27 May 2021, The Tablet

Catholic safeguarding reforms in final stage

Catholic safeguarding reforms in final stage

Lawyer Nazir Afzal
Steven May/Alamy

Implementation of the Elliott Review’s sweeping reform of safe- guarding in the Catholic Church has entered its final stage, and the last month of its six-month timeline.

“While there is work to do in some areas, significant progress has been made,” project implementation director Carol Lawrence said.

She described the last phase of work for dioceses, the transfer from Safeguarding Commissions to sub-committees of their Diocesan Trusts, as one of the most significant changes in governance for safeguarding. The transfer brings safeguarding oversight in line with the Charity Commission’s expectation and guidance.

Work on the financial structure of England and Wales’ new safe- guarding mechanisms is ongoing. The new Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) is to be funded by two cohorts, dioceses and Religious groups.

The CSSA is chaired by former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal, with former Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Ashley serving as deputy chair. Mrs Lawrence will remain as a director of the CSSA, along with non-executive directors Amanda Ellingworth, Wesley Cuell and Dr Jenny Holmes. Bishop Paul Mason is the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Fr David Smolira SJ is the lead Religious.

Almost 200 congregation leaders voted for their preferred model for the new Religious Life Safeguarding Service (RLSS); 15 congregations did not vote, and said they would continue with their own bespoke safeguarding arrangements, while being contracted into the standards and audit process of the CSSA.

Religious voted for a “per capita” levy to support the RLSS, which means that there will be a stand- ard fee for each Religious in England and Wales and each Religious congregation will con- tribute on the basis of how many members they have within the bishops’ conference area.

Acknowledging that not every congregation will be able to afford this levy, Fr Smolira said that the RLSS was considering a hardship fund.

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