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Consultation on mandatory reporting of child abuse ‘has been buried’ | Observer 4.09.16

An article appeared in the Observer on 4/09/16.  The headline captures the thoughts of Baroness Walmsley whose amendment 43 in the Serious Crimes Bill secured the consultation.

 

observer-consultation-041016

Click on image to expand

The full article on line is here  or in .pdf format here.

Government delayed the start of the consultation by 631 days and then launched on the last day of parliament just as schools, the largest Regulated Activity, went on holiday. Furthermore the end of the consultation will be distracted by the political conference season just before the consultation closes on 13th October.

Child protection has not been liked by Government of any hue.

September 9th, 2016|

Are These the Official Spokespeople for IICSA?

The Victims Survivors Consultative Panel seems to have become a cadre of IICSA spokespeople who comment not on the glacial progress of the inquiry, the reasons for loss of another chair, the appointment of a replacement at breakneck speed who is unversed in law despite the inquiry being statutory, or the exceptionally poor inquiry communications , but on issues they neither know or understand because they are outside the VSCP  ToR’s.  Furthermore this Panel has yet to produce a report informing us what it has done in the last year. Despite these concerns, three VSCP members in full well briefed ‘on message’ cheerleader mode, undertook a gushathon of media engagements on multiple platforms following Justice Goddard’s resignation. The trio bore a striking resemblance to three hubcaps arriving in the car park in advance of the ditched charabanc from which they’d become momentarily detached.

The  IICSA Comms trio are now seemingly the official spokespeople for the inquiry, yet this is not included in the Panel’s terms of reference :

The VSCP will: Have a direct link to the Chair and Panel via the nominated Single Point of Contact for the VSCP to discuss issues as they arise as well as formal joint Panel and VSCP meetings.

Be provided with legal, administrative and media communications support. Act collectively and take collective responsibility to reach decisions and in the making of any statements.

VSCP terms of reference include :

  • The way in which the Inquiry engages with victims and survivors
  • Research and evidence on child sexual abuse
  • Advise on direction of workstreams
  • Advise on recommendations

To fulfil these obligations the panel meets once a week. They have collective responsibility.

People who applied for VSCP roles did so despite there being no ‘pathfinder’ terms of reference. Applicants did not know what they were applying for, but then their interviewers did not know what they were interviewing for. Really!

One has to wonder how the appointments were made? In the absence pathfinder ToRs it can only have been on the basis of ‘does the face fit?’ Or to put it another way – appointments of patronage. We wrote about it in April 2015 when the invitations for panel membership were announced.  For the record, no one who coalesces around Mandate Now applied.  Two of our number declined permission to have their names submitted to IICSA for consideration.

May meeting

Interviewed on 13th November 2014 and now all members of the VSCP. 

The picture above is a screenshot of an interview that happened on the 13th November 2014 outside the former office of NAPAC located in the Oval. The occasion was a meeting between Theresa May, who was being heavily criticised for having not spoken with abusees, and approximately thirteen survivors following the resignation of  Fiona Woolf, the second chair of the Panel Inquiry. Also present were people from the Home Office who now hold positions in the inquiry’s  administration. At the end of the engagement the four in the photograph left the room in the slipstream of Theresa May’s entourage and straight into the embrace of the assembled media to confirm the Home Secretary ‘got it.’

In the picture from left to right are : Fay Maxted, Lucy Duckworth, Chris Tuck, and Peter Saunders. These four now constitute more than half the members of the VSCP and yet, this interview occurred five months before the invitation to apply for VSCP membership was announced. Was this perhaps a trial outing for the spokespeople in waiting?

The most recent appearances for Peter Saunders, Chris Tuck and Lucy Duckworth followed Justice Goddard’s resignation. A number of people expressed surprise to us at being swamped by cheerleader opinion from the three. The deluge of ‘on message’ coverage would have better come from an official IICSA spokesperson operating at the centre of the inquiry. But IICSA doesn’t appear to have any other spokespersons, or at least not ones that appear on broadcast media. Even if there was someone, s/he would have to join the sharp elbowed queue of Panel members to get to a microphone.

There was collective astonishment at Goddard’s resignation yet when it happened, La Duckworth, Tuck, and Le Saunders burst onto the media to impart their ‘on message’ opinion, sometimes even using the same lexicon. One went ‘off-message’ to suggest a Chair wasn’t needed. A visit to the Inquiries Act would have informed the Panel member otherwise. But hey, what does it matter, free-styling is fun when you have a platform and know so few facts about either the resignation or the Inquiries Act. But let’s not forget ‘collective responsibility.’ Were I one of the panel members who have remained wisely silent, I would be very concerned at these outings which seem to now dominate VSCP activity.

Here is a little of what happened:

Lucy Duckworth with prepared notes.

Lucy Duckworth also appeared on Channel 4 and ITV with the same line of gushy opinion which one presumes is the collective position of the VSCP.

Peter Saunders, who has an inbuilt MGS (Microphone Guidance System) to take him to all exposed microphones in prioritised order in a ten mile radius of his contemporaneous position, pitched up on the Vanessa Feltz programme on BBC Radio London. This contribution we have edited to one key question before the interview was truncated by traffic news:

Clearly Peter, and one must presume the VSCP as a whole, are under the impression they possess the power to ‘make sure’ that the inquiry delivers change of an unspecified nature. Goodness how muscular!  Except the ToRs clearly indicate the VSCP has no such power.

Then on the 10/8/16 Chris Tuck stepped up with an article in the Guardian. The headline makes the point and its

Chris Tuck

a ‘move forward‘ piece. Comfort blankets and sweet tea but nothing of substance from another of the inquiry’s spokespeople:

“It is important to remember that the inquiry is not just about Goddard; there are many other people involved and a new chair will be appointed in due course”

Lucy Duckworth said something startlingly similar in her appearance on Today. Some of Lucy’s #r4today interview, in which she highlights the ‘huge’ scale of the inquiry, is embedded into Chris Tuck’s Opinion piece.  Chris goes onto say :

“I joined the victims and survivors’ consultative panel in July 2015”

Given the BBC interview outside the offices of  NAPAC on 13th November 2014, one could be forgiven for thinking a significant proportion of the VSCP, and now IICSA spokespeople, had been assembled before November 14.

Following the resignation of Justice Goddard, abusees needed to hear fact from an inquiry spokesperson, someone who is seen to be at its core, and speaking on behalf of it. Anything else is  pointless and open to criticism which will grow if these VSCP outings continue. Whatever the ToR’s contain, survivors have a mindset that thinks the VSCP  by their very presence, should be holding IICSA’s feet to the fire. Instead, the Panel seems ‘captured,’ and is doing IICSA’s bidding. One senses it adopts the impression of the last civil servant to sit on it and worryingly, it seems happy with the arrangement.

Independent and well reasoned opinion on Goddard’s departure was provided by Richard Scorer, a solicitor who acts for a number of Core Participants in the Inquiry. 

On the 28th August yet another article appeared, this time on a social newspaper.  Peter Saunders was wearing a NAPAC badge for this outing, or was he? Here is the piece :  Why the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is so important Peter in full cheerleader mode, pom poms aquiver:

And that is why I think the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is so important. Granted it has had a few false starts but behind the scenes there is a great deal of work going on and in Professor Alexis Jay we have a Chair of huge integrity and experience and as a member of the Inquiry’s Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel I have had the privilege of speaking with Professor Jay on a number of occasions. This really is victims’ and survivors’ once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come forward to the Inquiry and be heard.

I recently met the new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and was most impressed by her commitment to the Inquiry and to child protection. She is as keen to be made fully aware of this scourge in society as her predecessor was. And to have both the Home Secretary and Prime Minister committed to supporting the Inquiry and indeed organisations like NAPAC is a great step in the right direction.

For whose benefit is this slurry?

And then, just as we thought IICSA’s spokespeople had gone home to bed, Peter appears on BBC News on the subject of Janner :

Peter is under the NAPAC banner for this interview with Tom Symonds. The Janner family had come out strongly in the defence of their father. Tom well understands Peter has an unerring addiction to microphones and that he is part of IICSA. The report was exclusively about IICSA, but why is IICSA commenting?

It didn’t stop there. On 6/9/16 with klaxon blaring and the light flashing on Peter’s MGS he ‘zeroed in’ on World at One for a session with Ed Sturton. You’ll recognise much of it but the seeming redesign of the inquiry is new. Was Peter free-styling? Who knows?  Does he know? The enormity of the inquiry was mentioned for the umpteenth time – size clearly matters. One wonders whether the repeated mention of the size of the inquiry is preparation for some sort of paring of its scope by the sponsoring Department.  During her appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee 7/9/16 in response to a question from Chuka Umunna about paring, Amber Rudd said she saw no reason to change it. But she could be given one to consider if the new Chair asks.

In our April 2015 posting titled ‘The Victims Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP) – what’s it for?’ the penultimate paragraph says:  “Those who consider applying for the VSCP are in danger of being nothing more than decoration without meaningful function other than to burnish the credibility of the inquiry.”

It’s spooky that the crystal ball got it fairly correct.  Trying tasseography next.

September 7th, 2016|

Mandatory reporting laws for child sexual abuse are essential for kids and society: Professor Ben Mathews

Professor Ben Mathews is a researcher in the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He has led some of the largest studies ever undertaken into mandatory reporting laws for child sexual abuse.

In the UK, 18% of girls and 5% of boys experience contact sexual abuse (one in eight children), and the figures are even higher for all kinds of sexual abuse. The mean age of onset is 9-10. Most children unlucky enough to suffer sexual abuse are unable to tell anyone, because they are terrified of the abuser’s power, have been threatened, feel ashamed, depend on the abuser, or are too young to understand it. The abuse often continues, the children endure horrific experiences and suffer long-lasting health, behavioural and social problems, and society suffers enormous socio-economic costs. Offenders get away with it and can continue offending. We see this repeatedly with prolific individuals and gangs: Rotherham, Rochdale, Savile, Oxford, Operation Yewtree. But it’s not just high profile casesthat matter: many offenders are family members and other acquaintances.

What should society do to better identify cases at an early stage, interrupt the abuse, help the child, and identify the offenders? We should do what the scientific evidence tells us will get the best result. We should put the child at the centre of our debate. And we should do what an advanced liberal democracy in the 21st century that cares about its children would do.

To identify more cases at an early stage, the UK Parliament is considering whether to introduce mandatory reporting laws for child sexual abuse in England and Wales. As a social scientist who has conducted multiple long-term studies of this topic, my conclusion is that a UK mandatory reporting law will be very successful in responding to child sexual abuse and identifying cases that otherwise would not come to light. Ireland must agree, since in November 2015 it passed reporting laws for child sexual abuse. In fact, dozens of nations have them, ranging from Canada, Australia and the USA, to Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

These laws are often misunderstood, which produces erroneous conclusions. The truth is that the best evidence indicates they are probably the best public policy innovation we have to help identify cases of child sexual abuse. Based on historical experience, hard data and international insights, here are the top 10 things policymakers, professionals, and the public need to know.

  1. The laws do not require everyone to report everything. Rather, they simply require designated people (typically teachers, doctors, nurses, police, and sometimes others dealing with kids in their work) to report specified sexual abuse. So, the laws do require teachers, for example, to report known or reasonably suspected serious sexual offences, based on a child’s disclosure or clear behavioural indicators. The laws don’t require teachers to report four year olds engaging in developmentally normal sexual behaviour, or teenagers taking consensual semi-naked selfies.
  1. For this reason, and because sexual abuse is difficult to detect and frequently undisclosed, even with the laws you will not get loads of “unnecessary reports”. Numerous jurisdictions have had these laws for decades and the sky hasn’t fallen in. In Australia, which has very broad reporting laws for multiple kinds of abuse, our recent nationwide study over 10 years found that mandated reports of child sexual abuse make up only about 6% of reports of all kinds of child maltreatment made to the government.
  1. The laws overcome gaze aversion, which is the tendency for people to avoid uncomfortable phenomena and turn the other way. They compel professionals to report when they know or suspect sexual abuse and set a social norm about what must be done instead of ignoring the child’s situation. Together with good education about child sexual abuse and the reporting duty, the laws increase professionals’ awareness of just how serious sexual abuse is, and its nature, frequency and indicators. The laws say what professionals must do. The education explains why. The laws also give reporters anonymity and legal immunity: important legal protections.
  1. The reason the laws help is that these professionals can play a massive role in identifying cases that otherwise would remain hidden. Data from other countries shows that 50-75% of sexual abuse cases confirmed by child protection agencies are found after mandated reports by these social sentinels. To sexually abused kids, these professionals are guardian angels.
  1. Here’s how two demographically similar jurisdictions with the same child population compared in 2010, one with mandatory reporting (Victoria: A), and one without (Ireland: B). A found 4.73 times as many sexually abused children (989) compared with B (209): 780 more children in one year. In A, the mandated reports alone (police, teachers, doctors, nurses) identified 536 confirmed cases; 2.5 times the entire amount in B. Twice the number of reports were made in A compared with B, with 53% of these made by mandated reporters.
  1. Still not convinced? Here’s what is likely to happen when you introduce a reporting law. We analysed data in an Australian state from three years pre-law and four years post-law. Due to improved reporting by mandated reporters after the law, twice as many children per year were officially identified as sexual abuse victims; and three times as many were investigated (which may be the best measure of success). Reporting trends stabilised after the third post-law year. Even at their highest new level, the rate of children in reports was one in 210.
  1. Numbers of mandated reports of sexual abuse remain very stable over time, especially compared with other maltreatment. Rapid sustained rises in reports have occasionally occurred, but these have been about neglect and domestic violence, not sexual abuse. Moreover, subsequent changes to law and policy have caused just as rapid a decline in reports.
  1. It’s impossible to give a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. But, each case of child maltreatment has been estimated as costing US$210,000, child sexual abuse is arguably even more costly, and the costs of reporting and investigation are shown by leading researchers to be minimal in the child protection budget. Alongside the moral, legal and practical arguments, the economic argument based on returns from early intervention and increased offender detection is strong.
  1. A reporting law should not be limited only to offences within a “regulated activity” like boarding schools. Queensland did this, and had to expand the law after accepting it was theoretically, legally and practically indefensible. Are you really going to take seriously child sexual abuse you know or suspect occurs in a boarding school, but not every other case? No jurisdiction in the world does this and the UK shouldn’t either.
  1. That’s a lot of evidence. Now let’s consider the child’s experience, feelings, and needs. The abused child is terrified, wants it to stop, and needs health assistance. In the worst kind of case, she is raped daily by someone twice her size, and is completely in their power. She can’t escape it, process it, or stop it. Her teacher, doctor, or a police officer who knows or suspects something, might be the only person in her world who can help by reporting that suspicion.

This girl, and thousands of other children like her, needs someone to help bring her experience to the attention of a protective agency. That can best happen through a mandatory reporting law, properly supported by good reporter education and a well-supported system.

September 3rd, 2016|

Article in Community Care Magazine about Mandatory Reporting and the Whereabouts of the Consultation

Community Care 14.07.16

Community Care article

 

 

 

 Still we await this long delayed  consultation. If  ever a Government  was hoping a consultation  would be  forgotten, this is it.

 

The article is available here or via .pdf here.

July 16th, 2016|

Spectator article Against Mandatory Reporting: A Blizzard of Ill-informed Comment

On 22.6.16 the Spectator published an article by Josie Appleton who does not appear to be a regular contributor. She is convener for a pressure group that writes against regulations in everyday life. She also periodically contributes to the Guardian. Clearly Mandatory Reporting seems to be considered a soft target to which, just like any other piece of proposed legislation, Ms Appleton can contribute using her adult logic without appreciating the first two rules of child protection are (i) suspend adult logic (ii) apply significant experience because it is a complex subject. The piece is available here

Uploaded to Spectator website 22.6.16

 

 

There are several points of interest in the article. Firstly that appeared in this Conservative magazine at this time at all. The Government has repeatedly deferred the consultation despite there being little need. We understand it was ready to begin in December 15 and that it might now be launched just before the recess, ideally timed for the ‘silly season.’ Let’s not forget Mr Cameron described child abuse as a ‘national threat.’

Within the article there is a thumb print that suggests Ms  Appleton was briefed by  the Department for  Education media team. The idea that referrals from Mandated reporters are poor, while referrals from elsewhere are reliable is pure DfE fantasy spin.  

 

 

 

The Spectator declined to publish a comment from a reader maybe because it was too long or perhaps because of embedded links to evidence. The post was sent (more…)

June 23rd, 2016|

Mandatory Reporting of Known and Suspected Abuse: Guardian and Observer Articles June 2016

Louise Ticklle 060616

 

 

 

You can read the article here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observer 280516

Although the positions of the two child protection NGO’s appear to differ in this article their approaches to mandatory reporting are in reality almost identical in that both are keen on the status quo. The NSPCC sidesteps the question on mandatory reporting and talks of sanction predicated on ‘known abuse’ The view of these two organisations seems to be that neither want to be seen to hold a different position to Government.

The NSPCC’s raising ‘known abuse’ hints at its position statement launched in July 2014 which we reviewed it in detail here and concluded  : If the objective is the introduction of sound legislative foundations the proposals from the NSPCC are profoundly flawed. 

In July 2014, to coincide with the NSPCC’s ‘strengthening duties’ policy statement, Peter Wanless said to the Independent newspaper

“However, our focus for criminalisation is on cover-up, not the merest suspicion that a child might have been harmed.

Why does the NSPCC adopt a seemingly discriminatory approach to regulated activity staff being required and supported to report concerns about the safety of a child, but not concerns arising from talking PANTS?

Please read our review of the April 2016 article by Professor Ben Mathews entitled – Impact of new mandatory reporting law on reporting and identification of child sexual abuse: A seven year time trend analysis. The empirical evidence contradicts the NSPCC.

June 8th, 2016|

A Review of: MR law on reporting and identification of CSA: A seven year time trend analysis

Mandate Now review of :

Published April 2016

Published April 2016

Click on image to enhance quality

The Mandate Now position has always been that we follow the evidence. If sound research were to show that mandatory reporting in Regulated Activities (e.g. schools, hospitals etc.) were unhelpful to detecting child sex abuse, then we would stop our campaign for the introduction of such a law.

The government has consistently opposed mandatory reporting, and has cited various academic research papers which it claims support its position. These include: (more…)

June 8th, 2016|

New Research: Impact of Mandatory Reporting Law : A Seven year Longitudinal Analysis

The long delayed consultation on Mandatory Reporting (“MR”), ceded from Government on 28th October 2014 in the House of Lords during the passage of the Serious Crimes Bill, still awaits launch.  But this has borne an advantage with the release earlier this week of important new longitudinal research into the effects of MR from Ben Mathews, LLB, BA, PhD, Associate Professor in the School of Law at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He is also Director of Research in the School of Law and is co-Leader of the Children’s Rights and Welfare research program in QUT’s Children and Youth Research Centre.

Dr Mathews’ major area of research expertise is in children and the law, with a focus on issues concerning law and child maltreatment, civil damages for child abuse, children and educational systems, medico-legal issues, children’s rights, cultural violence against children, and children’s criminal responsibility. He has conducted large multidisciplinary studies of laws regarding the reporting of child maltreatment and has published extensively in Australia and internationally, with 45 publications. Ben’s research and knowledge translation has led to changes in law, policy and practice. (more…)

May 13th, 2016|

A Lengthening List of Independent Schools Confused over Child Protection – 16/03/16

In 2008 child protection in England and Wales was described in the following terms by the co author of a highly regarded reference book on child protection law in common law jurisdictions:

‘What is the current law?

To start it is important to recognise two problems in the current law relating to child abuse:

It is a patchwork of different types of law often created as a specific reaction to a particular scandal. It has no cohesion and can be contradictory. It is, for want of a better description, the Dangerous Dogs Act writ large.

It is unwieldy. There are hundreds of different rules in different places.’

The co author was expressing opinions shared by others. Here is Sir Roger Singleton on the same subject in 2009 following the publication of his report ‘Keeping Our School Safe‘ which was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Education Ed Balls, just three weeks after the first broadcast of the BAFTA award winning documentary Chosen about institutional child abuse and its long-term effects (more…)

March 16th, 2016|

NSPCC Whistling Home Office Tune to Child Protection Inertia

The Home office has entered a joint enterprise with the NSPCC to create a whistle blowing helpline to aid staff who consider their employer has not handled, or been handling, a child protection concern well or correctly. This was reported by the BBC on 13/2/16 

That there’s a helpline is an admission that whistleblowers aren’t protected and the existing child protection system is fundamentally broken. If it wasn’t broken we wouldn’t need whistleblowers!

Grounding child protection on whistle blowing is a non starter which means functioning child protection in organisations is impossible. Examples include an institution such as BBC and Regulated Activities such as schools, faith groups, healthcare, sport,  and care homes for both young and old. The NSPCC’s abuse prevalence statistics further indicate the failure of whistle blowing over 40 years. It claims only 5% of child abuse is detected in this country, and more recently the Children’s Commissioner claimed it to be 12.5%.  By any standard, these figures do not represent anything of which child protection experts can be proud. (more…)

February 13th, 2016|