In July 2014, Theresa May, the UK Government’s Home Secretary at the time, announced there would be an inquiry into how child sexual abuse was dealt with across England and Wales. This came about after the allegations about Jimmy Savile came to light in 2012, shortly after his death.
Savile was named a child sexual abuser after it was revealed he had used his ‘charitable’ status to access vulnerable children and abuse them. Since then, an abundance of calls have been raised across the United Kingdom for an investigation into how all the abuse had been allowed to happen.
Over 150 Members of Parliament backed the demand for an inquiry, especially after the 2013 Home Office review found that a lot of potential files documenting child sexual abuse were either destroyed, missing, or lost. In 2015 the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was officially established as a statutory case under the 2005 Inquiries Act, with New Zealand High Court Judge Dame Lowell Goddard chairing the investigation. 12 separate investigations were to be launched, which were:
- Children in the Care of Lambeth Council
- Children in the Care of Nottinghamshire Councils
- Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Council
- Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church
- Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church
- The Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions
- Child Sexual Abuse in Residential Schools
- The Internet and Child Sexual Abuse
- Child Exploitation by Organised Networks
- The Protection of Children Outside the United Kingdom
- Accountability and Reparations for Victims and Survivors
- Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Linked to Westminster
Later on, a 13th investigation was added to the list which looked into the late Greville Janner, a former MP.
As part of the inquiry, The Truth Project was established to give victims a platform to submit their experiences to aid the IICSA. Over 6,000 people came forward for this project. Not even a year after the list of investigations was released, Goddard stepped down as chairwoman after complaints about her professionalism within the investigation, she was then replaced by one of the panel members, Professor Alexis Jay.
From 2016, investigations ensued for seven years, the final report was published on October 20, 2022. Amidst the 458-page report, there were 20 recommendations supplied by the IICSA for the Government to consider, which were:
- A single set of core data to be collated relating to child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation;
- Child Protection Authorities for England and Wales;
- A Cabinet-level Minister for Children;
- A public awareness campaign;
- Prohibiting the use of pain compliance techniques - this relates to the excessive use of physical restraint techniques and deliberately using the infliction of pain to enforce compliance;
- Amendment to the Children Act 1989 to give parity of legal protection to children in care;
- Registration of care staff in Children’s Homes (secure and non-secure) with a registered body which will oversee settings and maintain standards, training and continued professional development, with the power to enforce those through fitness to practise procedures;
- Registration of staff in care roles in young offender institutions and secure training centres;
- Greater use of the Disclosure and Barring Service barred list;
- Improvements to compliance with statutory duties to refer concerns to the Disclosure and Barring Service;
- Extending the disclosure regime to those working with children overseas;
- Pre-screening for illegal images of children by internet providers to prevent child abuse images from being uploaded to platforms and social media profiles. This prevents the images from being viewed or shared;
- Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse in certain circumstances;
- Compliance with the victim’s code;
- The removal of the three-year limitation period for personal injury claims brought by victims of child sexual abuse;
- A national guarantee of specialist therapeutic support for victims;
- A code of practice on access to records about child sexual abuse;
- Further changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme;
- A tiered redress scheme;
- Age verification in relation to online services and social media platforms.
The Home Secretary at the time, Suella Braverman, responded to the recommendations a month later than promised. In summary, only about two of the 20 recommendations were promised any kind of action from the government. The remaining 18 were either rejected or answered with ambiguity.
This sparked outrage around England and Wales, the IICSA even responded that they were “deeply disappointed that the Government has not accepted the full package of recommendations (...) 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 package announced by the Government today will not provide the protection from sexual abuse that our children deserve. We ask the Government to reconsider and accept and enact all our recommendations in full.”
Over a year after the final report was published, the Government has not acted on any recommendations that will protect children in the UK from sexual abuse in institutional settings. Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister days after the publication, and the only thing he has had to say on the matter is, “We will stop at nothing to stamp out these vile crimes, punish the perpetrators, and make sure every child across the country can grow up in a safe environment,” without providing any viable solutions to this issue.
Since the appointment of James Cleverly as the new Home Secretary this past November, there is hope that those a part of the Inquiry, including victims, will be rightfully attended to.
On Jan 10, a written statement on an update of the IICSA situation was provided by Cleverly, it’s just as vague as other Government statements on the issue, The Home Secretary states, “Where we can act quickly, we are doing so.”
There is an extreme lack of evidence and effort on the Government’s part concerning the well-being of the children concerned despite it being a decade since the inquiry was initially announced, in which time, undeniably more children have become victims of institutional sexual abuse due to the lack of attention being given to the IICSA’s recommendations.
Edited by Chloe Mansola
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