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Calls for the government to act on “golden opportunity” to reform child protection

Calls for the government to act on “golden opportunity” to reform child protection

The Survivors Trust spoke of the “golden opportunity” as we welcomed the Home Secretary, Rt Hon James Cleverly at a cross-party parliamentary event to discuss the government’s response to the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse for England and Wales (IICSA)

The event, hosted by Jess Philips MP and organised by The Survivors Trust and Act on IICSA took place on Wednesday 17th January, 15 months on from the publication of the inquiry’s final report.  The report emphasised that “child protection must be given a much greater priority in public life” and outlined 20 recommendations to reform the protection of children.

At yesterday’s event, Fay Maxted OBE, Chief Executive of The Survivors Trust, and a member of the consultative panel for the inquiry spoke of the vital need to establish a National Child Protection agency to provide a “robust, central framework for accountability” and a Minister for Child Protection to “provide leadership across the board”.

Ms Maxted explained these were two recommendations made by the inquiry which were “pivotal to driving the changes needed” and pointed to the example of Germany, where there has been an Independent Commission for Childhood Sexual Abuse since 2010 and a Survivor Council since 2015.

Before introducing the Home Secretary, Jess Phillips MP said, “We need to know when they (the recommendations) are going to happen, on a timeframe, when we can expect to see outcomes from that.”

Describing the Inquiry as “sobering,” Mr Cleverly acknowledged that “it’s easy for us to say how terrible this is and how much needs to be done” but that the testimony of survivors “cannot do anything but move you to action” and have “a general desire to make things better”.

He referred to the government update last week on a mandatory reporting duty, as part of the Criminal Justice Bill, for people working with children across England to report “known or witnessed incidents of child sexual abuse”.

He pledged to continue working with voluntary organisations, statutory organisations, technology companies, adding: “It will take a whole society’s commitment to eradicate this”.

Responding to the Home Secretary’s speech, Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of IICSA, told of her frustration that her recommendations to tackle the “horrific” crime have still not been enacted, challenging Mr Cleverly to set out a clear timeline for action.

Professor Jay noted there had been a “long silence” from the Home Office and urged that recommendations must be acted on “quickly and fully”. She closed her speech with an important reminder that ‘we cannot let our children down again’.

Attendees at the event included Baroness Newlove, Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, representatives of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and members of the inquiry’s Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP) and the Act on IICSA working group which includes representatives from The Survivors Trust member agencies: SurviveRASASC GuildfordSurvivors of aBuse (SoB)Mankind and SARAC.

Former Home Secretary Theresa May, who appeared in a pre-recorded video message, thanked all those who had contributed to the Inquiry and welcomed the government’s commitment to mandatory reporting.

Laying down the challenge to Mr Cleverly, she said: “The Government has an important role to play now in putting those recommendations into place. Over to you, Home Secretary.”

The Survivors Trust would like to thank everyone who took the time to attend. The Survivors Trust and Act on IICSA are committed to ensuring that the recommendations made by inquiry, and the voices of thousands of survivors do not go forgotten. The latest campaign updates for Act On IICSA will be shared here >>

Since the final IICSA report was published in October 2022 it is estimated that 133,000 child sexual abuse and exploitation offences will have been reported. This highlights the devastating impact the delay of the implementation of IICSA’s recommendations is having on hundreds of thousands of children and young people. 

We look forward to working closely with the government to help ensure child protection is prioritised and reformed through the implementation of the inquiry’s package of recommendations.

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