In April 2023, in response to the final IICSA report, the Home Secretary announced that the Government would seek to deliver a mandatory reporting regime, which would be informed by a full public consultation. A call for evidence on the potential implementation of such a duty began on 22 May 2023 and concluded on 14 August 2023. Views were sought on how implementing the duty was likely to impact children and organisations, as well as workforces and volunteers and how different aspects could be implemented. It received over one thousand responses.
Lauranne Nolan, Associate and Safeguarding Lead in Keoghs specialist abuse team, previously discussed this recommendation following the final report here in addition to a further article following the Government’s response to the recommendation and the call for evidence which can be found here.
The Government has now collated the views produced via the call for evidence and is launching a consultation to set out proposals for delivering a mandatory reporting duty and test the remaining undecided policy questions. It then intends to issue a single response to address both exercises. This current consultation is shorter than the call for evidence, opening on 2 November 2023 to run to 30 November 2023. The Government has indicated that responses will be produced within 12 weeks, which would be mid to late February 2024.
It is understood that the call for evidence demonstrated several areas of general agreement such as who should be considered to be a mandated reporter and the potential benefits of the creation of such a duty in order to improve the child protection system. There was also agreement on the critical importance of ensuring the new duty contains appropriate protection for individuals who make their reports in good faith.
However, there were points which generated mixed opinions. While it was agreed there should be protections for reports made in good faith, views were split on whether or not failing in the duty to report should be a criminal offence, with many saying different forms of punishment should be available based on the context and severity of failures. It appears that views were also split on what should be reported. Many consider that the duty to report should only apply when they are directly told of sexual abuse by a child or perpetrator or witness it themselves, whereas other respondents felt that being required to report when recognised indicators were observed would highlight the importance of early identification preventing more severe harm.
The call for evidence has also identified a range of issues that require further consideration before the duty is implemented, including reporting processes, training, and guidance. In addition, a consultation impact assessment has been prepared – this indicates that certain groups are likely to be particularly affected by the introduction of a mandatory reporting duty as it may lead to additional costs for businesses, charities, the voluntary sector, and the public sector. Most of these costs are expected to impact the public sector, driven by an increase in the cost of police investigations into child sexual abuse. Costs to police are estimated between £15.8 million and £84.9 million with a central estimate of £48.7 million over 10 years. Other affected groups are likely to include the Crown Prosecution Service for prosecuting additional offences, and victim organisations to cover additional victims who need to access support services.
The Government is seeking further views on:
The Government has received much criticism on the basis that it is now over a year since the final report was published and not one of the main recommendations has been implemented, despite the amount of money spent on an inquiry that lasted eight years. However, it does appear that while progress may be slow, the Government remains committed to this recommendation and the implementation of a mandatory duty to report child sexual abuse.
For more information, please contact:
Lauranne Nolan, Associate
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