IICSA publishes Thematic Report on child abuse in the context of children’s homes and residential care

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.

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IICSA announces final investigation

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.


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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of abuse and neglect at BLM

A change in the law can have a big impact

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.

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Vatican refuses to co-operate with IICSA’s requests to provide witness evidence about child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

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.

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IICSA – Phase Two of the Residential Schools Investigation

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.

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IICSA publishes report in Accountability and Reparations investigation

At 12pm on Thursday 19 September 2019 IICSA published its report in the Accountability and Reparations investigation.

This IICSA investigation was set up to inquire into the extent to which existing support services and available legal process effectively deliver reparations to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

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IICSA – residential schools

Phase 1 of the residential schools investigation will begin on 30 September. The hearing is due to last for two weeks and during the hearing regard will be given to the following:

  • Publication of a report in connection with closed schools
  • Oral evidence in connection with specific music and special needs schools
  • Further information about the issues and organisations involved in phase 2

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IICSA finds that Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City Council failed children who were sexually abused while in their care

IICSA today published its most recent report on children in the care of the Nottinghamshire councils. It does not make easy reading for the councils involved.

This investigation examined institutional responses to allegations of sexual abuse of children in the care of Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, and other organisations such as Nottinghamshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and to consider the appropriateness of steps taken to protect these children from abuse.


In the course of this investigation IICSA received evidence from about 350 complainants who made allegations of sexual abuse whilst in the care of the Councils from the 1960s onwards. This is the largest number of allegations of sexual abuse in a single investigation that IICSA has investigated to date.

IICSA found that the councils had failed in their statutory duty to protect children in their care from sexual abuse and had in fact exposed them to the risk, and reality, of sexual abuse perpetrated by residential staff and foster carers to whom their care had been entrusted by the councils.

Whilst both councils had safeguards and child protection policies in place, staff often failed to understand what was required of them in order to protect the children under their care and the councils took no action against those members of staff who did not comply. IICSA found that in the residential setting the evidence was that the situation was further exacerbated by poor recruitment practices, few qualified staff, little in-service training, overcrowding and low staffing ratios.

IICSA issued a stern reminder to all who are responsible for the care of children that regardless of the limitations that any organisation/institution operates under staff must always remember that the sexual abuse of children is a criminal offence.

IICSA noted that both councils had commissioned a number of reviews which identified the changes that needed to be made to stop the sexual abuse of the children in their care but had not learned from their mistakes..

Over three decades (i.e. from the 1970’s to the 1990’s) children in residential and foster care with the Councils were exposed to physical abuse, violence and sexual abuse which included rapes, sexual assaults, and voyeurism. Sexual activities also took place between children in care.

16 residential staff were convicted of sexual abuse of children in residential care, 10 foster carers were convicted of sexual abuse of their foster children, and IICSA said it was aware of 12 convictions relating to the harmful sexual behaviour of children against other children in care.

IICSA concluded that neither of the Councils had a satisfactory approach to addressing the issue of harmful sexual behaviour of children in care and more importantly it noted that while there is currently a greater understanding of this issue, there is no national strategy or framework for the prevention of, or response to, harmful sexual behaviour between children in care.

The Police only commenced investigations into allegations of non-recent abuse of children in residential care in 2011 and IICSA pointed out that these investigations were under resourced, did not treat allegations seriously enough and time was lost. IICSA noted that efforts were now being made by Nottinghamshire Police to address these issues.

The councils took different approaches to apologising. Nottinghamshire Council had made public apology while Nottingham City Council had been slow to apologise. There are ongoing issues in the provision and consistency of support and counselling for those who have suffered sexual abuse in care.

The following recommendations were made:

  • “Nottingham City Council should assess the potential risks posed by current and former foster carers directly provided by the council in relation to the sexual abuse of children. They should also ensure that current and former foster carers provided by external agencies are assessed by those agencies. Any concerns which arise should be referred to the appropriate body or process, including the Disclosure and Barring Service, the local authority designated officer (LADO) or equivalent, the fostering panel and the police. 
  • Nottinghamshire County Council should assess the potential risks posed by current and former residential care staff and foster carers, which are directly provided by the council, in relation to the sexual abuse of children. They should also ensure that current and former staff in residential care provided by external agencies, and current and former foster carers provided by external agencies, are assessed by those agencies. Any concerns which arise should be referred to the appropriate body or process, including the Disclosure and Barring Service, the relevant regulatory body, the local authority designated officer (LADO), the fostering panel and the police. 
  • Nottingham City Council and its child protection partners should commission an independent, external evaluation of their practice concerning harmful sexual behaviour, including responses, prevention, assessment, intervention and workforce development. An action plan should be set up to ensure that any recommendations are responded to in a timely manner and progress should be reported to City’s Safeguarding Children Partnership.”

This report is a particularly damning report for the two councils involved however, the report is essential reading for other local authorities so that they can now consider the issues identified in the course of this investigation and take the necessary steps to get their own house is order.


news_21734JDWritten by Sharon Moohan at BLM

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry: an update

Today, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) will resume hearing evidence as part of Phase 4 of its public hearing sessions.

Phase 4 is on residential care establishments run by male religious orders. Previously in this phase, opening statements and evidence were heard over nine days between 4 and 20 June 2019 relating to one establishment run by a particular order. Part of the evidence heard on 20 June was given by a convicted abuser currently serving a ten year jail sentence. A video link from Dumfries Prison to SCAI in Edinburgh was used for that purpose. The man concerned was accompanied by a solicitor when giving his evidence. He was advised in advance by SCAI’s Chair, Lady Smith, of his right not to answer any question where his evidence may incriminate him beyond his present conviction. He was also warned that any evidence given by him could be used in the context of any future criminal proceedings. It could also be used in future civil cases. The man continues to maintain his innocence. He explained that he has made an application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for his case to be reviewed.

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