The government is to launch a compensation scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in England, the home secretary has said.
The scheme is in response to the findings of a seven-year inquiry that revealed failings by schools, local authorities and other institutions to protect and safeguard the children in their care.
The announcement, made in the Commons by the home secretary, Suella Braverman, followed the publication last October of a report by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA), which found children had faced “limitless” cruelty with the complicity of institutions.
The 458-page report made 20 recommendations, not all of which have been adopted by the government. The chair of the inquiry later described the government’s measures as deeply disappointing.
The government said victims, survivors and charities would be consulted on a number of areas of the scheme, including on who it should support and how non-state institutions should be involved.
In addition to the redress scheme, ministers launched a 12-week public call for evidence on a new legal duty that will require those who work with children and young people to report if they suspect a child is being sexually abused or exploited.
The government also pledged to look at ways to improve access to therapeutic support for victims and survivors, and the way in which police collect data on child sexual abuse to better understand the scale and nature of the crime.
Prof Alexis Jay, who chaired the inquiry, and the inquiry’s victims and survivors consultative panel, issued a statement warning the government package as it stood would not adequately protect children from sexual abuse.
“After taking evidence from 725 witnesses during 325 days of public hearings, hearing from over 6,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse during our truth project and producing 52 reports, we published a concluding report in October last year, which included 20 recommendations,” the statement said.
“These recommendations were a carefully considered set of measures, designed to complement each other to provide a comprehensive world-class framework for the protection of children. We are deeply disappointed that the government has not accepted the full package of recommendations made in the final report.
“The package announced by the government today will not provide the protection from sexual abuse that our children deserve. We ask the government to reconsider and accept and enact all our recommendations in full.”
IICSA Changemakers, a new alliance set up to inspire a national mission to prevent child sexual abuse, expressed concern about the lack of meaningful support for children and adult survivors.
“The commitments that have been made do not translate to immediate action which would achieve the scale of change required to create and sustain a national movement to prevent, recognise, and address child sexual abuse.”
The inquiry considered 4.2m pieces of written evidence from charities, institutions and witnesses and explored failings in both state and non-state institutions, including government departments, the police, schools, local authorities, religious organisations, political parties and the armed services in England and Wales.
The home secretary said: “No apology or compensation can turn the clock back on the harrowing abuse these victims suffered, but it is important survivors have that suffering recognised and acknowledged. That is what the compensation scheme will deliver.”
The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, added: “We will stop at nothing to stamp out these vile crimes, punish the perpetrators, and make sure every child across the country can grow up in a safe environment.”
Ian Dean, the director of the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, said: “It is vital that the government honours its commitments to victims and survivors, and to protecting children today from sexual abuse in the future.”
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