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Public Inquiries into Child Abuse

Northumbria University


Public Inquiries into the care and protection of children. Should there be an alternative approach to investigating historical cases of child abuse?



Professor Kim Holt, Professor Nancy Kelly and Dr Sharon Vincent, Department of Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing, Northumbria University

Alyson Leslie, Retired Social Worker and Researcher

Professor Sandy Cameron CBE, Chair of the Council of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending

Public inquiries have become a standard governmental response to managing matters of public interest and concern, including child abuse, but the extent to which they drive change and improvements in practice is unclear. This lecture examines the role and purpose of public inquiries, by probing the extent to which they are successful in achieving their aims. The presenters will consider whether there are more effective and efficient ways of investigating national scandals, exploring whether the same or improved results could be achieved through other means.

Following a four-day expert summit, and follow up interviews with 16 participants who have been involved in child abuse inquiries across several jurisdictions, the panel conclude that public inquiries are not fulfilling all of their competing objectives. Although a limited number of inquiries have had a positive impact on policy or practice or successfully raised public awareness, overall there is little evidence of effectiveness.

This lecture argues that there is a need to rethink the purpose, scope, methodology and impact of historical abuse inquiries in order to ensure they are more effective and cost efficient; place children, victims and survivors at the centre; and use a wider range of professional expertise and skills.

About the speakers

Professor Kim Holt is Head of the Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing, and is a Professor in Family Law at Northumbria University. Prior to joining the University in 2013, she practiced as a Social Worker and Children's Guardian for over 20 years, and was Head of Department at the University of Bradford for 11 years. As a qualified and practicing Barrister at Trinity Chambers, she continues a career in Child Protection and Family Law that spans over 30 years.

Professor Nancy Kelly is Head of Social Work at Northumbria University. She is an applied social psychologist and her research interests include social work and social justice.

Dr Sharon Vincent joined Northumbria University's department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing in September 2014. She has many years’ experience of conducting research in the area of child protection and safeguarding. Her particular areas of interest include child death review processes and prevention of child deaths from abuse and neglect.

Professor Sandy Cameron CBE has held various posts within Scotland, including Director of Social Work in Central Region and Director of Social Work for Borders Regional Council. In 1995 he was appointed Executive Director of Social Work for South Lanarkshire Council where he remained until retiring in 2006. In 2013 He was appointed as a Panel member for the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry.  Currently he chairs the Boards of SACRO and Capability Scotland and the Executive Governance Group of the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice at the University of Strathclyde. He is also Chair of the Council of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending and is a Non Executive Director of Care Visions Group.

Alyson Leslie is a retired social worker and researcher. She is an expert in child care inquiries and reviews and has investigated the deaths of children and harm to children across the UK for over 20 years. Her current projects relate to methodologies for capturing and disseminating learning from fatalities, documenting care experience and blockchain technologies.


Free Admission. Refreshments from 6pm. 

To register your attendance, please complete the form below. For queries email

Event Details

Northumbria University
Lecture Theatre 002, Business & Law Building
City Campus East
Newcastle upon Tyne


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