On Friday 16 December 2016 the Chair of the IICSA, Professor Alexis Jay published her internal review of the operation of the Inquiry having held the post of Chair for four months.
The review sets out a detailed summary of the work undertaken so far by the Inquiry team in respect of the three projects (the public hearings, research and analysis and the Truth projects), and sets out the focus of the Inquiry’s work for 2017 and beyond. Three appendices to the review record the detailed update for the 13 current investigations, the 2017/18 research programmes and the 2017 seminar program. We will draw out the key points from these appendices in an additional blog over the next few days.
In her forward to the review the Chair references her own and others’ concerns at the failure of the Inquiry to demonstrate progress and she agrees that the Inquiry has not consistently undertaken work in a timely manner nor in a transparent way. She also makes the important point that, given the nature of the scope of the Inquiry , its subject matter and the need to make recommendations for the future, the traditional Inquiry approach alone will not suffice to achieve these aims. This is a reference to the Chair’s earlier comments in her progress report published in October 2016.
Professor Jay sets out what she regards as the most important tasks of the Inquiry which are to examine closely whether institutions have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children and make meaningful recommendations for change, and that those tasks must be carried out within a reasonable timescale. The plan is to make recommendations in an interim report in 2018 with a determination that the “Inquiry makes substantial progress by 2020”. In response to many criticisms that the remit of the Inquiry is too broad, Professor Jay disagrees and states that the broadness of that scope is, in fact, its virtue.
More of the Inquiry’s activity is to be conducted in public and there will be opportunities for individuals to get involved in the Inquiry’s work particularly through an enhanced involvement of the Victims and Survivors Forum throughout the seminar program of 2017/18.
Referencing the recent couple of weeks’ headlines, Professor Jay notes the allegations of sexual abuse arising from professional football clubs and makes the point that “no institution or aspect of institutional life should be beyond our reach”. The Chair’s intention is that the Inquiry will scrutinise the Football Association’s report into child sexual abuse when it is available and check whether further action is required by the Inquiry. In the meantime “we will monitor the situation closely”.
The Chair reminds the reader of the work undertaken by the Inquiry so far including the 11 preliminary hearings in 2006, the designation of 205 core participants, the legal requests to hundreds of institutions for relevant information and the receipt by the enquiry of 86,000 documents so far.
The Chair has reviewed the 13 current investigations and is reassured that these investigations are appropriate and important for examining institutional failures. In some case the methodology of the investigation is being refined but otherwise these investigations are pressing ahead. The 2017 public hearing programme is as follows:
- February 2017 – the first part of the child migration programmes case study in the Children Outside the UK investigation. Expert evidence will be heard.
- July 2017 – the second part of the child migration programme case study. This will hear evidence from the core participants, both institutions and victims and survivors.
- October 2017 – there will be the first hearing in relation to the Cambridge House, Knowl View, and Rochdale Investigation.
- December 2017 – the first hearing in relation to the English Benedictine Congregation case study forming part of the Roman Catholic Church investigation.
The hearing of the first case study in the Anglican Church investigation and internet investigations are planned for early 2018. In addition, the programme of preliminary hearings in respect of other investigations will continue.
The Chair also mentions that the Inquiry has secured a permanent hearing centre in Southwark in central London which will be available from the end of May 2017.
Research and analysis
This is the area where this Inquiry will move away from the public hearing approach of traditional inquiries. The reason the Chair gives for the extensive research and analysis project is the need for the Inquiry to make recommendations in a fast changing world where the nature of the challenges that society faces, particularly in the light of internet and technology advances, means that a different approach is essential.
The review sets out a detailed and expanded program of research and analysis for 2017/18 particularly in the areas of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, child sexual exploitation, children in custodial institutions, residential schools and the internet.
Three themes have been identified for the focus of the research and analysis work as follows:
- Victim and survivor voices and experiences.
- Support services and prevention of and response to abuse.
- Previous reports and inquiries.
The Truth Project
Professor Jay reminds us that this was launched in May 2016 following a successful pilot in late 2015. Private sessions have been held in the North West, North East, Wales and London and they will begin in the South West in the New Year.
The work of the Truth Project is to continue, and the Chair refers to her report earlier this month when the first anonymised summaries from the project were published. A full report of the learnings from the Truth Project is due to be published in October 2017.
In this review the Chair has repeated the four major themes identified in her statement of 17 October 2016 which are intended to “sharpen the Inquiry’s focus” on making recommendations for the future. These themes are cultural, structural, financial and professional and political (see previous blogs).
Finally, the Chair responds to criticisms of its internal management which have prompted unfortunate media reports over the last few months. A new internal governing structure has been established and is now in operation and also a panel member has been allocated to lead each strand of the Inquiry to provide stronger accountability and delivery.
Further blogs will be published very shortly to highlight and comment on the detail of this important review.
Written by Michael Pether