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Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse

Last updated: 13 May 2024 Topics: News
A professional writes in a notepad

The Government has set out its plans for a mandatory duty in England to report known or suspected child sexual abuse

Why has the government put forward these proposals?

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that disclosures of child sexual abuse to a responsible adult didn’t always lead to action being taken. Protecting the reputation of an individual or institution was sometimes prioritised over the safety of children.

In response to this, IICSA proposed that a mandatory reporting duty should be introduced for those working or volunteering with children to report child sexual abuse.1

The Government responded to this recommendation by conducting a consultation on proposals for a mandatory reporting duty,2 which closed on 30 November 2023.

On 9 May 2024 the Home Office published its response to the consultation, setting out its proposals for a new duty to report child sexual abuse.3

What is the proposed duty?

The duty to report child sex offences intends to make it a legal requirement for people engaging in 'relevant activity' in England to report child sexual abuse to the police or local authority when:

  • they are told about it by a child or the person who has carried out the abuse
  • they witness the abuse happening.

'Relevant activity' includes all regulated activity, and a list of other specified activities.

Under the proposals, there will not be criminal penalties attached to failing to report under the duty. Instead, the focus will be on referring individuals to the Disclosure and Barring Service and relevant professional regulators.

However, anyone who seeks to cover up abuse or seeks to obstruct a reporter from carrying out their duty to report could face imprisonment.

The Government intends to introduce the duty as an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill (PDF). The draft legislation also sets out a number of proposed exemptions where the duty to report would not be triggered. Details of the duty may change as legislation progresses through Parliament.

What are the next steps?

Once the Criminal Justice Bill receives Royal Assent, the government will produce guidance to provide more details about what individuals will need to do under the new duty and the role of organisations in supporting their staff and volunteers to comply.

There will be an implementation period so that impacted sectors have time to consider any training and materials needed to support their workforces in delivering the duty and improving their response to child sexual abuse.

The impact of the duty on outcomes for children and young people and on system operations will be evaluated after a specified period following its implementation.

How will the proposed duty affect people working with children?

Anyone working with children should have robust safeguarding policies and procedures so that individuals, organisations, staff and volunteers know what to do if they have a concern about a child.

The proposed duty is an additional measure designed to ensure that information about child sexual abuse is shared with the relevant agencies, so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard and support the child involved.

Organisations will need to understand how the new duty applies to staff and volunteers who are working with children, and how to integrate the additional reporting requirements into their existing policies, procedures and processes.

References

Jay, A. et al. (2022) The report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. [Accessed 09/05/2024].
Home Office (2024) Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse consultation. [Accessed 09/05/2024].
Home Office (2024) Government response: mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse consultation. [Accessed 09/05/2024].

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References