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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Safe inside? Child sexual abuse in the youth secure estate

Reporting safeguarding concerns

Children were not always aware of the formal process to report a safeguarding concern, but they reported they could talk to a member of staff if they had a problem. Children had different ‘rules’ about what they would and would not report and were unlikely to report incidents of child sexual abuse. This was due to a number of factors including: a lack of understanding of what constituted child sexual abuse; not wanting to get involved in other people’s business; not wanting to get themselves or others in trouble; and not wanting to be labelled a ‘snitch’ by other children.

Staff generally had a good understanding of safeguarding and were able to describe various behaviours that would be a concern. Views became more wide ranging and subjective when considering the more nuanced behaviours. There was no clear articulation of the official safeguarding process. Rather, staff members reported an individualised process that they would personally follow which included a variety of routes. Staff believed any issues raised would be adequately addressed but that there was room for improvement. Staff’s confidence in the referral process was being undermined as they were rarely made aware of the final outcome following their reporting of an incident. There was also a concern amongst some non-operational staff at the YOI that the needs of the establishment came first in response to safeguarding concerns rather than the welfare of the child.

Responding appropriately to safeguarding concerns relied on clear, open and timely communication between staff within an establishment as well as with external agencies. Good working relationships with the local safeguarding teams and the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) were a vital part of an effective safeguarding process. Staff reported that communication with external agencies was difficult at times, but had noted some recent improvements.

Based on our research, we have identified eight key findings. These research findings do not constitute formal recommendations by the Inquiry’s Chair and Panel and are separate from legal evidence obtained in investigations and hearings.

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