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Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings Investigation Report

on Monday, 29 November 2021.

In September the IICSA published a report following the conclusion of its investigation into child protection in religious organisations and settings. We summarise the report's main findings, recommendations and what this means for faith-based charities.

The Investigation

The purpose of the investigation was to build upon the findings and recommendations arising out of Inquiry's earlier investigations into the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. As part of this, the Inquiry set out to explore the following themes across all faiths:

  • the internal management of child protection issues in religious organisations and settings
  • the nature of child protection policies and procedures which currently exist within those organisations and settings
  • the process for identifying and recruiting individuals who provide activities for children, including the appointment of religious leaders
  • arrangements for responding to allegations of child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • processes for auditing and inspection and oversight of practices and procedures as well as the statutory framework regarding this

A full copy of the Inquiry's investigation report is also available online.

Main Findings and Recommendations from the Report

During the public hearings which took place over 16 days in 2020, the Inquiry heard evidence from 45 victims and survivors and 38 religious organisations in England and Wales.

The headline finding was that CSA has taken place across all organisations and in all faiths. This was regardless of characteristics, resources and size.

The Inquiry also found that ineffective internal record keeping meant the scale of offending is unknown and therefore likely to be significantly underestimated.  

The Inquiry's other findings included:




The Inquiry made the following recommendations at this stage:

  • All religious organisations should have a child protection policy and supporting procedures which are regularly updated and those in positions of leadership or who work with children should be required to undergo compulsory training.
  • The Government should amend the definition of full-time education to bring any setting that is the pupil's primary place of education within the scope of a registered school. With this in mind the Inquiry felt that Ofsted should be given sufficient power to scrutinise quality of child protection in the inspection of suspected unregistered schools.

Implications for Faith-Based Charities

Although the Inquiry did identify examples of good practice in some areas, the report sends a strong moral message to religious organisations and settings who are considered to prioritise their own reputations above child protection.

Noting the Inquiry's recommendations, you may wish to use this time as an opportunity to review your existing child protection polices to ensure their approach reflects the existing Charity Commission recommendation that child protection policies set out basic standards, are updated regularly to reflect latest guidance and practice, audited annually or periodically by an external agency and accessible by all members of the organisation.

Bearing in mind that trustees have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect from harm those people who come into contact with the charity, you should review your existing culture and values to assess whether there are any barriers to reporting and/or how existing process and systems can and do support victims who may come forward.

You may also wish to evaluate what child protection training is currently provided to those in leadership as well as individuals who work with children, and the quality and frequency of this. As ever, comprehensive record keeping will help an organisation to document steps taken and create an audit trail of best practice in child protection.

What Next?

Having described the 'moral turpitude' of the failings it identified, the Inquiry is clearly building a case for significant change and improvement in the management of CSA across all faiths.

The Inquiry will publish its final report in due course which will include exploration of such wider issues as vetting and barring, and the extent to which the voluntary sector can and should be regulated and legislated.

Consistent with our experience from the Residential Schools Investigation and the subsequent publication of the DfE's statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education which introduced a requirement to report low-level concerns - there are also calls for the introduction of mandatory reporting of CSA in religious organisations and setting, although the extent to which the Inquiry may or will adopt this approach remains to be seen.

We advise many religious charities and organisations and we have a extensive experience on the Inquiry, historic and current safeguarding concerns, safeguarding governance and school registration issues.

For more information please contact Shivaji Shiva on 07788 313298 in our Charities team, or Natalie Wargent on 07468 698955 if you would like any support on these issues. Alternatively, please fill in the form below.

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