Government rejects case for mandatory reporting

By Neil Puffett

| 05 March 2018

The government has said it will not change the law so practitioners or organisations are required to report child abuse or neglect, claiming there is no evidence it will make children any safer.

The government first announced plans to consult on whether to introduce mandatory reporting in October 2014. Picture: Shutterstock

Responding to a consultation on mandatory reporting that launched in July 2016, the government said that the majority of those taking part disagreed with introducing new statutory requirements.

It said nearly 70 per cent felt mandatory reporting could have an adverse impact on the child protection system and 85 per cent said it would not in itself lead to appropriate action being taken to protect children.

The government announced plans to consult on whether to introduce mandatory reporting in October 2014 amid pressure to act to make it easier for professionals to report abuse concerns in the wake of high-profile child sexual abuse and exploitation cases such as the Rotherham scandal.

The consultation sought views on the merits of two systems - mandatory reporting, which would require certain practitioners or organisations to report child abuse or neglect if they knew or had reasonable cause to suspect it was taking place, or a "duty to act", which would require practitioners or organisations to take "appropriate action", which could include reporting.

But the government said that the evidence received in the consultation "does not demonstrate that either of the proposals would sufficiently improve outcomes for children".

"Rather, feedback suggests that these additional measures could risk creating unnecessary burdens, divert attention from the most serious cases, hamper professional judgment, and potentially jeopardise the vital relationships between social workers and vulnerable families in their care," a government statement said.

The government said the majority of respondents to the consultation (63 per cent) were in favour of allowing the government's existing programme of child protection reforms time to embed before considering additional statutory measures.

It said it now plans to tackle child abuse and neglect by strengthening information sharing between police, social workers and healthcare professionals.

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the social workers and other professionals who support the most vulnerable in our society, especially those who have been victims of abuse.

"The response to this consultation shows the strength of feeling among the sector on this extremely important issue, and it's vital that we work directly with people on the ground, supporting them to carry out their work sensitively and efficiently.

"Decisions we make as a government should be with the ambition of improving outcomes for as many in society as possible, which is why we must listen to the views and experience of the sector as we progress further with our reform agenda."

Stuart Gallimore, vice president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said the government had been sensible in deciding against a mandatory reporting duty, or a duty to act.

"The government has acknowledged that there is no evidence that such reporting systems will provide greater protection for children nor improve their outcomes," he said.

"Instead they risk overwhelming the systems already in place to protect children. Many professionals already face serious sanctions if they knowingly fail to pass on information about suspected abuse, we believe the most common reason people do not report abuse and neglect is because they simply don't recognise it for what it is.

"We need to ensure all professionals, and local communities, are aware of the signs of child abuse in all its forms, the need for vigilance and how best to raise concerns with the appropriate agency."

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