Following the memorial I sat amongst the audience as I did not wish to push myself forward, on a day that was all about survivors, their stories, hopes and fears.
I have tweeted several times about the day which left me sad, emotionally exhausted, but overwhelmingly impressed.
I thought the meeting represented a good start and was certainly a step in the right direction. If you repeat it, I think it would be important to give survivors from the audience an opportunity to speak and question. Fewer speakers would allow for this.
It would also be good to either survey the attendees, as this would strengthen your future negotiating position and/or have two or three key points to agree/disagree during the meeting.
What you have achieved is remarkable. Bringing so many people together and managing the pain and anger in the room was no small thing. Harnessing the power of yesterday’s group and focusing their influence must, in my opinion, be the event organisers next step.
I don’t think it’s too late for the Government to pause and plan a way forward using a more sensitive and sensible approach.
This is what I think should happen.
The Government should first and foremost establish a fund to support survivors. This would give them better access to specialist services, resources and other support. Such a gesture would be an immediate recognition of the fact that they have been let down over many years by establishment bodies and governments.
The Inquiry should begin/recommence with a survivors forum. Not dissimilar to your large meeting yesterday. The group must be as inclusive as possible and be given the difficult task of achieving consensus on key/critical terms of reference. They should then be asked to elect an advisory panel. That panel would provide advice and oversight from a survivors perspective to government. It would provide a forum to discuss the pros and cons of different types of inquiries and achieve some sense of agreement on what is needed and the best method of achieving it, i.e., statutory v Royal Commission.
A chair should then be appointed and an expert panel established via a ‘transparent’ process. All of this would be overseen and informed by the survivors oversight panel, who would have representation on the expert panel. Whilst survivor experience must be represented the expert panel would also require investigators, academics and other appropriate child protection professionals.
I am sure many of the individuals on the current panel are good people, this is not about them, it’s about a process that lacks transparency and therefore undermines the confidence of many survivors in it.
This approach would be a good first step in the long process of rebuilding trust.
Once established the Inquiry should be fundamentally independent and that includes government. An Inquiry imposed by government is very different than one facilitated by it.
If this process had been followed in the first instance survivors would have had ownership and government credible advice and support.
The handling of appointments has been disastrous and demonstrates that the current government don’t do detail. They don’t take time to listen, to plan or to consider better options.
The recent Wanless review, of reviews, only reinforces the need for government to be distanced from the Inquiry. That review was in my opinion about the government retaining control. You cannot successfully review yourself by choosing the method, no matter how honourable the individual. The loss of documents by the Home Office needs to be investigated, not reviewed and their approach to it demonstrates they have yet to learn lessons from the past.
A Blog by Jim Gamble, former head of CEOP and current Chief Executive of INEQE Safe and Secure.