Church child safety board needs to be independent, says ex-CEO
The independence of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church's review process has been called into question by its former CEO.
Safeguarding consultant, Ian Elliott, who headed up the NBSCCCI for six years, has called on the catholic bishops and the other bodies sponsoring the National Board to create a means through which safeguarding practice in the church "can be independently examined".
Mr Elliott told the Irish Independent that the issue of the National Board's independence was "a critical one".
Writing in his blog 'The Basis for Trust', Ian Elliott also questioned the current requirement for the NBSCCCI to get consent from the diocese or congregation it is investigating.
"It cannot be forced on them," he explains as the National Board has no right of entry or power to inspect if it is not invited to do so by the subject.
"When they set up the National Board they refused to give it these powers and have forced it to operate its review function on a basis of consent alone. This is not good enough," Mr Elliott says.
The diocese of Cloyne is cited as an example of where the National Board's review was blocked but Ian Elliott warns that it was not the only example.
Mr Elliott says that he met with "misinformation and misrepresentation" from the hierarchy and church bodies "which shocked me then and still does today".
The child protection expert says a pattern was detectable of change taking place only where it is "forced rather than actively sought" and he accuses the hierarchy "of minimal responses and empty gestures".
However, a spokesman for the Irish bishops said they "have been consistent in promoting a culture of child safeguarding in their respective dioceses and in resourcing best practice."
Martin Long said that in the past bishops were open to State investigations, and "they have highlighted their willingness to cooperate with similar undertakings in the future".
A spokesman for the NBSCCCI responded to Ian Elliott's criticisms by referring to an article the ex-CEO penned in 2011.
In it he highlighted that the "inadequate and dangerous practices" that took place in Cloyne were "identified, reported on, and addressed by the church itself" through the National Board for Safeguarding Children.