Staff working in childrens homes should be registered with an independent body to safeguard children, the interim report from the Independent Inquiry into child sexual abuse.
The Chair and Panel of the Inquiry recommended that the Department for Education introduces arrangements for the registration of staff working in care roles in children’s homes.
Registration should be with an independent body charged with setting and maintaining standards of training, conduct and continuing professional development, and with the power to enforce these through fitness to practise procedures.
The Chair and Panel recognise that registration may require a period of phasing in, and therefore recommend that priority be given to professional registration of children’s home managers.
“The Inquiry has seen that children in residential settings are particularly vulnerable to abuse by adults who are working in those settings and are responsible for their welfare. Yet there are no professional registration requirements in place for staff, other than social workers, working in children’s homes in England, unlike in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,” said the report.
“The Inquiry is concerned by the absence of professional registration for those working in care roles in children’s homes in England. It therefore recommends that the Department for Education addresses this,” it added.
It also considers that improvements should be made to the vetting and barring arrangements in England and Wales, currently managed by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) that considers the suitability of individuals to work with children.
The report highlights that organisations responsible for maintaining professional registers are not required to inform the DBS that a professional has been struck off their register. If this information is not passed to the DBS, then the DBS is unable to determine whether a professional should be barred from working or volunteering in that profession ‒ or any other regulated activity that involves children.
“As a matter of principle, the Inquiry recommends that there should be a legal duty for those organisations maintaining professional registers to share information with the DBS when an individual has been removed from a register because they pose a risk to children,” the Inquiry recommends.
“The Inquiry also considers that the DBS should ‒ on receipt of such information from an organisation ‒ automatically bar the professional concerned from working with children (which it is not currently required to do). This is subject to any representations that the individual would wish to make to the DBS if they considered a bar from working with children to be disproportionate or unfair,” it added.
Throughout the course of its investigation, the Inquiry found that a complaint had been made about a police force which dismissed an investigation into child sexual abuse being dismissed due to the length of time that elapsed since the sexual abuse took place.
The report highlights that as victims and survivors can take years or even decades to disclose the child sexual abuse they suffered, the Inquiry does not consider the amount of time that has passed since sexual abuse took place to be an appropriate reason not to investigate a complaint about an investigation into child sexual abuse. As a result, it recommends that the police service no longer use this as a reason not to investigate a complaint.
Furthermore, the Inquiry engaged the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to identify current levels of expenditure on support services for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. CIPFA was unable to identify current expenditure levels due to a lack of suitable financial data collected by the public sector agencies involved. The Inquiry raised concerns that funding pressures on public sector agencies make it difficult for them to fully meet their other statutory obligations and to increase investment in the prevention of child sexual abuse.
It recommends that the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Education, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office work together to establish current levels of public expenditure, and the effectiveness of that expenditure on services for child victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse in England and that the Welsh government does the same “as a matter of urgency”.
Further recommendations include:
- The Ministry of Justice should provide in primary legislation that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in civil court cases, where they are claiming compensation in relation to the abuse they suffered, are afforded the same protections as vulnerable witnesses in criminal court cases.
- The Department of Health and Social Care should develop a national policy for the training and use of chaperones in the treatment of children in healthcare services.
- The UK Government should establish a financial redress scheme for surviving former child migrants, providing for an equal award to every applicant. This is on the basis that they were all were exposed to the risk of sexual abuse.
- Any police officer wanting to progress to the Chief Officer cadre must first be required to have operational policing experience in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, and achieve accreditation in the role of the police service in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse. The College of Policing should develop the training content and accreditation arrangements.
Chair of the Inquiry Professor Alexis Jay said: “The Inquiry has a significant programme of work underway. We have held five public hearings and eight seminars. We have published the findings from two hearings and many research reports. Over 1,000 victims and survivors have now participated in the Truth Project.
“The Interim Report draws all this together and provides a clear account of our work so far. It sets out the key themes emerging from our work and where the Panel and I identify changes which we think will help better protect children, we say so. This report includes 18 new recommendations.
“We have much work still to do and evidence to hear - we will hold a further eight public hearings in the next 12 months alone, but we are making good progress.
“I indicated in December 2016 that I expected the Inquiry to have made substantial progress by 2020. I believe we are on target to do that and to make recommendations which should help to ensure that children are better protected from sexual abuse in the future,” she concluded.