Gary Walker reviews the IICSA Child Abuse inquiry report into compensation claims

5 Min Read

*Updated June 2021* The Independent Inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales published The Engagement with Children and Young People report on 24 June 2021.

The report has found that child sexual abuse victims and survivors were often accused of lying when trying to report the abuse to police. There were also complaints about not being kept informed throughout the police process. This left victims and survivors feeling disempowered and added further trauma.

The report is also critical of schools not doing enough to recognise and respond to child abuse and exploitation. An Ofsted report in June, found that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse were a routine part of school children’s daily lives. It also found that in schools, come children did not receive an education about sex and relationships when they did, it was inadequate. One young victim and survivor says in the report; “if we had the education, we would notice the abuse a lot sooner, and we would know the signs”.

The inquiry spoke to 56 victims and survivors between the ages of 11 and 21. The majority said there had been no conviction or prosecution in their case. The inquiry also interviewed 77 support workers. Some of them said that sometimes police are unfairly blamed for delays and non-convictions which were out of their hands. Many said that the police did a good job considering lack of resources.

For some victims and survivors this report may raise concerns about whether to report abuse to the police. We hope that these reports will raise awareness and lead to positive changes in the police and schools. So that individuals are encouraged to report to schools and or police, feeling confident they will be taken seriously and be respected throughout the process.

*Original story* The Government-sponsored Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published their investigation report on Accountability and Reparations which looks at how victims and survivors of abuse are treated by the compensation system.

I have been representing survivors of abuse for more than decade and was very pleased to read the detailed and thoughtful report. I also think it important to recognise the bravery of the survivors who were prepared to talk to the Inquiry about their experiences.

The report highlights a number of extremely important themes about the suitability of the current systems for survivors of abuse and the bafflement and distress that they endured through the process.

What the Inquiry was told

Many witnesses told the inquiry the litigation process was emotionally challenging and increased the trauma they had already suffered as children. Many felt dissatisfied with the outcome. Some of that dissatisfaction was because their claims had failed but others because they never received an apology or explanation, their voices had not been heard and justice had not been done.

I have heard this from many of my clients who have talked to me about how difficult they have found many aspects of bringing a claim. Sometimes this distress has been made worse by the conduct of the defendant who has refused to admit liability, refusing to accept that the abuse occurred, raising technical defences or simply just dragging their heels.

Many Abuse Survivors want an Apology

An interesting aspect of the Report, which all practitioners who work in this difficult area need to recognise, addresses the internal and external motivations for victims and survivors who choose to bring claims. While it was recognised that financial compensation was an important objective for some, it was rarely the primary motivation. Many wanted an apology and assurance that other children in care would be protected. Others wanted their voices to be heard or have their day in court.

This reflects what my clients have told me. Many times, it is not the amount of compensation they receive that is important but whether it comes with a meaningful and honestly remorseful apology and acceptance that the abuse did happen. I believe all practitioners need to listen to survivors about what they want to achieve through the process and defendants need to recognise the importance of non-monetary issues.

Recommendations of the IICSA Investigation Report

The Report makes a number of recommendations. I am particularly hopeful that the recommendations about securing therapeutic support for claimants during the conduct of the claim will be adopted by all defendants and insurers to ensure that survivors of abuse are able to receive support and treatment at the earliest possible stage and reduce the distress of prolonged litigation.

I hope that this Report will lead to changes in attitude, procedure and statute that allow victims and survivors to be properly compensated in a meaningful way through a holistic and thoughtful process.

Specialist Legal Help for Abuse Claims

Our specialist team at Enable Law will continue to advocate for those recommendations made by the Report and work with colleagues across the country to try and achieve the right outcomes for our client.