There were three investigations within the IICSA that focused on Local Authorities.
- The first was Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale. This investigation examined allegations made about the sexual abuse and exploitation of children including by former Liberal Party MP, Cyril Smith.
- The second was considering the experiences of children in Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Councils from the 1960s onwards, specifically focusing on the issue of sexual abuse in residential and foster care, which was identified as being widespread.
- The third investigation related to Lambeth Council, the Inquiry examined the scale and nature of sexual abuse experienced by children In Lambeth over several decades since the 1960s.
Each investigation has induvial reports however in conclusion failures were found in relation to all three of the investigations.
In relation to the Rochdale investigation, the Inquiry concluded that senior officials in social services failed to apply any urgent response and action to the problem of sexual abuse, specifically at Knowl View; with a council leader found to be lying to the Inquiry when asked whether they were aware of the abuse that had occurred. As a consequence, as well as children continuing to be abused, it later led to victims and complainants being without the opportunity to seek justice against their perpetrators.
The conclusions from the Nottinghamshire councils’ investigation were equally as damning; the Inquiry concluded that the councils failed in their statutory duty to protect children who were placed in foster and residential care who were frequently sexually abused by foster carers and care staff.
The third and final investigation into Lambeth uncovered sexual abuse so severe and frequent that they the inquiry commented that ‘…it is hard to comprehend the cruelty and sexual abuse inflicted on the children…’. These comments relate to their findings on both children’s’ homes and foster care in the area.
The final report published on 20 October 2020 gave an overall perspective on the findings in relation to Local Authorities.
The inquiry highlighted the overall difficulties in obtaining information and statistics from authorities such as councils and blamed poor data collection and inconsistent approaches on the collection of data.
Commenting on failures from an organisational point of view, it was found that there were many common features such as failures in leadership, lack of concern for children’s welfare and inadequate child protection, which featured significantly in residential/foster care.
An issue that arose frequently was that of abuse in foster care and residential care; an issue that is often seen in civil claims. The final report recognises the lack of availability of foster and residential care nationally; especially those placements which can protect children who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing child sexual exploitation.
‘The Inquiry’s Conclusions and Recommendations for Change’ include 20 recommendations to ‘…tackle systemic weaknesses in organisations and practices which have left children vulnerable to abuse, exposed them to harm or denied them access to justice’.
Many of these recommendations impact local authorities, however of particular relevance are mandatory reporting, the proposed creation of the Child Protection Authority (which will have powers to inspect any institution associated with children), the amendment of the Children Act 1989 to give legal protection to children in care and also registration of care staff in residential care, as well as staff in young offender institutions and secure training centres.
It is now up to the Government to take into consideration the very serious findings within the Inquiry’s final report and act on those recommendations.