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Justin Welby: Church to do 'whatever it takes' over child abuse

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  • Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse
media captionJustin Welby: "We need to focus, and put at the centre of our attention, victims and survivors"

"Nothing must get in the way" of changes needed to protect children from sexual abuse in the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

It comes after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said the Church had failed to protect children and had a culture where abusers "could hide".

Justin Welby said the Church "must do whatever it takes" to rectify its failings, saying the IICSA report's findings were a "big wake-up call".

"We've got to do better," he said.

"And I want to show that I can do better."

The IICSA report said 390 clergy and other Church leaders were convicted of abuse between the 1940s and 2018.

The Church of England defended alleged perpetrators instead of protecting children and young people from sexual predators, the report said.

It also found examples of clergy being ordained despite having a history of child sexual offences.

The report conceded there had been "a number of important improvements" in child protection practices in the Church of England in recent years, but the inquiry's chairwoman, Prof Alexis Jay, added it was "vital" that it improved how it responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Welby said the findings of the IICSA report were "deeply shameful" and "disgraceful".

"I think the whole system has been broken, the way we deal with this, and it needs to move towards, as the report suggests, a much more independent oversight of safeguarding," he said.

"(One) in which there is responsibility clearly assigned and it is not in the hands of those who are, in a phrase that was used in the inquiry, seeking to mark their own homework."

He said he believed the Church had been "very bad at supporting those who are most deeply affected by the allegations of abuse", saying: "The whole lack of care in this is shocking."

"We need to focus and put at the centre of our attention now victims and survivors," he said.

"We need a redress system in place very soon - we've begun a pilot scheme already and nothing must get in the way, we must do whatever it takes to get that in place now and this report is a big wake-up call."

He added: "We've got to do better and I want to show that I can do better."

In 2018 there were 2,504 safeguarding concerns reported to dioceses in England about either children or vulnerable adults.

The IICSA's report is based on the inquiry's public hearings held in July 2019 which investigated safeguarding issues in the Church of England and the Church in Wales - each of which sit within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

image captionGilo, who was abused by a clergyman when he was young, says survivors are still angry with the Church

After the publication of the report on Tuesday, one victim of abuse, who says he was raped by a clergyman in London more than 40 years ago, told the BBC it would take "courage" from the Church and its leaders to "salvage itself and redeem itself".

Gilo - who asked us not to use his surname - previously told the BBC he had made more than 20 attempts to contact senior members of the Church after his decision to report the assaults, but often received no reply.

The Church eventually agreed it was at fault and reached a financial settlement with him.

On Tuesday, Gilo said many survivors still felt a "tremendous sense of anger and lack of trust" in the Church.

Gilo, whose abuser has since died, said he believed the Church's recently-appointed lead safeguarding bishop, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, was keen to make a difference - but that "there needs to be a real turnaround" in the Church's culture.

"Once survivors see real help, and real support beginning to reach them from a Church that has mouthed support for a long time but not delivered it... there could be a turning point."

What is the child sexual abuse inquiry?

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales is investigating claims against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions - as well as people in the public eye.

Following the death of BBC presenter Jimmy Savile in 2011, hundreds of people came forward to say he had abused them as children.

The spotlight has also fallen on sexual assaults carried out in schools, children's homes and at NHS sites.

At the same time, there have been claims of past failures by police and prosecutors to properly investigate allegations.

The IICSA was established in 2015, with the then-Home Secretary Theresa May saying it would "expose those failures and learn the lessons" from the past.

In 2018 the inquiry published an interim report with 18 recommendations - some of which have been acted upon. Its other regular publications include overarching investigation reports and statistics.

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  • Church of England failures 'allowed child sexual abusers to hide'