On 19 December 2018, the Government published its response to the recommendations set out in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) Interim Report (which was published in April 2018). The Government has committed to a number of measures to safeguard children and support victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. These include establishing a financial redress scheme for former child migrants; taking steps to ensure that government agencies are compliant with the Victims’ Code; revising the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to remove barriers faced by victims and survivors; considering the protections afforded to victims and survivors in the civil justice system and gathering evidence in relation to the recommendation that care staff working in children’s homes are professionally registered.
Read on for further details on some of the Government’s key commitments:
1. Establishing a financial redress scheme for former child migrants
The Government will establish a financial redress scheme to ensure that each surviving former child migrant receives a payment as soon as possible. Regardless of individual circumstances, all applicants will be entitled to payments payable as an award.
Due to the age and declining health of surviving former child migrants, claims for any former child migrant who was alive on 1 March 2018 will be accepted. In addition, the Government will continue the Family Restoration Fund, which reunites former child migrants with their families, until the end of the financial redress scheme.
2. Ensuring that agencies are compliant with the Victims’ Code
The Interim Report recommended that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Home Office and Attorney General commission a joint inspection of compliance with the Victims’ Code in relation to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.
The Government’s response refers to the cross-government Victims Strategy, published in September 2018, which sets out the Government’s commitments to improve support for victims of crime. Through the Strategy, the Government has committed to holding agencies to account for compliance with the Victims’ Code through improved reporting, monitoring and transparency on whether victims are receiving entitlements.
3. Revising the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to remove barriers faced by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
The cross-government Victims Strategy announced that Government will review the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) in order to ensure it can better serve victims of violent crime, including child sexual abuse and terrorism. The Government has published the terms of reference for the review, which will examine whether the CICS remains fit for purpose, reflects the changing nature of violent crime and effectively supports victims in their recovery. It will consult publicly on proposals in 2019. The Victims Strategy also sets out actions to improve access to compensation and the experience of victims making claims.
The Government also announced in the Victims Strategy that it will abolish the ‘same roof rule’ which denied compensation for some victims who continued to live with their attacker as members of the same family prior to 1979. Applicants who have been refused compensation under the ‘same roof rule’ will be able to reapply, provided they meet the remaining eligibility criteria.
4. Ensuring that victims and survivors can provide the best evidence in civil court cases
The Interim Report recommended that the MoJ provides in primary legislation that victims and survivors who bring civil court cases claiming compensation in relation to the abuse they suffered, be afforded the same protections as vulnerable witnesses in criminal court cases. The Interim Report also made further recommendations as to the associated costs and amendments to the civil procedure rules.
The Government’s response notes that at the request of the MoJ, the Master of the Rolls has agreed to the Civil Justice Council, which is the statutory body responsible for advising on the modernisation of the civil justice system, considering these issues. Work has commenced by seeking views and experiences of the civil judiciary and a sub-committee is looking at the issue with an aim to making recommendations. Following their recommendations, the MoJ will liaise with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee in relation to existing rules and whether any other provision about protection is appropriate.
5. Ensuring that care staff working in children’s homes are professionally registered
The Interim Report recommended that the Department for Education (DfE) introduces arrangements for the registration of staff working in care roles in children’s homes, with priority given to professional registration of children’s home managers. It recommended that registration should be with an independent body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for those professionals.
The Government will launch an evidence-gathering exercise to understand the impact of this recommendation. It agrees in principle that further workforce regulation could provide an effective means of protecting children but given the major change and potential consequences of such reform, it will evaluate the evidence in order to ensure that further action is informed by the best possible evidence.
6. Establishing the current level of support available for victims and survivors and public expenditure on these services
The Interim Report recommended that the Department of Health and Social Care, the DfE, the MoJ and the Home Office work together to establish current levels of public expenditure, and the effectiveness of that expenditure on services for child victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse in England.
The Victims Strategy announced the Government’s commitment to consider key areas of support, including support for victims of child sexual abuse, and to review the provision of victim support services across Government to improve coordination and targeting of funding. It will collate information from across departments on the methodologies they use to measure the effectiveness of spend on services for victims of child sexual abuse and present these finding to the Inquiry within one year. Further, the Sexual Assault and Abuse Partnership Board has agreed that it will supervise the implementation of this recommendation.
7. Other recommendations
The Government has taken a number of other steps to respond to the Interim Report, including ratifying the Lanzarote Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse and considering how the operation of the Disclosure and Barring Service and recommendations in relation to culture change within the police service.
This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.
All content on this page is correct as of January 22, 2019.