Child sex abuse inquiry chair slams government’s ‘disappointing’ response to recommendations

The head of a seven-year inquiry that found a “national epidemic” of child sex abuse in Britain has condemned the government for failing to accept all of its recommendations.

Suella Braverman announced consultations for a new victims’ redress scheme and mandatory reporting duty on Monday, but the government only partially accepted some calls from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and rejected others.

The chair of the inquiry, which was founded by Theresa May in 2015, said each of the recommendations made in October were “carefully considered”.

“We are deeply disappointed that the government has not accepted the full package of recommendations made in the final report,” she added.

“In some instances, the government has stated that a number of them will be subject to consultations, despite the extensive research and evidence-taking which the Inquiry carried out over seven years.

”The package announced by the government will not provide the protection from sexual abuse that our children deserve.”

IICSA found that there are tens of thousands of victims living in England and Wales - many suffering life-long effects on their mental health, relationships, education and employment prospects.

It said the true scale of abuse is unknown because it is under-reported and poorly chronicled by official statistics, with many survivors not feeling able to report their experiences for decades.

The inquiry called for significant changes including laws making failing to report abuse a criminal offence, the creation of a Child Protection Authority and a minister dedicated to the issue.

In its official response, the government rejected a recommendation to ban the use of “pain compliance techniques” on children, saying that officials could be “trained in the safe use” of such tactics in custody.

Suella Braverman defended the government’s response in parliament on Monday (PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
Suella Braverman defended the government’s response in parliament on Monday (PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

It said the education secretary “already fulfils the role” of a cabinet-level children’s minister, and did not commit to creating a stand-alone Child Protection Authority.

Several other recommendations were accepted in principle but are subject to “further assessment”, consultations and reviews, including IICSA’s core demands for a new redress scheme and guaranteed specialist therapeutic support for child victims of sexual abuse.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, who lobbied for the inquiry to be set up in 2015, told parliament that “accepting the need to act isn’t the same as acting”.

“We have had seven years of victims and survivors laying their stories out there,” she added. “Where is the funding? Where is the actual getting on with the recommendations?”

Children’s charity the NSPCC called the government’s response “disappointing” and lacked “concrete commitments”.

Head of policy Anna Edmundson added: “Children at risk of sexual abuse today need government to commit to and follow through with a step change in preventing abuse through reforming child protection and investing in support services. This and future generations deserve nothing less to protect them from the devastating harm of child sexual abuse.”

Report author Professor Alexis Jay said the government should ‘reconsider and accept and enact all our recommendations in full’
Report author Professor Alexis Jay said the government should ‘reconsider and accept and enact all our recommendations in full’

Ms Braverman defended the government’s response in parliament, saying the reforms proposed were “on a level not seen before” and would “mark a step change in our approach to child sexual abuse”.

The home secretary said: “We need to get it right, and if that takes time that is time well spent.

“I do not want to give victims and survivors the false impression that implementing these big commitments will just happen overnight.

“But what I can promise them is today heralds a new start, it signifies a change in direction and it represents an acknowledgement of what they’ve been through, of what they’ve testified and the work of this inquiry.”

The home secretary committed to introducing a new mandatory reporting duty across England that aims to address the systemic under-reporting of abuse, and consult survivors on a scheme to “properly acknowledge their suffering, deliver justice and an appropriate form of redress”.

The government said it was looking at improving the way police collect data on child sexual abuse to better understand the scale and nature of the crime, and would use the Online Safety Bill to keep children safe.

When IICSA’s final report was released, the government said it would respond in full to its recommendations within six months - which would have been in April.

Several recommendations made by IICSA in previous reports focusing on specific institutions and themes have not been implemented.

The inquiry revealed horrific accounts of rape, physical and mental abuse, sexual grooming and exploitation across institutions including schools, churches and children’s homes.

Authorities from local councils to the police were found to have repeatedly failed victims, by not protecting them and then failing to monitor abuse or react properly to their reports.

Victims were instead blamed for their own abuse, shamed and in some cases faced with orchestrated cover-ups to protect people in positions of authority.