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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 2009-2017 Investigation Report

E.11: Education and information given to children

135. The Inquiry’s REA referred to:

  • the Howard League’s position that there is a need for greater sex education for children in custody, and a greater recognition of the need to acknowledge normal sexual experimentation[1] and
  • concerns that have been raised about the quality of induction processes used when a child arrives in custody, and the potential link between a lack of information that sexual abuse is prohibited and its prevalence.[2]

Sex and relationships education

136. Dr Laura Janes rightly stressed the importance of sex and relationships education, because if children do not recognise abuse this will be a barrier to reporting it.[3]

137. Peter Savage understood sex and relationships education is being widely taught in most of HMPPS’s establishments.[4]

138. However, Dr Laura Janes noted that the curriculum in YOIs and STCs is different from that in the community; her opinion was that some of the sex education in some STCs was very good but it needs to be on a rolling basis in custody because of the transient population. There are also gaps. For example, children do not routinely receive education about the relationship between sex and the law.[5] Children need to understand what abusive behaviour is as well as about their own sexual development and identity.[6] Staff also do not get routine training about talking to children about sexual behaviour, sexual identity, the law around sex and healthy sexual relationships. However, when Dr Janes spoke to staff about this, they have found it very helpful particularly when facing complex situations that require supporting children without crossing boundaries.[7]

139. Following DfE guidance, SCHs must produce a ‘Children’s Guide’ in ‘age appropriate’ language, through which children “must be supported by staff to understand what abuse is and what constitutes inappropriate behaviour”. [8][9] Margaret Whellans took us through the Aycliffe sex education materials which give guidance to children about appropriate boundaries, including that overtly sexual behaviour is not acceptable.[10]

140. Statistics suggest harmful sexual behaviour between children has increased. Alan Wood thought this risk might be reduced through training, sending a consistent message to children about bullying and sexually harmful behaviour in a clear and unambiguous way, proper sex education, proper risk assessment processes, and making support available to victims and alleged perpetrators.[11]

141. Professor Hackett said that factors which helped children disclose abuse include children being provided with information about sexual abuse that is developmentally appropriate, and frequent opportunities to talk about their concerns.[12]

142. Sara Robinson confirmed she had asked the Brooks review to consider whether key principles around sex education should be developed and provided to children.[13]

Information about procedures and rights

143. The SCHs ‘Children’s Guide’ explains how children can report concerns to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and provides details of helplines such as the NSPCC’s Childline. It also explains how to make a complaint and how the complaint will be dealt with. The policies for the protection of children from abuse and neglect must be available and explained to children and their families.[14][15]

144. In terms of more general information being given to children about their rights, Peter Savage and Sara Robinson accepted the SCH model described above could well be applied in YOIs and STCs.[16]


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