Church appoints first permanent safeguarding chief

Melissa Caslake

The Church of England has appointed Melissa Caslake as its first permanent Director of Safeguarding. 

Ms Caslake currently serves as the Executive Director of Children's Services for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster. 

Her appointment follows the release of a major report into safeguarding failures earlier this month which the Church of England said made for "very difficult reading". 

Over the course of her 20-year career, Ms Caslake has overseen the Bi-Borough response to historic child sexual abuse and worked with government departments to improve services for unaccompanied child asylum seekers. 

The Oxford graduate also oversaw the provision of support for children affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

She said: "I am proud to be taking on the role of National Director of Safeguarding for the Church of England. My career has been dedicated to safeguarding vulnerable children and adults and helping families in need.

"I am determined to ensure that the Church is a safer place for all, and I look forward to applying my professional experience and expertise to this challenge."

William Nye, Secretary General to the Archbishops' Council, said: "I am delighted by the appointment of Melissa Caslake to this role.

"The Church of England has come a long way in improving its safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in recent years, particularly since the establishment of the national safeguarding team in 2015. But there is much still to do, and the creation of a director post for safeguarding recognises that." 

Ms Caslake will take over from Sir Roger Singleton, who has held the post for the last few months on an interim basis. 

Mr Nye said the Church of England's safeguarding work would be taken to a "new level" under Ms Caslake's leadership.

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England's lead safeguarding bishop, said her appointment reflected the Church's commitment to ensuring it was a "safer place for all".

"Her strong, professional background and experience will strengthen the National Team as it continues its work at a time of increasing demand," he said. 

An independent review into the Church of England's handling of abuse by the Social Care Institute for Excellence found widespread dissatisfaction among complainants who reported not being believed and incidents of "victim blaming".

The Church's National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) said that the Church's "failure to respond compassionately has undermined confidence in its own safeguarding practice".