On Thursday 14th June we held our first in-person Clergy Safeguarding Conference since 2019 at Exeter Racecourse. We had 70 priests and deacons from across the diocese in attendance, including some who had travelled from other countries. The aim was to build on training that has taken place previously, with an emphasis on our clergy having self-awareness of their own wellbeing.
Fr Mark Skelton, the Clergy Lead for Safeguarding, opened the conference with a prayer. Safe Spaces (a free support service for anyone who has been abused by someone in the church, or as a result of their relationship with the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Church of England, or the Church in Wales) gave the first presentation of the day. Their Project Manager, Donna Craine, spoke about the service and the support they can offer to victims/survivors of abuse. This was followed by a presentation from Sophie Scagell, the Victim and Survivor Support and Communications Caseworker for the diocese. She updated the clergy about the work we are currently doing with survivors and the future development of this.
Later in the morning Steve Lowe, Director of Phoenix Forensic Consultants, spoke to the clergy about the importance of wellbeing and how to look after their mental health. He talked about how to recognise the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Before lunch, Bob Brown, the Safeguarding Coordinator, gave a presentation about the document Caring Safely for Others and the importance of using this to guide them in their ministry. He also spoke about the National Safeguarding Standards.
In the afternoon, Ken Corish, from South West Grid for Learning gave a presentation. He spoke about keeping safe online and how to protect personal information when using the internet. The final presentation of the day was given by Justin Humphreys, the CEO of the national safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight. His talk was entitled, ‘Just leadership: Putting integrity and justice at the heart of how you lead’.
Fr Mark Skelton closed the day, thanking all who had attended. He closed the conference with a prayer for victims and survivors of abuse from the Caring Safely for Others document.
We are grateful to all our priests and deacons who were able to join us for the conference and for the work they do to help to keep their parishes safe. We also pass on our thanks to our speakers who gave us lively, engaging, educational and fulfilling presentations.