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The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, CSSA, is a new central agency that has been created as the professional standards body to which all Catholic Dioceses and Religious Life Groups in England and Wales will be accountable.
In October 2019, an independent review of the safeguarding structures and arrangements within the Catholic Church in England and Wales was set in motion. Given the significant changes in the social and political environment since the work done by Lord Nolan in 2001 and by the Cumberlege Commission in 2007, along with the greater numbers involved in safeguarding in the Church, it was felt that such a review was clearly overdue.The need for change was fuelled by the awareness of those who had suffered due to the failings in existent structures and the desire to prevent future hurt. Case studies showed that even when abuse was known, the Church was slow to address it and, in some instances, ignored it. Repeated failures betrayed the moral purpose of the Church and greatly reduced its credibility and moral standing. Change was clearly needed. The review, led by Ian Elliott, sought in particular to listen to and learn from those who had experienced abuse, ultimately making a series of proposals and recommendations to address these failings and to reshape the safeguarding provision in the Catholic Church going forward. The recommendations of this report, along with those made by the separate Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) were wholly accepted by the Bishops conference in November of 2020.Central to these recommendations was the replacement of the then-existent national safeguarding bodies: the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) and Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) with three newly constituted entities:
The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency: a new professional standards body with regulatory powers.
A dedicated entity regarding safeguarding for Religious Life Groups, which are more formally defined as Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (ICLSAL) covering religious orders and congregations.
A National Tribunal to address the canonical matters connected to clergy discipline and canonical offences, exercising jurisdiction exclusively in the canonical forum but extending to preliminary case evaluation and beyond.
This new model is built on a ‘One Church’ strategy to safeguarding – a commitment across all the dioceses and Religious Life Groups to be One Church when it comes to safeguarding, with all organisations working to a common standards-based approach and transparency and accountability in the fulfilment and upholding of these standards.The recommendations of the Reviews have laid a clear way forward, and the Church is committed to the changes that will ensure that safeguarding in the Catholic Church in England and Wales will be transformed.The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency seeks to ensure that through this revision and restructuring, real improvement can be achieved.