On 17 January Professor Jay and Ivor Frank, panel members of IICSA, along with John O’Brien, solicitor to IICSA, appeared before the House of Commons Education Committee. There was a wide ranging discussion not just limited to IICSA’s work in the education sector. Points of note are:
- IICSA will be unable to do anything beyond 31 March 2023 and will cease to exist then.
- There are concerns that the recommendations (interim and final) and their implementation will fall into a lacuna with no one taking any responsibility for them.
- The final recommendations should be viewed as an integrated package to protect children from abuse. Mr Frank was at pains to be clear that the recommendations were not a smorgasbord of recommendations from which the Government could pick and choose.
- Sexual abuse of children remains a continuing serious problem – it is not something on the wain which can be consigned to history.
- Online facilitated abuse is a huge issue and the speed of growth of such abuse should be a very very serious issue of great concern.
- After 31 March IICSA’s website will still exist but will be frozen in its current format. Some records will be held by the National Archives, some by the Home Office and those with personal information provided to the Truth Project will be destroyed
- The Panel are very keen on introducing a Child Protection Authority. There were clear concerns amongst the Committee about introducing another layer of bureaucracy.
- There was some discussion about the CPA having a role to play in any redress scheme although it was not clear exactly what that would be.
- With regard to a redress scheme reference was made to the success of the recommendation for a redress scheme in child migration which had been introduced swiftly and progressed quickly. Be that as it may a national redress scheme involving state and non-state institutions is a somewhat more complex matter and economic pressures are rather different now to those in December 2018 when it was announced.
- The Panel were asked what they thought about risks of false allegations. Their view was that if there is an open culture and proper investigation then that should be able to counter any false allegations, the instances of which they said they believed to be small, as had been confirmed by the insurance industry which reported few instances of false claims. That seemed to be potentially conflating two issues and circumstances.
- The change to the law on limitation is necessary as it currently acts as an engine of injustice. The proposed change would not mean a claimant is absolved from proving their case but the artificial barrier to having their case heard will be removed. S.33 discretion is not sufficient to ensure claims can proceed.
The members of the committee were very receptive to the concerns raised and to the findings of IICSA but there were no answers as to who will be responsible for taking forward the work of IICSA nor whether any of the recommendations will be accepted and implemented.