Letter: Reducing the chance of child abuse

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your newspaper includes a report of the conclusions of my inquiry into the sexual abuse of children in nursery classes in Newcastle upon Tyne ('Child sex inquiry blames care staff', 7 September). One of my aims in the inquiry report was to disseminate ideas and recommendations which, it is hoped, will help to minimise the chance of recurrence of similar harm.

I was therefore disappointed to read misleading accounts of the conclusions in my report. Any debate about the inquiry's findings should proceed on a proper understanding of what I found to have happened. Among the more important conclusions are:

1. Children were abused notwithstanding appropriate levels of supervision (by the regular staff) of the children and of the student who committed the abuse. I have suggested several ways in which teaching staff might be enabled more easily to recognise the possibility of a child being abused while at school or nursery.

2. There was a delay both in the bringing of news to parents that their children might have been harmed and in the organising of a response to the crisis which developed. I have analysed the reasons for this delay and made many recommendations which are designed to help social agencies mount a helpful response to children and families who may have the misfortune to be caught up in a similar investigation.

3. The delay in responding to the needs of families did not prolong the period during which children were at risk of abuse.

4. The delay in arranging a careful investigation into what had happened (and a therapeutic response for the children and families) compounded the distress suffered by several of the families. Nowhere does the report suggest that 'marriages were wrecked' by the delay of any agency in its response to this abuse.

Yours sincerely,

PETER HUNT

Chairman, Newcastle Multiple

Abuse Inquiry

Leeds

7 September

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