Government consultation response: reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect 

Government consultation response: reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect 

We are writing to notify you as key stakeholders that we are today publishing the Government’s response to the consultation on reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect.

The Government is leading work to make improvements across every area of the child protection system – from targeted recruitment and retention of high calibre children’s social workers, to improved multi-agency approaches to the early prevention of abuse and tackling offenders. We will continue to do all that we can to create the right conditions for high quality services to flourish, so that children can live safe, happy childhoods and go on to achieve their full potential.

High profile cases of abuse have led to calls for further specific reforms, in particular the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty or other measures focused on taking action on child abuse and neglect. We launched a full public consultation on these issues on 21 July 2016. The consultation sought views on key issues with the child protection system and on the possible introduction of one of two new statutory measures:

  • a mandatory reporting duty, which would require specified practitioners or organisations to report child abuse or neglect if they knew, or had reasonable cause to suspect, it was taking place, or
  • a duty to act, which would place a legal requirement on specified groups, professionals or organisations to take appropriate action where they knew or suspected that a child was suffering, or was at risk of suffering, abuse or neglect.

The consultation closed on 13 October 2016. We received 768 responses from a wide range of interests, including practitioners and others in the education, health, social care and local government sectors, children’s charities, survivors’ groups, the police and members of the public. These are complex issues and we have considered all the responses and relevant issues carefully.

The majority of respondents (63%) were in favour of allowing the Government’s existing programme of reforms time to be fully embedded before considering additional statutory measures. Only a quarter (25%) of respondents favoured introducing a duty to act, with less than half of that number (12%) favouring the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty.

Respondents indicated that the biggest issues with the current system were the need for better joint working between different local agencies (93%), further work to encourage new and innovative practice (85%) and better training for practitioners (81%).

We have concluded that the case for the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty or a duty to act has not been made. Neither of these proposals will be taken forward but we will instead focus on taking action to address some of the key issues raised by respondents to the consultation, in addition to implementing our already wide-ranging programme of reforms. This action includes:

  • improving multi-agency working, in particular strengthening information sharing for safeguarding purposes, including better local arrangements;
  • revising our Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance and launching a further phase of the communications campaign, Together, we can tackle child abuse ahead its publication;
  • looking at the current legislative framework to assess whether it is able to deal appropriately with concerns about concealment of child abuse and neglect; and
  • continuing our work to improve the training, accreditation and regulation of practitioners, so that they can better safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Every child deserves to be protected from abuse and neglect. We will continue to evaluate whether our reform programme is having the intended impact once fully implemented, in addition to continuing to assess any new or different evidence on mandatory reporting.

We are determined to do all that we can to strengthen our child protection system in ways which we expect will bring real benefits to children.

Copies of the Government’s response will be available on the Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reporting-and-acting-on-child-abuse-and-neglect. 

Nadhim Zahawi MP Minister for Children and Families Department for Education Victoria Atkins MP Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Home Office