Sue Pascoe stood for election for Yorkshire and the Humber in the 2019 European Election, chairs the Conservative Women’s Organisation for North and East Yorkshire, and she is also on the Executive for the Conservative Disability Group.
With the political turmoil of recent times it will have been easy to have missed the publication of the final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. I gave evidence to the inquiry so I have been watching with great interest. The Inquiry has now concluded after seven years of sometimes harrowing work.
It really is time for politicians and the whole of society to sit up and take stock of the shocking and unacceptable findings of how some of our precious children have been and continue to be treated today. No longer can child abuse be swept under the carpet not to be spoken about or children to be ignored as ‘making it up’. The facts and the damage to our society that passes from generation to generation are far to plain to see.
Some statistics from the report:-
- There are nearly 13 million children in England and Wales, all deserve protection and to grow up safely and thrive
- It estimates that 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 20 boys experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16
- In March 2020, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 3.1 million adults in England and Wales had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16
- In December 2021, the Home Office published a study into the costs relating to children whose contact sexual abuse began or continued in the year ending March 2019. The estimated cost to society exceeded £10 billion
- Child sexual abuse and exploitation takes many forms but can involve vile and painful acts, including rape, some children are often degraded and abused by multiple perpetrators
- Historically, inadequate measures were in place to protect children from the risk of being sexually abused – sometimes there were none at all
- Individuals and institutions often thought children were lying when they tried to disclose what was being done to them and victims were frequently blamed as being responsible for their own sexual abuse
Child abuse in all its forms is not a problem consigned to the past, and the explosion in online-facilitated child sexual abuse underlines the extent to which the problem is now endemic. The devastation and harm caused by both sexual and physical abuse cannot be overstated – the impact of child sexual abuse, in particular, often lifelong, is such that everyone should do all they can to protect children.
Time and time again the most worrying aspect of the Inquiry was the amount of people who knew what was going on, had suspicions, ignored warnings signs, thought the child was not telling the truth when they were, deliberately covered up what was happening to protect the reputation of the organisations they worked in, often religious orders, thought someone else was dealing with the problem and many other excuses for leaving the child to continue to be exploited, all deeply concerning.
This leads to one of the main recommendations of the report which I wholly endorse namely, the introduction of a statutory requirement of mandatory reporting. In effect, it would require individuals in certain employments (paid or voluntary) and professions to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the relevant authorities. Failure to do so in some circumstances could lead to the commission of a new criminal offence of failure to report an allegation of child sexual abuse when required to do so.
I would hope that this could be taken on quickly as a cross party initiative and reach the statute book in record time. Our children deserve nothing less.
It’s clear that many children have been grossly let down by institutions that were there to protect them in the past. I welcome the recommendation of a national redress scheme for England and for Wales, to provide some monetary redress for child sexual abuse for those who have been let down by these institutions in the past.
I also think these institutions need to be subject to inspection so I welcome the third recommendation intended to secure the long-term spotlight on child sexual abuse through the creation of a Child Protection Authority (CPA) in England and in Wales. The CPAs will have powers to inspect any institution associated with children.
I also agree with the recommendation that our precious children need a voice at the top table, just as our great Veterans have, with the creation of a cabinet-level Minister for Children.
We all know that sexual and physical abuse of children in our society is wrong. We all have a responsibility to stamp it out and eradicate it from our society. All our children deserve our protection and to grow up safely and thrive.