On 1 March 2018 the IICSA published their first report following their case study into the Child Migration Programmes forming part of their investigation into Children Outside the UK. This report was awaited with interest not just because of its content but also because it is the first IICSA report and so its format and intent indicate the likely approach for other reports.The report, totalling 162 pages, is broken down into four parts:
- Child Sexual Abuse in this Child Migration Programmes
- Detailed Examination of Institutional Responses
Since publication focus has been on criticism of successive Governments; and, of the three recommendations, most has been on that of financial redress. The other recommendations relate to further institutional apologies and the preservation of child migrants’ records.
Further Institutional Apologies
The Panel was troubled by the time it took the UK Government to acknowledge its responsibility and apologise. Only in 2010 was a national apology given.
The report notes that some institutions have still not apologised for the part they played and the Panel recommended they do so as soon as possible. Ideally the Panel propose public apologies will be made as well as individual apologies made to former migrants.
The Preservation of Child Migrants’ Records
The IICSA’s ability to investigate this case study was hampered by the failure of some institutions to preserve documentation. Therefore it is recommended that all sending institutions ensure they have robust systems in place for retaining records, especially those in relation to individuals.
The Government was held primarily responsible for the post-War child migration programmes. It established the legal framework within which the sending institutions operated, provided funding, and facilitated relations with overseas Governments whilst operating a limited system of regulation and oversight.
The Panel concluded post-War child migration was a “fundamentally flawed policy, and that the Government failed to ensure that there were in place sufficient measures to protect children from sexual abuse and other forms of abuse”. They said the Government failed to appropriately respond to reports about the welfare of children and failed to put measures in place to reduce the risks to children.
Unlike some institutions that have paid reparations to their former migrants, the Government has not made any direct financial redress. Most former child migrants have passed away, therefore the Government has missed the opportunity to offer to redress to those who suffered. As approximately 2,000 child migrants are alive today, the Panel recommended redress is offered urgently to them without delay and expected payments should be made within 12 months. However this should not be used as an excuse to reduce funding for the Child Migrants Trust or the Family Restoration Fund.
The Panel recommend establishing a Redress Scheme for surviving former migrants providing an equal award to every applicant. There are no criteria which child migrants need to meet for this redress as the Panel considered all former migrants are entitled as they were all exposed to the risk of sexual abuse. No specific sum for redress is recommended. By comparison the Northern Ireland Historical Abuse Inquiry recommended in January 2017 child migrants should be paid £20,000. On 12 March Lisa Nandy MP asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, when he plans to respond to IICSA’s Child Migration Programmes Report. On 15 March the response was “Successive Governments have accepted that the policy of child migration was misguided and deeply flawed….We are considering the content of this report and will provide a formal response in due course.”
IICSA’s first set of recommendations, although within the context of one particular limited investigation, are likely to indicate their future approach. The Panel is keen to consider redress. Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked what he thought about finding a different way to give redress to victims and survivors.
As we have seen with other inquiries redress is a common recommendation. It seems highly likely that recommendations will be made for redress for all victims and survivors but in what form, when and how will no doubt not be a decision made quickly.
The next report to be published will relate to abuse in Rochdale.
Author, Miriam Rahamim, a solicitor with BLM