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Mandatory reporting laws a 'fudge', CSA inquiry chair says

The chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse says the measures announced by the Government are a “missed opportunity”.

14/05/24

Mandatory reporting laws a 'fudge', CSA inquiry chair says

Sexual abuse survivors and campaigners have labelled the Government's mandatory reporting measures as a ‘sham’.

The government published an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill last Thursday in its long-awaited response to the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).

Central in the recommendations were calls for reporting allegations of child sex abuse (CSA) to be mandatory with a new criminal offence for professionals working in a position of trust who failed to report it.

However, the Chair of the IICSA, which concluded in 2022 after a seven-year investigation, said she was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the legislation.

“The victims are upset and angry and I’m not surprised. It’s a fudge and an opportunity missed,” she told the BBC.

“I am deeply disappointed in it and very much more so for the victims and survivors who had such high expectations that what the inquiry had recommended was going to be implemented,” she said.

“They are upset. They are angry at this and it’s not surprising.”

Survivors of abuse have also slammed the proposals, saying that, if implemented in their current form, the proposals would have done nothing to prevent their abuse.

“The measures are a sham – worse than useless: this legislation will put back the cause of getting good law in place to protect children today in any institution, from schools and care homes to hospitals and sports clubs,” a statement from Voices Unbound, which represents survivors of abuse in education settings, said.

“A legally binding duty to report child abuse cannot work unless it includes the duty to report suspicions or indicators of abuse. This amendment says that only hard evidence triggers that duty – seeing the abuse or photos of it, or disclosure by the child or the abuser.

“This confused and contradictory legislation will not significantly change the behaviour of those responsible for the care of children. It trusts the managers and headteachers too much – people who, as we know, may put reputation before children’s safety.

“Despite government’s promises, this measure is not what IICSA recommended - not effective mandatory reporting as defined by child safety experts or by the NSPCC.”

The survivors’ group also called upon MPs to reject the amendment and introduce a better law covering all forms of child abuse, along with a plan to restore the infrastructure of child social services and training of teachers and child care professionals.

Leaders in children’s social care warned about potential issues with mandatory reporting earlier this year, saying the measures could adversely affect the children it seeks to protect if rushed.

John Pearce, then-President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said in February: “A rushed, poorly scoped and under resourced policy could adversely affect the very children it seeks to protect if services become overwhelmed and support is not available for children when they need.”

“Similarly, it may impact on workforce recruitment and retention, which is extremely challenging across a number of key professions, destabilising vital public services that children and young people rely on. While the duty is focused on reporting of abuses, more attention must be given to stopping abuses taking place at all with wider efforts to address entrenched societal attitudes and norms.”

See the latest version of the Criminal Justice Bill: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3511/publications

Read the full statement from Voices Unbound: https://voicesunbound.org.uk/current-campaigns/

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