The UK government has launched a consultation which would like views on how implementing a duty to report child sexual abuse in England is likely to affect children, organisations, and affected workforces and volunteers; and how different aspects could be implemented.
In the consultation’s introduction, the government says, “Investigations undertaken by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse documented unacceptable cases of organisations and institutions failing to protect those in their care from child sexual abuse (Lambeth Council, Residential Schools, Child Sexual Exploitation in Organised Networks, and more). This must not be allowed to happen again.”
The call for evidence, which is limited to England, follows a recommendation by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) to implement a duty to report suspected child abuse. Members of the public have been invited to share their evidence, along with:
- Persons working in regulated activity in relation to children (under the Safeguarding and Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, as amended).
- Volunteers who would be undertaking regulated activity in relation to children if they were unsupervised.
- Anyone working with children in any capacity.
- Persons working in a position of trust (as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 ).
- Police officers.
- Local authorities; including children’s social care workers
- Welsh Government.
- NHS England, Directors of Public Health and Integrated Care Boards
- Inspectorates and regulators.
- Education settings and workforce, including Early Years and Further Education.
- Children’s activity settings and workforces (children’s sports, drama, arts, and music clubs)
- Civil Society and Youth organisations (charities, voluntary, community and social enterprises).
- Academics and research institutions such as What Works Centres
- Professional organisations such as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the BMA etc.
The IICSA’s recommendation, which is number 13 in the IICSA’s report says:
The Inquiry recommends that the UK government and Welsh Government introduce legislation which places certain individuals – ‘mandated reporters’ – under a statutory duty to report child sexual abuse where they:
- receive a disclosure of child sexual abuse from a child or perpetrator; or
- witness a child being sexually abused; or
- observe recognised indicators of child sexual abuse.
The following persons should be designated ‘mandated reporters’:
- any person working in regulated activity in relation to children (under the Safeguarding and Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, as amended);
- any person working in a position of trust (as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, as amended); and
- police officers.
For the purposes of mandatory reporting, ‘child sexual abuse’ should be interpreted as any act that would be an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 where the alleged victim is a child under the age of 18.
Where the child is aged between 13 and under 16 years old, a report need not be made where the mandated reporter reasonably believes that:
- the relationship between the parties is consensual and not intimidatory, exploitative or coercive; and
- the child has not been harmed and is not at risk of being harmed; and
- there is no material difference in capacity or maturity between the parties engaged in the sexual activity concerned, and there is a difference in age of no more than three years.
These exceptions should not, however, apply where the alleged perpetrator is in a position of trust within the meaning of the 2003 Act.
Where the child is under the age of 13, a report must always be made.
Reports should be made to either local authority children’s social care or the police as soon as is practicable.
It should be a criminal offence for mandated reporters to fail to report child sexual abuse where they:
- are in receipt of a disclosure of child sexual abuse from a child or perpetrator; or
- witness a child being sexually abused.
The survey for the consultation can be accessed here.
The consultation closes on Monday 14 August, 2023.
Enquiries (including requests for the paper in an alternative format) can be sent to:
Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Unit
5th Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street