A summary of IICSA MR Seminars 1 + 2 with some background.

In Spring 2018 many of us wondered if IICSA’s long promised mandatory reporting (‘MR’) seminar would ever happen. Well-designed MR is a key component of functioning safeguarding, particularly for Regulated Activities. It introduces responsibility and accountability to these strategically important institutional roles where only nominal responsibility and accountability exists presently. It’s in these settings that children spend most time after time with family. Importantly, and always overlooked, MR law also protects staff who are mandated to report known or suspected abuse. This rarely recognised element is as important as the obligation to report.

IICSA belatedly announced it would hold a one day MR seminar on 27th September 2018. During the afternoon session a waterfall cascaded into the seminar room from the floor above which truncated the gathering which was a banquet of default institutional safeguarding speak that’s led us to the crisis that IICSA is belatedly attempting to address. A second seminar had been mooted for sometime, was extended by half a day to account for the interruption. It was eventually held in April 2019. Mandate Now was invited to both, as was the Department for Education.

Government is against the introduction of functioning Mandatory Reporting. It’s position is supported by both the NSPCC and Barnardos. To adopt this stance all three have to ignore empirical evidence while each simultaneously claim to be evidence led. In this article from May 2018 we provided the reasons that motivate the Government’s rejection of MR. Depressingly it has nothing to do with safeguarding children in these complex settings and everything to do with capping the number of referrals to Police and Local Authority. In the ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect’ consultation, the DfE and Home Office proposed ‘Duty to Act’ ( ‘DtA’ ). It’s a great title but is nothing like mandatory reporting. It was also without functioning precedent in any common law jurisdiction that we could find. Without a precedent there is no data. Government also provided no research to support its proposal. It was therefore reliant on the NGO’s to lend weight to its unviable initiative. Like two elderly Labradors the NSPCC and Barnardo’s pitched up, tails wagging to shore up the credibility of ‘DtA’ which incidentally was nothing more than the status quo in new clothes. We reviewed it in our submission and concluded it was a counterfeit, designed to mislead the well meaning and naive. We could say nothing positive about. It did though provide a haven for those in safeguarding who found themselves in a confused state when Government finally admitted, for the first time in writing, that there’s no law to report known or suspected child abuse in England and Wales.

On the 21 July 2016 (the day preceding the start of the summer recess) the consultation documents were finally placed into Parliament. It was a thirteen week consultation which meant it closed when parliament was once again in recess, this time for party conference season. MR is seen, quite mistakenly, as a subject to kick into the long grass.

Until these documents arrived in Parliament, the vast majority of people working in Regulated Activities, who in reality are only ‘nominally’ responsible for safeguarding in these settings, were convinced law existed. Below is another example of this unawareness, this time from the only children’s safeguarding charity with statutory status.

The NSPCC – its understanding of mandatory reporting at the time

To not omit Barnardo’s from criticism, here’s an example of its commitment to the safeguarding ‘statutory guidance.’ It simply ignored it in order to comply with a £17,000 p.a. contract with the Youth Justice Board to supply independent advocacy to children who were incarcerated at the Medway Secure Training Centre. It agreed to not refer safeguarding concerns arising in Medway to the Local Authority. In doing so it broke no law which reveals the current framework these NGO’s so enthusiastically support, has next to no functional role in safeguarding in Regulated Activities. Coincidentally, the Youth Justice Board (a quango), is part funded by the Department for Education, the very Department responsible for the design of safeguarding the safeguarding framework that Barnardo’s agreed to ignore.

The credibility of both NGO’s has to be questioned and most particularly their claim to be evidence led which both seem to forget when it’s convenient. MR is just one example. And here’s another, the NSPCC allegedly supported Government in the 1930’s in order to keep the number of child deaths secret from the public. This should really make people reassess the role of these organisations.

Barnardo’s was an invitee to the first MR seminar. Here is its submission to the consultation. It is against MR but sees merit in DtA that has no possibility of playing any role in improving safeguarding in Regulated Activities. The document is filled with the usual safeguarding clichés redolent of a weary organisation absent of chutzpah to lead any agenda other than being on time to catch the bus home. At the first seminar it was represented by someone who had formerly been employed by the NSPCC. We should all be concerned at the inter-changeability of personnel between the NGOs’ and the DfE. It’s unhealthy and promotes groupthink, and it shows. At MR seminar #1 Barnardo’s said nothing of relevance about Regulated Activity safeguarding and produced no evidence in support of what it did say. Its presence was a waste of a seat. IICSA seems to possess a certain sensitivity about appearances and to omit Barnardo’s or the NSPCC from the seminars would prompt questions. But serious questions need to be asked of these outfits. What did they contribute to the MR seminars? The same slurry they have been speaking for years which ensures they remain faithful Labradors to the Government. The Barnardo’s strap line is ‘We transform Lives‘, the NSPCC’s is ‘Every Childhood is worth fighting for.‘ Yet both these organisations embrace the safeguarding status quo in Regulated Activities. Their inertia fails staff, children, parents and the State, which might come as a surprise to the Department for Education which is asleep at the wheel of this clattering train. Both NGO’s do this by averting their gaze to the empirical evidence in order to nuzzle the leg of Government in the hope they get a few pats on the head and some tidbits (including honours) for being faithful. Maybe the NSPCC should rewrite its strap line to –

(But not the children who are at risk of abuse in a Regulated Activity or when a Regulated Activity is acting as a sentinel reporter)

Below is a list of invitees to MR Seminar #2. It was surprising that no LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) attended either seminar. Other than the smaller survivor charities and Mandate Now, which is a pressure group and therefore not a charity, the seminar was replete with ‘policy wonks’ from larger organisations who deal with ‘safeguarding theory.’ They appeared uniformly unfamiliar with any of the research or data presented by Professor Mathews. Did any examine it before day 2? It didn’t seem so. They arrived with a position and left with it intact. But there was a tangible change in atmosphere in the afternoon when some delegates were perhaps realising their organisation may end up on the wrong side of history.

Thanks to a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office in our favour against the Home Office, Mandate Now secured all the submissions to ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect’ consultation. A few of the files turned over by the Home Office were omitted or jumbled as you will be able to see in a forthcoming post. Despite writing to the Home Office about it, their answer in abbreviated form was, ‘tough.’ Of the larger organisations at the seminar, all were against MR. The table below provides a link to submissions where they were made. The consultation provided poor and limited data to potential respondents, almost exclusively grounded on familial abuse. The whole consultation process seemed designed to achieve one outcome – no change. Here is an example of press on the day following launch.

It was all designed to strike fear into anyone working in Regulated Activities in whatever role. But what the population did not know was that dinner ladies cannot be defined as RA’s, neither can secretaries or cleaners. One doubts the DfE even knew this.

The majority of those who provided submissions inhaled the headline negatives from the consultation documents and vomited them into their submissions. Despite the consultation crash site, it is inconceivable that MR will not be recommended by IICSA. If IICSA does sidestep it, then what remains of the inquiry’s threadbare reputation will be ash. The weight of subject specific (Regulated Activity) evidence that demonstrates MR is a vital component of functioning safeguarding in Regulated Activities, is too great to ignore.

The table below does not work well on mobile unless you use auto rotate, our apologies. It’s easier on desktop.

MR Seminar Delegates 29/30 April 2019

OrganisationName / RoleFor MRAgainst MRFor DTAAgainst DTALink to consultation submission
Association of Directors of Children's Services Day 1

Association of Directors of Children's Services Day 2
Stuart Gallimore Past President



Rachel Dixon President

XX
(ish)
ADCS Submission
Association of School and College LeadersAnna Cole
Parliamentary
Specialist
XX
(Para 8 + 34)
ASCL Submission
Chief Social Worker EnglandIsabelle Trowler
Scheduled to attend
Day 1 but did not
Department for EducationKaty Willison
Director of Children's
Social Care,
Practice and Workforce
General Medical Council Sharon Burton
Head of Policy,
Ethics and
Standards
XX
(With reservations)
GMC Submission
Independent Schools Council Simon Nathan
XY
(ish)
Two part submission
Part 1

Part 2
Mandate NowTom Perry
Founder
YXMandate Now Submission
Migdal EmunahYehudis Godsobel
Founder
Y
National Police Chiefs
Council
D.Sup Michael Britton
Staff Officer National
Policing Lead for Child
Protection and
Investigation
XXNPCC Submission
NHS EnglandMoya Sutton MBE
Senior
Safeguarding Lead
XXNHS England Submission
NSPCCAlmudena Lara
Head of Policy
XYNSPCC Submission
One in FourMichelle Denny Brown Clinical Lead and Wellbeing Coordinator
Queensland University of TechnologyProfessor
Ben Mathews
RespondNoelle Blackman
Chief Executive
Y
Save AssociationPaul Stewart
Co Founder
Scout Association Tina Wilson
Head of Safeguarding
XXScout Association Submission
Welsh GovernmentAlbert Heaney
Director of Social
Services and
Integration
Mr Heaney claimed on day 2 that Wales now has MR. It does not. The suggestion is nonsense.
Barnardo's

Mr Seminar Part 2 Day 1 29.4.19 -First Session
Includes first presentation by Prof Ben Mathews on MR

Here is video of proceedings for the first (half) day which consisted two presentations by Professor Ben Mathews with questions that followed.

MR seminar Part 2, Day 1 30.4.19 – Second Session
Includes second presentation by Prof Ben Mathews on MR

Videos of Day 2 are available here

Slides used in Mathews Presentation 1

Slides used in Mathews Presentation 2

Transcript of Day 1 – 29th April 2019

Transcript of Day 2 – 30th April 2019