You can watch Bishop David read this message here 

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Following months of preparation, a substantive baseline audit of safeguarding across our diocese by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency took place in November 2023. This was a planned audit in line with recommendations presented in the final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, ICCSA published in November 2020.

Creating and developing a culture of safeguarding and protection of the vulnerable within our church is the responsibility of each of us. It requires every member of our diocesan family to be vigilant, to take time to know our procedures and to pray that all within our places of worship will uphold the dignity of all God’s children.

I am pleased to share with you that we received a grade of ‘comprehensive assurance’ in six of the eight standards with one more being rated as ‘exemplary’ and the last graded as ‘firm progress’. Our overall grading was rated as ‘comprehensive assurance’. There is a great deal to be encouraged by as we strive to embed safeguarding practices in our everyday mission.

To this end, I wish to thank you all. The audit has affirmed our commitment to safeguarding, it has recognised the dedication of many people engaged in this valuable ministry and given clear indication of the recommended areas of improvement.

Having said this, we must not get complacent. We should all continue to place those who have suffered in our Church at the heart of our response to abuse. As I read the report, I was reassured that the audit team had reflected that we have a “survivor-led approach” to safeguarding which “involves a wide range of Diocesan individuals, from leadership to volunteers”.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few of the individuals and groups of people who work tirelessly in this area. Every parish in our diocese has at least one Parish Safeguarding Representative. As volunteers the parish representatives give up a considerable amount of time, sharing the messages of safeguarding, implementing diocesan and national policies and procedures, and promoting good and safe practice within the local area. We are blessed by their dedication and sensitivity as they often are the ‘first responders’ to concerns.

Our diocesan trustees and safeguarding advisory board offer oversight and governance of our safeguarding practices. The report highlights that the “diocese has good oversight of key safeguarding risks, current and future”, which reassures me as Bishop of this diocese. I know how much time is put in by these two groups, mainly volunteers as they scrutinise and offer reflection on all the work of the safeguarding team. I would particularly like to thank the two chairs of these committees, Mr Hugh Williams and Canon Brendan Killeen. Their diligent work means that all casework and practices are governed in a “robust and effective” manner.

Our diocesan safeguarding team are second to none. The report highlights that the “Diocese has maximised it’s modest clergy and lay resources to deliver effective safeguarding practice”. Danielle Dixon, our diocesan safeguarding coordinator and Laura Lester, the safeguarding support officer, have developed a professional environment which firmly roots safeguarding within the mission of our Church.

I wish to take a moment to reassure you all that we will continue to evaluate and reflect upon the resources available for safeguarding in our diocese. As a Church, we rely heavily on the generosity of volunteers and as well as my thanks to all those currently engaged in this vital effort, I would like to encourage anyone wishing to volunteer to have an informal conversation with a member of our team.

I am encouraged by the positive way in which we place the most vulnerable at the heart of our mission and I am grateful to Deacon Peter Collins and his team who make up the Healing and Reconciliation Group. This group seek ways to proactively reach out to victims and survivors of abuse in small ways which can increase our understanding of the impact of abuse and develop resources which can help an individual in their journey towards healing. The report refers to this work as “inspirational and innovative” which we should all be proud of.

As we continually seek to improve our safeguarding services, again, I would like to encourage each of you. Safeguarding in the diocese of Northampton is not a departmental responsibility but a culture which relies on every member of our parish and diocesan communities playing their part. This report highlights the good practice across all eight national standards and the positivity of the report is a reflection of the culture created by each of you.

Bishop David Oakley

Bishop of Northampton