The Survivors Trust is deeply disappointed with the government’s inadequate response to the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Childhood Sexual Abuse.
The government response which was announced on Monday 22nd May details no real commitment to enact any of the 20 recommendations needed for system reform to protect our children today.
The response lacks the detail and immediate action required to generate a much-needed culture change around how we as a society respond to child sexual abuse.
We are strongly urging the government to reconsider their response. This was eloquently set out by the former chair to the inquiry Alexis Jay on BBC’s Women’s Hour, in which she calls for the government to accept in full the 20 specific recommendations outlined by the Inquiry.
Background: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its final recommendations in October 2022. The inquiry’s final report was the culmination of 2.5 million pages of evidence and thousands of hours of evidence sessions, collectively involving more than 7,300 victims and survivors.
The testimony heard by the Inquiry was shocking and sobering. The report called the nature and scale of abuse in England and Wales “horrific and deeply disturbing” and explained that institutions too often “prioritised their personal and institutional reputations above the welfare of those they were duty bound to protect”. It concluded that “child protection must be given a much greater priority in public life.”
When the final IICSA report was released in October 2022, the culmination of over 7 years of work was frustratingly overshadowed by the resignation of then Prime Minister Liz Truss. Following the publication of the final IICSA report, the government were duty-bound to respond publicly to the inquiry on April 20th, 2023. However, in April, The Survivors Trust were informed that the government response was being delayed to ensure it could be released during a quiet period for maximum impact.
On the morning of Monday 22nd May, The Survivors Trust CEO Fay Maxted OBE, and our London Training Manager Lucy Duckworth, both former members of the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP), met with the Home Secretary Suella Braverman ahead of the imminent announcement of the government’s response. During this meeting a verbal summary was provided, but Fay and Lucy were not permitted to view the full response. As such, although they expressed disappointment in the government response to the Home Secretary, they were not able to fully digest the inadequacy of the statement until it was released later in the day.
Despite previous assurances that the release of the response would be timed to ensure maximum impact, on Monday the debate on the Home Secretary’s speeding fine dominated discussions.
The topic of the speeding fine was prioritised for discussion in parliament rather than the government response to the inquiry’s recommendations. As such, the release of the government response to IICSA was delayed until late afternoon meaning the evening news cycle was largely missed. It is curious, disappointing, and deeply frustrating that once again the discussion was dominated by the government’s own party politics, rather than what should have been a pivotal discussion on system reforms to protect our children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
A closer look at the Government’s response
The Home Secretary announced she is accepting 19 of the 20 recommendations; rejecting, for the third time the call to ban pain-inducing restraint techniques that adult staff inflict on children in custodial settings.
However, The Survivors Trust strongly dispute the statement that the other 19 recommendations have been accepted.
For example, the government response outlines that they ‘accept the need for a stronger safeguarding system’ or ‘therapeutic support’. However, they detail how this action is being absorbed in other existing structures, predominately the “Stable Homes, Built on Love” strategy.
The response also states that they will be implementing Mandatory Reporting (MR) and have launched a call for evidence to determine how best to implement this. We believe this call for evidence to be an unnecessary delay as there have been multiple consultations, as well as 7 years of evidence gathering through IICSA that set out how to implement Mandatory Reporting effectively and safely.
Some have raised concerns that mandatory reporting would negatively impact on children and young people seeking support or how their agency currently works. However, we are clear that an effective mandatory reporting system would include exclusions to protect the interests and needs of children and young people seeking help.
Mandatory Reporting would be imposed on regulated activities only, such as the ones investigated and found lacking by IICSA, and would ensure the safety of many thousands of children each year. Please visit https://mandatenow.org.uk/ to view clear explanations of the need and implementation of the most effective mandatory reporting regimes.
The call for evidence for Mandatory Reporting is now open and will close on the 14th August 2023, which frustratingly will take us into parliamentary summer recess. Full details of the Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: call for evidence can be read here: Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: call for evidence – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Another call for evidence will also happen for the redress system, although the details of that have not been announced yet.
What we want to see happen next:
- The consultation into Mandatory Reporting is already open, but we request its duration is shortened to allow work on implementing it can begin sooner.
- To ensure all stakeholders are consulted as the details of mandatory reporting are formulated, we want to see a small panel of experts set in place. This panel would also oversee the implementation of the other 20 recommendations. A key area of this would be the creation of a CPA, or Child Protection Authority. This should be a NDPB (non-departmental government body) whose sole remit is the protection of children. As such, this would include mapping training, practice, and reform across all frontline services (police, health and education), as well as the protection of children who are abused as they grow up to become adults.
- We reiterate the call for a minister for children, which is currently absorbed within the minister for education role. We believe that having an accountable minister for children who can represent their needs in parliament is an essential step towards enacting the culture change needed.
The final report with a quick read guide can be found here – www.iicsa.org.uk/reports-recommendations/publications/inquiry/final-report.html
The response from Government can be viewed here – www.gov.uk/government/publications/response-to-the-final-report-of-the-independent-inquiry-into-child-sexual-abuse
Further comments and news coverage:
The VSCP made the following joint statement with Professor Alexis Jay
“The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was established in March 2015 because the government recognised that institutions in England and Wales were failing to protect children from sexual abuse.”
“After taking evidence from 725 witnesses during 325 days of public hearings, hearing from over 6,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse during our Truth Project and producing 52 reports, we published a concluding report in October last year, which included 20 recommendations.
“These recommendations were a carefully considered set of measures, designed to complement each other to provide a comprehensive world-class framework for the protection of children.
“We are deeply disappointed that the government has not accepted the full package of recommendations made in the final report. In some instances, the government has stated that a number of them will be subject to consultations, despite the extensive research and evidence-taking which the Inquiry carried out over seven years.”
The Survivors Trust is a member of IICSA Changemakers, a group of 64 organisations and individuals who represent the sectors that both engage and protect children including; charities, law enforcement, frontline public sector organisations and health bodies. They have come together to inspire a national mission to prevent child sexual abuse and provide much-improved support to victims and survivors.
In a joint statement the IICSA Changemakers said: “We are pleased to see the Government respond to the recommendations set out by this Inquiry and their commitment to reforming some elements such as redress and better data collection.
“However, we are concerned by the lack of any meaningful support for children and adult survivors. The commitments that have been made do not translate to immediate action which would achieve the scale of change required to create and sustain a national movement to prevent, recognise, and address child sexual abuse.
“It is disappointing that a significant number of the cross-sector recommendations that could have led to real change have been curbed by the Government, which is either narrowing them down or assuming that existing mechanisms already address the need.
“Today’s announcement did not commit to vital recommendations that would have made a real difference. For example, the creation of a Minister for Children, who could act as a champion for children, and the crucial child protection authority that would work with the minister, would ensure that young people’s voices are heard at the most senior level.
“We need to see a determination from Government to prevent and tackle the ongoing situation where child victims of sexual abuse are left traumatised and adult survivors are left without the appropriate support to rebuild their lives.”
Other news coverage and interviews:
- The Guardian: Child sexual abuse compensation scheme to be set up in England | UK child abuse inquiry | The Guardian
- The Evening Standard: New compensation scheme to be introduced for child abuse victims | Evening Standard
- ITV: Compensation scheme for child abuse victims to be set up following inquiry | ITV News
- Press Association: New compensation scheme to be introduced for child abuse victims (yahoo.com)