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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

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


These recommendations reflect the Chair and Panel’s view that the culture and ethos of young offender institutions (YOIs) and secure training centres (STCs) must change, with a child‐centred approach to care and support replacing regimes currently focussed on control and discipline. Since these principles underpin the operation of secure children’s homes (SCHs) there is no reason why this cannot be achieved within YOIs and STCs.

The Chair and Panel were concerned that the Inquiry’s prevalence analysis indicates that the risk of sexual abuse faced by children in custody is greater than was previously understood. On that basis, these recommendations are intended to reduce the risk of sexual abuse faced by all children in custody.

The safeguarding review currently being undertaken by Sonia Brooks OBE for the Youth Custody Service provides an opportunity to respond positively to many of these recommendations.

The Chair and Panel ask that these recommendations be applied to the new secure schools model, as appropriate.

The Chair and Panel ask those to whom its recommendations apply publish their response, including the timetable involved. This should be done within six months of the publication of this report unless stated otherwise.

Recommendation 1

The Inquiry was told that children should only be placed in custody as a last resort. However, it was concerned to hear evidence that some children are remanded in custody because of a lack of appropriate community provision. Given that the proportion of children in custody on remand is so high, this is an issue of significant concern.

The Chair and Panel recommend that the Youth Custody Service commissions research into why the child remand population is as high as it is. If the reason is a lack of appropriate community provision (nationally or in certain areas), or otherwise unrelated to a genuine need for those children to be remanded in custody, the Chair and Panel recommend that the Youth Custody Service, with appropriate partner agencies, puts an action plan in place to address this.

Recommendation 2

The Chair and Panel recommend that the Department for Education and the Youth Custody Service conduct a full review of the practice of placing children for justice and welfare reasons together in SCHs to establish whether it increases the risk of sexual abuse to children. If so, appropriate action should be taken, including consideration of alternative models. The review should be completed within three months, and an action plan should be published within six months.

Recommendation 3

The Chair and Panel recommend that the Youth Custody Service 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 is regularly reviewed and updated.

Recommendation 4

As the Inquiry set out in its Interim Report, professional registration of the workforce in settings responsible for the care of vulnerable children complements regulation of institutions by a separate, independent regulator.[1]

The Government has agreed in principle that professional regulation of staff in children’s homes in England could provide an effective additional means of protecting children. It has indicated that it will be conducting an evidence‐gathering exercise to inform further action.[2]

The Chair and Panel now recommend that the Ministry of Justice introduces arrangements for the professional registration of staff in roles responsible for the care of children in YOIs and STCs. The Interim Report recommendation already applies to staff working with children in SCHs.

Recommendation 5

The Chair and Panel consider that the use of pain compliance techniques should be seen as a form of child abuse, and that it is likely to contribute to a culture of violence, which may increase the risk of child sexual abuse.

The Chair and Panel recommend that the Ministry of Justice prohibits the use of pain compliance techniques by withdrawing all policy permitting its use, and setting out that this practice is prohibited by way of regulation.

Recommendation 6

The Chair and Panel note that Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 08/2012, which sets out the mandatory actions for YOIs and STCs for ‘maintaining a safe and secure environment’, has expired. The Chair and Panel recommend that the Ministry of Justice revises and publishes this PSI to provide clear guidance on how custodial institutions must respond to allegations of child sexual abuse. This should include a requirement for all allegations to be referred to a child protection professional who is independent of the institution.

The Chair and Panel also recommend that all institutions, including those which are privately run, publish their safeguarding local procedures in full as well as regular reports about their use, to aid scrutiny and increase transparency.

Recommendation 7

The Chair and Panel recommend that the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education share policy responsibility for managing and safeguarding children in custodial institutions. This is to ensure that standards applied in relation to children in custody are jointly focussed on discipline and securing child welfare.

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