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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

The Curtis report

11. After the Second World War, childcare professionals became anxious about the welfare of those children who had been “deprived of a normal home life” during the War. This led to the establishment of the Care of Children Committee (the Curtis Committee), which reported in 1946 (the Curtis report).[1] 

12. The Curtis report noted that those selected for migration were only those “of fine physique and good mental equipment”, which it considered were “precisely the children for whom satisfactory openings could be found in this country”. On that basis it concluded that child migration as a “method of providing for the deprived child” was “not one that we would specifically wish to see extended”.[2] 

13. The Curtis Committee concluded that migration should remain an option for “suitable” children who expressed a desire for it, but that they would “strongly deprecate their setting out in life under less thorough care and supervision than they would have at home”. On that basis they recommended that “it should be a condition of consenting to the emigration of deprived children that the arrangements made by the government of the receiving country for their welfare and aftercare should be comparable to those we have proposed in this report for deprived children remaining in this country” (our emphasis).[3]

14. The arrangements that the Curtis Committee had proposed for children remaining in the UK involved children being cared for in some kind of surrogate family care (i.e. fostering or adoption). Or, if institutional care were required, children should not be cared for in the type of large institutions that were common in the nineteenth century, but the “cottage homes” that had developed pre-War, with no more than around a dozen children, and a “surrogate mother” who was suitably trained.[4]

15. The Curtis report stated that children should go to the local school, be free to bring friends from school back to their cottage, be able to join the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides, go swimming and do things of that nature, have access to an up-to-date library, toys, games and a wireless and should generally have the same social experiences as if they were living with their natural parents.[5]

16. Moreover, every effort should be made to enable the children to remain in contact with their relatives (unless there was a basis for thinking that contact would do them harm). Corporal punishment should be entirely prohibited for the children irrespective of age and gender, given their particular vulnerability,[6] and “nagging, sneering, taunting indeed all methods which secure the ascendancy of the person in charge by destroying or lowering the self-esteem of the child” were deprecated.[7]

17. The Curtis report was a defining moment in the history of childcare in this country.[8] 

The 1946 Curtis report set out clear expectations for future childcare practice and was explicit in its expectations of the care to be given to child migrants.

The evidence shows that the Curtis Committee recommendations were accepted by HMG, and the Home Office became responsible for their implementation at home and overseas.

However as will become apparent from our analysis that follows, HMG failed to ensure that the Curtis Committee expectations were implemented in respect of child migrants, and HMG has since accepted as much.[9]



  1. Constantine 27 February 2017, 138-139; EWM000286_179, para. 515
  2. Constantine 27 February 2017, 138-139; EWM000286_179, para. 515.
  3. Constantine 27 February 2017 134-139; 9 March 2017 108-109; and 10 March 2017 78-84; Lynch 9 March 2017, 100-108. We also note that in the 1993 paper written by Jim Richards (then Director of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster)), he said that this clearly placed “an onus on the senders to ensure on a regular basis that the receiving arrangements were as good as the children should expect to have under Curtis in the U.K.”: CCS000211_006.
  4. It was noted by Jim Richards in his 1993 paper that in 1946, the CCWC was making plans for the training of childcare staff in England, whilst at the same time discussing the sending of children to Australia where they knew childcare staff were totally untrained in residential work: CCS000211_014.
  5. Constantine 27 February 2017, 138-139; EWM000286_179, para. 515.
  6. On this issue we note that corporal punishment was also circumscribed by Western Australian regulations in 1934: it was only to be used as a “last the presence of a witness by the manager or the schoolmaster under the direction and on the responsibility of the manager”; it was not to be used for “trivial breaches of discipline or dullness”, it was to be administered by “strokes with a cane inflicted on the hands” and a record had to be made: Cosgrove 1 March 2017 94-95.
  7. Constantine 10 March 2017 83-84.
  8. The recommendations of the Curtis report formed the basis of the Children Act of 1948: Constantine 27 February 2017, 143/12-21.
  9. Constantine 27 February 2017 140-146 and 10 March 2017 84
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