A key part of safeguarding and effective practice is evaluating and learning from previous practice. This is particularly important when a safeguarding concern is raised (not an allegation of abuse) , this could be, for example: a crisis; a first aid accident; or dealing with a breach of a code of behaviour.
Once the incident has occurred, it is important to review what happened, what procedures were in place before, during and after the incident, so as to assess if mistakes were made in order to improve future practice. Listed below is a suggested approach which is not exhaustive but provides a framework to be adapted depending on the particular incident being reviewed.
1. Set Terms of Reference for the Review
The Bishop should outline in writing the following:
• Brief background to the incident being reviewed
• The purpose of the review: this sets out the rationale for a review and what the review is required to examine
• The scope of the review: this sets out the limits of the review and defines clearly what the review is, and is not, about.
• Membership of the Review Team: once the Bishop has appointed the Review Team their names should be listed in this section; consider the need for independence
• Time frame for completion of the review
• Who should be consulted during the review
• Revision of the terms of reference: the documents may change depending on the process of the review. If the Review Team considers there is a need to change the terms of reference this needs to be agreed by Bishop.
• Data protection: this section should outline how sensitive personal data will be managed, stored, retained and destroyed in line with data protection principles. This should include a clear statement that the data generated through the review belongs to the Diocese not the Review Team
• Commitment to follow the recommendations and learning from the review
• If any child safeguarding allegations are raised during the review, there must be a commitment to reporting these to the statutory authorities
2. Appointment of the Review Team
Once the terms of reference have been agreed, the Bishop should appoint a person or number of people to carry out the review. The people appointed should:
• Be suitably experienced in carrying out similar reviews
• Have a clear understanding of the type of incident being investigated
• Have a working knowledge of the safeguarding policy and procedures of the Catholic Church in Ireland
• Be independent of involvement in the incident
Once appointed the Bishop should:
• Name the individuals in the Terms of Reference Document
• Require the individuals to sign a confidentiality agreement form
• Go through the Terms of Reference document and answer any questions the individuals may have
3. Carrying out the Review
The assessment of the incident will vary depending on the circumstances but should include the following areas:
The practice of the Diocese should be examined to ensure that all preparation work was conducted according to the policy and procedures of the Diocese. For example:
• If the incident related to the management of a respondent, the Guidance under Standard 4 may be helpful
• If the incident related to a safeguarding concern in relation to working safely with children, the Guidance under Standard 1 may be helpful
• If the incident related to a case management issue the guidance under Standard 2 may be helpful
This phase aims to examine the practice during the incident/concern. The review team should use the terms of reference to develop questions for interview, and then carry out interviews with relevant people involved in the incident. This could include:
• The Bishop
• Members of Church personnel
• Those present during the incident
• Other relevant parties who may be experts in the field or have a link to the incident
This phase of the review process seeks to assess everything that happened after the incident and should examine all responses so as to ensure that statutory responsibilities were discharged; parents/carers were informed; children were supported; and that risk was addressed and managed In carrying out all of the above. It is important consent is gained from all relevant children, parents, carers, staff and volunteers to participating in the review and a commitment given to ensuring that personal details are anonymised (if appropriate) in the final report. As always, if those interviewed raise anything of a safeguarding nature this must be passed to the relevant authorities using the reporting process.
4. The Report
Using the three areas listed above, the Review Team should complete a report for the Bishop which provides:
• An assessment of the planning leading up to the incident
• An assessment of the incident itself and how it occurred, and response afterwards
• A list of recommended actions from the findings of the review.
5. Implementing Actions
Once the report is presented, the Bishop should implement the recommendations of the review. These should form part of the Child Safeguarding Plan.