Charity Commission begins safeguarding inquiry into Roman Catholic archdiocese

The regulator is investigating the governance of the Birmingham Diocesan Trust, which told the commission last year that it had been selected as a case study by the child sexual abuse inquiry

St Chad's Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Birmingham (Photograph: Getty Images)
St Chad's Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Birmingham (Photograph: Getty Images)

The Charity Commission has opened an inquiry into the charity behind the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham because of safeguarding concerns.

The regulator said in a statement today that it had opened a statutory inquiry into the Birmingham Diocesan Trust, which has objects including providing religious services, maintaining churches and schools and supporting clergy in areas including Birmingham, Coventry, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

The commission said it began looking into the charity after it reported to the regulator in February last year that it been selected as a case study by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and there would be a hearing into historic safeguarding issues at the charity.

The charity subsequently commissioned a number of reviews of its safeguarding policies, procedures and practices, the results of which were given to the regulator in October and November.

The commission said those reviews "highlighted some serious failings and concerns over how the charity was handling safeguarding matters".

It asked for further information from the charity about its response to the results of the reviews, but said the responses were "not sufficiently timely or adequate to satisfy the commission, given the gravity of the issues raised by the reports".

The charity also failed to provide adequate reassurance that key risks were being effectively managed, according to the regulator.

The regulator said its inquiry would examine the charity’s governance, operational management, and policies and practices with regard to safeguarding and people protection issues.

Harvey Grenville, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "The Birmingham Diocesan Trust is a large charity, providing services accessed weekly by some 60,000 people, and it has a wide scope. It works across many different regions and has a wide range of beneficiaries.

"The beneficiaries quite rightly expect to be confident and assured that the charity’s safeguarding governance is fit for purpose, and any areas identified for improvement are swiftly and properly addressed."

He said the charity’s trustees were "fully cooperating with the inquiry" and were "committed to resolving matters as soon as possible".

A statement from the Birmingham Diocesan Trust said: "The archdiocese is fully committed to cooperating with the Charity Commission as the inquiry unfolds and to the resolution of any and all issues associated with safeguarding.

"Following the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the archdiocese took immediate action to improve its approach to safeguarding, and this work is continuing with additional resources in place to support this."

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