Seven years after it was established in 2015, The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has now published its final concluding report. Following several interim reports (read our update on IICSA's recommendations for faith organisations) and research papers, the final report sets out recommendations to the Government and other institutions, urging them to take action to ensure better protection of children from sexual abuse.
With the investigation having noted common themes across different institutions, such as a lack of procedure and the protection of organisations coming above that of children, we expect that these recommendations will impact many organisations. Key recommendations include:
- Statutory requirement of mandatory reporting – Any person working in a regulated activity or position of trust in relation to children and all police officers will be required to report an allegation of abuse to the relevant authority. Failure to do so could lead to criminal sanctions such as fines or imprisonment.
The ‘position of trust’ will be expanded to include those coaching, teaching, training or instructing in a sport or religion, where this is done on a regular basis. Crucially, the report specifically notes that there should be no exemption for faith-based organisations and that mandatory reporting will be an absolute obligation.
- Registration and DBS- Employers will be required to ensure that staff members working in roles responsible for the care of children have been registered with suitable independent bodies, to hold them accountable to basic professional standards, including:
- support staff / teaching assistants in all education settings and teaching staff in independent schools
- staff in care roles that involve children such as children’s homes and young offender institutions.
The report also recommends greater use of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)’s barred list, with checks on any person engaging in work or volunteering with children on a frequent basis, to determine whether or not they have been barred by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This would include faith-based organisations.
- Basic standards - All organisations which work with children and whose staff members may come into contact with children will be legally obliged to adhere to basic child protection standards and have safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
- Child Protection Authority (CPA) - The CPA is recommended to be set up to act as an independent non-departmental public body requiring all those who work with children to comply with professional standards of competence, ethics and integrity. The CPA will have powers to inspect any institution with an association with children, with a view to ensure a consistent approach to the issue of child protection. They will not replace current inspectorates but may require them to inspect and in time, they would monitor the implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations.
- National redress scheme – This is to be established to provide a fixed-term monetary redress for those let down by institutions in the past, so that they can secure access to help. The redress will come directly from the institutions and will not replace criminal or civil justice systems.
Whilst the recommendations are yet to be adopted by the Government, leaders should start acting now to set the tone from the top and ensure that safeguarding is a key priority in their organisation. Policies and procedures should be reviewed to make sure that they set out effective measures in relation to child protection and managers will need to regularly review the extent to which those measures are implemented on the ground. Needless to say, organisations should stay up to date with the progress of IICSA’s recommendations and seek advice where necessary to ensure compliance with any new regulatory requirements.
We regularly see our clients working to promote an open and honest culture in relation to safeguarding, encouraging people to voice concerns and ensuring that issues are addressed promptly and transparently. It is clear from IICSA’s final report that maintaining an open culture where issues can be safely raised, addressed and reported will be more important than ever in the coming years.
No amount of money and no policy can un-do the harm suffered by those who have experienced abuse. However, we hope that the IICSA recommendations begin to pave the way for prevention of future child abuse.
If you require advice in relation to safeguarding, please contact a member of the ACS' regulatory team.
It is clear from IICSA’s final report that maintaining an open culture where issues can be safely raised, addressed and reported will be more important than ever in the coming years.