Church safeguarding chief stresses independence

Chair of the new Church safeguarding body asks abuse survivors to guide their work.

Lady Rita Rae, the former judge who is the chair of the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, (SCSSA) has asked survivors of the abuse to help guide the Church’s response.

The SCSSA is a newly established independent body designed to uphold the highest standards of safeguarding across the Church.

Speaking ahead of the new agency’s first annual conference she said she wanted to ‘encourage survivors to talk to us, engage with us and help us to succeed in making sure we’ve got robust systems in place to protect children and vulnerable adults’.

She also said she wanted every Catholic to know ‘you can report abuse and it will be taken seriously.’

The former judge said she had taken on this role because ‘as a Catholic and human being I was so saddened by those children and vulnerable adults who suffered so much from those at the hands of people who should have been protecting them.’

“In my previous role I saw the inexcusable damage abuse can do,” she said. “I wanted to do what I can to ensure the systems are in place so the Church is a place of safety and security.”

She said she wouldn’t have taken the role unless she believed it would be fully independent of the Church.

“I have said repeatedly I wouldn’t have taken the role if I thought there would be any attempt at interfering with our independence.

“And I’m as confident as I can be that won’t happen.”

With the SCSSA having added staff and a board this year Lady Rae said she was delighted with the people who had come on board.

“This is a really strong team, she said. “Everyone is extremely committed. Couldn’t be more pleased with it.”

She added that she had also been very impressed at the depth of experience and expertise she had encountered in safeguarding at the diocesan level.

“We are determined to build a really robust preventive system, that we constantly review to make sure it’s fit for purpose,” she said.

“The conference this weekend will be a great opportunity for Catholics across Scotland to be introduced to us and what we are doing, and understand that safeguarding is something that’s the responsibility of every Catholic.”

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