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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils Investigation Report

A.1: Background

1. This is the second of three investigations considering the sexual abuse of children in the care of local authorities.[1] In this report, we focus on children in the care of Nottingham City Council (the City) and Nottinghamshire County Council (the County) (together, the Councils). Specifically, we consider the nature and extent of allegations of sexual abuse of children in the care of the Councils, the response of the Councils, Nottinghamshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service to those allegations, and the steps taken to protect children in care in light of them.

2. Until 1974, in Nottinghamshire, responsibility for children in care was divided between the County, Nottingham Borough Council (the precursor to the City) and the Home Office. Between 1974 and 1998, the County was the sole local authority responsible for all children in care across the city and the county. Since a local government reorganisation in 1998, the City and the County have been two separate local authorities. Where we refer to a geographical area including both the County and the City, we use the term ‘Nottinghamshire’.

3. The two Councils are responsible for a geographical area of approximately 2,160 square kilometres.[2] In 2017, there were roughly 818,000 people living in the County[3] and 329,000 in the City.[4] 

4. The number of children in care within the area covered by the Councils has fluctuated over time. 

Table 1   Number of children in care per 1,000 children 



Nottinghamshire County 

Nottingham City

1973a 6.8 3.9 14
1989b 5.7 8.6c 15.9d
2002e 5.4 3.1 9.5
2009f 5.4 3 7.9
2013g 6 5.4 9
2018h 6.4 4.8 9.1

a NSC000526_4; b NSC000104_20-21; c This figure includes children who were located within the City area but were in the care of the County (NSC000104_21); d This figure does not relate to children who were in the care of the City (which did not exist at that time), but to those who were in the care of the County and located in the City (NSC000104_21); e Statistics of Education: Children Looked After by Local Authorities, Year Ending 31 March 2004, Volume 2: Local Authority Tables, Department for Education and Skills, March 2005, pp5–6; f Children Looked After in England 2009–2013; g Children Looked After in England 2009–2013; h Children Looked After in England 2014–2018

The City’s consistently higher proportion of children in care is likely to reflect its higher levels of deprivation.[5] Both Councils saw a significant reduction in these numbers between 1989 and 2002, as more community-based services for children were developed.

5. In terms of residential care provision, the City now has seven registered children’s homes (managed within children’s social care) and, since 2015, has had no children’s homes with more than four long-term beds.[6] It also places children in its care in 19 children’s homes run by private or voluntary organisations,[7] but a “high proportion” of children in residential care are placed outside the City, in children’s homes run by other local authorities, due to a lack of available placements.[8] The County has six registered children’s homes[9] and, as at March 2018, had 93 children who were placed in children’s homes, 79 percent of whom were in privately-run homes.[10]

6. Foster care has long been the preferred placement for the majority of children in care. The most recent figures suggest approximately 63 percent of children in the care of the County,[11] and 73 percent of children in the care of the City,[12] are in foster care. Similarly, of those in foster care, 43 percent of those in the County and 56 percent of those in the City are placed through independent fostering agencies.[13]

7. In early 2010, local media in Nottingham reported that a number of people who had spent time in children’s homes between the 1970s and the 1990s alleged that they had been sexually abused by staff. As the number of allegations increased, Nottinghamshire Police initiated a dedicated investigation, Operation Daybreak, which is now part of the ongoing Operation Equinox. By 2014 or 2015, the media focus shifted to the apparent lack of outcomes from the police investigations or action by the Councils. Locally, there was a widespread perception that the allegations had not been properly investigated, as there had not been (at that time) any prosecutions as a result. 

8. Between the late 1970s and 2019, in Nottinghamshire, the Inquiry is aware of:

  • 16 staff convicted of sexual abuse against more than 30 children in residential care;
  • 10 foster carers convicted of the sexual abuse of approximately 25 children in their care;[14]
  • three foster carers convicted of the sexual abuse of seven children not in their care;
  • two relatives of foster carers convicted of sexually abusing two children in foster care; and
  • 12 convictions in relation to harmful sexual behaviour between children in care. This figure only includes those cases which we know resulted in a conviction or a caution. We do not have an accurate number of substantiated cases. There are large numbers of allegations which were regarded as substantiated at the time by the County’s children’s social care service, and some in which charges were recommended. However, we do not have evidence of convictions in these cases.[15]

Further detail of these convictions is included in Annex 3.


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