The woman who blew the lid on the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham is to begin working on a national inquiry into historical child abuse today.
Professor Alexis Jay, who published a report which revealed that 1,400 children had been groomed and abused by largely Asian men in Rotherham while authorities turned a blind eye, is on a panel of experts set up last year amid claims of an establishment cover-up following allegations that a paedophile ring operated in Westminster in the 1980s.
Led by Judge Lowell Goddard, the inquiry has the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.
The inquiry’s terms of reference state that its purpose will include considering ‘the extent to which State and non-State institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation’.
It will cover England and Wales.
Today Justice Goddard will outline how the inquiry will run, how evidence will be taken, timescales and areas of public life that will be examined.
Professor Jay will work alongside Professor Malcolm Evans, of Bristol University; child protection barrister Ivor Frank and Drusilla Sharpling, of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies.
Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, which is acting for a number of survivors of historic abuse, said the importance of the inquiry ‘cannot be underestimated’.
A team of trained counsellors will operate a free dedicated helpline on behalf of the NSPCC to support those wishing to give evidence to the inquiry.
The charity’s chief executive, Peter Wanless, said: “Many victims of abuse have been waiting too long for an opportunity to speak out and get justice.
“Many of them will have harrowing stories to tell so we want to make what could be a tortuous journey as easy as possible.
“Our counsellors have vast experience of dealing with sensitive issues so the dedicated helpline will be a vital part of the inquiry’s work.
“As long as survivors of abuse want to come forward we will be here to listen to them and provide support.”
The helpline number is 08000 121 700.