IICSA is now moving forward rapidly and in so doing answering some of the past criticisms about how long it will take and whether it is cost effective. Its first report regarding child migration was important but in many ways confirmed what was known from earlier reports and addressed something which no longer occurs. The second report, which is to be published on 12 April, addresses matters which are still very much part of everyday life for many people. This report relates to abuse in connection with Cambridge House Boys’ Hostel, Knowl View School and Rochdale Borough Council. Whilst with any report there will be parts which are very specific to the organisations, people or locality which the investigation focused upon, the themes and recommendations are likely to be of relevance to a much wider audience. As with the reports of the Royal Commission in Australia they will however only be of value if they are put in to practice and not left to gather dust.IICSA has 13 live investigations which are at different stages. Within those investigations there are single or multiple case studies. They focus on a wide range of organisations, some look at events decades ago and some are much more recent. However they are not comprehensive. The terms of reference state that the purpose of the Inquiry is “to consider the extent to which State and non-State institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation”. If the Inquiry is going to achieve that aim then it is going to have to ensure that is has considered a cross section of all relevant institutions and to do that it will need to add further investigations to those it has already announced. Notable areas which are not focused upon in the current investigations include the health sector (there has been focus from a research perspective on this area), youth groups and sport.
There have been recent calls for IICSA to announce an investigation in to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is as a result of a combination of allegations of abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia (as considered by the Royal Commission); in America; and in England & Wales (about which many reports have been made to IICSA.) As matters stand IICSA has focused upon the two major Christian faiths in England & Wales – Anglican and Roman Catholic. To look outside of those faiths would seem appropriate, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses may be a suitable case study, but there must also be consideration of non-Christian faiths if the Inquiry is to have met its terms of reference of looking at all institutions.
It has already announced an investigation which will focus on child sexual exploitation (CSE), which will no doubt involve consideration of issues appertaining to race and religion. Recent publicity about CSE in Telford highlights how this continues to be a very pertinent issue and one which is not restricted to certain specific locations. Rotherham, Oxford, Newcastle and now Telford are just some of the locations where CSE has occurred. They are not alone. IICSA has stated it has already received information from Telford & Wrekin Council but will consider if it requires further information as part of this investigation. However IICSA has announced the Truth Project, which enables victims and survivors of abuse to tell of what happened to them, will go to Telford in May and June.
Now that IICSA is established it is clearly able to respond and adapt as new information becomes available. It will be interesting to see where it heads for example in connection with football as the various related reports are published. It is hard to see how there cannot be consideration of sport given all that has been revealed in the last couple of years.
Organisations involved in the care of children, whether in the past or now, should continue to not only ensure that their approach to safeguarding constantly adapts to meet the changing world and adhere to the many practical recommendations made by inquiries, but also to be prepared that IICSA may well be in touch in the future.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and abuse claims expert with BLM