IICSA – focus on victims and survivors; protection of children in the future; and business as usual

In the past few months the IICSA has been in the news because of the focus on its organisation and key personnel, rather that its core work. Prof Jay has announced that she will shortly report on the outcome of her internal review. In the meantime the IICSA is focusing on its relationship with victims and survivors and putting the Truth Project, which has been overlooked by much media comment, back at its core. It has said to victims and survivors: “We need to learn from your experience. You can help us understand how to keep children safe. Your voice is central to our Inquiry and your insights can help guide us forward to finding a better way to protect children. By sharing your experience and your opinions, you can make a difference to the lives of future generations and have a positive impact in changes to child protection policies.”

The terms of reference for the IICSA state the importance of looking to the future and Prof Jay has said that the outcome of her internal review will be “developing our recommendations for future change”. As previously commented upon, it will adopt a ‘thematic’ approach to its investigations, based on the themes of Culture; Structure; Finance and Professional/Political.

Looking at themes requires an approach that examines the whole picture rather than focus on individual accounts, and the Inquiry has already (in its designation of core participants) made it clear that it will not be possible to investigate the experiences of every core participant. This could all suggest a move away from the importance of victim and survivor recollections. However recent work of the Inquiry would not suggest that is the case.

In describing the work of the Truth Project, the IICSA has said:

“When children go to an organisation such as a school or a church, or if they attend a club, or even stay at a detention centre, we should be confident that they’ll be safe. If a child tells someone in authority – such as a social worker, teacher or police officer – that they have been abused at home, we should be confident that this will be acted on and the child protected.

 “This Inquiry wants to find out why this didn’t happen for so many children in the past. We want to understand how and why children were failed and we want to make strong recommendations on how they can be better protected in the future.”

Last week the Truth Project opened its office in Cardiff. Prof Jay was accompanied at the opening by Ivor Frank and Drusilla Sharpling, both Panel members who had also accompanied her to the Home Office Select Committee. A more collaborative working style is emerging. Also speaking was Steve Webster who heads the Research Project, and a representative from the Victims and Survivors Panel.

The Truth Project is an opportunity for victims and survivors to share their experiences with the IICSA in a safe place. A report on the first sessions held is to be published imminently and there are now Truth Project offices in Liverpool, Darlington, Exeter and Cardiff. More will open.

Any organisation or individual who is seeking to support a victim or survivor; which hears of disclosure of abuse; or which is reviewing its safeguarding practices and procedures should consider having available information about the Truth Project which it can share. The Truth Project is not just about the victims and survivors of the 13 ongoing investigations.

So where does this leave those organisations which are already or may become involved in the Public Hearings Project? Prof Jay has already said that there will have to be a thorough analysis of historic incidents and that it is necessary to consider what happened in the past but that it is also important to consider current ways of working and emerging best practices. At the meeting in Cardiff, Ivor Frank confirmed that the Public Hearings project would more closely resemble a traditional public inquiry and it would not shrink from making findings where the evidence justifies it. This has been the subject of some contention in the press thus far and further guidance on the approach which will be taken would no doubt be welcomed by all involved in the work of the IICSA. Those organisations and institutions considering their current or future involvement should not therefore, be diverted by the media furore.

The Inquiry has every intention to continue its work and the first of its seminars (considering the civil justice system and criminal compensation schemes)  with invited attendees (but which will also be live-streamed) are due to proceed on 29 & 30 November.


Paula Jefferson, Partner

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