While the Parliamentary Lobby were excited about Suella Braverman’s latest escapade trying to fix a private driving awareness course for herself to avoid penalty points on her licence, yesterday she took the opportunity to issue a very important statement on how the Government will tackle child sex abuse.
Whether the timing was aimed as the latest diversionary tactic to avoid further embarrassment , the result was a half thought out and half baked response to a very detailed and important piece of work on a scandal which shames our nation.
Alexis Jay, who headed the inquiry, spent seven years investigating what was seen as as ” a national epidemic ” of child sexual abuse which affected virtually every single religious order, schools, the internet, and grooming gangs across the country. Her report exposed heinous cases of child sexual abuse from teachers to bishops and appalling attempts to cover up what had happened. While by no means perfect, it also did provide some outlet for the survivors to speak out about what had happened to them.
Yesterday with I am afraid the typical hyperbole the government uses at almost every occasion now Suella Braverman claimed that the reforms proposed were “on a level not seen before” and would “mark a step change in our approach to child sexual abuse”.
She told MPs: “This Government have risen to the inquiry’s challenge. We are accepting the need to act on 19 of the inquiry’s 20 final recommendations. She promised MPs “fundamental cultural change, societal change, professional change and institutional change.”
But when you examine closely what the government proposes to do it is nothing of the sort. Many of accepted recommendations are surrounded by caveats for further reviews and debates and none are going to be implemented immediately.
And I am not the only person saying this. The chair of the inquiry, Alexis Jay, told the Independent today:
“We are deeply disappointed that the government has not accepted the full package of recommendations made in the final report,” she added.
“In some instances, the government has stated that a number of them will be subject to consultations, despite the extensive research and evidence-taking which the Inquiry carried out over seven years.
“”The package announced by the government will not provide the protection from sexual abuse that our children deserve.”
Similar doubts were expressed by the NSPCC, the children’s charity.
If you study the detailed response from the government – you can find it here – you will see it is riddled with caveats and rejects more than one finding as the minister claimed.
The headline change – setting up a compensation scheme for the survivors – is a promise but subject to much more consultation before it is to be implemented. A more competent government would have laid the bare bones of the scheme, how much money will be provided and then asked people, including survivors, to comment yesterday.
Similarly with mandatory reporting of child sex abuse by professionals – which was thoroughly debated by the inquiry before recommending it – it won’t happen immediately. Instead it is put out for more consultation. Do we need any more?
Other accepted recommendations are a con. The recommendation for a children’s minister at Cabinet level is glossed over by saying we already have one – the education secretary. Yet provision for children is more than just education. And Rishi Sunak could do with someone present at the Cabinet to fight children’s issues.
And the creation of new child protection authority does not look likely to happen any time soon.
And there is one extraordinary proposal. Braverman rejects – the inquiry’s recommendation to outlaw inflicting pain on residents of young offenders institutions and secure units – claiming that there are ways of safely inflicting pain on young people. Is she some sort of a sadist who enjoys bringing pain and misery to the young or just plain stupid? Pain is pain full stop. If anyone knows how this might be done I would like to hear from them.
The government is also relying on its on line safety bill to outlaw child pornography but it seems the paedophiles are already one step ahead of her. Sajid Javid, ex minister and Tory MP for Bromsgrove intervened in her announcement to say they are already using artificial intelligence to produce child sexual images. How is this to be traced?
Frankly this was a disappointing statement dressed up as the government taking action. Ministers and civil servants have had seven months to respond and could have laid the groundwork for real change rather an promising more consultations. But given Suela Braverman’s track record why should we be surprised.
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