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Insurance firm denies it advised Church to cut ties with sex abuse victims

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Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 04 August 2017 15:10

Insurance firm denies it advised Church to cut ties with sex abuse victims

Ecclesiastical Insurance has vehemently denied it advised the Church of England to sever ties with sex abuse victims after compensation has been paid and stressed its independence.

The Church withdrew support for victims of abuse on the advice of its insurers, Ecclesiastical, according to an independent report by child safeguarding specialist Ian Elliott.

Mr Elliott’s independent review into the case said the insurance firm’s advice has “directly conflicted” with the pastoral and compassionate duties of the church and “financial interests were allowed to impact practice”.

One victim who was paid £35,000 compensation after being raped by a member of the clergy in the 1970s blamed the Gloucester-headquartered insurer for the church cutting ties with him.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury - the most senior bishop of the Church of England – is said to have accepted in full the findings of the review.

But Ecclesiastical – also a self-confessed “core participant” in the broader nationwide Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) - does not accept the blame for the Church’s behaviour lies at its door.

“We agree with the broad thrust of the Elliott review in promoting the needs of survivors and the importance of listening to them,” said John Titchener, Ecclesiastical’s group compliance director writing in the Church Times (today, August 4).

“But its assertion that Ecclesiastical instructed the Church of England to deny a survivor pastoral care is untrue.

“Unfortunately we were not asked to participate in the review, and so had no opportunity to provide the evidence that showed this. On the contrary, we were not asked to participate in the review, and so had no opportunity to provide the evidence that showed this.

“We have always been clear that pastoral care and counselling can and should continue in parallel with an insurance claim.

“As a core participant in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), and as an insurer working to help improve survivors’ experience of the claims-handling process, we find that these misperceptions create anxiety and are deeply unhelpful to the aims of this work.”

Reporting of the review and inquiry to date has “misrepresented our claims process to such an extent that we feel we must put the record straight,” writes Mr Titchener.

The firm’s independence has been called into question, not least because of the Church of England members on its board.

The firm has also been criticised for regarding the settlement of claims by former residents of the Church of England’s Kendall House in Kent where girls were drugged and abused in the 1960 through to the 1980s.

Teresa Cooper, a former resident of the home, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she wanted an investigation into the involvement of Church figures in settlements.

"Even if they're not legally part of it, the Church are without a doubt fully involved in the Ecclesiastical insurance company," she added.

Mr Titchener told the BBC the settlement of claims relating to Kendall House would be looked at as part of the long-running Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

In the article on the Church Times website he addresses the criticism head-on.

“Like many companies, we have representatives of customer groups on our board. Presently, we have one Anglican cleric on our board of 11 directors. Our non-executive directors make a valuable contribution, but they have no involvement in our day-to-day running, including handling claims.

“Recent media coverage has also created the misperception that the insured organisation can influence the claims process. Let us be clear: as an independent and regulated commercial insurer, it is our role to manage and settle claims.”

“While abuse claims represented less than one per cent of those we handled last year, we treat them with disproportionate importance.”

“That is why, over the years, we have developed our own survivor-centric approach to handling abuse claims, endeavouring to manage each investigation with sensitivity, empathy, and integrity while meeting the requirements of the civil litigation process. This has been praised by solicitors representing abuse victims and survivors.”

The firm has published its guilding principles for handling physical and sexual abuse claims on its website where it also states clearly its involvement in the on-going IICSA inquiry.

 

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