Last reviewed 7 November 2023
Earlier this year, we reported that the Home Office had called for evidence on how implementing a duty to report child sexual abuse was likely to impact children, organisations and affected workforces and volunteers (see Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse).
That consultation closed on 14 August 2023 and the Home office has now launched a second consultation, noting that a single government response addressing both of these consultation exercises will be published “as soon as possible”.
The new consultation is open for replies until 30 November 2023 and full details can be found at GOV.UK.
This latest document sets out proposals for creating a mandatory reporting duty and aims to test opinion on a small but significant number of undecided policy questions.
As well as to members of the public, it is addressed to a wide range of professionals and organisation including education settings and workforce (schools, early years, school age childcare and further education).
Also mentioned are children’s activity settings and out of school settings and their workforces (such as children’s sports, drama, arts, and music clubs, tuition centres and private tutors, supplementary schools, and religious settings offering education and activities in their own faith).
The Home Office said: “We are particularly seeking views from respondents on: how the Government should define who is subject to the duty; what protections should be in place for reporters; limited circumstances in which the reporting duty may not apply; and what sanctions should apply in respect of the duty.”
The latest document notes that respondents to the earlier call were split on whether breaching the duty should be a criminal offence, with many saying different forms of punishment should be available based on the context and severity of failures.
Many respondents expressed concern around the potential negative impacts of implementing a new duty, from overburdening public services, lowering the quality of referrals to safeguarding agencies and reducing the amount of ‘safe spaces’ available to children and young people who may wish to discuss sexual abuse in confidence.
There were also concerns raised around the potential for a new duty to be misused through false and malicious reporting.