The General Synod of the Church has taken a significant step forward in the establishment of a compensation scheme for survivors of church abuse, with the draft Redress Measure receiving initial approval on Tuesday.
This development sets the stage for the scheme’s final implementation, projected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Bishop of Winchester, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, addressing the Synod, emphasized the collective responsibility of the Church to address its historical shortcomings. He presented the draft measure for first consideration, stating, “We bring before you today a draft of the Measure for first consideration which, together, we will all work on in coming months to attempt to convey our heartfelt contrition and deep repentance for the failings of the Church.”
The key elements of the draft measure include the establishment of a single redress body responsible for overseeing the compensation scheme. The announcement of the selected body is anticipated in early 2024, emphasizing the importance of keeping the voices of survivors central to the process.
The compensation scheme aims to offer survivors a comprehensive support package, encompassing financial payments, therapeutic assistance, spiritual guidance, emotional support, acknowledgment of the Church’s wrongdoing, and a formal apology. The overarching goal is to contribute to the process of rebuilding lives affected by abuse.
During the Synod debate, concerns were raised regarding the sufficiency of the fund and the potential financial strain on dioceses and parishes. In response to these concerns, a funding formula has been devised, incorporating a means test and a contribution cap. This approach ensures fair participation from every parish and local accountable body, addressing worries about affordability.
To alleviate financial concerns, the Church Commissioners have already allocated £150 million, with the funds set to be released once the essential parameters of the scheme are established. Bishop Joanne Grenfell, lead bishop for safeguarding, clarified that this initial allocation is not a ceiling, and additional contributions may come from insurance companies and carefully means-tested parishes.
Bishop Grenfell highlighted the Church Commissioners’ role in underwriting the scheme, ensuring its smooth operation. She emphasized, “It’s really important that for anyone making a claim under the Redress Scheme, that they don’t have to worry about what happens behind the front door, they just need to knock on the front door and say, ‘This is my case.'”
An additional update on the scheme is anticipated in February, with the revised measure expected to return to the Synod in July. Following these steps, the final drafting and approval stages will pave the way for the scheme’s implementation.
The Church’s commitment to addressing historical wrongs and providing a comprehensive redress scheme reflects a collective effort to acknowledge the pain and suffering of survivors. By taking these measures, the Church aims to uphold its responsibility and contribute to the healing and restoration of those affected by abuse within its institutions.