15 November, 2022
Forbes Solicitors introduces its blog series in relation to the long-awaited Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Over this blog series, we will be exploring the report and the potential impact of some of the recommendations for Local Authorities and the public sector.
This article is the first in our series and will explore Recommendation 2, which is the suggestion for Child Protection Authorities to be implemented in England and Wales.
The inquiry suggests the introduction of an independent, non-departmental public body in England and an arm's length body in Wales, that would be dedicated to the protection of children in relation to sexual and physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. This would be known as the Child Protection Authority (CPA). In addition, the inquiry recommends that the CPAs would also be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of the inquiry. The duties of the CPA would include:
In addition, the CPA would liaise with government to provide advice on policy development and proposed legislative reform on child protection. This would also include publishing reports on the state of child protection and the making of any recommendations for improvement.
The inquiry also recommends that the CPA should be given powers to inspect multi-agency arrangements and individual institutions and strategy. The inquiry does not recommend that the CPAs have authority to regulate an institution by imposing sanctions for making improvements, however, this will not preclude CPAs from referring an institution to other third-party bodies with appropriate regulatory functions to sanction instead.
The recommendation has been suggested to firstly improve practices in relation to child protection. The report suggests that the current structures and practices which are in place, conflate child protection with the broader work of safeguarding. Child protection across a diverse range of services requires specialist knowledge and implementation.
Secondly, the CPA would act as an advisory body, making recommendations and suggesting reform to government in relation to child protection policies, to ultimately improve child protection. This recommendation would ensure that individual institutions such as local authorities and public sector bodies' voices are heard as a national collective when expressing the challenges that they are facing in implementing and maintaining high quality levels of child protection in their local areas.
Thirdly, the CPAs would have the power to inspect institutions and settings as it considers necessary and appropriate. Currently, organisations themselves are responsible for the quality control and improvement in child protection through their internal audits and review processes, whether provided by third parties or not. The introduction of a CPA as an independent inspectorate body would ensure that the quality of assessments conducted by institutions in respect of their own protection measures is verified and consistent across the board.
The implementation of a new department such as the CPA will require legislation and therefore local authorities and public sector institutions should not anticipate that this will be in place any time soon. When the CPA is eventually implemented, this will add an additional layer of inspection for local authorities and public sector institutions on top of already existing third-party inspectorate bodies such as Ofsted. It should be noted that the CPA would be unable to take punitive action themselves against local authorities and public sector institutions, however, they envisage that by publicly exposing their failings in the form of a report, this would be sufficient to bring about the necessary changes.
A positive impact of the implementation of the CPA for local authorities and public sector institutions, is that there would be a representative body who are specifically for the purpose of issuing, reviewing, and recommending nationally applicable guidance to the Government relating specifically to child protection. A body such as the CPA would allow for a far more reactive system with changes being brought about nationally. The CPA would allow for a national oversight of the issues that individual local authorities face across the country in relation to child protection, providing a clearer picture of the national experience. A recent example of an issue which might benefit from this oversight is the lack of secure placements and the impact of the recent unregulated placement regulations. Concerns have been raised by Judges in individual cases and referred to the Government. However, when all these reported concerns are brought together, it creates a concerning picture of lack of resources for children with complex needs. The increased impact of bringing these experiences together and presenting a strategy to the Government for change could be beneficial.
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