Martyn Percy cleared again: CofE safeguarding goes from tragedy to farce

Dec 9, 2020 by

by Martin Sewell, Archbishop Cranmer:

It has been reported that the Church of England’s Director of Safeguarding, Melissa Caslake, has tendered her resignation after only 18 months in the post, and will be leaving at the turn of the year to take up a position as Director of Children’s Services at Devon County Council. She leaves with the good wishes of both the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, the Rt Rev’d Dr Jonathan Gibbs, and her direct line manager, the Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye.

She also departs with the support of the survivor community, on whose behalf a press release has been issued:

Melissa Caslake will leave with respect from the survivor community and beyond, for the energy she brought in a short time to transforming the Church’s safeguarding, and building a new National Safeguarding Team. Some who have offered legitimate criticism of the controversies over which she nominally presided still recognise that she has left a good mark of the changes required for the future. We note that she came from a Local Authority context and returns to a similar position where she will have clear unambiguous roles, rules, and structures, none of which currently exist within the Church of England in general, and Church House in particular. Until those issues are sorted out the position of Director of Safeguarding is virtually impossible to do with integrity, and we don’t blame Melissa for leaving whilst hers is still intact. We suspect that Moses would struggle to reshape the culture of Church House. Melissa has done well to survive in the post for eighteen months. We wish her well.

The Daily Telegraph reported the news with the enigmatic byline: “Sources claim that Melissa Caslake would not be leaving unless she felt the task had become impossible.” I am not that source, neither do I know who it might be, but anyone closely concerned with what has been happening in Church House since the summer can piece together a number of events, any one of which might have led a person of integrity, and with a good career ahead of her, to head for the relative safety of whence she came. Local authorities do make mistakes; they have their scandals and public inquiries, but at least they have rules and logical procedures by which a person has a fair chance to preserve their professional standing. They do not have a running sore of controversy over their practices and procedures in the way that the Church of England has.

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