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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

E.2: Regulation of the workforce

6. Certain institutions or settings (the workplace) and those working in them (the workforce) are regulated to ensure adherence to appropriate standards.

7. The criteria for workplace regulation depend on the type of setting involved and whether it is legally subject to regulation and inspection. Institutions with legal duties to safeguard children in their care – such as schools, nurseries, healthcare settings, children’s homes and some other social care services, the police and young offender institutions – are regulated and inspected against standards to ensure the welfare of children.

8. However, individuals working in those institutions are not necessarily subject to any form of workforce regulation, that is regulation based on their occupation. For example, children’s homes must be registered with and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) to ensure compliance with quality standards, but workers providing care for the children residing there are not regulated by an independent regulatory body.

9. As the Inquiry noted in the Interim Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (the Interim Report), regulation of settings responsible for the care of children by an independent regulator complements effective professional regulation of staff ‒ it does not replace it.[1]

The purpose of workforce regulation

10. Workforce regulation is intended to ensure that those in a specified occupation are suitably trained and held to appropriate standards of professional conduct. It is usually mandated in the interests of public safety and protection, such as where the occupation involves working with potentially hazardous materials or working with people in particularly vulnerable situations. It can provide public assurance that those who work with children are held to professional standards of competence, ethics and integrity by an independent regulatory body defined in legislation. For example, doctors in the UK are regulated by the General Medical Council, a public body which sets standards, maintains a register of members, assures the quality of professional education and development, and investigates complaints.

11. The scope of a workforce regulator may be wide-ranging and extend to several occupations within that sector. It may be limited to a specific profession. A number of different regulators may operate to regulate different occupations within one sector. For example, there are eight regulatory bodies which regulate specific occupations in the health sector in England and in Wales.[2]

12. The powers and functions of a workforce regulator can vary. Some regulators are limited to dealing with allegations of misconduct. Others have some or all of the following roles:

  • controlling admission to the profession;
  • maintaining a register and setting requirements for registration such as qualifications and background checks;
  • prescribing a level of continuing professional education or training, to enhance knowledge and keep up to date with good practice; and
  • maintaining professional standards by investigating and determining allegations of misconduct.

13. Where allegations of professional misconduct are made, whether or not this leads to referral to a regulatory body, employers may also use their own disciplinary process. The Inquiry encountered a number of instances where an employer’s internal disciplinary measures in response to allegations of misconduct were inadequate, lacking or poorly executed.[3]

14. Close or regular contact with children does not automatically result in legal regulation of a particular workforce. In the social care sector in England, for example, the only regulated occupation is that of qualified social workers, even though other individuals work closely with children and with vulnerable adults, such as care workers in children’s homes and care homes.[4] As set out below, there are several key areas in which greater workforce regulation would improve the protection of children.

The education workforce

15. Regulation of the education workforce varies considerably between England and Wales, but neither country has a comprehensive system of regulation.

16. The regulator in Wales is the Education Workforce Council (EWC), an independent body which drafts and maintains the code of professional conduct for education workers. It also accredits initial teacher training and keeps records of professional learning and development.[5] All teachers and headteachers, teaching assistants and learning support workers who work in the state-funded sector in Wales must be registered with the EWC. Registration is not compulsory for those who work in the independent (fee-paying) education sector, although independent school teachers in Wales may choose to register or be required to do so by some independent schools. The EWC also investigates and determines allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence, and may apply a range of sanctions, including prohibition from teaching. This misconduct jurisdiction extends only to registered workers.

17. As a result of this critical gap in the registration scheme, the education workforce in the independent sector in Wales is effectively unregulated. The Welsh Government has committed to extending the regulatory regime of the EWC by 2023 so that the workforce in the independent education sector in Wales would also be required to register, although the Inquiry notes that this was originally proposed in 2017.[6] In March 2022, in its Residential Schools Investigation Report, the Inquiry recommended that registration with the EWC be made compulsory for those working in independent schools in Wales.[7]

18. In England, there is no longer a system of registration for the education workforce. While teachers in state schools must complete teacher training and gain qualified teacher status (QTS), those who teach in state-funded academies or in independent schools are not required to register.[8] The Department for Education sets the standards of professional conduct for all individuals engaged in unsupervised “teaching work” in educational establishments, regardless of QTS status or whether they work in state-funded or private education.[9] Serious breaches – which could merit prohibition from teaching, the only available sanction – are investigated and determined by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).[10] Less serious misconduct as well as issues of competence are dealt with at a local level by schools.[11] As set out in the UK government’s April 2022 White Paper, there are 270,000 teaching assistants and 230,000 other support staff in schools.[12] However, the disciplinary regulations do not apply to most teaching assistants and learning support staff because they are “subject to the direction and supervision of a qualified teacher or … head teacher”.[13] This is a serious deficiency in the regulatory regime for those working in teaching roles in England.

19. In February 2022, the Department for Education launched a consultation on broadening the scope of the TRA’s misconduct provisions, but this did not include any proposal to widen its remit to include serious misconduct by teaching support staff working under the direction of teachers.[14] In its response to the consultation dated April 2022, the UK government confirmed that it would extend the teacher misconduct regime to:

  • include persons who commit misconduct when not employed as a teacher, but who have previously carried out teaching work;
  • a wider range of education settings (specifically further education as well as post-16 and online providers); and
  • make provision for the Secretary of State to consider referrals of serious teacher misconduct regardless of how the matter comes to their attention.[15]

20. The timescale for legislation implementing these changes is currently unclear but they do not address the issues identified above. In particular, they do not address the Inquiry’s recommendation in its Residential Schools Investigation Report, dated March 2022, that all teaching assistants, learning support staff and cover supervisors in England should be brought within the misconduct jurisdiction of the TRA.[16]

21. As at June 2022, responses are awaited from both the Department for Education and the Welsh Government regarding a number of recommendations concerning schools.[17] This includes a recommendation to introduce legislation to change the definition of full-time education to bring currently unregistered schools within the scope of registration if they are the principal place of education for the children who attend.[18] Registration means that the school must be inspected to ensure adherence to safeguarding standards and that those who teach in registered schools are regulated by the TRA or EWC.

Care roles in children’s homes

22. In its investigations concerning the sexual abuse of children looked after by local authorities, the Inquiry concluded that there had been sexual abuse of children in residential care by staff.[19] There were failures by staff to identify and act upon clear signs that children were being sexually abused and exploited by adults or other children,[20] and failures to respond appropriately to allegations of abuse.[21]

23. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, children’s residential care in England (whether provided directly by local authorities or by voluntary or private organisations) was often poorly resourced and managed, with residential care staff who were predominantly unqualified and received little, if any, training.[22] There have been a number of issues, including the “professional and social isolation” of residential care workers as well as a lack of development resulting in “outdated, insensitive or harmful practices”.[23]

24. In Wales, over a similar time period (1974 to 1990), the Waterhouse Inquiry into sexual and physical abuse of children in children’s homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd found similar issues with inadequate management and training of care staff. The 2000 report Lost in Care recommended that staff receive training to spot signs of abuse, senior staff should be trained social workers and post-qualification training in childcare should be made available to residential care staff.[24]

25. Since 2010, managers of children’s homes in England have been required to register with Ofsted and since 2015 have been required to obtain appropriate qualifications and undertake continuing professional development.[25] While Ofsted will assess the fitness of a person to manage a children’s home, it is not a workforce regulator. It has the power to de-register a children’s home which fails to meet standards, but does not have any disciplinary function by which to regulate registered managers and hold them to professional standards of competence and conduct. Other workers in children’s homes and other social care settings are not regulated in any way. There is no system of registration for the approximately 35,000 workers “mainly or solely providing care for children” (that is, in a care role) in England.[26] In Wales (as well as in Scotland and Northern Ireland), children’s social care workers must register with a regulatory body.[27] Social Care Wales sets requirements for and ensures sufficient provision of training, qualifications and continuing professional development, and also has disciplinary powers for dealing with misconduct, including de-registration.[28]

26. In April 2018, the Inquiry’s Interim Report recommended that the Department for Education introduce arrangements for the registration of staff working in care roles in residential care settings, with an independent body to maintain standards of training, conduct and continuing professional development and having the power to enforce such standards through fitness to practise procedures.[29] In July 2021, the UK government agreed in principle that professional regulation of staff in children’s homes in England could provide an effective additional means of protecting children and stated that it would keep the recommendation under review.[30]

27. This response is inadequate. Workforce regulation is necessary in order to better protect children in residential settings, including secure children’s homes. In May 2022, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, led by Josh MacAlister, published its final report and recommendations.[31] The review includes a recommendation requiring professional registration of the residential childcare workforce alongside professional standards, starting with the managers of children’s homes. The UK government has not yet committed to implement this recommendation, but is due to respond in full to the review later in 2022.[32]

28. The Inquiry therefore reiterates its recommendation that all staff working in care roles in children’s residential care settings, including secure children’s homes, are subject to registration with an independent regulatory body.

Recommendation 7: Registration of care staff in children’s homes

The Inquiry recommends (as originally stated in its Interim Report, dated April 2018) that the UK government introduces arrangements for the registration of staff working in care roles in children’s homes, including secure 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.

Staff in custodial institutions

29. As highlighted in Part D, children in custodial institutions are “very vulnerable children in a very dangerous place”.[33] In England and in Wales, children in custody are detained in one of three types of institutions – young offender institutions (YOIs), secure training centres (STCs, currently only operating in England) or secure children’s homes (SCHs). The Inquiry’s work has shown that the number of reported incidents of sexual abuse of children in custody is much higher than was previously understood. Staff were alleged to have been the perpetrators in almost half of all reported incidents, with this rising to over 60 percent of incidents reported by children in YOIs and STCs.[34]

30. In March 2019, the Inquiry’s Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 20092017 Investigation Report highlighted concerns that the workforce in custodial institutions is unregulated and that staff lacked specialist training, skills and qualifications.[35] Staff working in care roles (that is, mainly or solely providing care for children) in SCHs are legally required to have a qualification in residential childcare.[36] By contrast, even though working with children in custody is a highly skilled and demanding job, there was no requirement for staff providing care to children on a day-to-day basis in STCs or YOIs (such as prison officers) to have any childcare qualifications.[37]

31. There was particular concern in YOIs, where staff are drawn from the Prison Service and therefore may not have a specific motivation to work with children, or experience of doing so.[38] Prison officers who are untrained and inexperienced in working with children may lack both child safeguarding awareness and an understanding of the particular vulnerabilities of detained children.

32. The Youth Custody Service (YCS), responsible for the operational running of sites across the youth secure estate, told the Inquiry that there was a “drive to professionalis(e) the workforce in YOIs, STCs and SCHs”.[39] The Inquiry recommended that the YCS takes steps to ensure that its training provides staff with an appropriate understanding of safeguarding in the context of the secure estate, and that this training should be regularly reviewed and updated.[40] Following the publication of the Inquiry’s Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 2009–2017 Investigation Report, a review by the YCS in October 2019 noted that “Currently no YCS site appears to be delivering training to a standard that meets the needs of the population in which it serves”.[41]

33. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service introduced a requirement in March 2022 that all staff working with children in the secure estate must undertake specialist training to gain qualifications for working with young people and children.[42] This is a welcome development. Continuing professional development and training must be firmly embedded into the role of custodial care officers.

34. The YCS October 2019 review proposed that the YCS should develop a code of conduct for all adults working in the youth custody sector, and that guidance and supervision should include professional conduct. It is unacceptable that there are still no sector-wide standards for those working with such a vulnerable cohort of children.[43]

35. The introduction of minimum qualifications for staff working with children in the secure estate falls far short of professionalising the workforce through registration with an independent body.

36. The Inquiry’s 2018 Interim Report recommendation regarding the registration of staff working in care roles in residential care settings applied equally to staff working with children in SCHs. In February 2019, in its Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions Investigation Report, the Inquiry recommended that the Ministry of Justice introduce arrangements for the professional registration of staff in YOIs and STCs in roles responsible for the care of children in these settings.[44] In November 2021, the Ministry of Justice stated that it had reviewed evidence collected through a targeted consultation on professional registration and was considering the issue.[45] In May 2022, more than three years after the Inquiry’s recommendations regarding the children’s secure estate were published, the Inquiry was informed that the Ministry of Justice was considering the review and would subsequently publish a response to this recommendation. No timescale has been provided.

37. A requirement for all staff with responsibility for the care of children in the secure estate to register with a regulatory body would improve the quality of care and the protection of highly vulnerable children. The Inquiry reiterates its recommendation that the government introduces arrangements for the professional registration of staff in roles responsible for the care of children in young offender institutions and secure training centres.

Recommendation 8: Registration of staff in care roles in young offender institutions and secure training centres

The Inquiry recommends (as originally stated in its Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 2009–2017 Investigation Report, dated February 2019) that the UK government introduces arrangements for the professional registration of staff in roles responsible for the care of children in young offender institutions and secure training centres.


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