Consultation on National Standards

lots of colourful umbrellas

In addition to our scrutiny meetings, from time to time the National Safeguarding Panel meet members of the National Safeguarding Team (NST) to take part in consultations on new or revised policies and procedures.

Recently we discussed the draft of the national safeguarding standards which will form part of the Quality Assurance Framework. The Panel previously discussed the development of the Quality Assurance Framework at a meeting in 2021. A report of the meeting can be found here

The Panel were pleased to note that work had been done to implement the recommendations made at that meeting, in particular there has been a reduction in the overall number of indicators.


A member of the NST presented key elements of the framework, standards and indicators. There are five standards and around 60 indicators. Not all the indicators are relevant to every setting, for example, some relate only to dioceses, cathedrals or the NST.

In implementing the framework it is proposed that in each setting only one or two standards will be explored each year enabling rigorous examination of those aspects of safeguarding. Once all the standards had been reviewed, they will be subject to an independent audit (at least once every five years).

A key principle is to integrate standards across church processes and bodies and avoid duplication. The approach aims to provide a coherent and consistent framework within which to assess the quality of safeguarding activities.

Comments on the draft standards

The Panel welcomed the standards and that each of them is linked to one or more of the six commitments made by the Church of England to being a safer church.

The Panel advised that there is a need for accountability for each standard and associated indicators to be much clearer.

The draft document includes explanations as to why these standards are important to the church. It was suggested that these could be enhanced with links to theology, such as that protecting the vulnerable from abuse is a core part of Christian mission and ministry.

The content of the framework is good but it was felt that the style of writing appears tentative and apologetic which might imply standards are an option. More definitive language would help embed standards into practice.

The role of peer review and how learning is shared needs to be clarified. It was suggested that Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel networks would be keen to undertake peer reviews as to how standards were being achieved.

Standard 1: Prevention

There are 11 indicators that are designed to help church bodies identify whether they are meeting the following standard:

Church bodies have in place a planned range of measures which together are effective in preventing abuse in their context.

The Panel made a number of suggestions to improve the indicators. These included ensuring that employees and volunteers are safeguarded as well as those attending activities. It was also suggested that considering buildings from a safeguarding perspective should include how different locations are accessed as well as working practices. Parts of buildings that are remote can present both safeguarding and health and safety risks.

Standard 2: Culture, Leadership and Capacity

There are 14 indicators that are designed to help church bodies identify whether they are meeting the following standard:

Church bodies have the safe and healthy culture, effective leadership, resourcing and scrutiny arrangements necessary to deliver high quality safeguarding practices and outcomes.

Panel members recognised the importance of culture but also the difficulty of identifying and assessing the culture of an organisation. We recommended that the indicator in relation to leadership should be strengthened with an expectation that leaders should be able to show how they have made a positive improvement to the culture of safeguarding.

Capacity is also a key issue given that there are many small churches. The Panel recommended that this should be given further consideration.

Standard 3: Recognising, Accessing and Managing Risk

There are 14 indicators that are designed to help church bodies identify whether they are meeting the following standard:

Risk assessments, Safeguarding Agreements and associated processes are of a high quality and result in positive outcomes. The assessment and management of risk is underpinned by effective partnership working.

Panel members welcomed the recognition of the importance of the inclusion of the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) on records when applicable and suggested that the recent legislative developments should also be included such as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

It was suggested that the information management indicator needs to ensure that the risks identified in the Past Cases Review 2 (PCR2) process are addressed. This includes file management and administration with examples of triplicate files for individuals held in different areas of the diocese.

Panel members also identified that some indicators would benefit from being more specific on what is required from which specific roles.

Standard 4: Victims and Survivors

There are 9 indicators that are designed to help church bodies identify whether they are meeting the following standard:

Victims and survivors experience the timeliness and quality of Church bodies’ responses to disclosures, and their subsequent support, as positively helping the healing process and meeting their needs.

Panel members commented that justice is important as an outcome for survivors. The speed of response to a referral and being kept informed on the progress of a case are core elements for survivors and specifically need to be included in the standards.

It was suggested that the indicator on engagement is too broad and appears to focus primarily on policy development. It needs to be more specific as survivors encounter the church in a number of ways, including for example, through redress processes.

Panel members commented that this standard needs to integrate with other church processes linked to survivors such as the Clergy Conduct Measure. The Panel also recommended that there should be further consideration of how the standards should be future proofed.

Standard 5: Learning, Supervision Support

There are 13 indicators that are designed to help church bodies identify whether they are meeting the following standard:

All those engaged in safeguarding related activity in Church bodies receive the type and level of learning, professional development, support and supervision necessary to respond to safeguarding situations, victims and survivors, and respondents, effectively.

Panel members recognised the critical role of supervision within this standard and suggested that the wording needs to be strengthened and more ambitious for both the standard and indicators. There were concerns that the issue of supervision was still not widely accepted nor being addressed in a systemic way in the church, particularly in relation to clergy. It was highlighted as an integral element of any quality assurance activity.


The Chair advised that the National Safeguarding Panel would be available for future consultation on the development of the Quality Assurance Framework and would be keen to consider the outcomes from the regional pathfinder pilots. The significant progress with the Framework was noted and appreciated by Panel members. National Safeguarding Team members and those involved with piloting the framework were thanked for their work. The Panel asked to be informed of further developments.

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