Church appoints child protection specialist

 The Catholic Church in England and Wales has announced the appointment of a senior child protection specialist to oversee a national strategy for child protection. Oxford-educated Eileen Shearer, 50, was appointed after a thorough and exhaustive search for a high calibre specialist in this field. Ms Shearer, who has a 16-year-old daughter, said she had been brought up an "active Anglican" but no longer attends church. She said: "I feel I understand the Christian ethos and I think that both my personal and professional values are consistent with Christianity, although I am not a practising Christian." Her appointment follows a successful 25-year career in children's services, including 16 years' working for the NSPCC in positions from front-line services to senior management. Her most recent post was as NSPCC Regional Director for South West Region. She has also collaborated in a number of professional publications in the field of child protection. Ms Shearer will head COPCA - the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults - which will advise the Church on best practice in the field, and co-ordinate the development of policies and procedures on the prevention of abuse, and the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults. Key elements include: * awareness raising throughout the Church; * selection procedures and training standards for staff and volunteers; * responding to allegations of abuse. COPCA will monitor policy implementation on a national basis and produce an annual report to the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, which will be published. Ms Shearer said today: "This is an exciting and challenging opportunity for me and I look forward to overseeing the Church's strategy and to working with the many members of the Church who are already doing so much in this field. I am delighted and honoured to have been chosen from what was, quite rightly, a demanding selection process. "As a professional in the field of social work with children, young people and their families, I have been impressed by the very strong response of Catholic Church leaders to the challenges of laying out a strategy in this area and the real sense of commitment to ensuring the protection of children and prevention of abuse which is apparent among those who deal with these issues in the Church at present. "The message I want to give is clear. The Roman Catholic Church has listened to Lord Nolan's recommendations and intends to implement them. The Church takes these measures extremely seriously. My job is to work with the existing professionals within the Church to take action to ensure that children are safe within the Church and to give families that confidence." Welcoming Eileen Shearer's appointment, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, Chairman of the COPCA Management Board, said: "This appointment is a demonstration of our commitment to take a serious and conscientious approach to the children in our care. Eileen is a leading professional in her field and brings with her valuable experience and the highest credentials. "The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales unanimously endorsed the comprehensive report into this area carried out by Lord Nolan's committee. We thank Lord Nolan and his committee for their considerable efforts. "Nobody should be in any doubt that we intend to continue the work we have already done, in conjunction with the existing high quality child protection professionals in the Church. With today's appointment comes a significant stage in the development of our provision for the care and protection of children in the Church. I want to pay tribute to the many people in our Catholic parishes and communities, priests, religious and lay people, who already work tirelessly to provide a healthy and caring environment for young people and their families. "The process that has led to today's appointment, in preparation and in discussion, has involved many people and great commitment. Our commitment to Lord Nolan's recommendations will lead the Church to the highest professional standards and best practice in the area of child protection." Endorsing the appointment, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of the Bishops' Conference in England and Wales, commented: "I am very pleased with the appointment of Eileen Shearer as Director of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults. She brings with her all the qualities for this important role which is one of the key recommendations of the Nolan Committee's Report on Child Protection. "I am confident that Eileen Shearer's professional leadership will serve to enhance the work of child protection professionals in the Church. "Her appointment is a sign that the Catholic Church has listened carefully to the recommendations of the Nolan Committee and intends to carry them out." source: Catholic Media Office/BBC The final report of the Nolan Review, A Programme for Action, is available from the Catholic Media Office and at

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