Safeguarding for the future

James Reilly
James Reilly

The Jesuits in Britain are pleased to announce the appointment of a new Chair of the province’s independent safeguarding commission. Following a competitive interview process, James Reilly this month took over the role, replacing Kevin Barry, who completes his term of office after five years.

The Jesuits in Britain have had a safeguarding commission for almost twenty years, since the Nolan Report recommended independent oversight of safeguarding by professionals in 2001. Although an unpaid role, like the rest of the commission, the Chair’s responsibilities are wide ranging including advising the Provincial and Province, overseeing the casework, practice and policy developments and the work of the Commission itself.

The experience James brings to this role was gained over a 33 year career in public service and has included case work, supervision, policy development and governance in relation to safeguarding of children, young people and adults. He spent most of his career in Social Services in the London Boroughs of Brent, Hackney and Hammersmith & Fulham serving ten years as a director of Social Services along with responsibilities for Council Housing and Community Safety. In the five years prior to his retirement in February 2016, he served as Chief Executive of the Central London Community Healthcare Trust. Now in retirement he undertakes roles as an independent chair for adult safeguarding boards and trustee and non-executive director roles for a care provider Charity and NHS Trust.

He was appointed by the Secretary of State for Education to the National Task Force to review Social Work practice and training in the wake of the abuse and death of Baby Peter in Haringay. He was also part of the independent review team commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to review the Anglican Church’s handling of the case of Bishop Peter Ball and the adequacy of its safeguarding policies and procedures. This resulted in the publication in June 2017 of the report, “An Abuse of Faith”.

James is a practising Catholic and spent nine years as a Jesuit in training to become a priest. Brought up in Harare, Zimbabwe, he attended St George’s College but in his last year at school moved to UK and went to Mount St Mary’s College. In 1975, at the height of the war for independence, his application to the Jesuits was accepted in Rhodesia(later to become Zimbabwe), which was then a region of the British province. From September 1976 he spent two years at the novitiate in Loyola Hall and Manresa House, and then three years studying Philosophy and Theology at Heythrop College. In 1981 he returned to Zimbabwe – by now an independent nation – and worked in rural development and secondary education following which he went to study Theology in Manila, the Philippines. He left the Order in 1985 and is now married with two grown-up children and living in south east London. Although Jesuit life was ultimately not to be James’ path he comments, “Ignatian values certainly drove me towards and has continued to underpin my social justice and social care career.”

And the biggest challenge as he takes up his role? “As a result of the abuse scandal the Catholic Church as a whole is facing the consequences of a loss of trust, unprecedented in recent centuries, which under Pope Francis’s leadership it is now working to rebuild. With my colleagues in the Commission I want to ensure the Jesuit’s safeguarding efforts make a leading contribution to the whole Church’s work to heal the wrongs of the past and secure the safety and wellbeing of all whom it seeks to serve now in the future. Recently Pope Francis has said that, as important as addressing compassionately and justly the historical wrongdoing of priests, religious and their co-workers, is the building of the right mindset and culture which will secure and sustain safeguarding across the whole Catholic Church now and in the future.”

Outgoing Chair Kevin Barry commented “There has been a huge improvement of practice in recent years but there is still much to be done, particularly in the area of reaching out to survivors; but the real challenge is in ensuring that safeguarding is recognised as being at the heart of the Society’s mission and so a non-negotiable concern for all Jesuits and their many partners in mission”.

James Reilly added “I am so appreciative of the strength of the safeguarding work which was established during Kevin Barry’s tenure of the Chair. I look forward to working with Jo Norman, our safeguarding co-ordinator, my fellow commissioners, the British Jesuits and those who work alongside them, as a model of whole church collaboration, to continue strengthening their efforts to achieve the safety and well-being of all those whom they serve and support and to secure a robust, timely and just response to the survivor/victims of any breaches in the safeguarding standards the Jesuits in Britain are striving to achieve.”