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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection in religious organisations and settings Investigation Report


A.1: The background to the investigation

1. Religious organisations play a central role in the lives of millions of children in England and Wales. The Charity Commission estimates that there are over 34,000 registered faith-based organisations, although it cannot break them down into the services provided.[1] Religious activities, and social and cultural activities related to religion or that take place in a religious setting, often form a large part of children’s time outside full-time schooling.

2. Since the 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent prioritisation of statutory services by local authorities, there has been a significant move away from youth services – educational, social, play, sporting, cultural or leisure provision for those under 18 years old – being provided by the state. The vast majority of this provision is now provided by voluntary organisations or charities.[2] A significant amount is provided by religious organisations – from religious classes to summer camps, from football coaching to language classes. Despite this, there has been little research into how religious organisations and settings manage and run this provision, and little focus on how they keep children safe.[3]

3. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (the Inquiry) conducted two detailed investigations into child sexual abuse within the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church.[4] Although these remain the two largest religious organisations that individuals in England and Wales attend, participate in or belong to, there are many other faiths with which a significant proportion of the population identify. It was therefore important that we consider child protection arrangements in a wide range of religious organisations and belief settings.

4. Evidence was obtained from a number of religious organisations in England and Wales about the activities they undertake with children, and their child protection arrangements. Each religious organisation that provided evidence to the Inquiry stressed its dedication to stamping out child sexual abuse, and categorically said that its religion does not tolerate it. This investigation did not examine the beliefs of any faith or organisation. It examined organisations’ statements of intent about the protection of children and to what extent they were reflected in their policies and practices. As a result of this investigation, a number of religious organisations have told us that they have altered, improved or recognised the need for policies and procedures in respect of child sexual abuse.

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