reviewers assessed that the diocese’s compliance with the 48 criteria that make up the seven Standards are fully met in 46 of these. The two outstanding criteria refer to: support for and monitoring of priests who have abused and a written plan of action on implementing and monitoring standards.
Everyone in the Church, bishops, priests and laity, shares in the responsibility to continually scrutinise and challenge the current processes in the pursuit of better and safer practice. Safeguarding is a responsibility for all. This shared responsibility will ensure not only the protection of children but the rights of those victims who come forward to tell their stories.
My overriding concern as Bishop of Down and Connor is and will continue to be the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in the diocese. In Church and society the hurt and destruction wrought by the abuse of children and vulnerable adults continues to cry out for unflinching commitment to the pursuit of safeguarding and the growth of a culture of vigilance. My fervent hope is that the work of the diocese’s Safeguarding Office and volunteers will ensure that the inadequate response of the past will become a thing of the past.
I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to all who are involved in the vital work of Safeguarding in this Diocese; the Diocesan Safeguarding Office, and to the many volunteers for the contribution they made in meeting with the National Board reviewers and providing relevant and helpful evidence of their work, views and opinions. I wish to acknowledge my gratitude for their ongoing commitment and dedication in service of the Church and our young people.
Notwithstanding the encouraging recognition within this Report of significant progress in policy and procedures for safeguarding in the Diocese of Down and Connor, this is also an opportunity to learn from the past in order to build upon and enhance these present structures. The prevalence of abuse across society means that we must be ever vigilant and attentive to the paramouncy of child safety. There are ongoing challenges for us as a Church and for the statutory authorities as we address these issues together into the future. There will be constant need for revision and reappraisal in the field of safeguarding. In welcoming the publication of this review, I once again reaffirm my commitment to do all I can to make the Diocese of Down and Connor a safe environment for all.
The Diocesan Policy and Procedures advise anyone who may have a concern of a safeguarding nature to contact either the PSNI, Social Services, or the Diocesan Designated Safeguarding Officer (Telephone: 028 90492783).
The Church’s free confidential helpline and counselling service, ‘Towards Healing’, is available from 11.00am-1.00pm on 0800 096 3315 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.