To accompany the published Executive Summary of the John Smyth Independent Case Review, here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions.
What is the John Smyth Independent Case Review?
The Board of Trustees for Scripture Union England and Wales commissioned this independent Review in late 2019 to look at our connections with John Smyth and the Iwerne Camps, our handling of the allegations and abuse, and our current safeguarding practices. The full terms of the Review are included in the Reviewer’s Executive Summary. The Review was conducted by Gill Camina of Universal Safeguarding Solutions.
Why did SU commission an Independent Review rather than participate in the Church of England’s Review?
Independent reviews into John Smyth’s abuse, and the subsequent handling of it have been commissioned by the Church of England, Winchester College and Scripture Union England and Wales. This individual organisational approach allows each organisation to assess in depth their own handling of allegations relating to this case, and to ensure that the lessons learned are properly identified and implemented at strategic and policy level. The respective Reviewers have worked closely together, sharing evidence and information as appropriate.
Why has it taken so long for this to be published?
The scale of the case and information that needed to be considered by the Reviewer meant that the Review has taken a lot longer to be completed than any of us first anticipated. In order to ensure a thorough process, we extended the timescale.
When will the other independent reviews be published?
Neither of the other reviews have announced their dates at the time of publication. For information, see the Winchester College and Church of England websites.
What are the main findings of the Review?
The main findings are summarised in Scripture Union’s introductory preface to the Reviewer’s Executive Summary which may be accessed here. The Review finds that Scripture Union England and Wales did not operate the Iwerne Camps. However, it does identify some significant failings, most of which relate to activity during the early 1980s, in SU’s handling of the allegations and knowledge of the abuse. While the Review is broadly positive about SU’s actions in more recent years, there are also some specific concerns relating to the handling of information in this period.
It’s called a Lessons Learned Review. What have you learned?
The lessons are set out in the Reviewer’s Executive Summary. Of course, since the events occurred around 40 years ago, many of these lessons are not new. However, safeguarding is so important that they are worth reiterating and the recommendations made indicate the ways in which we need to apply them to ourselves. The Scripture Union Executive Team will work through these recommendations in detail in order to ensure that best practice is maintained.
Why haven’t you published the full Report?
We realise that some readers might be disappointed that we won’t be publishing the full Report. We established a very tight scope for our review, as you will see from the Terms of Reference included in the Executive Summary. Thanks to the diligent work of the Reviewer, the information contained in the full Report goes significantly beyond these Terms, and we are therefore offering the full Report as evidence to the Church of England’s own independent review. We are confident that the Executive Summary, written and signed off by our independent Reviewer, presents all material relevant to Scripture Union and the original purpose of our Review.
Have you accepted all of the recommendations?
We have prioritised the publishing of the Executive Summary in order to make this available to you as soon as possible. At this stage, we can’t give a definitive answer in relation to each and every recommendation but, in general terms, the recommendations are accepted. The SU Executive Team is now working through all of them in detail in order to ensure that best practice is maintained and will be consulting with Scripture Union England and Wales’ Safeguarding Advisory Group and reporting back to the Trustees in relation to the actions that will be taken in the light of them.
How will SU’s safeguarding policy and practice change as a result of this Review?
As you might expect, our safeguarding practices and policies are significantly improved today compared to those of the 1970s and 80s. The Review found that ‘Assurance can be given that SU’s practice is compliant with statutory guidance and requirements.’ And that ‘SU’s current safeguarding leads have demonstrated transparency and modelled best practice in terms of case management responses in relation to this case. Lines of accountability for safeguarding are now clear.’
One of the ways we hold best practice in our safeguarding work is through continuous learning and reflection and we are committed to using this Review and the recommendations made to ensure that we maintain high standards in this area.
The Scripture Union Safeguarding Policy is available to read here. It is reviewed and updated at least annually.
Can SU guarantee that nothing like this will happen again?
The abuse carried out by John Smyth was horrific and we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect the children, young people and vulnerable adults in our care from anything like this. We have a safeguarding policy that covers all areas of our work, robust recruitment processes for both staff and volunteers which aim to prevent anyone with such intentions from gaining access to children and young people, and clear reporting procedures if anyone has any concerns. These policies are reviewed regularly, with updates made through lessons learned from training, best practice and from reviewing all our safeguarding cases once they are closed. Sadly, nobody can give 100% assurance of protection, but we can promise that we are doing our very best to minimise the likelihood.
What are SU doing to support victims?
We recognise that the publication of this Executive Summary will be difficult for those who experienced the abuse of John Smyth, and have made further counselling support available for those affected. To maintain anonymity, anyone wishing to claim this support should ask their therapist to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org where they will be able to claim for up to six sessions. We will ask them to confirm that they are a BACP accredited therapist, and to declare that they are working with a client who has disclosed themselves as a victim of John Smyth. If you are not a victim but are affected by any of the issues raised by the documents, thirtyone:eight provide a free and confidential listening service at 0303 003 1111.