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Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS)Procedures Manual

Independent Risk Assessment

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

In many cases where allegations of abuse are made, although statutory investigation may not lead to a finding of guilt in Court, concerns about continuing risk of abuse frequently remain, and must be addressed if the Church is to protect vulnerable people of all ages, and be seen to do so.

The management of risk and risk assessment is therefore a fundamental cornerstone of the Church's commitment and ability to act in line with best practice to protect children and adults in Dioceses and Religious Congregations.

This is especially the case in relation to Clergy and Religious, where the nature of the relationship between them and the Church is different in nature and more permanent than that of employer-employee, or in cases involving Volunteers.

Assessments of risk cannot be infallible, but can be reasonable, professional and proportionate. Decisions taken must be defensible, in that it can be shown that:

  • All reasonable steps have been taken;
  • Reliable assessment methods have been used;
  • Information has been collected and thoroughly evaluated;
  • Decisions are recorded and subsequently carried out;
  • Policies and procedures have been followed.

It is clearly vital that risk assessments are of good quality and demonstrate appropriate practice in the safeguarding and protection of children and adults.

This Chapter is therefore designed to assist in assuring the quality of all such risk assessments required by the Church.

Contents

  1. Definitions
  2. The Stages in the Process of Handling Cases When an Evaluation of Current and Future Risk is Required
  3. Assuring Quality of Risk Assessment Delivered - Criteria to be met by Service Providers
  4. Standard Working Agreement Between the Church and the Assessor(s)
  5. Referral / Commissioning Procedure
  6. Decision-Making Process
  7. Appendix 1: Risk Assessment - Safeguarding Children, Young People and Adults

1. Definitions

What is Meant by Risk Assessment?

For the purposes of this Chapter, the term "risk assessment" refers to the process carried out by expert professionals, independent of the Church, who are qualified and experienced in the assessment of sex offenders.

Safeguarding Commissions continue to hold overall responsibility for evaluating current and future risk where allegations and concerns of abuse are reported to them at the various stages of handling each case, and may decide to recommend the commission of an independent expert risk assessment to assist them in this task.

When Should a Risk Assessment be Carried Out?

There are several different situations in which the Church may require an assessment of the future risk posed to children and adults by an individual through such risk assessments. They are:

  • Convicted offenders;
  • Those acquitted of a charge of abuse where concerns about risk remain;
  • Someone charged with an offence, where charges are not subsequently pursued;
  • Someone investigated by a Statutory Authority, but subsequently not pursued;
  • Those registered on the Sex Offenders and Dangerous Offenders Register.

Who Should Be Entitled to Undergo an Independent Risk Assessment?

The Church holds different levels of responsibility in relation to the various groups of people who work with children and adults in the Church community in England and Wales. This also applies where the management of risk is required following an allegation of abuse.

The Church's primary responsibility in such circumstances, beyond the safeguarding of children and adults, is for Clergy and Religious, who are acting in the name of the Church. It is therefore particularly important that any risk presented is accurately assessed and well-managed. The Church also has a specific responsibility to its Clergy and Religious based in Canon Law.

The Church also holds a responsibility for its employees in line with its policies and procedures and with Employment legislation.

Finally, the Church is responsible for dealing with its Volunteers in a manner which both enables the protection of children and adults, and deals with volunteers reasonably and proportionately in line with agreed national policies and procedures.

Volunteers

Volunteers who are the subject of allegations or concerns about abuse will be referred to the Statutory Authorities for investigation in line with the National Safeguarding Procedures, and may be removed from role immediately and from further contact with children or adults on the recommendation of the Safeguarding Commission, based on their evaluation of the facts and assessment of future risk.

Wherever appropriate in the judgement of the Safeguarding Commission, they would also be referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Where the volunteer's employment is affected, because they work with children or adults, the responsibility for further action rests with the Employer, who should be informed of the facts by the Safeguarding Commission or Safeguarding Coordinator.

Employees

Where employees are concerned, the relevant disciplinary procedures will be followed by their Employers in order to determine continued employment or dismissal from post, and this would require a management investigation into the facts of the case undertaken in line with the Employer's procedures, rather than an independent expert risk assessment commissioned by the Safeguarding Commission and referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

The Employer will make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) as appropriate depending on the outcome of the investigations and the Safeguarding Commissions are responsible for ensuring that this process is followed by the Employer in question.

Clergy and Religious

There will be some cases of abuse involving Clergy or Religious for which, because of their manifest seriousness, the commissioning of an expert independent risk assessment is unnecessary.

However, it is a hallmark of effective safeguarding practice that the whole system dealing with child protection and safeguarding adults upholds the Paramountcy Principle.

The seriousness of the consequences of a decision to remove someone from their office or Active Ministry within the Catholic Church means that Safeguarding Commissions will want to demonstrate that expert advice has been sought to inform their recommendations to their Bishop or Congregation Leader.

Furthermore, in the case of Clergy and Religious, where the Church has specific and additional on-going responsibilities, the process of undertaking an expert risk assessment will not only underpin decisions about future roles and responsibilities, but may also help the individual concerned to move towards being able to make use of treatment. (See also Pastoral Care Policy).

2. The Stages in the Process of Handling Cases When an Evaluation of Current and Future Risk is Required

The Initial Report Stage

The process of evaluating the need to refer a reported incident or concern to Statutory Agencies is an initial assessment process requiring professional judgement of the known facts. However, the true extent of the risks presented may not be known until an investigation by Statutory Authorities has revealed more factual information.

Following the Adults – Management of Allegations and Concerns Procedure, it may also be necessary at this stage to ensure the investigative process is safeguarded and current risks are seen to be addressed through the use of administrative leave.

Where Statutory Agencies convene a Strategy meeting, the information available from the inter-agency network will be crucial to the Safeguarding Commissions' evaluation of risk and of their recommendation for an initial action plan to the Bishop or Congregation Leader. This should therefore be made available to the Commission in writing by the Safeguarding Coordinator.

The Completion of the Statutory Investigation Process

After the statutory investigation is complete, the Safeguarding Commission will again exercise professional judgement, based on the information available, to decide whether an expert risk assessment in line with this Chapter is needed.

Where no further action is taken by the Statutory Authorities, the Church must demonstrate its commitment to all vulnerable people by satisfying itself of the level of current and future risk posed to them by the subject of the initial concern and should liaise with the Designated Officer (formerly known as the LADO)/Designated Adult Safeguarding Manager (DASM) in order to access relevant information.

The Decision Regarding Court Proceedings

Following investigation by the Statutory Authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service may decide for a number of different reasons, not to proceed with a Court case.

In these cases, the Church must demonstrate its commitment to vulnerable people of all ages by establishing for itself the level of risk posed by an individual in order to take decisions about their future placement. It is essential to ensure that information from the investigating officer(s) and the Designated Officer (formerly known as the LADO)/Designated Adult Safeguarding Manager (DASM) is obtained and taken into account in this process.

Post Convictions / Custodial Sentence

Following conviction or custodial sentence, Statutory Agencies such as Probation or NSPCC may be empowered to assess risk. Where risk assessments have been carried out by the Statutory Authorities either in prison or by the Probation Providers, these reports should always be available to the Commission as a basis for decision-making.

Wherever uncertainty as to the level of risk posed remains for any reason, an external assessment should be commissioned.

3. Assuring Quality of Risk Assessment Delivered - Criteria to be met by Service Providers

All organisations or individuals commissioned to undertake risk assessment of sex offenders or other offenders against children and adults must meet the following criteria:

  • Work is undertaken by professional staff who are trained in and experienced in the assessment and treatment of sex offenders and other serious offenders;
  • Clear arrangements for professional supervision of the staff are in place;
  • Such services are provided to more than one service user;
  • They are experienced in working co-operatively with other Statutory Safeguarding Agencies in England and Wales;
  • They are able to demonstrate effective links to the Statutory Safeguarding system;
  • Demonstrate commitment to continuous professional development and appropriate professional networks, for example by Membership of NOTA (the National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers);
  • Any potential conflicts of interest are identified and addressed;
  • Demonstrate victim awareness;
  • In possession of adequate professional indemnity insurance;
  • Experienced in the presentation of evidence to Courts.

It is the responsibility of the Safeguarding Commission to ensure that these criteria are met prior to making any referral.

Where there are doubts as to the ability of an individual or organisation to meet these essential criteria, CSAS may be formally consulted before proceeding.

4. Standard Working Agreement between the Church and the Assessor(s)

There are two forms that should be completed - both are available in the Forms Library:

  • Standard Working Agreement Between the Church and Assessors;
  • Standard Working Agreement Between the Subject and the Assessor.

5. Referral / Commissioning Procedure

The need to commission a risk assessment in individual cases will be identified by the relevant Safeguarding Commission, which will recommend this to the appropriate Bishop or Congregation Leader.

A standard referral will be made in writing in the name of the Bishop or Congregation Leader to the service provider, identifying the specific areas to be covered in the work, and ensuring that the Working Agreements are completed and signed before work begins. (This may be delegated to the Safeguarding Commission or Safeguarding Coordinator).

The subject of the assessment will normally receive a copy of this letter.

The Report of the risk assessment will always be available to the subject of the assessment, the subject's Bishop or Congregation Leader, and to the Safeguarding Commission dealing with the case. This will be made clear to the subject of the assessment in writing.

There is no obligation in Canon Law to undergo a risk assessment, which involves the manifestation of conscience (canon 630 §5, 1728 §2). Psychological assessments are useful for diagnostic and prognostic purposes. The informed consent of the cleric is required in all cases. Methods of assessment and therapy should guarantee the full respect of the dignity of the cleric and concern for Christian morals. Risk assessments are an important element in the discernment of a particular case. One cannot force a cleric to undergo a risk assessment, but one can take notice of the refusal of the cleric to submit to one. If there is reasonable doubt as to the sustainability of ministry or fear of risk to minors, then ministry has to be curtailed or prevented.

A bishop/Major Superior has the responsibility to promote and protect the common good (canon 220). Where an individual refuses to follow a request to undergo a risk assessment, the recommendations of the Safeguarding Commission and the decision of the bishop/Major Superior can only be made based on the information available. It will conform to the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount, and observe the Church's responsibility to the public.

6. Decision-Making Process

If the Commission has any concerns about the contents or conclusions of the Risk Assessment Report, these must be raised in writing with the assessor in the first instance, and if they cannot be resolved, consultation with CSAS may take place to decide on a way forward.

If the Bishop or Congregation Leader disagrees with the recommendations of the Commission following consideration of the assessment Report, (s)he may consult with CSAS.

The assessment report is only one input into the decision-making process that is the Safeguarding Commission's responsibility, and the specific knowledge held by the Commission may mean that a higher degree of risk is identified. In such cases, CSAS may be formally consulted.

The reasons for the recommendation of the Safeguarding Commission must be given to the subject's Bishop or Congregation Leader in writing, and shared with the subject in person and in writing.

The assessment of risk is not a one-off event but should be continuous. Cases should be monitored and reviewed regularly.

Appendix 1: Risk Assessment - Safeguarding Children, Young People and Adults

Summary

There are several different situations in which the Church may require an assessment of the future risk posed to children and adults by an individual through such risk assessments. They are:

  • Convicted offenders;
  • Those acquitted of a charge of abuse where concerns about risk remain;
  • Someone charged with an offence, where charges are not subsequently pursued;
  • Someone investigated by a Statutory Authority, but subsequently not pursued.

The Church’s responsibility in such circumstances is to safeguard children and adults. It also holds responsibility for Clergy and Religious, who are acting in the name of the Church. It is therefore particularly important that any risk presented is accurately assessed and well-managed. The Church also has a specific responsibility to Clergy and Religious based in Canon Law.

A bishop / Major Superior has the duty to promote common discipline (canon 392, 619); assess a cleric's fitness and suitability for office (canon 149) and must use the services of an expert "to establish some fact or to ascertain the true nature of some matter" (canon 1574). While no one may unlawfully violate the right of every person to protect his or her privacy (canon 220) the diocesan bishop/Major Superior is entitled to regulate the use of this right in view of the common good (canon 223 §2).

The Church also holds a responsibility for its employees in line with its policies and procedures and with Employment legislation.

Where no further action is taken by the Statutory Authorities, the Church must demonstrate its commitment to all vulnerable people by satisfying itself of the level of current and future risk posed to them by the subject of the initial concern.

When the statutory investigation is complete, or no action is taken by the Statutory Authorities, and in the light of any internal investigation carried out into allegations, the Safeguarding Commission will exercise professional judgement, based on the information available, to recommend to the bishop/Major Superior whether an expert risk assessment is needed in line with the National Policy.

Following conviction or custodial sentence, Statutory Agencies such as Probation or NSPCC may be empowered to assess risk. Where risk assessments have been carried out by the Statutory Authorities either in prison or by the Probation Providers, these reports should always be available to the Safeguarding Commission as a basis for decision-making.

Wherever uncertainty as to the level of risk posed remains for any reason, an external assessment should be commissioned.

A standard referral will be made in writing in the name of the bishop or Major Superior to the service provider, identifying the specific areas to be covered in the work, and ensuring that the Working Agreements in the National Policy on Risk Assessment are completed and signed before work begins.

The subject of the assessment will receive a copy of this letter.

The Report of the risk assessment will always be available to the subject of the assessment, the subject's bishop or Major Superior, and to the Safeguarding Commission dealing with the case. This will be made clear to the subject of the assessment in writing.

The risk assessment report is only one input into the decision-making process. Other specific information may be available to the Safeguarding Commission, and the specific knowledge held by the Commission may mean that a higher degree of risk is identified. In such cases, CSAS may be formally consulted.

The reasons for the recommendation of the Safeguarding Commission must be given to the subject's bishop or Major Superior in writing, and shared with the subject in person and in writing.

The assessment of risk is not a one-off event but should be continuous. Cases should be monitored and reviewed regularly.

The subject of the assessment will sign a copy of the standard written agreement with the assessor. This sets out the following information in writing:

  • The reason for and focus of the assessment;
  • Any child protection monitoring arrangements in place;
  • Practical arrangements for sessions;
  • Access to recording and case file and the assessor's Data Protection policy;
  • Confidentiality and sharing the report;
  • Review of the work;
  • Complaints procedure.

There is no obligation in Canon Law to undergo a risk assessment, which involves the manifestation of conscience (canon 630 §5, 1728 §2). Psychological assessments are useful for diagnostic and prognostic purposes. The informed consent of the cleric is required in all cases. Methods of assessment and therapy should guarantee the full respect of the dignity of the cleric and concern for Christian morals. Risk assessments are an important element in the discernment of a particular case. One cannot force a cleric to undergo a risk assessment, but one can take notice of the refusal of the cleric to submit to one. If there is reasonable doubt as to the sustainability of ministry or fear of risk to minors, then ministry has to be curtailed or prevented.

A bishop/Major Superior has the responsibility to promote and protect the common good (canon 220). Where an individual refuses to follow a request to undergo a risk assessment, the recommendations of the Safeguarding Commission and the decision of the bishop/Major Superior can only be made based on the information available. It will conform to the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount, and observe the Church's responsibility to the public.