Keith Towler: Child sex abuse inquiry ‘needs Welsh voice’

Keith Towler Keith Towler says the inquiry needs someone who knows ‘how Wales works’

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Calls for a Welsh voice to be appointed to a Home Office inquiry into historical child sexual abuse have been backed by the children’s commissioner.

Keith Towler said he supports the idea because of differences between Wales and England in child protection.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has led the assembly’s calls, claiming the UK Home Office was “ignorant of devolution”.

The Home Office, which announced the inquiry in July, said panel members had a broad range of experience and skills.

Home Secretary Theresa May established the inquiry to look at whether public bodies and other institutions did enough to protect children in England and Wales from sexual abuse from 1970 to the present day.

The first two nominations to chair the inquiry – Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf – both resigned over links with establishment figures.

However, a panel of experts on law and child protection has been selected which does not include a representative who is from or has worked in Wales.
‘Real experience’
Mr Towler said: “If this is the inquiry of all inquiries I think it would be important to get somebody who understands how Wales works now, how Wales worked in the past, really understands the kind of child protection and safeguarding issues that run [here].

“There’s a very distinct delivery mechanism in Wales,” he added.

“It would make an awful lot of sense to have somebody on that panel with real experience of working in Wales,” he added.

Theresa May Home Secretary Theresa May has yet to find someone to chair the inquiry after two appointees resigned

The issue also has cross-party support in the assembly, including from the Welsh government.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford raised it in a meeting with Wales Office Minister Baroness Randerson last week, while the first minister has levelled particular criticism at the Home Office.

During his weekly question session in the Senedd on Tuesday, Carwyn Jones said: “The Home Office, of all [UK] government departments, is the one that is the most ignorant of devolution.”

He added: “If this is to be a process for the whole of England and Wales together as two nations then there has to be a Welsh representative on the body.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We believe that the panel can command the confidence of the public and, most importantly, of the survivors of child abuse.

“The new chairman and the panel will be sensitive to the devolved nature of health, education and local government in Wales.

“We are confident they will work effectively with the Welsh government, relevant public bodies and with Welsh survivors to ensure the final report fully engages with the appalling abuse suffered at institutions across England and Wales.”

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