210, 2016

MN Response to Option 3 of MR Consult: Duty to Act in relation to child abuse and neglect

Option 3 Conclusion : Mandate Now rejects the proposal.

The proposal requires no one to report anything because there is no legal mandate to report. No one is protected if they do report a concern because the report remains discretionary since the required action under the duty is unspecified.  If they don’t act in a way they should have acted,  and with the benefit of hindsight and possibly years later,  the failure to act ‘could’ be criminalised.

The proposal is designed to achieve nothing; it is an exercise in afterthought that contributes nothing to the long-needed change to the culture in child protection.

It is after the event child abuse legislation that might scapegoat the odd person.
It cannot positively impact the culture of child protection.
The action to be taken is unspecified which leaves staff unprotected if they decide to take action.
It is a duty to take unspecified “appropriate action” which varies according to circumstance. It would be an extremely challenging offence to prove. Nothing so vague could have a criminal sanction attached.
In less serious cases it is proposed that the duty to act will be enforced by disciplinary sanctions rather than criminal sanctions. This depends on organisations acting potentially against their own interests to apply disciplinary sanctions. There is no proposed sanction on an organisation for failing to take disciplinary action.
The cases where the proposal anticipates criminal sanctions will be used are  narrow and require such a degree of knowledge  of the abuse by the accused as to be almost impossible to prove. No prosecutions will occur
Having an unspecified duty to act is an open invitation to some RAs to handle abuse cases “in house”, rather than report  to the LADO in the case of schools or the the Local Authority MASH.   They will claim that they were acting reasonably and in good faith, and it will be in almost all cases be impossible to prove otherwise.