Home Secretary Takes Researching Reform’s Advice And Scraps Child Abuse Inquiry Panel

This move comes days after we published our piece on the Inquiry advising the very same course of action, over at our Column for Jordans Family Law. Of course we don’t know whether Theresa May read our article, but her plan of action reads very similarly to what we felt the government should do in order to mount the kind of inquiry survivors could place their trust in, and be a part of.
If the news items today are anything to go by, May is hoping to give the Inquiry some teeth by giving it statutory status, which would enable the panel chair to compel people to give evidence and would also allow the Inquiry to enforce criminal sanctions against those who deliberately conceal evidence or refuse to come forward. May is also considering turning the Inquiry into a Royal Commission.
As a result, current panel members would have to be scrapped, but could be re-appointed if considered appropriate. Amongst the arguments put forward by current panel members for not scrapping, well, them, is the view that to do so would be to pander to a small vocal minority that does not represent the majority of abuse survivors. This is utter bollocks of course. The panel members do not themselves know how the majority of survivors feel, and the minority who are speaking out represent a much larger group who do feel that a new panel would be best. And regardless of the size of the group raising concerns, those concerns should still be addressed and resolved, because without that resolution the Inquiry has no credibility whatsoever. (The other excuses given are even less convincing and completely irrelevant to the Inquiry’s future, but can be accessed in the news items linked to above should you feel like casting your eyes over wanton drivel).
Pouting panel members aside, it’s not clear yet when and if May will scrap the panel, despite reports to the contrary over at Exaro news. She has hinted at three possibilities, all of which she is still currently considering. The third option has not been openly reported upon but may simply involve keeping the current panel and raising the Inquiry to that of statutory status. But with some of the panel members facing criticism over their conduct towards survivors and two failed chairs with a third replacement nowhere in sight, now is the time to put this panel to bed and let a newer, fresher, professional panel rise from the ashes.
As we wrote in our article for Jordans, we would like to see a panel that represents the best of British Child Welfare – diverse professionals, from all walks of life, with a passion for children and a deep insight into the world of child abuse. That panel should include survivors, as well as members of religious communities and professionals from diverse ethnic backgrounds with cutting edge knowledge of child sexual abuse and its many different guises. We expect nothing less from the new panel.
And we want to see the list of candidates (all 100 plus of them) for the chair position, out in the public domain and be able to cast our own vote as to who should lead this most important Inquiry.
Good luck, Theresa.

Theresa May

Are You Supporting Victims Of Child Sexual Abuse?

If you are an organisation helping victims of child sexual abuse and finding that demand for your support has increased since the start of the government’s inquiry into child abuse, then you are entitled to get financial help from the government.
That’s what the Home Office’s and the Ministry of Justice’s latest news item tells us, as they launch a £2 million fund to help those organisations whose workload have been directly affected by the Inquiry.
A further £1.5 million will be made available to those organisations who may not have been directly affected by the Inquiry, but who provide support to victims of child sexual abuse all the same.
And another £1.5 million has been set aside for organisations supporting victims of sexual abuse.
As well as the above sums, £2.15m will be given to 84 existing Female Rape Support Centres on top of current Ministry of Justice funding. This has been done with a view to offering specialised support.

Consultation On Marriages By Non-Religious Belief Organisations Finally Unravels The Knot

Or at least it’s trying to.
Not surprisingly, the majority of people who contributed to the consultation saw no reason why such organisations shouldn’t be able to conduct such ceremonies (and to do so in unrestricted locations, including outdoors), but the consultation also reveals a well known truth: that our marriage laws are messy and piecemeal changes create even more, unnecessary, complexity.
This may be good news for the legal eagles who will be tasked with picking through the many legislative threads now tangled together, from outdated laws still knotting things up, to newer, progressive laws allowing more people to marry in different ways and adding layers of law which do not tie up with the layers underneath it. The trouble is, all these options have been developed over time and so they create a patchwork quilt of confusing principles and policy which make for potentially awkward equality issues. We have always thought that marriage law should be scrapped and re-drafted. And we still think so.
One law for all.

A Personal Appeal From Researching Reform This Christmas

Those of you who know our blog will know that we are mad about children here at Researching Reform, and nothing speaks to us like the plight of vulnerable children, wherever they might be.
So, when we received an email from our favourite children’s charity Kids Company asking for any help we could offer to support their Christmas initiative, we hoped we could enlist our army of superheroes, that’s you, to get involved. Their project this Christmas runs something like this:
Kids Company are having a Christmas party for 4,000 destitute children. These children often dread Christmas, and some attempt suicide at this time of year. They feel alone and unseen, and are in desperate need of a hot meal, and hugs. Lots and lots of them. (That’s hugs and kids)!
Many of these children have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused, and many do not have loving families to share Christmas with, or presents to open. Kids Company want to give these children a wonderful Christmas, filled with good food, gifts and we hope lots of love and affection.
Kids Company is also a sanctuary for neglected children at this time of the year and need help to raise funds not just for their Christmas party but for emergency child protection, mental health and food cover. As well as the 4,000 children they will be welcoming to their office, they will need to send food out to another 12,000. Yes, that’s an extra 12,000 little bodies that need to be fed and nourished.
Of course this is a tough time of year to give to every plea for help, but if you’ve found our site useful to you in some way throughout the year, or we’ve assisted you in some way, or perhaps you’ve just found our posts thought-provoking and feel they’re for the greater good, all we ask is that you might consider giving a little something to Kids Company, just as a nod to making the world a better place and to giving our poorest children something to look forward to this Christmas.
If you feel you can, just click on this link to make your way over to their Crowdfunder Page – just a fiver can make all the difference, and there are even nifty prizes to be won if you donate!
The money you raise will not only help children and young people but it will also go to supporting vulnerable adults too, making this endeavour a truly wonderful one.
Please give if you can. It would mean the world to us, and to the children your donation will support.
Thank You xxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Voice Of The Child Must Be Heard in Care, Not Just In Our Courts

Whatever The Timpsons and Loughtons of this world have to say about progress for children in care, the reality is that not much has changed since light was first shed onto the dire conditions most children experiencing social care face, almost a decade ago now.
Jackie Long is social affairs editor over at Channel 4, and her recent blog on outcomes for children in care is a stark reminder that whilst adults seem to be talking about change, virtually nothing is happening on the ground.  And no one is actually listening to our children.
Her post highlights several things ministers tend to forget whilst they’re busy patting themselves on the back for jobs seemingly well done. It costs more to see a child through the care system, than it does to send a child to Eton. Despite this, whilst children at Eton get the Rolls Royce of education and pastoral care, children in care most often face the prospect of illiteracy and physical, and emotional abuse. Here are some stats from Jackie’s piece:
  • Almost one third of children in care leave school with no GCSEs at all.
  • Only 6 per cent of care leavers go onto university – as opposed to 38 per cent of all young people.
  • Almost 40 per cent of prisoners under 21 had been in care while they were growing up.
  • children in care have a higher chance of developing mental health problems or ending up homeless.
All this we know, but we tend to forget amidst the clarion calls for reform and the loud trumpeting of more children taken into care, taken from ‘abhorrent monster parents’ to be placed in the arms of loving foster carers and residential staff.
But that’s bollocks, and we know it.
We can have as many voice of the child conferences and seminars as we like, but until we get staff on the ground to understand what it means to listen to children and to show them love and affection at the same time, these children will continue to go unseen and unheard.
Time and again we hear social workers saying they can’t show love and affection to children because it might cause emotional trauma once they’re moved on, but that is to suggest that children’s emotional development can be frozen in time once they land in care and reignited at a later date once they are ‘safely housed’ with foster carers or adoptive parents. The merits of that sentiment about safety too are questionable as children continue to be bounced around from carer to carer, let down by people who are either unable to cope with vulnerable children or are simply looking for a quick way to make cash (the debate raging around ‘salaries’ for foster carers is a big issue as well).
And all these things, over a period of time, contribute to a feeling of powerlessness and a fading voice, which with time, becomes so quiet, no one even notices it anymore.
You can catch Jackie on Twitter, for more on social affairs.
Many thanks to Maggie Tuttle for alerting us to Jackie’s blog post.

Jackie Long, Channel 4

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