Government abandons plans to introduce mandatory reporting

Published on 6th March 2018

Features


Government abandons plans to introduce mandatory reporting

DfE abandons proposals after overwhelming majority of respondents to the government consultation disagreed with proposals

Published on 6th March 2018

The government will not introduce mandatory reporting of child abuse for social workers after the overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation on the issue disagreed with the proposal.

Almost 70 per cent of respondents to the Home Office and Department for Education joint consultation, ‘Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect’ felt that mandatory reporting could have an adverse impact on the child protection system.

Children and Families 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,” he added.

The consultation sought views on issues relating to the child protection system, specifically proposals to introduce additional legal duties for professionals and organisations working to protect young people. These proposed changes to the law included mandatory reporting of any concern relating to child abuse by practitioners, and a duty to act, whereby individuals could face professional or criminal sanctions for failing to take appropriate action where child abuse was known or suspected.

More than 760 social workers, police officers, local government, children’s charities, educators and health professionals, victim support groups, and other members of the public responded.

As a result, the evidence received does not demonstrate that either of the proposals would sufficiently improve outcomes for children. In fact, feedback suggests that these additional measures could risk creating unnecessary burdens, divert attention from the most serious cases, hamper professional judgement, and potentially jeopardise the vital relationships between social workers and vulnerable families in their care.

England already has a higher rate of reporting than countries where such duties are in place, and the evidence from serious case reviews, Ofsted inspections and the consultation responses does not suggest there is a systemic problem.

Instead, 63% were in favour of allowing the government’s existing programme of child protection reforms time to embed before considering additional statutory measures. Reflecting on considering the current child protection system, respondents called for better joint working between different local agencies, further work to encourage new and innovative practice, and better training for practitioners.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “I’m pleased that the government has listened to the views of frontline professionals by promising to work with us to improve coordination between agencies as they work to tackle child sexual abuse.

“Teachers, social workers and other professionals can and do play a vital role in keeping children safe from harm but our research suggests imposing additional legal requirements on them could be counterintuitive – with forces finding themselves inundated with reports that shouldn’t ever have been made.

“Key to tackling this horrendous crime is ensuring these dedicated professionals are well trained in how to spot the signs of abuse and act on them, and that agencies are truly coordinated,” he added.

In direct response to sector feedback, the government has confirmed that it will:

The government’s consultation is the latest its reform agenda, which includes a £200 million investment in innovation, legislation and cross-governmental working.

Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Isabelle Trowler, said: “The government has listened to the views of social work leaders who know the system best and understand the unintended consequences that introducing mandatory reporting could produce.

“Our focus should be to continue building public confidence in our first-class child protection system which holds a door wide open for vulnerable children and also provides support for families,” she concluded.

 

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