It will take time to implement and insiders think it will cost the Church tens of millions of pounds to put right
Just three weeks before the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse produced its shocking report on child sexual abuse inside the Anglican Church, the Archbishops Council decided to provide both help and financial support for survivors of this heinous crime.
The support was two fold – an emergency fund drawn from the reserves for just over a handful of desperate child abuse survivors and a long term project for a major compensation and support scheme for possibly hundreds if not more survivors.
As well as direct financial support this would fund counselling for survivors which is by nature long term and very expensive.
bigger demand from survivors
Inquiries revealed that the emergency package of help has already produced a bigger demand from survivors than anticipated. As the Church Times reported one survivor known as ” VB” received emergency funds both before ( at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s insistence) and after the emergency fund was set up after suffering bouts of severe depression following historic child sex abuse by multiple church officers as his business, already hit by Covid-19 was about to go bust.
Last week the Church confirmed that three survivors had received emergency help – one of them receiving a large sum – and that 12 people had either been referred or applied for help from the fund.
The good news is that the Church says none of 12 has been ruled ineligible for help and that more money will be forthcoming from the reserves to help them if that is what is required. The figure for the fund is being kept confidential but I understand it is not far short of £1m.
The big question us the long term solution. Phil Johnson, chair of the Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, and has been critical of the support given to survivors in the past, is delighted at the support being given now.
Could cost tens of millions
He estimates that if the Church is to help all the people who have been victims of child sex abuse the cost could run ” to tens of millions of pounds”- if not shy of £100m.
This will be a tall order and must raise the issue of whether the Church will have to sell any of its assets and investments.
The Church itself says: “No way to tell [the final cost] and there is an important point to make that redress is not all about money but also apology, restorative justice and other factors. The Church is now responding to and engaging with survivors to provide the help and support needed to overcome the impacts of abuse, whatever form that takes. This is initially with the most urgent cases for help but eventually to address the needs of all Church-based abuse survivors.”
The delay in setting up a permanent fund is because it will take time to set up formal structures and procedures and the Church hopes to learn from running the emergency fund the best way to proceed.
Meg Munn, chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, is also keeping an eye on progress.
She said :We were updated that work is ongoing on the final scheme with recruitment of a manager for it. Work is also underway to establish the interim hardship fund that was agreed by the Archbishop’s council in September.
“We don’t have a date for when the interim scheme will be in place, but we were assured that there is a desire to have this in place as soon as possible.”
Meg Munn’s warning
In a recent blog she wrote: “Profound change will not be established until there is complete acceptance across the whole of the church that striving for a safe church is at the heart of its mission. Consequently, the current structure which sustains unaccountable and powerful clergy must change. Without this, the Church will continue to have dangerous places for children and adults as I described in my interview nearly two years ago.
“There may never be a better opportunity for those with responsibility and influence to step up to this challenge. It will mean tackling long and dearly held principles, something some might not want to do. But not doing so will lead to more lives devastated, and more damage to the reputation of the church. Is this generation of church leaders prepared to accept that? “
If the Church do proceed and keep up their good intentions perhaps at last the stain of hidden child sex abuse will be finally removed. That is why I am pleased IICSA will look again at the progress made by the Anglican Church before the inquiry is over.