Conclusion: shifting the focus, from ‘bad apples’ to users’ rights
Inquiries and public perceptions It is clear from a reading of this book that much of the evidence concerning institutional abuse in the United Kingdom derives from inquiry reports. This is in part a consequence of the fact that research into experience of abuse is difficult to design and implement, and easy to criticise on methodological grounds. However, the tradition of the public inquiry in the United Kingdom has become well-established in the late twentieth century and inquiries and the ensuing public interest have become powerful levers in the creation of social policy. Reder and Duncan (1996) have identified the purposes of inquiries as discipline,
learning, catharsis and reassurance, and they note that these agendas can often conflict. These processes can also be enacted at different levels so that both policy makers and individual practitioners can learn from the lessons of inquiries, and catharsis can be experienced by individual victims as well as by the general public. Learning and reassurance tend to be the predominant themes in the inquiry reports considered in this volume. Prior to the establishment of the North Wales Tribunal in 1997, concerns were expressed by the local authority’s insurers that publication of an inquiry report could result in a flood of compensation claims (Elias 1997) and liability is now an issue that could be added to Reder and Duncan’s list.