Within our submission we have reviewed the two Government proposals. Neither provide a framework on which reliable child protection can be delivered by those employed in Regulated Activities. Government is promoting positions close to the status quo that prompted the Home Secretary, now Prime Minister, to initiate the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Lessons are not being learned.
The consultation closed at noon on 13th October 2016.
Mandate Now response to Government Mandatory Reporting consultation outcome:
‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect: ’
The Government’s decision to reject mandatory reporting in institutional settings in favour of the current discretionary reporting system has little to do with transforming the culture of child protection in Regulated Activities and everything to do Government thinking it is minimising cost. Government’s key objective is to deliver the smallest possible increase in child protection referrals from professionals in schools, healthcare, sports, scouts, faith groups and similar, to the Local Authority for independent triage assessment.
Empirical research reveals that mandatory reporting by Regulated Activities more than doubles referrals from these settings to the Local Authority. In turn this more than doubles the number of children placed into safety who might otherwise remain at risk of harm. The government has chosen to ignore research and continue the status quo with minor changes to inter-agency working downstream of referrals. The consultation’s proposal for “duty to act” (also rejected in the consultation report) was a duty to take some unspecified “appropriate action” in response to a child concern, enforceable through criminal sanction should it be later decided that whatever action taken was not “appropriate.” The only surprise about government’s rejection of its own proposal is that as many as a quarter of respondents favoured it, including the NSPCC.
The consultation bore little or no resemblance to the design of Amendment 43 tabled by Baroness Walmsley in the Serious Crimes Bill in 2014 which prompted government to consult. The consultation was poorly assembled, omitted key research and was launched on the last day of parliament 21/7/16 having been signed off by Karen Bradey MP (Junior Minister Home Office) on 12/10/15. Government resistance to effective child protection in Regulated Activities is significant.
The main concerns intended to be addressed by well designed mandatory reporting legislation are twofold.
- To increase the number of children placed into safety. In 2015 the Children’s Commissioner reported the child abuse discovery rate in England was just 1 in 8 cases (12.5%).
- Under reporting of child abuse by organisations is significant as data has revealed. These include churches, schools, sports clubs and others. This failure contributed to the launch of IICSA.
Improvements in training as proposed by government will not affect those who know how to report abuse but choose not to, and improvements in inter-agency working will not help the many children who have not come to the attention of any of the agencies.
The consultation report has not listed the evidence for or against mandatory reporting, it has merely stated the proportion respondents supporting or opposing the government’s poorly assembled proposals.
The government’s claim that mandatory reporting would discourage children from disclosing abuse “if they know that it will result in a record of their contact being made” is unfounded and no supporting evidence has been offered for this contention. Children disclose abuse because they want action to be taken.
With the continuation of the existing system, staff who report suspected abuse will remain whistleblowers without legal immunity. Key Australian research, which was inexplicably omitted from the consultation documents published by the Home Office on 21st July 2016, shows the absence of mandatory reporting with legal immunity for staff contributes to suspected abuse being under-reported by more than 50%.
Tom Perry, the founder of Mandate Now says: “This proposal does nothing to change the culture of child protection in these critically important settings. It’s the continuation of a failing system. We challenge the Department of Education and the Home Office to name a single jurisdiction where this model functions effectively and to provide the empirical evidence that demonstrates its evidence. By contrast some form of mandatory reporting in institutional settings operates in the majority of countries on all four continents, and research supports it.”
“The children attending cadets, football, faith settings, and schools such as Stony Dean School Amersham (2003), Headlands School Bridlington (2009), Gate House School Milton Keynes (2009), Hillside First School in Weston Super Mare (2011), Southbank International School (2015) would have been far safer had mandatory reporting existed because it delivers responsibility and accountability and provides legal immunity for reporters.”
“It’s time Government put children first and accepted that mandatory reporting is a vital component of a functioning child protection system.“
In a Post Script – Mandate Now was interviewed on BBC3CR about the outcome. Robert Perrone had been mistakenly briefed about our MR objectives but it became clearer very quickly. The Government announcement chimes with this posting from 8/1/15 – Successive Governments flee Mandatory Reporting on the mistaken grounds of cost.
Church of England Safeguarding is Dysfunctional and Can Have No Reliance Placed Upon It | A Review by Mandate Now
Mandate Now has reviewed the Church of England’s safeguarding policy document ‘Protecting All God’s Children’ 4th Edition (2010) and its recently replaced Chapter 7 under the new heading – ‘Responding to, assessing and managing safeguarding concerns or allegations against church officers’. The content is a thicket of inconsistent discretionary ‘guidance’ which carries with it the risk of confusion, mistake and non-compliance.
Mandate Now is a pressure group that leads the agenda for the introduction of law that requires staff who have responsibility for children, and vulnerable adults, in Regulated Activities to report known and suspected abuse to the Local Authority. We have reviewed policies for other Regulated Activities and organisations including The Football Association, Stoke Mandeville (Lampard Review), and the BBC (Dame Janet Smith Review).
The challenge presented to anyone tasked with delivering safeguarding in the Church of England is the sheer volume of its ‘guidance’, and that clear and readily comprehensible procedures (insofar as they exist at all) are hidden like needles in a haystack. It does little to establish who is responsible for doing what and when.
The General Synod was told in February that it has two difficult years of reckoning as it faces close scrutiny of its record of handling child abuse, with 3,300 reports of alleged sexual abuse in 2016 alone. The current child protection policy does not give much cause for hope that children are safe in the Church or that where incidents occur they will correctly and safely be dealt with by the responsible persons both within and outside of the Church.
The few clear policies and commitments that exist are scattered piecemeal throughout the document, and there are statements in different places on the same subject that contradict each other. Some of the ‘statutory guidance’ documents that the policy relies upon are out of date, hyperlinks are broken; the names of bodies such as Independent Safeguarding Authority are out of date. There is no clear overarching commitment to refer any child protection issues that may arise to a completely independent body outside of the Church. At various places it appears that the Church’s Insurers, Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, may have had some involvement in formulating policy – which for obvious reasons of conflict of interest ought not to be allowed. It takes hours of reading to discern the flaws and yet the National Safeguarding Team promises yet more guidance is on the way.
If the document were rewritten deleting everything except for specific procedures to be followed by defined
persons within the Church (including the necessary definitions to support those procedures, and all gathered into one place) it is likely the page count could be reduced by more than 80%, and thus produce an infinitely more workable and thus safer, policy document. Any retained weaknesses would then become far more easily identifiable.
Below are some of the shortcomings we found when reviewing the policy that the Church of England has produced principally for dioceses and Diocesan Safeguarding Officers (DSO’s):
Chapter 7 of ‘All God’s Children’ titled ‘managing allegations against church officers’ has been replaced by ‘responding to, assessing and managing concerns or allegations against church officers practice guidance (2017)’. Confusingly, both are available on the CofE website.
- The document consists of unenforceable ‘guidance’ that dioceses ‘must have regard to.’ Having had regard to it, dioceses can use it in whole, in part, or not at all. It’s nothing more than discretionary.
- Clear procedures, insofar as they exist, are also discretionary. Little reliance can be placed on any part of the policy.
- CofE suggests a child protection referral ‘should’ be made to the Local Authority Designated Officer (“LADO”)/statutory authorities (“SA”) ‘if’ the threshold of ‘harm or significant harm’ is met. To establish this threshold some form of investigation is required. But investigation is the function of the statutory agencies not the Church. Coincidentally the ‘harm test’ is used by Local Authorities and courts to establish compulsory intervention. Of necessity the threshold for referral used by CofE needs to be lower than that of the statutory agencies which have the investigatory powers to establish ‘harm.’ If suspicions on reasonable grounds are not referred, many cases, which if investigated might meet the harm test threshold, will never be reported.
- ‘Statutory guidance’ that underpins safeguarding in Regulated Activities is weak. The act of making a referral to the LADO / SA is entirely discretionary for those working in Regulated Activities. Under-reporting of concerns is a well researched occurrence and has contributed to the establishment of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to which the church is giving evidence w/c 5/3/18.
- The combination of the CofE using ‘harm or significant harm’ test and the home nations (excluding Northern Ireland) not being mandatory reporting jurisdictions, unlike 86% of Europe, means the Church operates ‘conditional discretionary reporting of known or suspected abuse.’ The Church has a long history of failing to report such concerns, with dire consequences for children involved.
- The role of ‘Core Groups’ appears to be an exercise in ‘mission creep’. Their interference in an incident is a real possibility for the reasons we state in our review. There is an absence of expertise and independence in the establishment of these ‘scratch teams’.
- The influence of the frequently mentioned, but technically independent Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, in Church child protection must be questioned. Paragraph 4.1(2) p.146 gives rise to cause for concern.
- Some of the ‘statutory guidance’ referenced in the policy is out of date, superseded or defunct in a safety critical document that is meant to protect children in the Church.
- The Independent Safeguarding Authority became the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) in 2012 when the modus operandi of DBS changed as a result of legislation. There is no sign in this document that these changes have been accounted for.
- Insofar as clear procedures exist, this document succeeds in concealing them.
- There are multiple broken hyperlinks which reveal a lack of attention to detail.
- Above all, there is no clear overarching commitment to refer any child protection issues that may arise to a completely independent body outside of the Church. This is the most important entitlement that a child can have.
Users of the policies have to negotiate a blizzard of CofE ‘guidance’ documentation. Its slipshod assembly is incompatible with a safety critical culture the church claims exists in the Regulated Activity. The church is gripped by the undemanding requirements of ‘statutory guidance’ which cannot and does not provide a credible foundation for functioning child protection in Regulated Activities. ‘Statutory guidance’ is just that, ‘guidance’ and it’s discretionary. The church could deliver far more effective child protection if it was minded to, but there is no visible attempt to do so. The policy uses great many words to deliver very little.
We have said in the review that we would like to see the church undertake to mandate staff to report known and suspected abuse on reasonable grounds, to the DSO and thereafter the LADO / children’s services for independent assessment. However there is no reason to expect the C of E will be any more capable of reforming itself to achieve this than the Roman Catholic Church, whose complete inability to implement and enforce measures was clearly shown during the November/December hearings into abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. We have every reason to expect the failure of Regulated Activities to refer concerns to the Local Authority / statutory authorities will become a recurring theme in the public hearings across several strands of the Inquiry’s investigations.
The remedy in each case is the same. If an institution is unwilling or unable to organise itself from within to implement effective safeguarding measures, then compulsion will have to be applied from without to achieve it via the introduction of well-designed Mandatory Reporting for Regulated Activities. Mandatory Reporting supports staff who have a concern. It also provides them with legal immunity, while failure to report carries criminal sanction. Such arrangements operate in the majority of countries on all four continents including 86% of European jurisdictions. We proposed draft MR legislation in our submission to the Government consultation announced on 28/10/14 but more than three years later, government has yet to provide the outcome.
It has taken the church years to reach this disordered safeguarding state. The National Safeguarding Team includes :
CofE safeguarding is under the stewardship of the Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Hancock who has been in post since 26/1/16 but who has achieved little to effect any improvement. We wrote about an unfortunate development he feels unable to address in public :
Why is this concerning? Recently Mandate Now had a twitter exchange with the Rev Tiffer Robinson, a member of synod. He is under a mistaken belief that mandated reporting of known and suspected abuse now exists in the church. You can read the exchanges here: ‘CofE Beyond Confused with Safeguarding. Welby Allegedly Claimed #MR exists in the Church. Had the Rev Robinson understood the safeguarding arrangements for his Regulated instead of just believing, he’s Rector in four Suffolk parishes, he would never have made the claim. How many members of the clergy are operating under this falsity?
It begs the following questions :
- From where did Archbishop Welby get this mistaken information?
- On what occasion/s has he misinformed the clergy that CofE has mandated reporting?
- Why has neither the National Safeguarding Team nor safeguarding training corrected this misunderstanding?
No law exists that requires staff working in Regulated Activities to report known or suspected abuse. This was finally admitted by Government on 21/7/16 (last day of Parliament) when it published the consultation ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect‘ :
 Regulated Activities are defined in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 SCHEDULE 4 Part 1. These include employment such as healthcare, sport, education, scouts, and faith groups.
Data is critically important for assessing a project’s direction of travel, effectiveness, achievements, scope for improvement and much else besides.
Mandate Now decided to look at the work of the The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia and compare data from it to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales.
Mandate Now provides no commentary to accompany the data.
We hope you find this useful.
The consultation clock finally stopped when Government foot draggers released the pre-designed outcome to the consultation on 5/3/18.
Children are being avoidably left in abusive settings as empirical research clearly reveals, because Government is out of step with the majority of countries on all four continents.
Preventing and responding to Child Sexual Abuse: Learning about best practice from overseas (Lorraine Radford et al., 2017)
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.
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…)