Enhanced Support for Church-Related Abuse Survivors Through Safe Spaces Helpline

Safe Spaces, a shelter for those impacted by church-related abuse, has demonstrated notable improvements, a recent independent evaluation confirms.

Initiated in 2020 by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Safe Spaces began as a pilot project to aid survivors within a church context. After its initial phase, the service transitioned to a permanent offering under the management of First Light.

The evaluation, conducted by Rocket Science and released on Wednesday, identified several initial challenges during the changeover to First Light, including hesitancy from the previous provider and complications in transferring victim data and handling cases, adversely affecting some individuals.

Subsequent adjustments have seen Safe Spaces enhance its outreach efforts, establish regular performance assessments, and start quarterly surveys for users.

In 2023, the helpline assisted 134 individuals, comprising 95 new cases and 39 ongoing from the pilot. By the end of the year, 84 cases were still active, 50 had concluded, and 95 out of 295 new inquiries had developed into full cases. A significant portion of the abuse incidents—68%—were reported within the Church of England, with 29.5% in the Roman Catholic Church. Female clients constituted the majority, also at 68%.

The evaluation proposed several improvements, including more video and face-to-face consultations, better guidance on available support, uniform staff training, enhanced feedback processes, targeted outreach, increased funding, and strategies to manage staff turnover.

In response to these findings, Safe Spaces England and Wales trustees expressed satisfaction with the progress made under First Light’s stewardship and committed to implementing the recommended changes.

Martin Christmas-Nelson of First Light expressed gratitude to the abuse survivors who contributed to the report and recognized the value of their input in refining Safe Spaces’ services. He emphasized the organization’s dedication to using survivor feedback to enhance the effectiveness and reach of the helpline.

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