Agencies welcome child protection report

 Leading child welfare agencies have welcomed the Nolan Review's final report: A Programme for Action, which was released today. Last summer, at the invitation of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Lord Nolan chaired a preliminary independent review on child protection within the Church. Their report was published in April and led to the establishment of a committee, chaired by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, to plan ways in which the recommendations could be implemented. In their report, the ten-strong team, consisting of four Catholic and six non-Catholic specialists, have set out 83 recommendations: on structures locally and nationally; on action needed to create as safe an environment as possible; and on arrangements for responding to allegations of abuse. Dr Jim Richards, chair of The Catholic Children's Society, Westminster, said: "After these two reports the way forward looks clear. The implementation group has moved quickly and shown a great degree of resolve. "I feel it is very helpful to have an independent group - not part of the Bishops Conference - that will act as policy providers and encourage good practice. This is a huge advance on the present position where each diocese has been working without an overall infrastructure. These new recommendations provide for a much more thorough approach." Dr Richards also welcomed the proposed links with the Criminal Records Bureau, which will also collect information from the Department of Health and the Department of education and Skills. "Some clergy have expressed concerns that the new recommendations could lead to false allegations," he said, "but that shouldn't be the case. Good procedures should lead to fewer problems and greater public confidence." Mr Terence Connor, director of The Catholic Children's Society in Southwark, said: "In principal, what has been proposed should go a long way to sorting out problems. It is much to do with how this new committee wins credibility. Bishops can't be forced to take up these proposals. There is a need to monitor what is happening in all the dioceses. But overall I would say it is very positive." The Review's recommendations include: * the adoption of a clear policy statement on child protection; * that the the Church adopts the 13 principles of the Home Office document Safe From Harm concerning the management of organisations and the management and training of staff and volunteers; * every Catholic parish should have a designated child protection representative; * each diocese, religious order and seminary should have a Child Protection Co-ordinator; *a single national database of information on all applicant candidates for ordination; * lay workers and candidates for ordination should give references and agree to a criminal record check on application; * allegations should be responded to swiftly when they arise, and risk assessments undertaken; * accurate confidential records should be kept for 100 years; * more pastoral provision to support victims and parishes; * cautioned or convicted abusers should not hold any position that could put children at risk - for clergy, laicisation, should be initiated in the most serious cases; * the Church establishes a National Child Protection Unit to provide support and advice, hold databases and information, liaise with statutory and other agencies at national level, and make annual public reports; * the Sacrament of Reconciliation for children should, wherever possible, be administered so that both priest and child can be visible but not heard; * mistakes and lapses should be acknowledged, recorded and rectified; * these recommendations should be reviewed after five years. Introducing the report today, Lord Nolan said: "This is a very practical report that requires vigorous action. Our overriding aim has been to create a secure environment for children. Our approach has been to identify best child protection practice, and, wherever possible to apply it to the policies and procedures of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Child abuse is a great evil and we believe that the Church should be an example of excellence in rooting it out. The bishops' very positive response to the First Report and their determination to implement those initial recommendations as swiftly as possible is to be welcomed." Archbishop Nichols said: "There is much to be done at all levels to implement this report. The creation of a culture of vigilance where every adult member of the Church takes responsibility for establishing and sustaining a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults is the overall aim. This will take time to achieve but it can and will be done." Welcoming the report, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor said: "It is the aim of all of us that the Catholic Church in England and Wales will come to be seen as an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it." The report will be discussed at the meeting of the Catholic bishops in Leeds, 12-15 November. To read A Programme for Action, and the First Report, visit:

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