Nottinghamshire is one of 12 authorities that will be investigated as part of a nationwide probe to establish whether authorities took allegations of child abuse seriously in care homes around the county.
The chairman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Dame Lowell Goddard has today (Friday november 27) announced that Nottinghamshire will be investigated in the first phase of the inquiry’s work.
The probe, also known as the Goddard Inquiry, has been set up to investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.
It comes following a wave of residents coming forward to say they were abused in children’s homes around the county. Both Nottinghamshire’s Chief Constable Chris Eyre and Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping have welcomed this announcement.
They have held discussions with the Inquiry team over the last eight months to encourage this focus on Nottinghamshire and the ongoing work with survivors of historical sexual abuse.
Mr Tipping said: “This is a huge step in the right direction and I’m really grateful that the Goddard team has listened to our appeals for Nottinghamshire to become part of the national inquiry.
“I have met a good many of the survivors and they have impressed upon me the importance of this inquiry and their wish to have the opportunity to tell their story and to have that story heard. I hope that they find today’s announcement supportive in their ongoing recovery.
“While I am aware that many people have already told the police about their experiences, it’s really important for anyone else who believes they may have been a victim of abuse to come forward and report their story. They can choose to either go the police or one of the specialist support groups who will help to guide them through the process.
“I understand that it must be a very difficult thing to do, but I can assure people that what they say will be treated seriously and with sensitivity. But I most strongly appeal to anyone who feels they have been abused while in care to use this Inquiry as the incentive they need to come forward. Their voices must be heard.”
Huge numbers of survivors have stepped forward to talk about their horrific experiences at the hands of staff at more than a dozen homes, including Skegby Hall in Skegby, Laybrook, Berry Hill Open Air School and The Ridge in Mansfield, and Cauldwell House in Southwell.
Mr Eyre added: “I am pleased that Justice Goddard has chosen to focus one strand of her work in Nottinghamshire. Our victims need to be heard. I am confident that the Inquiry will allow them a voice without compromising the ongoing and extremely complex criminal investigations and criminal justice proceedings.
“The Inquiry will enable our partners to show the work they have done to review the care provided to children in the care system, demonstrate how they responded to changes in Government policy, and show their response to failings identified locally and across the country over the period considered by the inquiry.”
The Inquiry’s work will be independent from Nottinghamshire Police’s ongoing criminal investigations into historic child abuse, they said, and reviews by Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s independent safeguarding boards.
Speaking before the announcement was made, Nottinghamshire County Council leader Alan Rhodes said: “Any failings of any organisation or institution deserves to be identified and dealt with appropriately.
“If there has been organisational or institutional failings, then there needs to be accountability.
“And, importantly, I am prepared to make an unreserved apology to survivors if our council is found to have failed in our duty of care to children.
“Currently, there are a significant number of actions, both criminal and civil, that are under way.”
“Children’s homes should always have been places of safety, so harm in them of any kind is an appalling abuse of duty and trust.
“Anyone who was abused as a child absolutely deserves our sympathy and support. From the outset, we have taken these allegations seriously, and devoted a great deal of time and effort to look into them, support survivors and the police investigations.
“The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our care must be, and is, of the highest priority.”
Nottinghamshire Police has two major investigations into historical abuse in care homes in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
These investigations commenced in 2010 and, to date, are into offences reported by 263 victims. They span the period from the late 1940s to the turn of the millennium and involve a range of incidents, from chastisement by staff which would not have been criminal offences at the time they occurred, to the most serious sexual and physical assaults.