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Barnardo’s independent investigation – statement

With the agreement of the survivor, the Yorkshire Baptist Association and the trustees of Network Church Sheffield, in 2022 the Diocese of Sheffield commissioned Barnardo’s to conduct an independent investigation following a complaint made about an experience of conversion therapy and exorcism in 2014-15. This investigation took place in two parts, with part one looking at the individual’s complaint and part two looking at the current practice of St Thomas Philadelphia, part of Network Church Sheffield and the church in which the abuse had taken place.

Part one, investigating the incident itself, upheld all four areas of the complaint made. Part two explored the current ministry in the church and, while noting the significant improvement in policy and practice since 2014, made a number of recommendations. The trustees of Network Church Sheffield have accepted both parts of the report in full, and have developed and put into effect a comprehensive action plan to implement the report’s recommendations. The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, reviewed the report and issued his own recommendations which fully align with the part two Barnados recommendations and the action plan created by the church. Progress on this action plan will be monitored by the Bishop of Sheffield.

With the agreement of all parties involved (the complainant, the Yorkshire Baptist Association and the Trustees of Network Church Sheffield), we have been working urgently for the past month towards the publication of a lightly redacted version of both stages of the report, and have been able to publish it on our website today.

We deeply regret that the process has taken so long and understand the frustrations of those who have been affected. We apologise unreservedly to the survivor for the distress this has caused and to anyone else similarly affected by such practices in the past. The Diocese of Sheffield believes, along with the wider Church of England, that conversion therapy is unethical, potentially harmful and has no place in the modern world.  The Church of England takes all allegations of misconduct and abuse seriously. There are circumstances in which an individual or group of people’s conduct within a church setting might not be illegal but might still be inappropriate. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about misconduct in church or church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence. We recognise how difficult it is for victims and survivors to come forward and urge anyone affected by this to contact our Safeguarding Team ( where concerns will be heard in confidence.