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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

C.1: Introduction

1. The vast majority of adults throughout the UK view the effective protection of children from harm as an essential component of a civilised society. Public opprobrium is rightly directed at not only those who deliberately set out to abuse children but also those who fail to protect children when they should do so. Institutions which bear statutory responsibility are required to ensure as far as possible that the right action is taken if children are at risk of harm. Scrutiny arrangements are in place to maintain good governance and accountability in respect of the institutions themselves and for the professionals and employees, as well as volunteers, who work in an institutional context.

2. While key professionals such as social workers and police officers have particular responsibility for protecting children from harm, all adults who work with, care for or look after children have a responsibility to keep children safe. Child sexual abuse occurs in many contexts and settings. The Inquiry’s work revealed physical violence as well as neglect and emotional harm that individually, or in combination, created an environment in which sexual abuse could take place.[1] It is virtually impossible to separate out the various forms of harm as if they occurred in isolation. The Inquiry has considered child protection throughout its investigations, where relevant.

3. Where institutions had child protection arrangements, in many instances there was often a lack of compliance with existing systems.[2] In order to make the further improvements necessary to protect children better in the future, a well-articulated and relentless focus on child protection is required. The economic and social costs of sexual abuse are significant. A recent study published by the Home Office estimated that, in the year ending March 2019, contact child sexual abuse alone cost society over £10 billion.[3] The challenges are therefore considerable and growing and, as set out in Part J, are likely to last well into the future, particularly as the UK recovers from the devastating consequences of a worldwide pandemic.

4. It is therefore important that child protection is given the priority it deserves. It should not be subsumed into other areas of practice within institutions or be permitted to drift into institutional obscurity. To address and respond to the complex challenges of child sexual abuse, the Inquiry recommends the establishment of independent Child Protection Authorities for England and for Wales. Their remit should cover sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect of children. To signify the importance attached to child protection, the Inquiry also recommends the establishment of a Minister for Children with cabinet status covering a wide range of responsibilities for children’s welfare. It should include child protection, so that children’s safety and well-being receive the attention they deserve.

5. Raising the profile of child protection and ensuring that members of the public are better able to identify concerns about child sexual abuse will also maximise society’s ability to protect children from harm. In order to do so, wider cultural and societal changes are required. To encourage discussion about child sexual abuse and to achieve the necessary cultural shift, the Inquiry recommends that there should be a wide-ranging programme to increase public awareness about child sexual abuse and the action to take if suspicions and concerns arise.


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