The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has now published their first complete report into child sexual abuse in respect to child migration module.
The full report is here:
The IICSA report is quite critical of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) and focuses on the policy of allowing children to be sent to Australia, New Zeeland and Zimbabwe, where many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse and little if anything done to protect these British children.
Very importantly the primary recommendation is that there be a financial redress scheme established and that redress should be paid urgently and within a year, as many survivors are now very elderly.
Howe & Co represents a very large proportion of the core participant victims and survivors in the IICSA investigations. We have been pressing the Inquiry since March 2017 to make recommendations on reparations for survivors on an urgent basis, given the age of many victims and survivors.
The IICSA Child Migration Investigation Report recommendations are:
Recommendation 1: Financial redress
1. HMG was, over many years, the institution primarily responsible for the post-War child migration programmes: it established the legal framework within which the sending institutions operated, it provided essential funding, it facilitated relations with overseas Governments and it operated, to a very limited degree, a system of regulation and oversight.
2. However we have found that post-War child migration was a fundamentally flawed policy, and that HMG failed to ensure that there were in place sufficient measures to protect children from sexual abuse (as well as other forms of abuse and neglect). Thus the children were placed in environments where they were exposed to a range of risks, including the risk of sexual abuse, and where sexual abuse was less likely to be prevented, identified, reported or stopped. We have also found that HMG failed to respond appropriately to the reports it received about the welfare of the children, by either stopping migration and returning the children, or putting in place other measures to reduce the risks to the children.
3. HMG has not yet made any financial redress directly to individual former child migrants. Most former child migrants have died. This means that in many cases HMG has missed its opportunity to offer redress to those who were affected by its failure. However, around 2,000 child migrants are alive today, and the Panel considers it essential that all surviving former child migrants are offered such redress.
4. As a result, the Panel recommends that HMG establishes a Redress Scheme for surviving former child migrants, providing for an equal award to every applicant. This is on the basis that they were all were exposed to the risk of sexual abuse. Given the age of the surviving former child migrants, the Panel urges HMG to establish the Scheme without delay and expects that payments should start being made within 12 months.
5. We also propose that no regard be had to any other payments of compensation that have been made in particular cases. This is because we consider that this scheme is driven by the need for the HMG to make redress for its policy failings in this context, and it has not done so to date. Given that this is the rationale for the scheme, the establishment of the Redress Scheme should not be used as a reason for reducing funding for the Child Migrants Trust or the Family Restoration Fund, which funding serves different purposes.
6. The Panel has not specifically recommended that other institutions involved in the child migration programmes participate in the Redress Scheme. This is not because we do not consider that these institutions failed the child migrants: our report makes clear that we think they did. Rather, it is because we consider that HMG was primarily responsible and because we are keen to ensure that the Scheme is a simple one, in the hope that it can be effective soon, and make a real, immediate and lasting difference to the lives of the former child migrants. If HMG wishes to look to those other institutions for a contribution to the Redress Scheme, it will no doubt do so.
7. We make it clear that we are recommending the setting up of a Redress Scheme because of the particular context of the child migration programmes. One aspect of these programmes which makes them unique was that HMG failed to take steps to respond to the fact that the children were sent abroad, to countries where they would not have the protection of UK law. Different considerations may apply to contexts where the protection of UK law continues to apply to children.
Recommendation 2: Further institutional apologies
8. We are troubled by the amount of time it took successive British Governments to acknowledge the full responsibility of HMG for the fate of the child migrants. It has taken years for the former child migrants to have the truth of their experience recognised. This truth was clear from the Government’s own documents, kept in the National Archives.
9. Through the national apology given in 2010, the evidence provided to the Inquiry and the apologies repeated before us, the British Government has now accepted the failings of the child migration programmes including in part with respect to the risk of sexual abuse. We do not consider it appropriate to recommend that they make any further acknowledgement of or apology for the failings that took place.
10. However we do consider that implementing the Redress Scheme is an essential component of the British Government continuing to accept responsibility for the abuses suffered by child migrants, including sexual abuse.
11. As we have set out in the institution-specific sections of the report, some institutions have still not apologised for their role in the child migration programmes. We recommend that they do so, as soon as possible. We recommend that they make such apologies not only through public statements but specifically to those child migrants for whose migration they were responsible.
Recommendation 3: The preservation of child migrants’ records
12. As we have set out earlier in the report the Inquiry’s ability to investigate allegations or evidence of sexual abuse within child migration programmes was hampered at times by the failure of some institutions, notably the Royal Overseas League and the Sisters of Nazareth, to have preserved the contemporaneous documentation.
13. The inability to access their records in a straightforward manner, or at all, has caused some child migrants yet further distress and an ongoing lack of clarity over their identity.
14. We therefore recommend that that all institutions which sent children abroad as part of the child migration programmes should ensure that they have robust systems in place for retaining and preserving any remaining records that may contain information about individual child migrants, and should provide easy access to them.
Howe & Co welcomes this first IICSA report and its recommendations. We urge the Inquiry to move quickly to issue further reports and recommendations in the interests of children currently in care and in the interests of victims and survivors who were previously abused in care.