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IICSA Seminar 12.04.17 was Misinformed About Mandatory Reporting

Preventing and responding to Child Sexual Abuse: Learning about best practice from overseas

At the outset it is worth reminding ourselves of the reason the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse was established.

  • To consider the extent to which State and non-State institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation;
  • To consider the extent to which those failings have since been addressed;
  • To identify further action needed to address any failings identified;
  • To consider the steps which it is necessary for State and non-State institutions to take in order to protect children from such abuse in future; and
  • To publish a report with recommendations.

We believe the seminar participants listed below were chosen by IICSA because of their engagement with relevant institutions:

  • David Ashcroft – Chair of Association of Independent Chairs of Local Safeguarding Children Boards
  • David Beard – Head of Corporate Safeguarding Barnardo’s
  • Sheila Taylor MBE – Chief Executive, National Working Group (NWG)
  • Professor Anthony Beech – University of Birmingham
  • Pam Miller – Senior Analyst, NSPCC
  • Dr Jon Bird Survivor – Support Manager, National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
  • Susie Hargreaves OBE – Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation
  • Namita Prakash – Service Manager, The Survivors Trust
  • Lee Eggleston OBE – Operations Manager & Trustee Board Member, Rape Crisis
  • Linda Dominguez – Director, One in Four

The start of the seminar was about the ‘Rapid Evidence Assessment’ – What can be learnt from other jurisdictions about preventing and responding to child sexual abuse – commissioned by IICSA from the University of Central Lancashire through a tendering process. Child protection in institutional settings was not specifically part of the review which is very unfortunate.

Disclaimer: This is a Rapid Evidence Assessment prepared at IICSA’s request. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors alone.

UCLAN’s assessment was delivered by Professor Lorraine Radford and understandably contained views of the authors’ (see disclaimer in caption) on a number of issues including mandatory reporting. We were concerned about elements of Professor Radford’s report particularly about its handling of the evidence of research on mandatory reporting led by Professor Ben Mathews of Queensland University of Technology. We wrote to Professor Jay to say so:

Our first letter to Professor Jay 19.4.17

As you see we sent a copy to Professor Radford who replied to IICSA and kindly sent us a copy:

Response from Professor Radford 25.4.17

(The letter starts ‘Dear Stephen’ who we believe may be Stephen Webster, Head of Research – IICSA)

The reply was discouraging. Professor Radford’s letter seems to suggest that despite the findings of Mathews et al., there is no concrete evidence about the actual positive outcomes to the child after the report, even if it is substantiated.

We felt the need to write once more, not least because there are a significant number of social workers on IICSA’s personnel roster, including the Chair. The profession dislikes mandatory reporting as clearly demonstrated during the 9th BASPCAN conference 2015 in Edinburgh at which mandatory reporting was debated after a fashion.  The reasons for the profession’s dislike of the law, which operates in varying forms in Regulated Activities in the majority of countries on all four continents, has little to do with the protection of children as you will read shortly. Social workers are rarely if ever involved in the design and delivery of child protection in these complex settings. They opine on the subject from their professional and experiential understanding which is dominated by familial abuse. As a result the profession tends to approach child protection with a ‘one size fits all’ mindset the genesis of which is ‘the family.’ Research grounded on familial abuse has been misapplied to child protection in regulated activities for decades and the consequential failure has contributed to the existence of the inquiry.

For example, nowhere in Professor Radford’s review is there any mention of the vitally important ‘sentinel’ role adults working in regulated activities have to report suspected abuse to children in their charge that might arise outside the setting, or the essential clarity, support and legal protection these staff are given in jurisdictions that operate well designed mandatory reporting.  We decided to write again:

Our second letter to Professor Jay 9.5.17

One imagines that IICSA’s Academic Advisory Board will be contributing to some extent to this important subject. An evidence-giving session on MR was due to have occurred prior to June 2016 – it’s now days away from being a year late. On page 84 of the seminar transcript at lines 17, 18,19 Mr Mathew Hill the Facilitator said :

“I am conscious that time is pressing on, and I would like to turn relatively briefly, because this is a seminar topic in itself, to the question of mandatory reporting.”

The delay is perhaps in part because the Inquiry is awaiting the outcome of the long delayed Home Office consultation – Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect. Two years six months has now passed since it was agreed to by Government in the face of Amendment 43 tabled by Baroness Walmsley.

So what will be the role of the Academic Advisory Board on mandatory reporting? The board is led by Prof. Jenny Pearce OBE* (University of Bedfordshire), and also includes Prof. Marian Brandon* (University of East Anglia), Prof. Julia Davidson (Middlesex University) Prof. Eileen Munro CBE* (London School of Economics); and Prof. June Thoburn CBE* (University of East Anglia). Those marked with an asterisk are social workers. Of its five members just one is not a social worker. Professor Munro wrote a paper against MR in 2007, and has spoken against it on BBC Panorama  broadcast on Monday 4th November 2013. Professor June Thoburn, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at the University of East Anglia expressed disdain for the law on twitter, but in this 140 character limited observation, the protection of children fails to get a mention.

Professor Thoburn’s tweet followed the Labour Party supporting the principle of Mandatory Reporting which was announced on the Deputy Leader’s website on 15 October 2016 under the headline – Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect – Mandatory Reporting Must be Introduced.

Professor Thoburn’s assertion that the data replete article by Professor Mathews which was cited in Labour’s support for the introduction of mandatory reporting is ‘thin’ is quite simply wrong.

Returning once again to the UCLAN ‘rapid evidence assessment.’ Discussion about the assessment has been significant at Mandate Now. It took a few days to appreciate the reason for the collective unease about it. We can illustrate it best by reference to the  Nobel laureate Richard Feynman’s 1974 commencement address at California Institute of Technology, in which he discussed the importance and principles of scientific integrity.

“It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. …. The idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for example, with advertising. Last night I heard that Wesson Oil doesn’t soak through food. Well, that’s true. It’s not dishonest; but the thing I’m talking about is not just a matter of not being dishonest, it’s a matter of scientific integrity, which is another level. The fact that should be added to that advertising statement is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a certain temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will—including Wesson Oil”

So it’s the implication which has been conveyed, not the fact, which is true, and the difference is what we have to deal with.”

(Our emboldening)

In her reply to our letter, Professor Radford said that there is a “lack of evidence” in the Mathews study that mandatory reporting improves outcomes. That isn’t dishonest. It is technically true, because Mathews did not extend his study to look at outcomes, and so did not gather that evidence,

But it is misleading in the same way that the advertising statement about Wesson Oil is misleading, because there is evidence generally that interventions by children’s services do improve outcomes for children and Professor Radford offers no reason to believe otherwise. There is no reason to think that the effectiveness of an intervention is cancelled simply because the origin of the investigation that leads to the intervention happens to be a report from a mandated reporter.

Professor Radford has used a statement that is true in the narrow sense to give an impression that is at variance with the wider evidence. It could easily be interpreted as lacking the kind of integrity described by Feynman, no matter how unintentional, that we have a right to expect from scientists (including social scientists) on any subject.

May 15th, 2017|

Bishop of Bath + Wells Faces a Morton’s Fork over MR. CofE Imagineers Attempt to Conceal ‘U’ Turn

The Home Office consultation titled ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse’ was secured on 28th October 2014 as a result of Amendment 43 tabled by Baroness Walmsley (LibDem) during the passage of the Serious Crimes Bill.

Sometime before the Bill arrived in the Lords, Mandate Now had been advised by an individual close to our pressure group that the Church of England was fully subscribed to mandatory reporting in Regulated Activities. News reached us that the Lord Bishop of Durham Paul Butler, who at the time was Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Panel and Lead Bishop for Safeguarding in the Church of England, intended supporting Baroness Walmsley’s amendment not least because Justin Welby was in agreement. Here was a ‘Regulated Activity’ acknowledging that without law, no one can place reliance on child protection in any Regulated Activity because  policies are grounded on nothing more than a hope that someone will have the courage to do the ‘right thing.’ It’s an arrangement designed to fail. We said so in the statement that opened our submission to the Consultation dated 6/10/16 : (more…)

May 2nd, 2017|

#MR Bill Underway for USA Athletes following Senate Hearing and Grey-Thompson Now Wants It

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s – ‘Duty of Care in Sport’ report is published today.

A key paragraph is on p.20 under  in ‘Theme 5’- safeguarding.

Mandatory reporting

It should be recognised that organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults can attract individuals who will seek to exploit and abuse them – there is a need for continual vigilance. The government should therefore consider extending a Duty to Report to all sports organisations. This would mean that if a person knows, or has suspicion of, any abuse taking place, they must report it to the relevant body for action to be taken.

You can download it here.

(more…)

April 21st, 2017|

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. (more…)

March 24th, 2017|

Child Protection in Football – An Article in The Independent Reliant on Hearsay and Hope

On Wednesday 1st March Ian Herbert, Chief Sports Writer for the Independent, under the banner Football is not rife with child abusers, so it is time for the Offside Trust to explain what they are for,’  writes a eulogy to the FA’s current child protection framework. Is it right to do so? We examine his claims and the foundations on which they are grounded.

The piece informs us: (more…)

March 6th, 2017|

West Berks SCB – The Unconvincing Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Abuse at Kennet School

The report was released by West Berkshire Safeguarding Children’s Board at noon today. 

A copy of the review is here: Kennet School Serious Case Review

This is the Mandate Now review of this opaque production.

The SCR doesn’t actually describe what failings have occurred and whether as a result the abuse could have been prevented or could have been halted earlier than it was. (more…)

February 1st, 2017|

Alternative Perspective on NSPCC – closing ‘Loopholes in Sport’ VictoriaLIVE 26.1.17

  • The NSPCC suggestions for changes to the DBS system will only protect children from abusers who are already known.
  • The shortcomings arising from the DBS being relaxed in 2012, which can permit ‘barred’ people to work with children periodically if they are supervised, was debated in the House of Lords during the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act  in November 2011 by two peers with distinguished sporting backgrounds. Why only now has the NSPCC alighted on this issue?  Should it not have been raising this point and objecting to the legislation when it was going through Parliament?
  • The NSPCC proposal to extend duty of care to 16 and 17 year olds, which already exists in education,  is a sound principle. It will though have a limited effect in practice because data [Characteristics Children in Need 2014-15 Table A3 – https://goo.gl/TDiFgq ] indicates the proportion of children suffering abuse or neglect (both sexes) in this age group is 14% while in the younger group, which is already included within the scheme in ‘statutory guidance’  it is 86%.  (Statutory guidance is discretionary)

(more…)

January 26th, 2017|

Key Speeches from HoL Debate 15.12.16 : Allegations of child sexual abuse within football clubs

On the same day as the debate in the House of Lords, Mandate Now issued a press release under the headline ‘Confused Football Association safeguarding policy fails children‘ in which we reviewed the current child protection policy operating at the grassroots of football. Disturbingly the policy was endorsed by the Child Protection Sport Unit of the NSPCC despite it mistakenly claiming law exists to report abuse. A summary of the errors in the policy are available here.

Well meaning employees working in Regulated Activities who have responsibility for children in their care are being failed by a dysfunctional child protection framework, the legal foundation of which has always lacked law to report. It is still discretionary for an employee of a Regulated Activity to report suspected or known child abuse. In the event someone decides to report, they have the dilute Public Interest Disclosure Act to provide nominal protection. (more…)

December 19th, 2016|

Confused Football Association safeguarding policy fails children

Press Release

FA ‘Grassroots Football Safeguarding Children’ Policy

With this much confusion in the FA’s approach to child protection, it will be no surprise to discover that much abuse in football continues to go unreported.” says Tom Perry of Mandate Now, the pressure group which leads the agenda for the introduction of Mandatory Reporting of known and suspected abuse in ‘Regulated Activities’ including sport.

In advance of today’s debate in the House of Lords ‘Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse within football clubs’ Lord Addington (Estimated start 14.00), Mandate Now has reviewed the FA’s ‘Grassroots Football Safeguarding Children Policy’ and in addition the child protection template for club usage.

Our detailed summary of both is here  (more…)

December 15th, 2016|

Labour Party Submission to MRconsult. Good Objectives but Muddled Thinking

During the week commencing 7th November, the Labour Party submitted its proposals  to the Government Consultation titled : Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect. In the 2015 Labour manifesto it said :

lab-manifesto-mr-3

Here is our review of it. Our observations are indented in italics between the body of Labour’s submission. (more…)

December 5th, 2016|