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‘Safeguarding cannot be a tick-box exercise’

20 January 2017

The British Psychological Society's Northern Ireland Branch has welcomed the publication of Sir Anthony Hart’s report into historical institutional abuse.

As the Inquiry into Institutional Abuse chaired by Sir Anthony Hart reports this month, professionals and public alike look to the implications in terms of safeguarding children and young people in Northern Ireland.

Professionals and public will look to those areas of safeguarding that are working well and also give consideration to the areas that require attention.

Abuse is a complex and challenging area. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) defines nonrecent abuse (also known as historical abuse) as an allegation of neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse made by or on behalf of someone who is now 18 years or over, relating to an incident which took place when the alleged victim was under 18 years old.

However, it is also important to recognise that a young person, under 18 years old, may disclose nonrecent abuse. In the last few years, there has been increasing public awareness of the extent of historic child abuse, particularly sexual abuse.

As another Inquiry reports we are once again reminded of the shocking crimes and abuse visited on the lives of so many. Whilst it is the job of police and the court systems to determine evidence of criminal wrongdoing and to work in crime prevention safeguarding no longer falls to the responsibility of one service or individual, it is everyone’s business.

The strength, resilience and courage of those individuals and their families who have lived through such harm is a testament to hope and recovery.’

Dr Elizabeth McMonagle, a Newry-based consulant clinical psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the BPS, said today:

"The release of Sir Anthony Hart’s report into Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, should be welcomed. Institutions and organizations need to have robust governance and safeguarding processes in place. Accountability is at the heart of such processes however it is no longer adequate or appropriate to simply attribute blame which at worst can result in scapegoating.

"British Psychological Society guidance is that safeguarding cannot be a ‘tick box exercise’. Abuse whether recent or historical is a complex and challenging area for example there is no one piece of legislation governing same. It brings together civil, criminal and welfare law."

She added:

"Freedom from abuse is a fundamental human right. How disclosures of abuse are managed can faciliate the recovery process. The courage and dignity of those who have lived through such crime is a testament to the human spirt. Child sexual abuse can devastate lives, families and communities, it does not however have to define the future. Recovery is possible."

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