The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, after apparent institutional failures surrounding non-recent child sexual abuse.
There were significant concerns that both government and non-government organisations had failed and were continuing to fail to protect children in their care, while police were also failing to properly investigate allegations.
The Inquiry is an independent, statutory inquiry and is not run by the government. It aims to look at these institutional failures and why they happened and use this information to ensure institutions are better equipped to protect children.
IICSA has published its Interim Report which sets out the progress that the Inquiry are making and importantly makes a number of recommendations aimed at the relevant institutions.
Organisations are encouraged to publish details of the steps they will take in response to these recommendations.
The Truth Project
One of the core projects that IICSA have set up is the Truth Project which provides victims and survivors of child sexual abuse an opportunity to anonymously disclose their experiences via a method of their choice. Their accounts will be contributing towards the recommendations that IICSA will be making and are vital to help increase understanding of the effects of sexual abuse.
1040 accounts of child sexual abuse have been shared with the Truth Project so far. Approximately 61% of participants said they were first abused when they were 4-11 years old and around 24% when they were 12-15 years old. They have published an anonymised summary of personal accounts of child sexual abuse to help raise awareness of the subject and its effects.
What recommendations have been made?
The Interim report makes several key recommendations which aim to help victims and survivors be better served by institutions and ultimately reduce the risk of child sexual abuse. These recommendations include:
- A formal apology be made to former child migrants who were in care in the UK but sent to parts of the British Empire between the 1920s and 70s. A financial redress scheme should also be made available to them;
- Barriers to be removed from the CICA scheme which could prevent sexual abuse survivors from receiving compensation;
- A register of public liability insurers to be made available so survivors are more easily able to locate relevant insurers in relation to a claim;
- Victims and survivors should be treated as vulnerable witnesses in court proceedings and afforded the same protection;
- Implement the training and use of chaperones in delivering treatment to children in healthcare services;
- Establish current levels of support available for victims and survivors
- Police complaints relating to sexual abuse should be handled as normal routine regardless of when the abuse took place;
- Staff at children’s homes should be registered with an independent body with the responsibility of maintaining standards of training and conduct;
- Ensure that professionals who may pose a risk to children are barred from working with children across all sectors;
- Any person wishing to progress to chief officer status should have experience in and achieve an accreditation in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse.
What is the Inquiry aiming to do next?
IICSA are continuing their work and have a number of public hearings scheduled throughout 2018 and 2019 each focused on different institutions. The Truth Project is also being further developed and will be taken to further parts of England and Wales and engage with more victim and survivor groups.
The recommendations made in the Interim Report are limited though welcome changes that will undoubtedly contribute towards the awareness of child sexual abuse and go some way in protecting vulnerable children from becoming victim.
However, this can only be achieved if the institutions that are targeted by the Inquiry are willing to accept and wholly implement these changes and it should be noted that inquiry recommendations are non-binding. It will be interesting to see how, and if, these changes are carried out, but it is probable that it will be a slow progress phased over the coming years.