Churches launch a new support service for survivors of abuse

On 29th September 2020, the Catholic Church in England and Wales working in partnership with the Church of England launched Safe Spaces, a new support service for the survivors of abuse.

A free and independent support service, Safe Spaces provides a confidential, personal and safe space for anyone who has been abused through their relationship with either the Church of England or the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Bishop Paul Mason, the Lead Bishop on Safeguarding, welcomed the launch of the service saying:

‘I am very pleased to announce the launch of a new service dedicated to the support and accompaniment of those who have suffered abuse within the Church, which will complement the existing support services within the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

‘Safe Spaces, a joint Catholic/Anglican initiative, is the fruit of an ongoing collaboration between the churches who wish to reach out to and support those who have experienced such abuse.

‘The charity Victim Support (VS) will independently manage the project with the aim of offering help to anyone who may have experienced trauma in the context of church activity. Their experience in offering support to victims of abuse, support which not only puts victims first but which is also informed by their experience, is a great step in helping us to hear and respond in a more concrete way to their needs.’

An Independent Body

Although funded by the churches, Safe Spaces is run independently by one of the leading charities providing specialist support to survivors of abuse in England and Wales – Victim Support. We work towards a world where people affected by crime or traumatic events get the support they need and respect they deserve.

It comprises a team of trained support advocates who have undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence and who have received additional specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to carry out abuse, and the particular issues affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church.

The team are based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, but are a national service providing remote support through their helpline, live chat service and website. Remote support is provided for as long as the survivor needs. This can be advocating for the survivor, giving them support, providing information (including information on church and police procedures), understanding individual needs and jointly working on individual support plans. If face-to-face support is also required, contact and referrals will be made with appropriate local organisations depending on need.

Further background information can be found in this briefing paper produced by Victim Support, the charity providing the free, independent service.

The live telephone helpline and live chat facility is available from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm, apart from Thursdays when the service is open 12 to 8pm.

Telephone: 0300 303 1056 (answerphone available outside of opening times)