London

Survivors group may withdraw from child sex abuse inquiry

Professor Alexis Jay Image copyright PA
Image caption Prof Alexis Jay led the inquiry in child sexual abuse in Rotherham

A campaign group involved in the public inquiry into historic allegations of child sexual abuse says it may withdraw from the process.

Shirley Oaks Survivors Association said the inquiry's new chair, Prof Alexis Jay, may have a potential conflict of interest as a former social worker.

The group represents 600 people who allege they were abused in south London children's homes.

The national inquiry is made up of 13 separate investigations.

Claims of abuse in children's homes in Lambeth are due to form a key part of the embattled inquiry's work.

But Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who supports the Shirley Oaks campaign, said the social work profession was "culpable" and that Prof Jay should step aside for this strand of the inquiry's work.

He has suggested each of the 13 investigations should have a separate chair.

How will the inquiry work?

Last week, Raymond Stevenson, from the survivors' group, told BBC Newsnight there had been a sea change in the way the inquiry was operating.

"We have to recommend at this moment in time that we pull out. We have given the inquiry an opportunity to meet us. We contacted them two weeks ago and we are still waiting for a meeting," he said.


Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

  • The inquiry into historical child sexual abuse was set up in 2014
  • It launched 13 investigations to look into allegations against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces, public and private institutions and people in the public eye
  • But has been beset with problems with its third chair, Justice Lowell Goddard, quitting last month claiming she was prevented from selecting her own staff, and that civil servants were prioritised by the Home Office
  • The investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse in the London borough of Lambeth is expected to be one of the key parts of the national inquiry

Inquiry officials met the Shirley Oaks campaign on Friday but refused to comment on its concerns.

Sources at the inquiry say Prof Jay has not been a social worker for some time.

More recently she has been visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde and the independent chair of the Centre of Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland.

In a statement, a spokesman for the inquiry said: "The chair and the panel were selected because of the broad range of skills and experience they bring to the inquiry and their work in the area of child sexual abuse and institutional failure."

Prof Jay previously led the inquiry into child sexual abuse in Rotherham.

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