We have outlined the key aspects of the report and provided our recommendations moving forward.
Boarding schools will be particularly interested in the update on the Residential Schools investigation at Annex A. Reassuringly, the Inquiry has indicated that it intends to take a thematic review for the sector (rather than focussing on individual schools) considering issues such as governance, reporting and whistleblowing, recruitment and termination of employment, inspection and monitoring, and culture. This will be informed by evidence from complainants, whistle-blowers and institutions and they expect to hold public hearings into each theme. The Inquiry has also identified particular focus areas, including peer on peer abuse and SEN, and it will publish an update on its approach to these areas in due course. The investigation will open its application window for core participants in September 2018 and hold a preliminary hearing in January 2019 next year.
The report sets out the key themes arising from the Inquiry's work and identifies a general reluctance to accept that child sexual abuse (CSA) has taken place or caused harm, or indeed to discuss it openly and frankly as a principal concern. Senior leaders are called upon to "be more open and honest in recognising failures to protect children from sexual abuse in the past". The Inquiry calls for effective leadership and cross-societal cultural change in dealing with CSA and also highlights issues relating to staff practice and safe recruitment. It points out that these issues are key themes, which have been commonly identified not just by them but by previous investigations into abuse.
Historic failure to take responsibility or attempts to deflect it is criticised as being "irresponsible and understandably offensive" to victims and calls are made for those who have not yet apologised for their role, to give such apologies as soon as possible and not only through public statements but directly to those affected. Institutions should improve the way they respond to victims and while this will be considered further by the Inquiry, that should not prevent the review of existing procedures now, to ensure that they are appropriate and effective. Victims should be treated with sympathy and understanding and the Inquiry sets an expectation that institutions will take responsibility for their conduct, irrespective of how much time has passed.
Many victims have reported difficulties accessing records relating to their childhood and further recommendations of wider import than those specifically addressed in the report, and ensuring robust systems for retaining, preserving and facilitating easy access to any remaining records that may contain information about CSA.
The ICCSA report sets out 18 new recommendations for change to better protect children from sexual abuse. These include:
The Chair of the Inquiry has stated that she expects each institution to act on the recommendations and, in the interests of openness and transparency, to publish details of the steps they will take in response, including the timetable involved.