The Truth Project is a vital aspect of IICSA’s work as it enables victims and survivors to share their experiences with the Inquiry in a safe and confidential way. As at the end of March 2020 there had been just over 20,000 expressions of interest made to the Truth Project and it had received 4,738 accounts, some in writing, some by telephone and some in person. IICSA has now, working with SignHealth, made it possible for victims and survivors who are deaf to share their experiences via videolink. At the current time, in view of COVID-19, face to face truth project sessions have been suspended.
As we approach six years since Teresa May first announced an inquiry into child sexual abuse we consider in a series of blogs the work undertaken to date and what is yet to be achieved by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). We consider the work of the Truth project, research published, investigations and reports. Today consideration is made of some practicalities
A recently published IICSA research report has identified a lack of confidence in staff, children, parents and local authorities in identifying ‘grey areas’ of child sexual abuse; varied reporting practices of child sexual abuse between residential schools despite following the same statutory guidance; and schools reporting difficulties in escalating referrals to local authorities.
The most recent Queens Speech confirmed the Government’s intent to continue to develop an Online Harms paper so as to make the UK the safest place to be online.
At last month’s three day public hearing, the inquiry heard from various parties, such as insurers, local authorities, and solicitors that represent victims and survivors, as well as those that represent insurers and other organisations.
The key topics for discussion centered around limitation and redress, and how this impacted all relevant stakeholders in claims for child sexual abuse.
On 7 November IICSA published the Truth Project Thematic Report on child sexual abuse in the context of children’s homes and residential care.
Readers of the Blog will be familiar with the Truth Project, which was established to hear in private from the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse about their experiences.
The final investigation to be undertaken by IICSA has been announced. This is a thematic investigation which will consider Effective Leadership of Child Protection.
This investigation is intended to cover the following:
- Ensuring organisations are safe, and effective at being safe
- Achieving openness, transparency and good communication
- Ensuring good communication, escalation of issues and concerns with clear lines of accountability, and good leadership in scenarios where there is no direct line management structure
- Using management and audit information to understand the institution, its systems and its performance, so that systemic warning signs can be identified early
- Responding appropriately to internal and external pressure, for example from politicians, community leaders, parents, funders and other key stakeholders so that child welfare and protection is prioritised
- Responding to the evidence of “whistleblowers” and recommendations from inspectorates, Serious Case Reviews and similar reports
- Learning from past institutional failures, including adverse events, including embedding a ‘learning’ not a ‘blaming’ culture
As can be seen from the matters noted above it is wide ranging and likely to be seeking contributions from a wide range of organisations which are involved in safeguarding practices now. However the Inquiry is also seeking contributions on these topics from organisations which do not have responsibility for children but can evidence good leadership practices.
Any organisation or individual seeking to contribute to this investigation as a Core Participant must by 13 December 2019 submit an application to be granted Core Participant status.
As noted above this is described as being the final investigation. It is not surprising that IICSA is seeking to draw its work to a conclusion with the aim of providing its final report in a timely manner. Hearings are expected to conclude by the end of 2020 suggesting a final report in 2021, slightly later than initially planned. However for an Inquiry with such a wide remit to include all state and non-state organisations it is a little surprising that there has been no investigation focused on youth organisations nor anything in the health sector. Victims and survivors of abuse in those settings may feel that there has not been proper regard to the abuse they suffered.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of abuse and neglect at BLM
Whilst the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England & Wales focuses its attention on reviewing legal processes available to deliver reparation to victims and survivors of abuse, and in particular to consider whether the law (such as the statute of Limitations) should be changed, we can see the impact a change in the law can have in other jurisdictions.
Latest developments in the Roman Catholic investigation have included further dates and that the Vatican has refused to co-operate with IICSA’s requests to provide witness evidence about child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
IICSA was told, on 25 September 2019 at a preliminary hearing about the investigation into the Roman Catholic Church, that the Vatican considered the requests made to it by IICSA were improper and it said that its officials were protected by diplomatic immunity.
Clarification has now been received concerning phase two of IICSA’s investigation into the nature and extent of, and institutional response to, child sexual abuse in residential schools, including schools in the state and independent sectors and school for children with disabilities and/or special educational needs.