Theresa May ‘sorry’ for failings over child abuse inquiry

“I want to tell survivors that I am sorry,” she told MPs

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Theresa May apologised to victims of child sexual exploitation today, for Home Office failings that led to the resignation of the second chairwoman of the Government’s abuse inquiry.

The Home Secretary admitted it was “very disappointing” that the inquiry still does not have someone in the top job four months after being created. “I want to tell survivors that I am sorry,” she told MPs in a Commons statement.

Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London, resigned on Friday admitting that she had lost the confidence of abuse victims following disclosures about her links to the former home secretary, Lord Brittan. Her resignation followed the decision by Baroness Butler-Sloss to stand down in July.

The Home Secretary admitted it “will not be straightforward” to find a chair who has “both the expertise to do this work” and has had no “contact with an institution or an individual about whom people have concerns”.

Ms May said she would start holding meetings with abuse victims next week, and said the inquiry panel would hold its first meeting next Wednesday and then every week until Christmas. She said recent reports into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and Manchester “exposed serious failings among the police, social services, schools and other institutions, and the obvious conclusion is that if only we had learnt from these appalling cases earlier there would be fewer victims of abuse today”.

Ms May confirmed that she would discuss the appointment with shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and the candidate would attend a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee before taking up the post.

She also announced that a report by NSPCC chief Peter Wanless, into the way the Home Office dealt with an investigation into child abuse allegations between 1979 and 1999, will be published next week. In a message to abuse survivors, Mrs May said: “I know you have experienced terrible things. And I know that, because of the identity of your abusers or the way you were treated, many of you have lost trust in the authorities.”

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