Scotland

Review calls for Catholic Church safeguarding revamp

Bishop with clasped hands Image copyright Thinkstock

The Catholic Church in Scotland needs to revamp its measures for protecting young and vulnerable people, an independent review has concluded.

The review said a better resourced and independent safeguarding service was a "crucial step to promote transparency and restore credibility".

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, who led the review, said a "a good start has been made" by the Catholic Church.

But she said cultural change was still needed within the organisation.

The independent review group was set up to consider the response of the Catholic Church in Scotland to the recommendations of the 2015 McLellan Commission report into how the church responds to allegations of abuse.

In its first report, the independent group said they had found a willingness to change in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church but progress still had to be made.

'Restore credibility'

The group said the Catholic Church should give "detailed and urgent consideration to the creation of a strengthened, resourced and independent Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Service (SCSS) with appropriate professional support as a crucial step to promote transparency and restore credibility".

It said investment was needed to create a professional safeguarding service and that much could be learned from the organisational changes made in the Catholic Church of Ireland.

It added: "The leadership of the church must take ownership of driving the change necessary to gain a level of confidence that lessons have been learned.

"Monitoring progress is essential, but without cultural change the job will be only half done".

A review of whistle blowing procedures was also recommended.

Image caption Baroness Liddell led the review of the Catholic Church's response to the McLellan Commission

The group also recommended each diocese should have an independent person to whom survivors can turn for advice, adding "much still needs to be done to ensure victims of abuse are seen, heard and supported by the church and the process of healing begins to take place".

Baroness Liddell, a former Scottish Secretary, said: "The review group have concluded that there is a need to again review the SCSS 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.

"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."

'Serious consideration'

Bishop Joseph Toal, who oversees the work of the SCSS, said: "We welcome their report and we shall take time to give it serious consideration.

"Since setting up the independent review group, we have taken steps to improve safeguarding practices in all eight dioceses in Scotland.

"We are determined to apply what we learn, both from the steps we have already taken and from the group's report, and to ensure that the highest standards of safeguarding practice are met throughout the church in Scotland."