The Home Office has announced plans to legally require those who work with children to report child sexual abuse.
This comes after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard testimony from thousands of victims who were “let down by professionals turning a blind eye to their suffering”, said the Home Office.
Mandatory reporting was one of the key recommendations made by the IICSA report to crack down on child sexual abuse and address the systemic under-reporting of this crime.
The changes are subject to a consultation beginning with a call for evidence from professionals, volunteers, parents, victims, survivors, and the wider public.
In the more immediate future, the Home Office has committed £600,000 to the NSPCC whistleblowing helpline to support professionals. Since 2016, the helpline has provided advice to 1,062 individuals and led to over 300 referrals to the police.
Additional funding is also going to be made available for the NSPCC’s adult helpline, which is for anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a child. The helpline has established procedures and protocols around referring reports to statutory safeguarding partners, including children’s services and policing, so that they can be investigated and acted on.
The government said it is also speeding up the process for members of the public to find out if someone they know has committed child abuse in the past in order to better protect vulnerable people from predators close by.
Known as Sarah’s Law, the updated guidance for the Child Sex Offender’s Disclosure Scheme will make it easier for the public to raise a concern online and reduce the timeframes for police to respond to enquiries, which will help the public get the information they need sooner and protect children from harm.
Further information on the changes to Sarah’s Law
The introduction of online applications will make it easier for the public to request information. The public still has the option of applying over the phone, by calling 111, or in person at a police station.
The timeframe for applications to be processed to completion is reduced from 44 days to 28 days. The guidance is clear that when immediate risks are identified the police should take action immediately.
Formalising proactive disclosure processes
This will help ensure that the police provide information to the right people at the right time to protect children from harm. The “right to know” route is now formalised within the guidance, so that Sarah’s Law processes can be followed when police are made aware of the need to make a disclosure even when an application hasn’t been made.
Incorporating discretion into communication methods
Police forces will be able to complete some stages of the process by video or phone call.
Aligning processes with the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS)
If someone applies to one scheme but there is information to disclose for the other scheme, the police can share that information under the “Right to Know” route without asking the person to apply again.