Alexis Jay warns she will quit C of E safeguarding role if there is interference

Posted: 2nd August 2023

The former chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) has warned she will quit a new role to develop independent safeguarding structures for the Church of England if there is any attempted interference.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have hired Prof Alexis Jay after weeks of turmoil within the C of E over its safeguarding processes, involving sackings, resignations and a furious revolt at the church’s governing body, the General Synod, earlier this month.

The archbishops are banking on Jay’s status and reputation on safeguarding issues to stabilise the volatile mood and give confidence to abuse survivors, many of whom say they cannot trust the church.

On the announcement of her appointment, Jay said: “When I was chair of the IICSA, I heard at first-hand of the devastating effects of abuse within the C of E, and of the failures, often repeated, to prevent it from occurring.

“I was very clear in my recommendations that safeguarding in the church would require genuine independence in order to be fully effective.

“I have been just as clear with the archbishop of Canterbury and with the archbishop of York that this programme of work must be entirely independent of the church too for it to succeed.

“I would like to assure everyone that I mean what I say. My team will not include anyone employed by the church, nor will we hold meetings or conduct any business on church premises. I have explained that if I detect any attempt to interfere with or to hinder my work, I will withdraw from this programme of work immediately.

“I also wish to make clear that my work will be fair, impartial, objective and rigorous.”

Jay has been appointed to develop a model of fully independent safeguarding within the C of E – one of the main recommendations of IICSA, which published its findings on the Anglican church in 2020.

Her proposals will be presented to the Archbishops’ Council, the C of E’s executive body, by the end of the year and will be made public.

In a statement, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, said Jay had agreed to take on “this vital role to ensure we move quickly towards objective, independent, credible and resilient oversight of safeguarding in the C of E”.

The work would be “fully external and independent; we welcome the scrutiny and challenge that rightly comes with that”.

The archbishops said they were committed to getting independent oversight of safeguarding “back on track”, and would continue to reflect on recent events.

At a meeting of the synod earlier this month, Cottrell said there was a “crisis of safeguarding” within the C of E after its executive disbanded an independent body on abuse.

The archbishop said: “We recognise things have gone wrong … This is a watershed moment for us. We can’t get this wrong again.”

Two of the three members of the independent safeguarding board (ISB), which was set up in January 2022 with a brief to pave the way for a system of fully independent safeguarding in the C of E, were sacked in June after refusing to meet a new chair of the board appointed by the Archbishops’ Council.

Critics said the new chair, Meg Munn, was not independent because she worked for the C of E.

Amid uproar at the synod, members forced the suspension of formal proceedings to allow the two sacked members to address the meeting in York.

Munn resigned all her safeguarding roles with the C of E last week, saying Welby had undermined her.

Source – Alexis Jay warns she will quit C of E safeguarding role if there is interference | Anglicanism | The Guardian

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