The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommended the introduction of legislation which places certain individuals – ‘mandated reporters’ – under a statutory duty to report child sexual abuse in certain circumstances.
In its response to IICSA's recommendations the UK Government launched a consultation, with responses due by 14 August 2023.
The Government says that it accepts the need for mandatory reporting and has agreed to implement a mandatory reporting regime for child sexual abuse which will be informed by a full public consultation.
The consultation is seeking views on how a legal duty to report child sexual abuse would affect children, organisation, workplaces, and volunteers and is particularly aimed at those working with children and young people in regulated activity or positions of trust (including in the charity, voluntary and community sectors), those involved in law enforcement and, more generally, individuals and groups working with children and supporting those affected by child sexual abuse.
The call for evidence covers England only, as many elements of this recommendation are devolved to Wales; for those elements that are not, namely crime, policing, and criminal justice the Home Office will work closely with the Welsh Government to make them aware of the outcome of the call for evidence.
The Government notes that those who work with children or hold positions of trust are in a unique position to help prevent abuse and identify when a child is suffering abuse. The Government goes on to say that even though it has set clear statutory and non-statutory guidance that practitioners working with children should immediately make a referral to local authority children’s social care if they believe that a child has or is likely to suffer harm, despite these existing safeguards, they know that abuse of children still goes unreported.
In making the decision to introduce mandatory reporting, the Government has considered the experiences of those victims and survivors who shared their testimonies at IIICSA, 88.6% of whom said that they would like to see mandatory reporting for child sexual abuse introduced.
The Government says that it is mindful that the introduction of mandatory reporting will have a major impact on a wide range of sectors, many of which are already under significant pressure and/or reform. The Government also recognises that some sectors which will be affected by mandatory reporting are less closely regulated but still involve a significant amount of contact with children, and so the call for evidence will enable the Government to canvass all opinions and consider all likely scenarios as it sets about drawing up proposals for mandatory reporting.
The Government say that the aims and objectives for the call for evidence are as follows:
- Whether a duty to report should remain targeted on child sexual abuse or be extended to cover other forms of abuse and neglect.
- Whether a duty should be on individuals (as recommended by IICSA), or whether accountability should be at organisational level, or both.
- The Government would like to understand the potential impact on children and young people who may seek to make disclosures, as well as organisations involved in supporting victims and survivors.
- The Government is keen to understand any equalities considerations and in particular in relation to those sectors and workforces that may not have engaged directly with IICSA.
- Where sectors have existing duties and requirements which a mandatory reporting duty will interact with, the Government is keen to understand how that interplay might work in practice.
- The Government wants to understand what additional support individuals or organisations that are subject to the duty may need in order to understand and comply with the duty ahead of its implementation.
- The Government queries whether there are any circumstances when the duty might be disapplied and welcomes views on this topic.
- Finally, what type of sanction might be appropriate for individuals and/or organisations who are found to have breached the duty?