IICSA residential schools report

Conclusions and recommendations

The Inquiry’s Residential Schools Report has concluded that schools are not as safe for children as they should be and that children’s interests still do not always come first when allegations of sexual abuse are made.  The report states that in spite of increased awareness of the risk some children continue to experience sexual abuse and sexual harassment in schools and highlighted the particular safeguarding challenges prevalent in music schools, boarding schools and residential special schools.

The report states that schools need to alter their mind set and accept that ‘it could happen here’ and in the case of harmful sexual behaviour between pupils that ‘it probably is happening here’. The Inquiry heard evidence about ineffective safeguarding in schools during the past 20 years and the testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website demonstrate that currently, for children in some schools, sexual abuse and harassment between peers remain endemic. 

The report adds that many of the schools examined by the Inquiry responded inadequately to allegations against their staff and in some cases there was a culture which discouraged reporting. Too often, the Inquiry saw examples of head teachers who found it inconceivable that staff might abuse their positions of authority to sexually abuse children, were unaware of current statutory guidance or did not understand their role in responding to allegations against staff. It was clear that some staff were more focused on protecting the reputation of the school than protecting the interests of the children.

The report also highlights that for many victims and survivors, the impact of abuse has been profound and lifelong. In addition, it mentions that many of those in positions of authority and responsibility have not been held to account for their failures of leadership and governance and that many perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

The recommendations made in the report can be summarised as follows :

  • Specific recommendations for residential schools to include inspection, reporting duties and a system of licensing and registration of educational guardians for international students
  • The introduction of national standards for LADOs to promote consistency and statutory guidance confirming that LADOs can provide informal advice
  • Amendments to Independent School Standards to include the requirement to have an effective system of governance
  • The establishment of nationally accredited standards and levels of safeguarding training in schools, with the highest level of training being mandatory for head teachers and DSLs
  • Schools to be required to inform the relevant inspectorate when a member of staff has been referred to the DBS, the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) or the Education Workforce Council
  • Regulations to be amended to bring all teaching assistants, learning support staff and cover supervisors within the misconduct jurisdiction of the TRA

The potential impacts of the report

We share a number of thoughts as to the potential impact as follows:

  • This report may well encourage previously reluctant victims of historical abuse in schools to come forward and/or be encouraged to do so.
  • The number of schools investigated by IICSA was only a very small sample. There will be other school in England and Wales which could have had similar historical CSA issues. Victims from those schools may well now feel empowered to raise complaints and claims.
  • Renewal audits, especially with Independent Specialist schools, should ensure that the schools safeguarding policy reflects good practice and takes account of the recent recommendations.  Particular focus should be given to the schools ability to review, monitor and respond to Specialist Tutors performance or concerns about their behaviour.
  • The Everyone’s Invited (“EI”) movement is referenced a number of times in the report. EI focusses on more contemporary, peer on peer abuse and harassment behaviours. EI has a significant and very active media profile and the types of claims that could arise from EI scenarios are much wider than conventional CSA injury claims. Potential arguments around systemic failings in an institution’s safeguarding practice, and the impact these failings had on the claimant’s mental health are likely to be referenced in claims. The combination of all these factors and the additional profile raising of EI by IICSA may well have a significant impact on the claims numbers and the way they are presented.
  • EI is referenced in complaints raised directly with schools.  Complaints of harassment are raised alongside systemic failure allegations;  accounts from fellow pupils are referenced to support complaints about a schools failures to adequately respond to inappropriate behaviour/harassment/assault. 
  • Limitation and mandatory reporting are going to be the subject of IICSA’s final report expected “later in 2022”. The nature of the recommendations made by IICSA may impact on future civil claims for damages.

Written by Sarah Murray-Smith at BLM sarah.murray-smith@blmlaw.com

A French IICSA?

France is increasingly dealing with its own legacy of child sexual abuse.  Following on from revelations of widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, inquiries have been set up in various countries.  In 2018 a German committee reported on sexual violence in the Catholic Church.  One month later the French bishops decided to hold their own independent inquiry.   The Ciase or Commission indépendante sur les abus sexuels dans l’Eglise catholique(Independent Committee on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church) was convened in November 2018.  It will report this week.

Its chair is Jean-Marc Sauvé, formerly the highest-ranking civil servant in France.  He took crucial decisions in the early months, such as deciding to exclude religious office-holders and victims’ representatives from its board, and individually selecting the 21 board members based on their in-depth knowledge of issues relevant to the inquiry.  Work started in February 2019.  Since then, these board members have spent many months touring France, meeting victims individually and listening to their stories.  It is a striking feature of the Ciase that collecting this evidence was put at the heart of its work, and was not delegated.  The number of victims since the early 1950s was initially thought to be in the region of 3,000; it is now expected to exceed 10,000.  Research has also been commissioned about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the general population compared to the Catholic Church, and its impact on victims’ health. 

The Ciase is expected to report on the number of victims in the Catholic Church, the circumstances and types of abuse and to make a series of recommendations.

Meanwhile another independent inquiry is starting work on child sexual abuse and incest.  The Ciivise, or  Commission indépendante sur l’inceste et toutes violences sexuelles faites aux enfants  (Independent Committee on Incest and all Sexual Violence against Children) was officially set up in March 2021.  It has two co-chairs and 20 members (a mix of lawyers, police officers, doctors, academics).  Its original chair, former Justice Secretary Elisabeth Guigou, resigned from her post after it transpired she was a close family friend of Olivier Duhamel – an influential academic and political player accused last year of sexually abusing his stepson in the memoir ‘La Familia Grande’ (see our previous blog here.)

The Ciivise members are visiting hospitals, specialist settings, police services, and will soon tour France to hold public meetings and encourage victims to share their stories.  A dedicated platform has been set up for victims, and support is being arranged.  The Ciivise is expected to make recommendations on preventing child sexual abuse, improving support services for victims and imposing sanctions on perpetrators.  No date has yet been set for these recommendations. 

Written by Genevieve Rich at BLM (genevieve.rich@blmlaw.com)

Report commissioned by IICSA reports that ethnic minority survivors of child sexual abuse don’t trust police or social care

On the 29 April 2021, IICSA published a report setting out its findings following engagement with support services for ethnic minority communities.

The engagement report had been commissioned by IICSA’s Chair and Panel however, the Engagement Panel have made it clear that the report does not include any formal recommendations from IICSA and is separate from the formal investigative work and public hearings conducted by IICSA and is also separate from IICSA’s research strand.

The Engagement Panel spoke to 107 organisations over 18 months, the organisations including some domestic and sexual violence support services, women’s groups, religious charities, mental health agencies and specific ethnic minority organisations and all of the organisations who contributed work closely with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse from ethnic minority communities.

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IICSA update on recommendations (continued)

To recap on yesterday’s blog, the monitoring of responses to recommendations made by IICSA is a formal process and IICSA expect institutions to set out how they plan to respond to the recommendations made within six months of the recommendations being published. Yesterday we covered responses from

  • Nottinghamshire Councils
  • Accountability and Reparations
  • Children Outside the UK Phase 2

Today’s blog will look at the responses from:

  • Internet
  • Westminster
  • Anglican Church
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Research report highlights prevalence of sexual abuse in UK schools

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.

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IICSA – where to next for mandatory reporting in England and Wales

On the 29 and 30 April 2019 IICSA held its second seminar on mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse. The seminars were not formal evidence gathering sessions but rather an analysis of all the views expressed at the seminar.

The seminar was attended by representatives from government departments in England and Wales, third sector representatives, campaign groups, professional representatives and victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The full list of participants can be found here.

The sessions looked at the pros and cons of introducing mandatory reporting in England and Wales and what the practical implications were of legislating in this very challenging area.

Mandatory reporting laws were first enacted in the USA in the 1960’s to deal with concerns that medical professionals were not taking appropriate action to respond to signs of physical abuse of children.

Australia introduced mandatory reporting laws in the 1960’s, again the thinking behind this move was that professionals dealing with children were not acting on signs of abuse of children and children were not coming to the attention of child protection services and so no preventive measures could be taken. While all Australian states and territories have provided for mandatory reporting for child sexual abuse, some have gone a step further and have provided that mandatory reporting laws apply to all forms of abuse and neglect.

Readers of this blog might remember that in a blog on 18/10/2017 we covered the introduction of mandatory reporting in the Republic of Ireland, at that time the then Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone announced her intention to commence all of the provisions of the Children First Act, 2015 to include the provisions in relation to the mandatory reporting of child abuse, which put mandatory reporting of child abuse on a statutory footing in Ireland.

Among the issues identified and discussed at the seminars are as follows:-

  • Whether there should be a different approach to the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse compared to other forms of abuse and neglect;
  • There was a feeling that focusing solely on reporting child sexual abuse could lead to missing out on wider information which might be indicative of a child being sexually abused;
  • Others made the valid point that other types of abuse and neglect can be equally as damaging as sexual abuse and a different approach to sexual abuse ran the risk of creating a hierarchy of response, which was to be avoided;
  • Participants did not anticipate that mandatory reporting would prevent or discourage a child from disclosing abuse and that the main determinative factor in a child deciding to disclose abuse is whether they feel they are in a safe environment to do so:
  • There was a lack of consensus as to whether the non-statutory duties and policies currently in place in England and Wales were sufficient to encourage reporting, it was noted that while there has been a significant increase in the number of referrals over the last 10 years, there has been a decrease in the number of children being place on child care plans;
  • On the subject of whether non-recent child sexual abuse should be included in mandatory reporting there was also a difference of opinion with some saying that mandatory reporting should require institutions to report previously undisclosed incidents while others felt it should be left to the discretion of the adult victim and survivor to report;
  • There were also differing views on whether there should be consequences up to and including criminal sanctions for those who fail to report child sexual abuse in line with their statutory duties. The concern with introducing such sanctions was noted to be that they could result in a fear or blame culture developing and this might lead to an increase in a number of inappropriate referrals being made, it might deter professionals from working with children and it could discourage people who work with children to use their professional judgement when making decisions about the welfare of children under their care.

The seminars were presented with five different studies into the impact of mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse in various states in Australia and these studies demonstrated that there was a substantial gain to be made from the introduction of mandatory reporting. Legally enacted mandatory reporting had led to enhancing reporting outcomes for children, it had identified children who were at risk of being harmed and even when reports of child sexual abuse were found to be unsubstantiated the reports had identified other harms and risk factors in the child’s life.

The finding of these five studies did not support the concern of some of the representatives present that the introduction of mandatory reporting might lead to undesirable reporting and a significant increase of unsubstantiated referrals. However, existing evidence does indicate that mandatory reporting is associated with a greater number of referrals being made to health services and children in need of protection being placed under formal child protection orders.

In reflecting at the end of the seminars as to what action could be taken to improve the reporting of child sexual abuse in England and Wales it was noted that:

  • Changes had been implemented to improve reporting and response to child sexual abuse in recent years due to strengthening legislation around safeguarding with particular reference to the Children and Social Work Act, 2017;
  • There was recognition that Government had taken steps to create and improve a learning environment where professionals share best practice around safeguarding though there was more to be done in this area;
  • There is evidence that legislative mandatory reporting will only be successful if it is accompanied by investment in systemic responses to support implementation;
  • Statistics highlighted that the UK was behind other countries in supporting the implementation of mandatory reporting;
  • In addition to legislating for mandatory reporting there needs to be a cultural change so that the emphasis is on prevention and early intervention as well as reporting and to effect this culture change people need to be educated and trained so that they understand the role that they have to play in protecting children.

IICSA said that the seminars had provided it with information about the impact of mandatory reporting legislation in countries in which it has been introduced while also providing valuable insight into the possible advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to statutory reporting duties, particularly with regards to England and Wales. The seminars will inform IICSA’s wider consideration of the important issue of mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse and will be considered in conjunction with the evidence and information on this topic that IICSA is gathering through its investigations, the Truth Project and the recent survey of the Victims.

What is striking in the report from IICSA on these seminars is that they make no reference to the Government’s stated position, which is that it appears to be against the introduction of functioning Mandatory Reporting. It’s position is as set out in the ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect’ consultation, the DfE and Home Office proposed a ‘Duty to Act’, which falls well short of  mandatory reporting. In the course of this consultation in 2016 the Government accepted that “There is currently no general legal requirement on those working with children to report either known or suspected child abuse or neglect” but despite this fact there is no apparent urgency by the Government to introduce legislation in this area.

However, what seems certain now is that IICSA will have to address this thorny issue in its final report if not before and this is a can that cannot be kicked down the road forever if we as a society are serious about putting child protection at the centre of our public policy.

Written by Sharon Moohan sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com

IICSA, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and safeguarding

As noted in our blogs last week on 12 November and 13 November, this week we are looking in more detail at some of the topics which IICSA has covered in its Anglican and Roman Catholic reports. Although the reports refer to some progress by both the Anglican church and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Inquiry concludes that there is still significant need for improvement in safeguarding in each.  Several common themes arise in the reports which are explored here.

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IICSA summary of victims and survivors views on redress

On 14 October, IICSA published a summary of victims and survivors’ views on redress.

The Victims and Survivors Forum (the Forum) is open to all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. It was set up to facilitate IICSA’s engagement with victims and survivors, making it easier to ask questions, offer suggestions, and for IICSA to gather the views of victims and survivors.

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IICSA research report into child sexual abuse in ethnic minority communities

In June 2020, IICSA published a research report into child sexual abuse in ethnic minority communities. The research aimed to draw out how ethnicity, community and culture shapes people’s experiences of child sexual abuse. To do this, the research engaged with a range of ethnic minorities particularly from Caribbean, African and South Asian ethnicities, including victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. This article will explore the research findings, which will be used to enhance the Inquiry’s knowledge of child sexual abuse in ethnic minority communities.

The first key research finding is that cultural stereotypes and racism can lead to failures on the part of institutions and professionals to identify and respond appropriately to child sexual abuse. Furthermore, it could also make it more difficult for individuals in ethnic minority communities to disclose and speak up about child sexual abuse. Cultural stereotypes and racism were highlighted by the research as two key themes throughout discussions with participants, with two broad operational mechanisms:

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IICSA report following investigation into the internet

In March 2020, IICSA published their investigation report into the internet. The report followed IICSA’s investigation into the growing problem of online-facilitated child sexual abuse.

During public hearings in 2018 and 2019, the Inquiry heard distressing accounts from those directly affected by child sexual abuse facilitated online and the devastating and long term impact that this abuse has had on them. The Inquiry heard no evidence to suggest that the number of offenders who use the internet to facilitate abuse of children is falling. UK law enforcement record almost 10 grooming offences per day and arrest between 400 and 450 people per month for offences of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation.

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