The cadet forces have been the subject of a BBC Panorama investigation into child safeguarding matters and sexual abuse.
Dealing with such subject matter is unquestionably difficult and challenging but as the Deputy Commander responsible for the safe delivery and assurance of the Combined Cadet Forces I have a responsibility to inform everyone associated with the organisations of what I know about the programme and to reinforrce how seriously we take the safety and well-being of our Cadets. The same message is being conveyed to the Army Cadet Force and by my colleagues responsible for the RAF’s Air Cadets and the Marine Society and Sea Cadets.
Child abuse is an abhorrent crime. Thankfully the overwhelming majority of young people enjoy cadet activities without ever experiencing any form of abuse or bullying. The Combined Cadet Force does not tolerate abuse and bullying and we have clear policies and practices to defend against it, which support respective school policies and are especially important during activity outside of the school. As with our community cadets, we seek to create a culture that encourages adults and cadets to speak up, confront and disclose any concerns and we take tremendous pride in the trust young people place in us to support them.
Some of the cases in the programme feature former adult volunteers. While a number of these allegations and incidents took place over 30 years ago, some individuals were not reported and convicted until years later. Our effective cooperation with the police, schools and local authorities ensures offenders are brought to justice and young people are protected from harm. We will always follow due process and bring individuals to account irrespective of when an allegation is brought to somebody’s attention. Allegations could be brought to the attention of another adult volunteer, a member of the school staff, the police and/or an organisation such as the NSPCC. Our safeguarding process is founded on this principle and we pride ourselves in the trust young people, their parents and guardians, and in the case of the CCF their schools place in us.
If anyone ever believes they may have been a victim of child abuse they should report it to the police for investigation. If anyone knows somebody who has been a victim they must report it. Where an individual feels unable to discuss a concern with a member of their school staff, an adult volunteer or a member of our Cadet Training Teams then they or their parents/guardians should be encouraged to contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000. The NSPCC are aware of the Panorama broadcast and they can assist at any time of the day or night, whether now or in the future.
All of our Adult Volunteers and members of our Cadet Training Teams undergo enhanced disclosure checks, mandatory background and security checks and regular mandatory safeguarding training. Unlike many youth organisations, our disclosure checks are repeated every 5 years (some schools may follow slightly different regimes). Our safeguarding policies are also reviewed regularly and independently audited and are always available to cadets, parents, guardians, and adult volunteers.
I sincerely hope that this note assures everyone associated with the Combined Cadet Force, both now and in the future, of the commitment that the Ministry of Defence and the single Services collectively have towards Safeguarding and Child Protection. We are determined to do all we can to ensure that young people are listened to and protected during their time with us in order to keep every child safe from harm.
Brigadier Matthew Lowe MBE
Deputy Commander Cadets, HQ Regional Command