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610, 2016

Mandate Now Submission to Consultation: Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect

October 6th, 2016|

The Mandate Now submission is here

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.

Updated 17.3.17

2709, 2018

Mandate Now Submission to Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – #MRseminar (1) 27/9/18

September 27th, 2018|

“While some have opposed mandatory reporting laws (Hansen & Ainsworth, 2013; Melton, 2005), these claims have been challenged (Drake & Jonson-Reid, 2007; Mathews & Bross, 2008) and opponents have not explicitly made their claim in relation to mandatory reporting of CSA. There are at least three reasons for this. First, CSA is qualitatively very different from other instances of other types of maltreatment (Mathews, 2014). Second, the well-established gap between the real and disclosed incidence of CSA nullifies Melton’s (2005) claim that case-finding is not a challenge. Third, reports of CSA to government agencies account for a very small proportion of all reports of child maltreatment, repelling any claim that CSA reports intolerably overwhelm child protection systems or divert resources from other priorities. Mandated reports of CSA across Australia over a 10 year period accounted for just 6% of all reports of child maltreatment from all reporter groups (Mathews, Bromfield, Walsh, & Vimpani, 2015), and USA annual data are similar (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). In Australia, government inquiries have supported mandatory reporting of CSA as a necessary component of social policy, even after scrutinizing the validity of child protection systems and attempting to control expenditure (Carmody, 2013; Cummins, Scott, & Scales, 2012; Layton, 2003; Wood, 2008).”   Matthews et al., 2016

(more…)

2509, 2018

Mandate Now Review of : Summary of consultation responses and Government action following #MRconsult

September 25th, 2018|

To coincide with the #MRseminar at IICSA on 27/9/18, we are releasing our review of the published summary of consultation responses and Government action following the consultation titled ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect.’

The outcome of this mischievous and poorly designed consultation is a triumph of dogma over reality. Mandatory reporting of known and suspected abuse of children by specified regulated activities is an essential component of functioning safeguarding framework. The majority of the rest of the world knows it.

Here is our detailed review.

The proposed action to be taken by government has ignored under-reporting of known and suspected abuse by Regulated Activities (such as schools), the very point of Amendment 43 tabled by Baroness Walmsley in the Serious Crimes Bill that secured the consultation, and instead concentrated on improvements to inter-agency services and communication once a referral has been received by the Local Authority.  Our review explains why this will deliver little change, but that seems to be the intention.

According to the pre-launch media briefings, dinner ladies and secretaries were going to be jailed for failing to report signs of abuse. It’s nonsense of course, as anyone familiar with Amendment 43 will understand,  but it provides an insight to the irrational fear Government has of mandatory reporting of known and suspected child abuse, and here’s why.

Government has ignored empirical evidence and data in order to arrive at a pre-determined outcome.

As we provided in our submission, data from mandatory reporting jurisdictions reveals that mandatory reporting legislation introduced to Regulated Settings sees the number of referrals to the statutory agencies from mandated reporters’ double. In turn this leads to a near doubling in the number of children being placed into safety who would otherwise be left to their fate.

The Government and those who reject the introduction of MR have to own and face up to the responsibility that they are knowingly leaving children to their uncertain fate who would otherwise be placed into safety with the introduction of mandatory reporting.  

1109, 2018

Oral question 1. HoL 10/9/18 : Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse regarding safeguarding failures at Downside and Ampleforth schools

September 11th, 2018|


Click on full screen in bottom right of the video screen

Question to Lord Agnew – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education from Baroness Walmsley.

Given the subject asked about by Baroness Walmsley, it was disappointing that Lord Agnew did not mention the child sex abuse that occurred at his former prep school Beeston Hall, near Cromer, during the 1970’s and perpetrated by science teacher Melvyn Rush. Lord Agnew had long left the school, but this seems as relevant to the House as the fact that some of his wife’s family attended Ampleforth.

In his reply Lord Agnew mentioned potential closure of Ampleforth. Quite simply this is a dead letter. Strictly speaking it is deregistration of a school, but we are unable to name any boarding school that has been deregistered for safeguarding failures. If the Department for Education informs us, we will provide the information.

The reaction in the House to Baroness Walmsley’s question indicates the growing support for the introduction of Mandatory Reporting in Regulated Activities.

Lord Agnew’s reply was full of holes. The reaction of Baroness Walmsley indicated just how porous it was. In another reply to a related question he relied on social workers to prop up the Government’s desired position, which is simply absurd. Social workers have almost nothing to do with the design or delivery of child protection in Regulated Activities – but the Government’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to safeguarding delivers some inexplicable reasoning. Familial safeguarding/abuse has to work with ‘discretionary reporting’ but this protocol simply cannot be made to function in Regulated Activities. They need law to support good staff and deliver accountability. We exchanged emails with Professor Ben Mathews on this topic. He kindly sent sent this reply which helpfully casts further light on the error that has for so long failed safeguarding in Regulated Activities. Lord Agnew also attempted to hint that there is a form of mandatory reporting via the Disclosure and Barring Service (“DBS”). This is plainly wrong. DBS referrals are about the future employment of adults who present a risk to children. A DBS referral is an ‘after the event’ referral and has no contemporaneous impact on an abusive incident in a school or similar setting.

We have no comment to make about the question from Lord Campbell-Savours, but Lord Agnew’s reply that he would write to the inquiry should be noted. ‘The first “I” in IICSA is “Independent”, and for good reason. We hope that the Government will not try to influence the Inquiry, or if it does that such (inappropriate) influence will be disregarded.’

Lord Lexden, who did not declare any interest before asking his question, gave us a version of the ‘regulation is stringent’ and ‘things are different now’ narrative. It was little more than chaff but it seemed to pep up Lord Agnew.

Lord Watson made a highly relevant point about the failure of the inspectorates to inspect against safeguarding. He certainly hit the mark as this news report on Channel 4 from 2011 explains. Little has changed since this film was made as can be evidenced. As for the peer review inspections of safeguarding undertaken by the ISI, which is quality assured by Ofsted, there are simply insufficient pixels to explain its ineffectiveness. So far the ISI has been let off the hook by IICSA which seems not to know what questions to ask.

The final question was from Baroness Brinton who supports the introduction of MR across Regulated Activities. Lord Agnew read some of the pre-determined outcomes from the ‘Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect’ consultation summary which failed to rely on empirical evidence to reach its conclusions.  Here is why the Government is so averse to MR. As you can see it has nothing to do with child protection.

We will shortly publish our review of the Government’s summary of responses and action to the consultation.

1008, 2018

Mysterious Omissions from the IICSA Report into Ampleforth and Downside

August 10th, 2018|

By: Jonathan West 

Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys are Benedictine monasteries, each with a boarding school attached. Last November and December the IICSA heard harrowing testimony from former pupils of both schools, describing both physical and sexual abuse that they suffered. The dates ranged from the 1950s to the 2000s.

But more sickening even than the accounts of the abuse was the way in which we learned that it was covered up. When one monk, Richard White, was found to have abused, rather than report it, the Abbot of Downside checked with the school solicitor to see if he had to report it. The reply (legally quite correct) was no. White’s crimes weren’t discovered for another 20 years, when the police stumbled across details in school records while conducting an unrelated investigation into abuse by another monk. White was sentenced to five years.

Successive abbots, former abbots and monk-headmasters were required to give evidence to the inquiry, and to a man they struggled to justify what was clearly a well-established and settled policy to keep such matters out of the hands of the police. It is also quite clear that they were intelligent men who knew precisely what they were doing and who knew how to remain just inside the law while conducting the cover-up.
Various lay Catholics also gave evidence, people wo had been employed by the Catholic church to reform its safeguarding and ensure the safety of children in the care of the church. These professionals all in effect said the same thing, that safeguarding in the Roman Catholic Church was essentially unreformable, that it was not reasonable to expect significant improvements to come from voluntary efforts by the church to improve its handling of safeguarding and that any improvements would therefore have to be the result of legal pressure from outside.

Eileen Shearer spoke of the barriers to effective working, which clearly remained by the time she resigned as Director of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA).

“Priority seemed to be given, often, too often, to protecting the institution from open scandal and to dealing with things in-house, a mistrust of the statutory authorities, and there seemed to be a lack of awareness of their own lack of knowledge in a way, so that they were not open to accepting advice or receiving training and development.

There is often reference in the evidence that I have read about the fact that the child protection policies nationally were not mandatory, which was not the intention, I believe, of Lord Nolan, and also that they might draft their own local policies.”

Adrian Child, Eileen Shearer’s successor as head of COPCA and its successor the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) was even stronger.

“If I could just, I suppose, add to that that I think the Catholic Church has had two excellent opportunities, through Nolan and Cumberlege, to get safeguarding right on a kind of, as I said, goodwill, internal basis, and whilst I think there’s been a huge amount of effort by a lot of people, a lot of very good people, within the church, and I include some bishops and religious leaders in that, they haven’t got it right, and that’s in a 15-year period. So I don’t see any value in tinkering around the edges and saying, “Here you are. Here is a third opportunity. Go away and sort this out yourself”, […] I think there needs to be accountability and some kind of mandatory enforcement.”

Dr James Whitehead, the outgoing headmaster of Downside School made a similar point

“Accountability is the fundamental problem. The members of the monastic community are not accountable unless they commit a criminal offence, obviously. But they are not accountable to anybody. They can go back and retreat to the abbey and, you know, after this, they will go back and enjoy their Christmas celebrations and not worry, fundamentally, about the impact, necessarily. There will be some bad PR for a while, potentially, but their livelihoods are never going to be at stake. They are going to go back and live in their grade I or grade II listed building and enjoy that for the future. So the issue of accountability is a real one.
I think the points that have been made in terms of the mandatory reporting I think are good ones, and I think the testimony that was given yesterday, arguing perhaps for a body which oversees more accountability within this area, I think I would fully support.”

Jane Dziadulewicz, former safeguarding co-ordinator for the diocese of Clifton raised the same point and made the same recommendation.

“I think there is a huge problem around accountability, and this problem — the problem within the Catholic Church has been going on for years. I think, unless a way can be found to ensure that bishops and religious leaders have no choice but to apply policies and procedures, we will continue to have problems in managing individuals accused of abuse and in keeping children safe within the Catholic Church.

“I think perhaps there needs to be some kind of body that holds the church accountable, which could result in financial fines or criminal sanctions if these policies and procedures aren’t applied, in the similar way by — across other agencies. There is just nothing. The church ultimately doesn’t have to do these things if it doesn’t want to.
“Once this inquiry is over, if nothing happens as a result of this inquiry, the church can continue in the way it’s continued for years, and so people can — will be able to access the services that the church has offered to children and families for years and the same problems will arise where offenders will be able to target children and abuse again.”

These opinions are not coming from enemies of the church. They are from people who have genuinely tried to reform the church’s safeguarding policies and culture, and who have concluded that reform from within is impossible. They were there, they have seen the task, and have done their best but have failed.

The inquiry has therefore heard overwhelming evidence that we have an institution here where those in charge knew perfectly well how to report abuse to the police, but made a deliberate decision not to, instead choosing over a period of decades to harbour known criminals in their midst.
The legal representatives of the abuser survivors were unanimous in calling for the inquiry to recognise the need for “mandatory reporting”, a legal duty on staff in institutions caring for children to report reasonable suspicions of abuse.

It is hard to imagine any measure short of legal compulsion under threat of substantial criminal penalties that will change the behaviour of those who know how to report abuse but who instead carefully skirt just inside the law to keep the abuse covered up. The monks giving evidence were quite clear that had a mandatory reporting law existed they would have obeyed it and reported the abuse.

But the amazing thing is that none of these quotes have made it into the inquiry report. The past misdeeds of the monks of Ampleforth and Downside are rehearsed in great detail, and the fact that significant problems remain at both schools is mentioned. But the report doesn’t mention anywhere that backsliding is possible and has been specifically warned against by expert witnesses who have tried to get safeguarding to work within the church. Instead the inquiry was full of praise for individuals such that the outgoing and next headmasters of Downside who appear determined to improve things.

The inquiry report says that it is holding off making recommendations until it has completed the Roman Catholic investigation. On the surface that is fair enough, but the lack of any mention of the risk of backsliding combined with the praise for individuals working to improve things makes me wonder whether the inquiry is going to argue against the need for mandatory reporting.

Such a course of action would be disastrous. Reliance on the presence of good people doing the right thing fails as soon as those good people (when all the publicity has died down) are blocked from getting on with the job and resign in frustration. Not having mandatory reporting essentially tells places like Ampleforth and Downside that what they did was OK legally and in due course they can go back to covering up abuse in time-honoured fashion. Do we really want that?

Jonathan West is a core participant in the IICSA investigation into the Roman Catholic Church.

 

1904, 2018

Where is the MR seminar IICSA? A letter sent 19/4/18 from lawyers acting for Core Participant abusees to Professor Jay

April 19th, 2018|

In an Update Statement published on 27  November 2015, the chair of the Inquiry made the following statement.

Alongside these twelve investigations that form the first phase of the Public Hearings Project, we plan to hold a series of expert hearings into questions of public policy which will feed into the recommendations we make. We propose to start, in the first half of 2016, with an expert hearing into the risks and benefits of mandatory reporting. We will also hold a hearing to explore the balance which must be struck between encouraging the reporting of child sexual abuse and protecting the rights of the accused.

The MR ‘seminar’ has assumed an almost mythical quality – like the Yeti or Bigfoot. Where is it?

 

Today a letter has been sent by five lawyers acting for Core Participant abusees, to Professor Jay Chair setting out why this vitally important ‘seminar’ is needed at the earliest opportunity:

The letter is here in full 

That about sums it up, its excellent.

The Lawyers :  Richard Scorer (Slater Gordon); Kim Harrison (Slater Gordon), David Greenwood (Switalskis) David Enright (Howe & Co), Alan Collins (Hugh James)

903, 2018

Mandatory Reporting Consultation : Government decides on costly retention of the failing status quo

March 9th, 2018|

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.