Child protection office launches annual report

 The Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA) launched its second Annual Report today. The report by COPCA Director Eileen Shearer shows great strides have been made during 2003 in developing and implementing child protection policy in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. In the foreword, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Chairman of the COPCA Management Board, praises the child protection work being done throughout the Catholic dioceses and religious congregations of England and Wales, stressing: "There can be no doubt of the commitment of the Catholic community to this task." Ms Shearer said: "The information contained in this 2003 Annual Report demonstrates how much effort and commitment has been made to take forward the implementation of Lord Nolan's A Programme for Action throughout the Religious Congregations and the 22 Dioceses of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. "The continuing recognition of the vital importance of this work by the bishops and leaders of religious congregations is central to success in moving forward with the often challenging changes which are required in implementing Lord Nolan's recommendations." She added: "The final evidence of the honesty and courage that such recognition and commitment demands is ultimately to be found at the local level, in Church communities of all kinds, where it is our aim to ensure that children and their families can feel confident that they are part of a safe and secure environment." The report shows that there were 2,554 Local Child Protection Representatives in post in parishes in England and Wales in 2003, and all 22 dioceses had a Child Protection Co-ordinator, mainly clergy. Twelve dioceses also employed professional Child Protection Officers. In Religious Congregations, 184 Child Protection Co-ordinators have been appointed while some of the smaller congregations have opted to use diocesan structures for child protection issues. The report notes: "The Conference of Religious (CoR) has demonstrated significant commitment to the 'one Church' approach to child protection through its support of COPCA and its aims, through its Executive Board, through regular meetings of its CoR/COPCA Liaison Group, and through membership of the National Child Protection Co-ordinators' meetings." Close working relationships have also been developed between COPCA and those responsible for child protection in the dioceses and religious congregations, with regular meetings with Child Protection Co-ordinators taking place approximately every two months since February 2002. The development of national policies has made considerable progress during 2003, in areas including Responding to Allegations, Creating a Safe Environment and Pastoral Care. And the report notes that two "important and closely-linked national policies" were introduced and implemented during the year - the COPCA CRB Policies and Procedures, in January 2003, and Organisational Structures, in July 2003. During 2003, all 22 dioceses reported statistical information to COPCA, and, reporting for the first time, 138 of the 184 Religious Congregations also submitted figures. A full analysis of the statistics is contained in the report. Source: CCS

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