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.