The Barnardo’s statement of the 18th September on mandatory reporting starts by expressing the universal sentiment that covering up abuse is wrong and shameful. The statement continues “We believe that it is time to change the law so that organisations face criminal proceedings if they cover up abuse.”
This bears a striking similarity to the flawed proposal from the NSPCC in its mid-August Policy Briefing to which MandateNow responded here.
What Barnardo’s has not addressed is the essential requirement that staff who have reasonable grounds for a concern about the welfare of a child, must be supported when they report it to the Local Authority. For there to be a chance of transforming the quality and culture of child protection in Regulated Activities, which is presumably what all of us seek, support for this very difficult early action is absolutely essential.
Barnardo’s seems not to understand that MandateNow’s proposal for legislation is positive law designed to change the culture and delivery of child protection in Regulated Activities. Law positively impacts the delivery of child protection in these settings by providing (i) legal protection for all staff to refer a concern for independent assessment (ii) the delivery of a serious consequence for non compliance which cuts through the myriad of reasons which all too frequently stop a referral being made.
Mr Khan’s statement continues: “We therefore believe that the Government should explore a duty on professionals, such as teachers, doctors and police officers to report child abuse, also known as mandatory reporting. Failing to comply with the duty could lead to being barred from working in those professions in future.”
Mr Khan appears to have expressed three misconceptions in the space of only two sentences. His first is that he considers he has described “mandatory reporting.” He hasn’t. Mandatory reporting is backed by law and has criminal rather than merely professional sanctions for failing to report.
His second misconception is that there is a need for government to explore the proposal he has described. It doesn’t. Professional sanctions already exist, and were applied for instance to Christopher Hood, the former headteacher of Hillside First School, where Nigel Leat in 2011 admitted committing 36 sexual offences against pupils during 11 years teaching there. Mr Hood had failed to pass on to the authorities eleven concerns expressed to him by staff about Leat and staff in turn had not referred a further nineteen incidents to the Head. Professional sanction failed to work for Mr Hood and all the staff who failed to report sixty three percent of identified incidents at the school concerning Leat’s behaviour.
Mr Khan’s third misconception is that “mandatory reporting” using his flawed definition, is going to make a difference to the present situation. It won’t. After all, the banning in 2013 of Christopher Hood didn’t prompt Southbank International School to tighten up its procedures and report an incident at the school involving William Vahey. That had to wait until after Vahey was uncovered as a serial abuser who had molested 60 Southbank pupils.
The Barnardo’s proposal is for the maintenance of the status quo. The saddest aspect is that on the evidence of the statement, it appears that Mr Khan doesn’t even realise this.