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Mandatory reporting of CSA could adversely affect children it seeks to protect if rushed

Sector leaders have warned of concerns with the government’s announcement of a legal requirement to report child sexual abuse, a key recommendation from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

27/02/24

Mandatory reporting of CSA could adversely affect children it seeks to protect if rushed

A new legal requirement to report child sexual abuse will be introduced for anyone in regulated activity relating to children in England, including teachers or healthcare professionals, to report it if they know a child is being sexually abused.

Those who fail to report child sexual abuse they are aware of, falling short of their legal duties, face being barred from working with young people.

The government says anyone who actively protects child sexual abusers – by intentionally blocking others from reporting or covering up the crime – could go to prison for 7 years.

Mandatory reporting was a key recommendation stemming from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

“Having listened to the voices of victims and survivors and reviewed the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, we are working at pace to get a mandatory reporting duty for child sexual abuse onto the statute book,” Home Secretary James Cleverly announced last week.

Sector leaders have warned that there could be adverse or unintended consequences from the legislation if it is not properly funded, however.

John Pearce, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said they remain concerned about the risks of introducing a mandatory reporting duty of child sexual abuse.

“ADCS members would welcome further discussion with the Home Office, Department for Education and Ministry of Justice on implementation of the duty, given the dangers of rushing the design which are summarised in the Association’s response to the latest government consultation on mandatory reporting.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Gabrielle Shaw, Chief Executive for The National Association for People Abused in Childhood said the measure will “improve safeguarding of children and increase accountability amongst those who have a duty of care.”

“The introduction of mandatory reporting is a big step in the right direction, which must be implemented alongside an approach that prioritises the wellbeing of the child and ensures they have access to ongoing, specialist support. This will require investment in training requirements, wider supporting structures and effective tracking and review.”

Professor Alexis Jay OBE, who chaired the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, said she welcomed the measures to introduce mandatory reporting.

The new measures will be introduced as amendments at report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill in the House of Commons.

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