On 5 March 2018, the government published its response to the ‘Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect’ consultation, setting out plans which aim to strengthen how a number of agencies tackle child abuse and neglect. This guidance outlines the actions the government will take in light of the feedback from the consultation.
One of the key proposals was to introduce a legal duty for practitioners working with children to report any concern relating to child abuse. Practitioners would face sanctions if they failed or chose not to report a concern.
68 percent of respondents said that mandatory reporting would have an adverse impact on the child protection system and 85 percent said the duty would not ensure that appropriate action would be taken to protect children.
After considering all the available evidence, the government confirmed they do not intend to introduce a mandatory reporting duty or duty to act at this time, saying that the evidence does not demonstrate conclusively that the duty “improves outcomes for children”.
Instead of introducing mandatory reporting, the government will focus on other reforms such as improving information sharing, multi-agency working, assessments, decision-making, and working with children at all stages of their engagement with the safeguarding system. The government believes that, if these reforms are effective, the mandatory reporting duty will not be needed.
The ‘Putting Children First’ policy paper (2016) set out how the government is transforming children’s social care by delivering reforms under the following three key pillars:
- People and leadership
- Practice and systems
- Governance and accountability
These issues will be directly addressed through ongoing reforms and a variety of actions.
To ensure there is a clear awareness of the risks and need to report abuse, the government is undertaking the following actions:
- Launching a third phase of the ‘Together, we can tackle child abuse’ campaign which aims to build public understanding of the signs of abuse and neglect, and how to act on these concerns.
- Making relationships and sex education (RSE) mandatory in all schools from September 2019.
- Updating ‘Keeping children safe in education’ – the revised guidance should be published in the Summer term 2018 to be effective from September 2018.
- Targeting support for areas where abuse concerns are emerging, such as sport.
- Creating a safe space for whistleblowers to ensure as many concerns as possible are reported – this includes the already established whistleblowing helpline.
To improve information sharing, the government is undertaking the following actions:
- Improving multi-agency working primarily through new local safeguarding arrangements which will come into effect under the Children and Social Work Act 2017.
- Commencing the revised ‘Working together to safeguard children’ statutory guidance – this is expected later in 2018.
- Tackling barriers to information sharing; this includes considering legislative improvements to support more effective information sharing.
- Supporting the NHS-led child protection and information sharing project.
To improve practice and decision-making, the government is undertaking the following actions:
- Improving the skills and confidence of social work practitioners through a national assessment and accreditation system.
- Increasing accountability in the child protection system by putting a new system of joint targeted area inspections.
- Introducing a new child safeguarding practice review panel which will create a national framework for considering the lessons that can be learnt from events where a child dies or is seriously injured.
- Building knowledge about best practice in child protection – the government has launched a new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse which aims to identify and share evidence of what works to prevent and tackle child sexual abuse (CSE).
- Delivering a focussed programme of reforms to tackle CSE.
To ensure the action they are taking is effective, the government will assess the current legal framework to see if it is able to deal appropriately with abuse and neglect concerns.
The reform programme will be monitored to ensure any necessary actions are taken to protect the safety of all children. Additionally, the need for mandatory reporting will also continue to be evaluated.
HM Government (2018) ‘Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect’, p.2-11
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