I wish to inform the House that the Government will now be publishing its response to the final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (the Inquiry) in May 2023. This is a slight delay to the Inquiry’s request that we respond by 20th April 2023.
The Inquiry published its final report on 20th October 2022 following seven years of investigation into the failings of institutions across the country to properly safeguard and protect children in their care from this most horrific crime.
The final report heard from over 7,300 victims and survivors, and provided shocking insights into the abuse suffered by children, and draws out stark failings by institutions, leaders, and professionals to protect them from harm. I am absolutely clear that we must address the failings identified by the Inquiry and continue to work right across all sectors to each play our part in doing all that we can to protect children, provide support to victims and survivors, and pursue vile offenders and bring them to justice as quickly as possible.
I appreciate that it is conventional that the Government responds to statutory inquiries within six months of their final recommendations. However, over the course of the next month, there will be local elections – in the run-up to which Government is bound by pre-election guidance – and other events which will attract significant media interest.
I am determined that these events should not detract from the interest and attention rightly due to the Inquiry’s final recommendations, hence the decision to publish in May.
I have already shown my commitment to consult on the introduction of a new Mandatory Reporting duty across the whole of England – a central recommendation in the Inquiry’s final report. If introduced, it would mean that individuals who work with children are legally required to report child sexual abuse, or face sanctions. We need to address the under-reporting of this crime across the whole system to robustly tackle it.
I cannot thank the victims and survivors that have come forward to share their experiences with the Inquiry enough: I commend their bravery and courage in sharing your experiences and calling for change. I am determined to deliver justice for victims and survivors and ensure that the failures which allowed these appalling crimes to happen can never take place again.
We are committed to continuing to work to tackle all forms of child sexual abuse regardless of whether it takes place here or overseas, and it is crucial that we seize this moment to reignite national conversation about this horrific crime and bring it out of the shadows and support those who have suffered or are suffering to be able to tell their stories and report what has happened.
I will keep the House updated when we publish the Government’s response in May.