The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) released its long-awaited final report on 20 October 2022. It sets out the main findings about the extent to which key institutions failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation and makes recommendations for reform.
The report is an extremely extensive work and draws on the Inquiry’s 15 investigations and 19 related investigation reports, the Interim Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and 41 other Inquiry reports and publications. It details the harrowing facts of endemic child abuse across society which up to 3.1 million adults are estimated to have experienced in England and Wales before the age of 16. There is a particular focus on the systemic failures in key institutions such as the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, other religious settings, care homes and residential schools.
There is also a sober reminder in the report that child sexual abuse is an on-going, global problem. This is shown in one way by the number of national and institutional inquiries being conducted across the world – including in the US, Australia, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain and Japan. The extraordinary soaring numbers of child victims of internet-based sexual abuse also confirm the scale of the problem, providing evidence that the sexual abuse of children cannot be conveniently committed to the annals of history.
What was recommended in the inquiry?
The inquiry has made 20 recommendations in the report with three being particularly highlighted:
- The introduction of a statutory requirement of mandatory reporting. In effect, it requires individuals in certain employments (paid or voluntary) and professions to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the relevant authorities. Failure to do so in some circumstances could lead to the commission of a new criminal offence of failure to report an allegation of child sexual abuse when required to do so.
- The establishment of a national redress scheme for England and for Wales, to provide some monetary redress for child sexual abuse for those who have been let down by institutions in the past.
- Ensuring a long-term spotlight on child sexual abuse through the creation of a Child Protection Authority (CPA) in England and in Wales. The CPAs will have powers to inspect any institution associated with children. They will not replace current inspectorates in relation to the statutory authorities, but may require inspection of those authorities by existing inspectorates. The CPAs over time will become centres of expertise and may extend their child protection functions to other forms of harm experienced by children. They will also, in due course, monitor implementation of the Inquiry’s recommendations and report regularly on progress.
What does this mean for independent schools?
Independent schools should pay close attention to the on-going steps which will be taken in implementing the report. It also provides a fresh opportunity to review the themes identified as to safeguarding risks in school settings and how these might be mitigated through best practice in safeguarding training, safer recruitment and development of a strong, ‘whole school’ culture on safeguarding.
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