The rising tide of survivors: NAPAC’s latest report shows large increase in childhood abuse survivors seeking support

The following blog is authored by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). Click here to find out more.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has published its 2020/21 impact report, providing vital insight into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK survivors. Statistics show huge increases in the provision of support for survivors, the number of survivors using NAPAC’s resources and the volume of young people interacting with its website.

The report is compiled using anonymised data from tens of thousands of survivors who have interacted with NAPAC’s services between March 2020 and April 2021.

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Islington Council voted to create Non Recent Child Abuse Support Payment Scheme for survivors of abuse in children’s homes

On 14 October 2021 Islington Council voted to establish a support payment scheme (SPS) for people who suffered abuse while placed in the council’s children’s homes from 1966-1995.

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Horseracing bullying allegations

A report by a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) investigator into a complaint of bullying lodged by Bryony Frost against fellow jockey Robbie Dunne was recently leaked to the Sunday Times.  The report contains allegations that there is an apparent culture of bullying and intimidation in National Hunt racing’s weighing rooms.

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Justice report raises significant concerns about Windrush Compensation Scheme

  • The UK based human rights charity Justice which works to reform the UK justice system with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised in society issued a report on 15 November 2021 on the Windrush Compensation Scheme for victims of the Windrush Scandal.
  • The Scheme has come in for serious criticism since it was first launched in 2019, readers of this blog will be aware that we previously wrote about these difficulties in our blog on 12 July 2021.

The report make 27 recommendations to improve administrative and procedural aspects of the Scheme to ensure that it is properly accessible, fair and efficient for those who it was intended would benefit from it.

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HXA and YXA: Cases not overturned on appeal

The appeal of the cases of HXA v Surrey County Council and YXA v Wolverhampton City Council has been handed down. The appeals were heard jointly on 7 July 2021 and were handed down on 8 November 2021. The High Court did not overturn the first instance decisions so both cases remain good law: claims for failure to remove can be struck out without the need for a full trial.  This decision will be welcomed by defendants.

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J v A South Wales Local Authority

The Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision to refuse to allow a Local Authority to withdraw an admission of liability in a failure to remove case.

The claimant, J, was born in 2000 and had a difficult early childhood. There were concerns about his mother’s behaviour and parenting ability even prior to his birth. Despite this he was allowed to remain in her care until May 2006 when the Local Authority initiated care proceedings.

In August 2012 J began proceedings, with a litigation friend, against the Local Authority on the basis of a breach of both statutory duty and a common law duty of care. It is alleged that he ought to have been removed from the care of his mother in the first month of his life and placed for adoption.

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Child sexual abusers use similar tactics to groom children in institutions, Inquiry report finds

On the 13 July, IICSA published the following press release:

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published new research which finds that tactics exploited by perpetrators working in institutions enable child sexual abuse to continue even today.

Based on analysis of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) case files between 2017 – 2020, the research examines the offending strategies of alleged perpetrators across a wide range of contemporary institutional contexts, such as schools, sport and foster care, as well as the nature of abuse and responses of professionals.

 Across the 43 cases examined, alleged perpetrators used similar methodical grooming strategies, including: 

  • targeting and isolating children
  • building friendships which developed into sexually abusive ‘relationships’, based on trust and codependency with children
  • befriending children’s friends and families over time. 

The research revealed that alleged perpetrators, such as teachers and sports coaches, harnessed their professional reputations and authority to manipulate other adults, and perpetrate child sexual abuse undetected.

Creating cultures of fear, they threatened, blackmailed or intimidated children to deter them from reporting the child sexual abuse and with limited opportunities for disclosure, children often had noone to turn to. 

Informal social relationships, social gatherings and contact between adults and children was normalised within institutions, whilst technology, in particular social media, was found to provide new opportunities for adults working in institutions to access and sexually abuse children. 

The research report reveals that in many cases, individuals denied the allegations or constructed a mitigation narrative to justify, explain or minimise the child sexual abuse. This included framing sexually abusive relationships as consensual and romantic, or putting the blame on the child. Some alleged perpetrators claimed that they had made “mistakes” or “poor judgements” whilst others disputed that they held ‘positions of trust’, therefore safeguarding policies did not apply to them, and had therefore not been breached.

There were also a number of examples where the institutions did not believe children’s disclosures, in particular in cases where alleged perpetrators denied the allegations against them. In some cases, it was clear that institutions chose to preserve the alleged perpetrator’s reputation and their own, above protecting children who reported child sexual abuse.

The research also found that there were numerous missed opportunities to safeguard children because concerns were not escalated and institutions and staff did not always share, record and respond appropriately. A lack of coordination with agencies, weak vetting processes and poor record keeping allowed individuals to offend multiple times within institutions, or to continue offending across institutional contexts and over long periods of time. There were also instances where the onus was placed on the alleged perpetrators to declare their own criminal histories.

Despite significant safeguarding policies being in place, these were not upheld and inaction or institutional complacency enabled alleged perpetrators to operate without being detected and continue to sexually abuse children. 

Principal researcher Julienne Zammit said:

“This groundbreaking research provides new insight into the behaviour of perpetrators across contemporary institutional contexts, finding the use of similar tactics to groom and sexually abuse children. Alleged perpetrators denied or minimised the sexual abuse, in some cases even blaming the victim. 

“Sexually abusive relationships were often framed as consensual and social media was frequently exploited to groom and perpetrate child sexual abuse, providing access to children in unsupervised and unmonitored online spaces.

“Where reports were made, opportunities to safeguard children were missed or actively blocked because concerns were not escalated and disclosures were not always believed. In some cases, it was clear that institutions chose to put their reputation above protecting children who reported child sexual abuse.”

Survivors of child sexual abuse can share their experiences with the Inquiry’s Truth Project over the phone, via video call or in writing. Visit www.truthproject.org.uk for more information.

This research is the first of its kind involving both men and women added to the DBS Children’s Barred List.

For many readers of this blog, the information set out above will just sadly confirm much of what they know already to be the case when considering this topic.

However, there are simple lessons to be learned in terms of future safeguarding, children of any age, background, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation and/or vulnerability can be abused, there is no typical victim. Equally abusers can be from any background, socio-economic status, gender and/or sexual orientation they can be men, women or young people. The single most important thing for abusers is to create an opportunity to access children that they can abuse. If we are to safeguard children effectively in the future in the real and the virtual world, it is these opportunities that we must identify and regulate. We must ensure all the necessary safeguards are in place in the first instance and are fully utilised by all the relevant personnel when abuse of children is suspected and/or reported.


Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com

Sexual abuse in the classroom

In September 2020, the Department for Education introduced a compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum for both primary and secondary schools and also universities.  However, teachers said they struggled to deal with classroom sexual abuse as they were not given any external training and did not feel adequate procedures were in place to properly deal with peer-on-peer sexual abuse. 

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Safeguarding Concerns – Everyone’s Invited and the NSPCC Helpline

Since its opening on 1 April 2021, an NSPCC run abuse helpline has received over 500 reports of abuse from students and parents and these numbers continue to increase. The service was set up by the Department of Education as a response to anonymous testimonies from school and university students alleging abuse on the website “Everyone’s Invited”.

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