Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect Summary of consultation responses and Government action

This section sets out the targeted action that the Government is taking in response to issues raised by consultation. In particular, we will address four key issues around reporting and acting on child abuse. These include the importance of understanding and reporting abuse, information sharing between agencies that work with children, best practice and professional training, and continuing to assess the legal framework and evidence to ensure the approach we are taking is effective and adequate. 27. We have already overseen significant reforms to the child protection system, following the conclusion of the Munro Review of Child Protection in 2011, but we want to do more to deliver the best outcomes for children, and are doing so. The policy paper Putting Children First (2016) set out how we are transforming the children’s social care system by delivering major reforms under key pillars: • people and leadership – bringing the best into the profession and giving them the right knowledge and skills for the challenging but hugely rewarding work ahead, and developing leaders equipped to nurture practice excellence; • practice and systems – creating the right environment for excellent practice and innovation to flourish, learning from the very best practice, and learning from when things go wrong; and • governance and accountability – making sure that what we are doing is working, and developing innovative new organisational models with the potential to radically improve services. 28. We are already taking steps to deliver improvements in safeguarding and child protection which we expect will bring real benefits to children. We also recognise that there are more steps we can take to enhance the likelihood of abuse and neglect being recognised and reported at an earlier point so that the appropriate action can be taken. 29. We will address directly the issues raised by the consultation through a combination of these ongoing reforms and the following programme of action. To ensure there is strong awareness of the risks and need to report abuse, we are: 30. Launching a further phase of our communications campaign, Together, we can tackle child abuse. The third phase of the campaign continues to raise awareness, improve understanding and normalise reporting behaviour in communities so that more children can be kept safe from harm. The campaign builds public understanding of how to interpret and act on concerns, educating individuals about the signs of abuse and neglect, and encouraging reporting. Through the campaign we will also engage with local authorities and practitioners in areas such as police, health and education, to reinforce existing professional duties to take action if they have concerns about a child’s welfare, where reporting a concern is more important than protecting the reputation of an individual or organisation. 31. Making Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) mandatory in all schools. Given the increasing concerns around child sexual abuse and exploitation and the growing risks associated with growing up in a digital world, there is a particularly compelling case to act so that children are better equipped to protect themselves. That is why we are legislating to make the subjects of Relationships Education mandatory in all primary schools and RSE mandatory in all secondary schools. Whilst we are clear that the most pressing safeguarding concerns relate to Relationships Education and RSE, it is evident that wider concerns about child safety and wellbeing relate to the core knowledge these subjects can teach, such as understanding of the risks of drugs and alcohol, and safeguarding physical and mental health. We therefore think it is important that we have the ability to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) mandatory as well, subject to the outcome of thorough consideration of the subject. The Department for Education has conducted a thorough engagement process on the scope and content of Relationships Education and RSE, including further consideration of PSHE. This process involved engagement with stakeholders and a public call for evidence, and will be followed by a formal consultation on the resulting regulations and guidance. Elsewhere the Government has also provided £2.3 million funding for the second phase of the successful ‘Disrespect Nobody’ campaign, which raises young people’s awareness of healthy relationships and safe choices. 32. Increasing the effectiveness of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance. We plan to update this guidance for education professionals to reflect current safeguarding concerns and understanding of good practice, including an already strong focus on the importance of referrals and information sharing. We published a public consultation into proposed revisions to KCSIE on 14 December 2017, the consultation closing on 22 February 2018. The intention is to publish revised guidance, for information, in the summer term 2018 to be effective from September 2018. 33. Targeting support for areas where abuse concerns are emerging, including in sport. In response to allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse that surfaced in late 2016, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working with other government departments and the sport sector to ensure that sports clubs and organisations have strong processes in place for dealing with any allegations of non-recent abuse and to ensure that current arrangements for safeguarding children and young people in sports environments are as robust as possible. Our Together, we can tackle child abuse communications campaign aims to reach practitioners and volunteers across a broad range of sectors and communities, including those not part of traditional child protection arrangements, and in both regulated and non-regulated professions and settings. 34. Creating a safe space for whistle-blowers. We have established a whistleblowing helpline for practitioners to raise concerns about their organisation’s ability to protect children from abuse and neglect. Such measures are vitally important to counter the sort of behaviour where it appears the imperative to report and act on child abuse is wrongly counterbalanced, or even outweighed, by a desire to safeguard personal status, institutional reputation or profitability. To improve information sharing, we are: 35. Improving multi-agency working, in particular local information sharing. Following the passage of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, we will introduce, during the current parliament, new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements to ensure shared and strengthened ownership of local safeguarding, replacing Local Safeguarding Children Boards. This is a major reform of the fundamental workings of local child protection. By supporting local areas to develop stronger, bespoke working arrangements between local authorities, health and the police, we expect to see a step change in the quality of inter-agency work to safeguard children. The new arrangements will provide additional powers to secure effective participation from key agencies and agree plans to strengthen information sharing. We know that the best multi-agency arrangements are those which enshrine consistent and effective information sharing arrangements. These improvements to the system of multi-agency working at a local level will be coupled with new arrangements for reviewing serious child safeguarding cases at both the local and national level, as well as new child death review arrangements. 36. In support, a public consultation was launched last autumn on the related secondary legislation and revised statutory guidance (Working Together to Safeguard Children) which closed on 31 December 2017. We are preparing for formal commencement of the new arrangements, and publication of the updated guidance later in 2018. 37. Tackling the barriers to information sharing, including considering legislative improvements to support more effective information sharing for safeguarding purposes between practitioners. We will also look again at the Government’s information sharing practice guidance to examine what more can be done to break down common barriers to sharing information. We will also look to strengthen the forthcoming update of the NHS Confidentiality Code to make it clear when information about vulnerable children and young people should be shared. 38. Supporting the Child Protection Information Sharing project. This NHS Digital-led IT system links information on looked after children and children on child protection plans between local authorities and unscheduled health settings (such as emergency departments or walk-in centres), in order to help practitioners make decisions about how to keep children safe. We are investing in an accelerator fund to support local authorities and health settings to implement the system. 39. Expanding and strengthening the information sharing requirements in Working Together to Safeguard Children. As part of our revisions we have strengthened and consolidated existing guidance for practitioners on sharing information, including the guidance for practitioners on referring concerns to local authority children’s social care. The guidance, incorporated from practice guidance now into statutory guidance, makes clear that where there are concerns about the safety and welfare of children all practitioners should share information without hesitation or concern for their individual or organisational reputation. Working Together is now also clear that action should be taken by employers against practitioners whose conduct and/or practice falls below acceptable standards. To improve practice and decision-making, we are: 40. Improving the skills and confidence of practitioners so that they can better safeguard and promote the welfare of children. A national assessment and accreditation system for social work will introduce a new practice-focused assessment to establish the knowledge and skills that child and family social workers need. Amongst other social work workforce reforms set out in our Putting Children First paper, we are establishing through provisions in the Children and Social Work Act 2017, a new specialist regulator for social workers in England. Over time, the regulator, Social Work England, will drive up standards in social work education, training and practice and operate a quality assurance system for continuous professional development ensuring all social workers remain fit to practice. We will also consider how statutory guidance supporting the new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements could support the provision of effective multi-agency safeguarding training within local areas. Separately, we are also committed to improving training for the police and health service providers in the context of tackling child sexual abuse. The Home Office has made £1.9m available to the College of Policing to deliver a package of specialist training for vulnerability, essentially introducing a ‘licence to practise’ regime. 41. Increasing accountability in the child protection system. We have put in place a new system of joint targeted area inspections by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation, as part of strengthening local authority children’s services inspections more widely. 42. Introducing a new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel. Implementing the changes in the Children and Social Work Act 2017, a new system of national and local reviews will create a national framework for considering the lessons of the tragic events where a child is seriously harmed or dies. Despite changes to improve serious case reviews over a number of years, a systemic suspicion persists that their main purpose is to apportion blame. The new system of child safeguarding practice reviews will be supported by tighter regulation and guidance. This will lead to a national learning framework predicated on high quality, published, local and national learning inquiries, with the clear purpose of identifying improvements both locally and nationally. 43. Building our knowledge of best practice in child protection. We have a comprehensive programme of work which by 2020 will create a new national learning system for children’s social care. This will see the strengthening of the evidence base via the Children’ Social Care Innovation Programme and Partners in Practice, along with practice improvements identified through a new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and a What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care. We also need to do more to properly understand the nature of child sexual abuse and how best to address it. To this end, we launched a new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse with £7.5m of long term funding, which aims to identify, generate and share high quality evidence of what works to prevent and tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation to inform policy and practice. 44. Delivering a focused programme of reforms to tackle child sexual abuse. In February 2017, the Government published its Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: Progress Report and announced a £40m package of measures to protect children and young people from sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking and to bring offenders to justice. 45. We have prioritised child sexual abuse as a national policing threat and are investing in specialist policing capability to ensure children are better protected. We provided significant extra investment to transform the police approach to child sexual exploitation (CSE), through our Police Transformation Fund, and the National Crime Agency has also received additional funding which will help it to tackle online child sexual exploitation even more effectively. The NCA’s CEOP Command leads the law enforcement response to online child sexual exploitation and abuse and works with law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas, to identify victims and pursue offenders engaged in grooming children on the internet. Specifically, £20 million has been provided to help combat child sexual exploitation and significantly increase our capability to target the online grooming of children. 46. The new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse will also assess UK and international evidence on prevalence, responses and what works in tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation. To ensure the action we are taking is effective and adequate, we are: 47. Assessing whether the current legislative framework is able to deal appropriately with concerns about concealment of child abuse and neglect. As noted above, a small number of organisations that responded to the consultation suggested that a specific criminal offence in this area should be introduced. We will commit to scoping this issue fully and identify whether there are any gaps in the current statutory framework during the current Parliament, including working with representative organisations such as the NSPCC and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. An appropriate offence would constitute the strongest response in terms of deterring and criminalising intentional cover-ups, such as those that advocates of mandatory reporting have pointed to in closed institutions. Such an offence may allow us to set a clearer bar in terms of targeting the most wilful and egregious behaviour. This may provide the strongest and most targeted response to address cases where child abuse is not reported due to a desire to protect personal position or institutional position. 48. It should also be noted that the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is looking at a range of settings in which there may have been institutional failings and high-profile instances of child sexual abuse being covered up. The Inquiry is hearing evidence currently and will present its recommendations in due course, which we will use to inform our future considerations. 49. Continuing to monitor and evaluate the evidence. Notwithstanding all of the arguments and existing evidence set out in this response, the Government remains committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the safety of every child. We recognise past failures where children have been let down, and the progress still needed to realise our vision of services which always deliver the support children need at the time they need it. It has been valuable to explore these issues and to give proposed new statutory measures thorough consideration. However it is evident that there is not generally a demand for this proposal from those working in the sector or more generally from those responding to our consultation. We have also considered the effectiveness of the proposal under an assumption that greater resources could be made available, for instance for more social workers working at the front door of social care, or to fund assessment of a greater number of children. Even approached this way, at the current time, the case for a mandatory reporting duty has not been made, but we will remain open-minded should an emerging body of evidence or a new policy landscape change that. 50. 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. The new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will identify consistent and systemic errors in how children are protected, including any recurring issues around reporting, and this will be valuable to our ongoing assessment. We will also in particular be interested to understand evidence emerging from the recent introduction of a mandatory reporting duty in Wales placed at an organisational level, and any other new international evidence, to consider whether this alters the conclusions we have drawn from the current evidence. The same applies to the mandatory reporting duty for female genital mutilation, which came into force in 2015, informed by monitoring the impact this has had in practice. If the evidence strongly suggested that a mandatory reporting duty was likely to improve outcomes for children, whether now or at a future time, the Government would not hesitate to act to make the reforms necessary.

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