First Nolan Report
- Last summer, the Archbishop of Westminster invited
Lord Nolan to chair an independent committee to carry
out a review on child protection in the Catholic Church
in England and Wales. Our terms of reference are:
To examine and review arrangements
made for child protection and the prevention of
abuse within the Catholic Church in England and
Wales, and to make recommendations.
- We have met nine times so far, and have received
over 150 submissions from a wide range of organisations
and individuals. In approaching its task the Committee
has paid regard to what is viewed as good child protection
practice and sought, wherever possible, to apply it
to the policies and procedures of the Church. In the
seven years since the 1994 Guidelines were issued much
has been learned in the UK about how to ensure that
sound principles are translated into effective action
on the ground. Our recommendations reflect this new
professional understanding. This is particularly important
since it is clear that the ultimate test of the efficacy
of our recommendations, and of the Church's performance
in this area, will be the positive impact we hope and
intend they will have on the safety and well-being of
individual children and young people.
- This first report includes 50 recommendations. The
main ones are included in this summary but all are listed
in Chapter Six of the report. We see our recommendations
as complementing and reinforcing each other. They constitute
a single programme of action.
- This report, which is unanimous, has been prepared
for consideration by the Catholic Bishops' Conference
of England and Wales at their Low Week meeting in April
2001. It gives a clear indication in broad terms of
the arrangements that we believe need to be in place
to enable the Church to be an example of best practice
in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to
it, and to restore confidence. We have not, however,
yet had time to discuss the emerging conclusions and
their implementation with all those we would like to,
nor to develop a number of our recommendations in more
detail. We intend to do this over the next few months
and to produce our final report in the summer.
- Child abuse is a great evil. It can leave deep scars
on victims and their families. It is particularly abhorrent
when a child or young person is abused by someone in
a position of trust and responsibility. It is most abhorrent
when that position of trust is held by a member of the
clergy or a lay Church worker. The care of children
is at the forefront of the teachings of Christ and is,
therefore, one of the primary responsibilities of all
members of the Church led by their priests and bishops.
Because of the Church's particular message and the position
it holds, it seems to us to be of great importance that
it should be an exemplar of excellence in the protection
of children which, in due course, others will look to
and want to follow. We are confident that there is a
great desire among the huge majority of members of the
Church, both clerical and lay, to achieve this result.
We have also been impressed by the work that many in
the Church are already doing to bring this about. The
Guidelines it adopted in 1994 were a significant step
forward and we have been impressed by the work that
many in the Church are doing to build on them. Our report,
therefore, is based on this foundation: that the Catholic
Church in England and Wales should become an example
of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and
in responding to it.
- For understandable reasons the Church has concentrated
so far on responding to allegations of abuse. However,
while the proper handling of allegations is important,
it is much more important that the opportunity for abuse
does not occur, because an effective regime of good
practice is in place, and is known to be so. We recommend
that the top priority for an exemplary organisation
is to have preventative policies and practices in place
which will minimise the opportunity for abuse.
- There has also been an emphasis on the position of
priests. That is understandable because of the unique
character of the priesthood and the central role which
priests play in the life of the Church. For the same
reason, of course, the occasions on which priests have
been found guilty of abusive behaviour have been the
source of the greatest scandal. But, as we know, child
abuse occurs in a variety of settings in the home and
in organisations, predominantly where some relationship
has been established. The potential for abuse is therefore
a risk in any organisation or setting where children
are a part. For this reason, our general recommendations
apply to lay workers as well as to clergy, regardless
of age, gender or ethnicity.
- We believe that the Church should adopt a single,
clear policy statement on child protection. We recommend:
The Church recognises the personal
dignity and rights of children towards whom it has
a special responsibility and a duty of care. The
Church, and individual members of it, undertake
to do all in their power to create a safe environment
for children and young people and to prevent their
physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The Church
authorities will liaise closely with statutory agencies
to ensure that any allegations of abuse are promptly
and properly dealt with, victims supported and perpetrators
held to account.
- The first essential is to put in place and then maintain
a safe environment for children and young people and
those who work with them. The Home Office publication
Safe From Harm: A Code of Practice for Safeguarding
the Welfare of Children in Voluntary Organisations in
England and Wales (Home Office, 1993) remains the best
set of guidelines that we know of. It sets out 13 principles
which can easily be adapted to the needs of the Church,
and which we recommend should be adopted by it. They
Managing the organisation
1. Adopt a policy statement on safeguarding the
welfare of children.
2. Plan the work of the organisation so as to minimise
situations where the abuse of children may occur.
3. Introduce a system whereby children may talk
with an independent person.
Managing paid staff and volunteers
4. Apply agreed procedures for protecting children
to all paid staff and volunteers.
5. Give all paid staff and volunteers clear roles.
6. Use supervision as a means of protecting children.
Choosing the right paid staff and
7. Treat all would-be paid staff and volunteers
as job applicants for any position involving contact
8. Gain at least one reference from a person who
has experience of the applicant's paid work or volunteering
9. Explore all applicants' experience of working
or contact with children in an interview before
10. Find out whether an applicant has any conviction
for criminal offences against children.
11. Make paid and voluntary appointments conditional
on the successful completion of a probationary period.
Dealing with abuse
12. Issue guidelines on how to deal with the disclosure
or discovery of abuse.
13. Train paid staff and volunteers, their line
managers or supervisors, and policy makers in the
prevention of child abuse.
- In Chapter Three we work through the application
of these principles to the Church and make some 16 further
recommendations. In particular we recommend that each
parish should have a designated child protection representative
and each diocese and religious order a Child Protection
Co-ordinator to oversee implementation, and that the
Church should establish a single national database of
information on all applicant candidates for ordination.
- In Chapter Four we look at how the Church should
respond to allegations of abuse. We recommend that each
diocese must have good arrangements in place for responding
to allegations swiftly and effectively when they arise,
working with local social services and the police. Risk
assessments will need to be undertaken and alleged abusers
(whoever they are) withdrawn from contact with children
when necessary. Historical allegations need to be handled
in the same way as current ones. Altogether we make
15 recommendations in this area.
- We recommend that the Church should make more pastoral
provision for help to victims and for support to parishes
where abuse has occurred.
- We also recommend that advice should be made available
to alleged abusers.
- Clergy and lay workers who have been cautioned or
convicted of a serious offence against children should
no longer be allowed to hold any position that could
possibly put children at risk again. We have considered
whether abusing priests or deacons should be removed
from the clerical state, and recommend that laicisation
(the nearest equivalent) is appropriate in the most
- Chapter Five consolidates our recommendations on
organisation, the primary purpose of which is to provide
support and structure for the parishes, which are the
main communities which form the Church. We spell out
the role of the parish child protection representative.
The first line of support for parishes is the diocese,
and we explain what diocesan and religious order Child
Protection Co-ordinators are to do and the Teams they
should have for implementation and training, for risk
assessment and responding to allegations, and for support
- We also recommend that the Church should establish
and maintain a small National Child Protection Unit
to provide support and expert advice, to collect and
disseminate good practice, to hold databases of training
facilities and other information, and to liaise with
the statutory agencies (including the new Criminal Records
Bureau) at national level, with professional bodies
and leading charities in the field and with the other
Churches. The Unit would also have a valuable role in
collecting data, monitoring that effective arrangements
are implemented in dioceses and religious orders, and
in seeking to secure improvements where that is not
so. It should bring any apparent failure in arrangements
immediately to the attention of the bishop or religious
superior and make annual reports to them on the effectiveness
of arrangements. It should also make an annual report,
which we suggest should be published, to the Bishops'
Conference on the position overall.
- The structure of the Church requires that responsibility
for action lies primarily with individual bishops and
superiors of religious orders. However, we are clear
that the wider perception of the Church's commitment
in this field will only significantly be changed if
both the whole Church in England and Wales and the individual
bishops and superiors commit themselves
- to a single set of policies and practices,
- to effective and speedy implementation in parishes,
dioceses and religious orders, including a programme
to raise awareness and train those involved,
- to a national capability (which we call the National
Child Protection Unit) which will advise dioceses
and orders, co-ordinate where necessary and monitor
and report on progress, and
- to the resources to support these arrangements.
Diversity of policy and practice, insufficiency
of resources and a lack of national support and
co-ordination will, in our view, lead to a weakened,
inconsistent and inadequate response.
- The Committee are aware that the overall impression
of this report is highly prescriptive. Faced with the
many problems concerning child protection we have made
very specific recommendations. However, we are aware
of the necessary limitations of such a prescriptive
approach. The fact is that should every parish throughout
England and Wales follow our recommendations the problem
of child abuse would not thereby be eradicated. But
our hope is that this report will help to bring about
a culture of vigilance where every single adult member
of the Church consciously and pro-actively takes responsibility
for creating a safe environment for children and young
people. Our recommendations are not a substitute for
this but we hope they will be an impetus towards such