Letter from Bishop Noel Treanor to THE PEOPLE OF DOWN AND CONNOR
You will have noted recent negative reports in the media suggesting that the work done to improve safeguarding for our children in the Church has not been enough and that the Church has not learned the lessons of the past. The terrible incidents of abuse in the past are a shameful and tragic reality that cannot be forgotten, nor should they be diminished by the passage of time. Survivors of abuse carry with them the burden of this horrific reality.
Conscious of the tragedies of the past, we have been working tirelessly in the diocese of Down and Connor to put best practice in place to ensure that these failures cannot be repeated. Together we must take shared responsibility to achieve this aim.
I would like to confirm to you that robust procedures are in place in this diocese to protect children. No effort is being spared to ensure that our Church is today a safe and secure place for our children and young people. Our Vicariate Support Team trainers, some 60 in number and spread over the twelve vicariates of the diocese, have delivered training to over 3,000 volunteers. These volunteers are fully vetted to the best standard, are trained in child safeguarding and support our parishes and their Catholic organisations. Every parish is served by a Child Care Committee; 450 trained personnel contribute to the work of these committees. We have a diocesan Safeguarding Office staffed by professionals. In this way all groups working at parish or at diocesan level can provide a safe environment to allow your children to grow and develop within a Catholic ethos while meeting new friends and learning new skills. Recently we sent out a questionnaire to each parish Child Care Committee seeking an evaluation of the work being done in our parishes in respect of safeguarding and asking for views as to what we can do better.
The Diocesan Director of Safeguarding, Mrs. Barbara McDermott, who heads up the Safeguarding Office, is a professionally qualified social worker with particular expertise in this field. She leads a professional team in overseeing the training and direction of safeguarding in the diocese. In recent years the Safeguarding Office has developed close working relationships with the PSNI and Social Services to ensure that the diocese implements the most effective and responsible safeguarding measures.
Immediately any child safeguarding concerns arise, they are discussed with the police and relevant statutory agencies and any steps necessary to ensure the protection of our children and young people are taken in full co-operation with them. These working partnerships are fundamental to the safeguarding of children and young people.
I hope that the implementation of these safeguards and our commitment to the continuing development of best practice provide reassurance to you that your children can enjoy the benefits provided by youth groups, clubs and other Church organisations in a safe and secure environment.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who work with our children in youth organisations, choirs, folk groups and in other settings. Your vital contribution is often not fully appreciated in the day to day rush of our lives. I assure you that I am fully aware of and greatly appreciate the hard work, effort, the time gladly given and the benefit you provide to our children and young people. Without you these groups, events and functions would not exist and our children and young people would be deprived of so many opportunities to develop in group and community settings.
I keep all involved in this crucial work in my prayers and I ask that today you offer a special prayer of thanks for those who give so generously of their time to provide these services which are vitally important for children, Church and society.
Bishop of Down and Connor
Pentecost Sunday 12 June 2011