Any individual who wishes to come forward with information or to make a disclosure is encouraged to make direct contact with the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. However, recognising that this may not feel safe for those with a lived experience of abuse from within the Church, a dedicated telephone helpline - 0800 80 20 20 - operated independently from the Church by the NSPCC, has been set up.
The safeguarding Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) is nearing completion in the Diocese of Chester.
Two Independent Reviewers, Claire McEnery and Nicola Bithell, both former Senior Police Officers, have been carrying out this task since early 2021.
To date, they have reviewed over 1000 files, including files relating to living clergy going back to 1946, Cathedral files, HR files, and other documents held on-site at Bishop’s House, Chester.
As part of the process, every parish in the diocese was required to review any record it held relating to current and non-recent church officers, and all known safeguarding information, to ensure that all instances of concern had been declared.
The Independent Reviewers are due to submit their key themes and findings to the National Safeguarding Team which will, in turn, publish a national report containing overall data, themes, and recommendations from around the country.
Independent Reviewer, Nikki Bithell says: “We’re hoping to have completed our task by the end of March. This is taking a little longer than expected, but we can be confident that no stone has been left unturned and the process has been thorough and rigorous.”
Independent Reviewer, Claire McEnery says: “We will submit key themes and findings to the National Safeguarding Team, but early indications are clear: practices have improved in relation to safeguarding in recent years but there are still lessons to be learned and our report will make recommendations for action to be taken to improve safeguarding culture further still.”
The Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Pauline Butterfield, has expressed her thanks to parishes for their time and commitment to the project, saying: “Every parish and many people across the diocese have contributed their time and energy to this task. I want to thank each person for the conscientious way in which you have engaged with this important Review. I believe this demonstrates a genuine commitment to achieving a healthy safeguarding culture in our diocese. Thank you for all you are doing to help make parishes safer.”
The Diocese of Chester will comment further following the publication of the national report.
The Independent Reviewers
PCR2 timeline in the Diocese of Chester
In 2007, the Church of England commissions a Past Case Review (PCR) which seeks to look at the Church's handling of safeguarding cases over many years.
A 2018 report into the original PCR reveals shortcomings both in the process and the final outcome. As a result, the Church of England announces that all dioceses must complete a second review.
The Past Case Review 2 (PCR2) launches as part of the Church's ongoing scrutiny of its handling of past and current safeguarding cases.
On 27 January 2020, the former Bishop of Birkenhead, Bishop Keith Sinclair, writes to all Incumbents. In his letter, he explains in more detail why the review is taking place and what parishes are required to do. He says: "Please know that I am really grateful for your understanding and cooperation in undertaking this essential work which is helping to ensure that our churches are a safer place for everyone."
All parishes and church settings are invited to respond. Chester Cathedral also participates in the diocesan review.
Communication resources are made available to parishes to help them communicate to their parishioners and communities the scope of PCR2 and the undertaking expected of them, and a comprehensive list of FAQs is published to help assist parishes with the work.
Over the course of 2021, two Independent Reviewers look at all safeguarding files relating to church officers, both lay and ordained, past and present. All parishes and church settings, including Chester Cathedral, respond to the Independent Reviewer's request for information.
The Independent Reviewers submit their key themes and trends to the National PCR2 Project Management Board.
A national report will be published by the Church of England in the first half of 2022. It will contain overall data, themes, and recommendations.