On 11 February 2021, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) published a final, independent report on sexual abuse in Scottish football. This report – link here – is dated July 2020. The reasons, if any, for the delay in publication are unclear.
The report comprises three sections, broadly covering:
- Individual accounts of the events and incidents of non-recent child sexual abuse in Scottish football mainly occurring in the 1970s, 80s and 90s;
- The safeguarding “journey” within Scottish football from the 1990s until recent years; and
- The current arrangements and issues in Scottish football related to the wellbeing and protection of young people from sexual abuse and exploitation.
On Wednesday 10 February 2021 the Education and Skills committee at the Scottish Parliament will start to consider proposed amendments to the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill.
In total, 107 amendments have so far been proposed. Further amendments could be proposed both during the current Stage 2 of the Scottish legislative process and also during the final third stage. Amendments made during Stage 2 could even be overturned by amendments at Stage 3. As is often the case, Stage 2 is being undertaken at committee level rather than by the Scottish Parliament sitting as a whole in chamber. Assuming that the bill proceeds to Stage 3, the parliament as a whole would consider and vote on any further proposed amendments before debating and deciding whether to pass the bill.
Recent figures obtained by the BBC’s File on 4 show has brought to light the significant stigma and shame felt by of victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by female abusers. It has been suggested that there is a lack of understanding about this type of abuse even though statistics confirm that there is a significant rise in such abuse being reported. Between 2015 and 2019 there was an increase in victims of sexual abuse by female abusers of 84%.
File on 4 obtained data from 36 UK Police forces which showed a rise of 1,249 cases to 2,297 cases during the period 2015 to 2019.
Sexual abuse between siblings is thought to be the most common abuse within a family setting. A January 2021 report by Stuart Allardyce, Director at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and Dr Peter Yates, lecturer and Programme Lead in Social Work at Edinburgh Napier University explores the issue.
Allardyce and Yates believe abuse by a child sibling is as much as three times as common as sexual abuse perpetrated by parent on a child.
In previous blogs we have commented upon the continuing debate about the pros and cons of mandatory reporting of child abuse and we have commented upon the work IICSA has done to consider whether or not to make recommendations to introduce mandatory reporting. We will not know IICSA’s final thinking until its final report is published. In the meantime, in Hong Kong the issue is also being considered and the debate there provides a timely opportunity to review how mandatory reporting has worked in Australia.
Mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse is a statutory requirement in at least 70 jurisdictions worldwide. However, there is currently no general legal requirement in the UK on those working with children to report known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. Statutory guidance does stipulate that individuals that work with children and families should report to their local authorities suspicions of abuse or neglect related to children. In 2016, the UK government introduced legislation in parliament which proposed placing people who work in roles that bring them into regular contact with children under a statutory duty to report or act on suspicions of child abuse or neglect.
Earlier this year we reported on predictions about the potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on child protection and initial reports into the ‘lockdown effect’ on child protection.
There is now further confirmation of the ‘lockdown effect’ on children in England and Wales. Compared to the same period in 2019, there is in 2020 a marked rise (+27%) in the most serious incidents of suspected child abuse.
In 2018 the New Zealand Government established The Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in Care. Its purpose was to inquire into and report upon responses by institutions to instances and allegations of historical abuse in state care and faith based institutions between 1950 and 2000.
The Royal Commission has now published its interim report to the Government and has indicated that it is impossible to determine the precise number of people abused in state and faith-based care. This is due to large gaps and deficiencies in data collected at the time. There has never been a comprehensive census or count of people in the numerous care settings. In some cases, records were not kept at all or have been lost, and even where there are records, it is often difficult or impossible to trace an individual’s path through multiple care settings over time.
New rules to protect youth offenders
Employers can check the criminal record of someone applying for a role: this is a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own rules, which are not discussed here. In England and Wales, four types of checks can be made:
- A basic check which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
- An standard check which shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
- An enhanced check, which includes a standard check as well as information held by local police that is considered relevant to the role
- An enhanced check with barred lists, which includes an enhanced check as well as checks whether the applicant is on the list of people barred from doing the role
IICSA recently released its research report titled ‘Child Sexual Abuse in the Context of Schools’, which presents the Inquiry’s findings about the experiences of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in the context of schools.
The researchers examined the experiences of sexual abuse across several school settings including residential, non-residential, independent and state schools.
Male pupils made up the majority of those who reported abuse to IICSA’s ‘Truth Project’, and accounted for over 75% of all pupils who reported being abused, in independent and special schools. Fifty four percent of the research participants, who were sexually abused in state schools were female.
This year the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is revisiting the 15 investigation reports it has published so far into different institutions – examining the evidence heard, the findings made and following up on crucial recommendations. John O’Brien, Secretary to the Inquiry, discusses the first report into Child Migration Programmes.