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Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse - update following the announcement of the General Election

On Friday 24th May 2024, Parliament was prorogued due to the announcement of the General Election. As a result, any unfinished Parliamentary business will not proceed. This includes the 2023/24 Criminal Justice Bill, which proposed a mandatory reporting duty in England but did not complete its passage through Parliament and therefore will not become law.

The government put forward these proposals in response to findings from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The IICSA found that disclosures of child sexual abuse to a responsible adult did not always result in action being taken, with the reputation of individuals or institutions sometimes being prioritized over the safety of children.

To address this issue, the IICSA recommended introducing a mandatory reporting duty for those working or volunteering with children to report instances of child sexual abuse. The government responded by conducting a consultation on these proposals, which closed on 30th November 2023.

On 9th May 2024, the Home Office published its response to the consultation, outlining its proposals for a new duty to report child sexual abuse.

What was the proposed duty?

The duty to report child sex offences was intended to make it a legal requirement for individuals involved in 'relevant activity' in England to report child sexual abuse to the police or local authority under the following circumstances:

  • They are told about it by a child or the person who has carried out the abuse
  • They witness the abuse happening

'Relevant activity' includes all regulated activities and a list of other specified activities.

Under the proposals, there would not be criminal penalties for failing to report under the duty. Instead, the emphasis would be on referring individuals to the Disclosure and Barring Service and relevant professional regulators.

However, anyone who attempted to cover up abuse or obstructed a reporter from fulfilling their duty to report could have faced imprisonment.

How would the proposed duty have affected people working with children?

Anyone working with children should have strong safeguarding policies and procedures in place so that all individuals, organizations, staff, and volunteers are clear on the steps to take if they have concerns about a child.

The proposed duty was intended as an extra measure to ensure that child sexual abuse information is reported to the relevant agencies. This would allow for appropriate actions to protect and support the affected child.

Organizations would need to comprehend how the new duty impacts their staff and volunteers working with children and incorporate the additional reporting requirements into their current policies, procedures, and processes.

Source: learning.nspcc.org.uk/news/2024/may/mandatory-reporting-child-sexual-abuse

Also of interest:

Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation analysis launched: www.healthcareconferencesuk.co.uk/news/2024-5-22/child-sexual-abuse-and-exploitation-analysis-launched

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