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Switalskis Opening statement to IICSA Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation

 

 

THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

_______________________________________________________________

 

Opening on behalf of PACE

_______________________________________________________________

 

 

  1. I represent a third sector organisation called PACE UK “Parents Against Child Exploitation”. It is a charity whose main aims are:

 

  • To enable parents and carers to safeguard and stop their children being exploited.
  • To provide evidence and specialist advice to demonstrate to councils and the police that parents and carers have an essential role in safeguarding.
  • PACE works with parents and partners to disrupt and bring perpetrators to justice.
  • PACE influences national and local policy and practice to reflect the active safeguarding role of parents and the impact on families of child exploitation.
  • PACE sustains long term change by training partners in the active role of parents and carers safeguarding their children.
  • PACE advocates that parents are a major part of the solution and should be central to the system of tackling exploitation.
  • PACE recognises that just as every child is unique, every family’s situation requires an individual response. Consequently PACE offers one-to-one telephone support for parents whose children are being sexually exploited, or for those who are concerned their child is at risk.

 

  1. This organisation’s parent support workers provide independent, non-judgmental and confidential support, which fully recognises the rights of parents in decisions on how to reduce the risk of harm to their children. PACE listens to parents’ concerns, gives information on statutory agencies and procedures and passes on advice from other affected parents, should it be required. PACE never blames parents for what is happening to their child.

 

 

  1. Many local authorities and police and crime commissioning offices fund PACE to provide dedicated support to parents of sexually and criminally exploited children. PACE works in multi-agency teams tackling child exploitation. This enables parents to gain the understanding and support they need about what is happening to their child, share information they have to assist with the police investigation, and strengthen their ability to cope and reduce risks to the child.

 

  1. PACE is currently commissioned in 7 areas: Blackburn with Darwen, Rochdale, North Yorkshire, Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield and Liverpool.

 

  1. Evidence shows that where PACE is embedded in the system safeguarding outcomes are much improved with a reduction in missing from home episodes, a reduction in children going into care. This is because parents’ ability to cope is strengthened.

 

  1. A report commissioned by PACE UK and researched by academics Nancy Pike, Maria Langham and Sarah Lloyd was published on 24th January 2020. The report is published on the PACE website.

 

  1. The study involved two parent focus groups of 11 parents and 1 grand-parent who had previously received support from PACE, and in-depth interviews with 20 individual parents. All participants had received support from PACE in the recent past (between April 2016 and March 2018). Key findings are these;

 

  1. Parents initially contacted Children’s Social Care for help when they realised their child was being sexually exploited. The responses they encountered led them to believe that Children’s Social Care services were ill-equipped to deal with this form of exploitation. Parents reported a lack of understanding of child sexual exploitation among Children’s Social Care staff and a failure to address the risks and harms their child was facing. They frequently described the following issues;
  • There were often considerable delays between parents raising their concerns with Children’s Social Care and receiving any response. Delays had ranged from one month to two years with many families waiting over 3 months for an initial assessment.
  • There was a lack of understanding of CSE amongst social care staff who often minimised or dismissed the risks and harms a child was facing.
  • Interventions usually only focused on either the exploited child or the parents. There was little focus on the disruption or prosecution of perpetrators and consequently abuse was able to continue.
  • Parents frequently felt alone in managing the threats to their child and putting safety measures in place. Even when exploitation and abuse escalated and a child’s distress manifested in violent outbursts, depression, self-harm or suicide attempts, parents were mostly left to cope alone.
  • Parents described being treated as ‘inadequate’ or being seen as in some way ‘to blame’ for their child’s exploitation. Some had been offered generic parenting courses, but none had been offered training relating to sexual violence or supporting victims of CSE.
  • There was rarely much attempt by social care staff to engage meaningfully with the exploited child or build a trusting relationship with them.
  • Social care staff displayed little trauma-awareness either in terms of understanding a child’s behaviour or understanding the impact of secondary trauma on other family members. In some instances, parental distress had been interpreted as evidence of an inability to be a good parent.
  • Parents’ difficult relationships with Children’s Social Care depleted their energy and sometimes exacerbated already challenging situations putting their child at even greater risk.
  • Some parents reported having a supportive relationship with an individual member of children’s social care staff, but even where this was the case, they did not feel supported by the Social Care system as a whole.

 

  1. The scene is not entirely negative. By way of positive examples;

 

  1. Alexis Jay’s Rotherham Report has served as a catalyst. Her report on the extent of CSE in Rotherham published 6 years ago in August 2014 was a turning point for many working in the field of CSE. The report laid bare the institutional bias and hostile culture against victims and their families and vindicated everything that PACE had been saying since its inception in 1996.

 

 

  1. In terms of the Government Response to Rotherham, Local Children’s Safeguarding Boards have been given a mandatory duty to tackle CSE.
  2. Child sexual abuse was given the status of “national threat” in the Strategic Policing Requirement so it is now prioritised by every police force.

 

  1. Yet the PACE experience shows that in practice these changes have not translated into good coal face practice. Many practitioners are struggle to get their heads round the complexity of CSE and how to best respond.

 

In the opinion of PACE Social Care are still working to a child protection model based on;

  • Young children not teenagers
  • Abuse within the home not outside
  • Children seen in isolation and not as part of a family, and by implication only professionals can provide solution to CSE
  • PACE sees parents who are traumatised by seeing their child victimised and abused and who want to do everything in their power to help. Yet still they are treated as part of the problem.
  • PACE wants parents recognised as the central resource in the fight against exploitation.

David Greenwood

 

IICSA Accountability and Reparations closing submissions from David Greenwood

INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Accountability and Reparations Hearing

November 2018 to December 2018

 

Closing Statement by David Greenwood on behalf of Core Participant Peter Robson

  1. Mr Robson is a survivor physical and sexual abuse at The Stanhope Castle School, having been sent there at the age of 11. He describes it as a brutal place which has left him hating himself and as we saw from his evidence has left him with great difficulties in relating to others. He has diminished life chances, received a poor education and is deserving of compensation. He gave evidence to the police after 2013 but was told that his abuser could not be traced. He was advised by the police to seek Criminal Injuries Compensation and did so when he became aware of this Inquiry and was advised to do so by Howe & Co. His Criminal Injuries Compensation Application has been refused and it is only after a review that he has recently been awarded Criminal Injuries Compensation.
  2. He has been advised on a potential Civil Claim but at present feels that the process would be so long, complicated and arduous that he does not wish to put himself through it.
  3. Quite apart from apologies and bringing abusers and those who have enabled them to account this Inquiry has revealed serious deficiencies with our compensation system.
  4. Criminal Compensation Orders through the Criminal Courts are rarely ordered by Judges.
  5. Criminal Injuries Compensation is difficult to access. Form filling puts off the uneducated. Lawyers take a cut. Time limits are usually invoked by the Criminal Injuries Compensation. Convictions (often brought about as a result of responses to abuse and bad treatment in childhood) are used to defeat applications. Review and Appeal procedures are complicated and time limited. There is no integrated system of support. There is no free advice service.
  6. Civil Compensation are inherently difficult. Changes to the Law in 2013 mean that Lawyers again take a cut and Legal Aid is usually unavailable. Limitation Laws are interpreted by inexperienced Judges who have absolute discretion. Most Defendants fight cases by using Limitation as a weapon. There have been no moves by Parliament to change the system. Claimants’ credibility is attacked during the exploration by Defendants of prejudice. To even consider that prejudice to a Defendant could outweigh the prejudice to a Claimant survivor of child sex abuse of not being able to bring a claim does claimants a massive injustice. The legal bar on limitation should be scrapped. It has caused substantial confusion and unnecessary misery. Claims should be decided on whether the abuse occurred. To add further insult psychiatrists unsympathetic to Claimants are deployed to attack Claimants’ credibility.
  7. Success is often dependent on which insurer an institution is insured with. Lambeth, Liverpool, National Children’s Home and Devon Council settled their cases. Conversely RSA rarely settle cases unless they have exhausted all legal avenues.
  8. The process is attritional. Many hear about it like Mr. Robson and decide not to pursue it. Many drop out during the process.
  9. Overall it is a lottery as to which opponent is insured with which insurance company and also a lottery in terms of the attitude of the Defendant. Councils tend to see the justice in recognising that compensating victims should be a priority. Insurers generally don’t There are exceptions such as Ecclesiastical and sometimes Zurich. It should be said that the quality of claimant lawyers also varies.
  10. All this is confusing to claimants. It needs to be simplified. The system is not fair. It needs to be fair
  11. The solution is for the establishment of a scheme which incorporates the following features;
    1. The eligibility for compensation is decided on the balance of probabilities.
    2. Time limits will not be in play.
    3. Damages are assessed broadly, taking into account how life chances have been affected.
    4. Claimants can be signposted to good local support agencies and support can be paid for and provided quickly.
    5. The abuser or the institution will pay for the compensation paid to the Claimant.
    6. Where non-institutional abuse is considered, payments will be underwritten by the Government (these cases falling out of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme).
    7. Lawyers will be paid to advise on cases and help guide Claimants through the process.
    8. There will be an appeals system.
    9. Institutions will be required to consider providing an apology and will be required to make a statement of what steps are now in place to prevent child abuse in their organisation.
    10. The Body will have the power to compel disclosure of evidence.
    11. Claimants will have the option of taking their case through the Civil Courts but without double recovery.
    12. I have put together a draft scheme which will be emailed to the Inquiry Solicitors for distribution.  I hope you will read and consider the draft.
    13. David Greenwood
    14. 12 December 2018

New book on church responses to child sex abuse allegations – Responding Badly by David Greenwood

Click here to see the book cover


All royalties from this book go to the support organisation which helps support and signpost survivors of clergy sex abuse, MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors).

Click here for the link to Responding Badly on Amazon

Numerous isolated examinations of particular clergy child sex abuse cases have been published but this book digs deeper than the narrative and explores the cultures of churches, their internal dynamics and self-protection mechanisms. It isolates failings and suggests positive and achievable solutions ahead of the Independent inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”). This book looks at the issue from an institutional perspective as opposed to the individual case. For the last two decades we have seen countless clergy abuse scandals covered in the news. Year after year there have been clergy in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches prosecuted. Suspected cover-ups have been exposed. Case reviews have taken place yet the UK Government has allowed the churches to continue to govern themselves on safeguarding issues. This book opens up publicly:- • the scale of the problem, • the cost to individuals and society of child sexual abuse (“CSA”), • the obstructive attitude of both churches, • the internal culture of the churches, • the dynamics of power relationships in churches, • The legal and psychological barriers against reporting, • Case studies of cover ups in both churches, • The failures of our criminal and civil justice systems with solutions, • Plans for reform and independent resolution of CSA reports, The state has repeatedly failed to intervene and has allowed religious organisations to police themselves with dire consequences. This has led abusers to feel relatively safe to commit sex crime without being brought to account. Organisations have put their good name before the protection of children. Abusing clergy have been moved between parishes, dioceses, and countries when discovered. The book sets out to demonstrate the effects of abuse, how they have festered and what is needed for the future. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England are singled out although the power relationships and lack of effective responses apply to almost any institution from which vulnerable individuals from time to time seek help. Decision makers in schools, other religions, social services, caring professions, young offender institutions, and youth movements should look with introspection for parallel bad practice in their organisations. This book sets out some of the issues to be examined by the Inquiry in digestible detail. The book concludes that an entirely independent body should be established to receive and deal with all institutional allegations of CSA, providing uniformity of approach and establishing trust with disaffected survivors. This conclusion and references throughout to the proposed approach being suitable for schools, detention centres, children’s homes and youth groups, broadens the appeal of the book to institutions responsible for children’s’ welfare. Clergy in both churches and those with interest institutions to be examined in the IICSA are likely to be readers. Survivors of Clergy abuse will read with interest.