​Church of England finds 50% rise in abuse claims and concerns

Number of reports to dioceses relating to past and present abuse reaches 3,287 in 2017

The number of situations where the Church of England dealt with “concerns and allegations” about abuse rose by 50% between 2015 and 2017, figures show.

Incidents relating to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, including some allegations of serious criminal offences, increased to 3,287 in 2017, compared with 2,195 in 2015. They related to both current and past events, and about one-third of them required reporting to statutory agencies.

The figures were published on Wednesday (pdf), less than two weeks before the C of E faces scrutiny in a further round of hearings at the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA). Last month, the C of E was heavily criticised for putting its reputation above the needs of abuse victims in a report published by the inquiry into the case of a former bishop, Peter Ball.

According to the latest data, 12% of concerns and allegations related to clergy. Others against whom concerns and allegations were made included church wardens, employees, volunteers, congregation members and people with church connections.

The church pointed out that just over 300 clergy out of 20,000 active clergy were embroiled in abuse issues reported in 2017. Disciplinary measures under clergy and lay procedures were taken in 72 cases.

The biggest category was sexual abuse, but physical, emotional, psychological, domestic and financial abuse claims were also reported. Some contained allegations of serious criminal offences, while in other cases clergy or church members were seeking advice on whether a concern was warranted.

The increase over three years was largely due to a 78% rise in concerns about or allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults. Those relating to children or young people had a 45% increase between 2015 and 2016, then fell slightly in 2017.

In a briefing note, the C of E said the rise reflected “the increasing professionalism and resources within dioceses, stronger working relationships with statutory partners, in particular those responsible for public protection, and a greater understanding of the importance of risk management”.

The data is the first analysis of trends the church has carried out over a three-year period.

Last year, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, told the independent inquiry he was ashamed of the church and abusers should go to prison.

The IICSA is expected to publish a report on Thursday into abuse in the Catholic archdiocese of Birmingham.


Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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