The government are considering reform to the child protection systems in England, specifically mandatory reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect. Anyone with a view about these issues is asked to consider the consultation paper and to respond by 13 October 2016.
A recent report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England highlighted that only one in eight victims of sexual abuse are likely to come to the attention of the police. The consultation paper acknowledges that even when a concern is raised, the level and nature of the response might not be good enough.
The consultation follows a number of high profile cases which have put the spotlight on child protection issues. The consultation paper recognises that “The status quo is not good enough”.
A duty to report child abuse or neglect or a duty to act to take appropriate action (which could include reporting) could be introduced where a practitioner “knew or had reasonable cause to suspect it was taking place”.
In addition to senior members of an organisation and practitioners such as social workers, teachers and police officers, those in administrative or support roles such as school caretakers, secretaries and caterers could also fall under any new measures.
If a duty to report child abuse was introduced in England, reports would be made to local authority children’s social care.
The consultation paper suggests that criminal sanctions could be imposed including fines and imprisonment for individual practitioners. Remedial and publicity orders could also be used in cases where organisations are found to have breached either duty.