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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Irish bishops offer to be vetted under new child protection laws
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¬†The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop SeŠn Brady has announced that the Northern Catholic Bishops are voluntarily offering their names for vetting as part of a series of measures being implemented by the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland in response to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults [POCVA] Order. Other measures include the future appointment of a new director of Child Protection for the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland, the hosting of an interagency seminar in Belfast on the provision of care for victims of abuse and the preparation of Church guidance on safeguarding children for use in Northern Ireland. Speaking from Maynooth, where the Irish Bishops' Conference is holding its March General Meeting, Archbishop Brady said: "The welfare and protection of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic Church in Ireland. We want the Church to be at the forefront of best practice in this area. We want everyone in the Church to know what actions to take if they have concerns about the safety of a child. We want those actions to be effective and we want to work in full cooperation with the DHSS, PSNI and other agencies who can assist us in safeguarding children." "As a result of the work carried out by Church representatives in response to the Protection of Vulnerable Children and Adults (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 and building on the Church's document 'Our Children: Our Church' launched in 2005 in the Republic of Ireland, we are working on a new draft policy which will be in line with best practice in Northern Ireland and developed with support from the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and a range of other organisations with expertise in the care and safeguarding of children." "We have also decided to voluntarily offer our own names as Bishops for vetting as part of our commitment to ensuring best practice. Hopefully these and other measures such as the future appointment of a new Child Protection Director for Northern Ireland with professional expertise in this area will show that as a Church we are willing to learn from the past and to work with statutory and other agencies towards a better future for all those in our care. Many Parishes are already participating in our Volunteer Development Agency accredited training programme and over forty parishes have established child care committees. Our aim is to put in place a professionally sound, transparent and effective structure which will involve the community and parish in the promotion of best practice in the safeguarding of children and young people." Archbishop Brady added: "I have always believed there is a responsibility on the Church to be proactive in such matters and that is why in late 2005 the Northern dioceses engaged with the DHSS and the PSNI to review our existing practices and to ensure full cooperation and the implementation of best practice into the future. We have now audited our practices and reviewed our procedures according to the threshold for best practice proposed by the new POCVA legislation and in consultation with the statutory agencies. As a result we can now say that everything that is in our knowledge from 1965 to 2005 ≠ proven or unproven ≠ has been reported to the relevant authorities. "We cannot undo the hurt caused in the past but we can put in place measures which will enhance the scope of protection afforded to those placed in our care. This remains our priority." Since 2005 a review team appointed by the Northern Catholic Bishops has been in discussions with child protection experts, children's charities, the DHSS and the PSNI Child Protection Unit to produce guidance in line with statutory policy in Northern Ireland and to respond to the new POCVA legislation affecting children and vulnerable adults. As part of the review and consultation exercise all allegations against diocesan clergy from all Northern dioceses from 1965 to the present have been summarised and provided to the authorities according to the POCVA threshold. The Catholic Church is the first institution in Northern Ireland to have voluntarily conducted such an exercise. Next week the Catholic Church will also be hosting a seminar in Belfast on the subject of Child Protection and developing care for victims of abuse, involving a range of relevant organisations such as the NSPCC, Nexus, Belfast Rape Crisis Centre, the DHSSPS and Church representatives. Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
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