Teachers legally required to report child abuse in crackdown on grooming gangs

·3-min read
Teachers will soon be legally required to report child sexual abuse
Teachers will soon be legally required to report child sexual abuse

Teachers will soon be legally required to report child sexual abuse, after concerns grooming gangs have been ignored for fear of racism accusations.

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, said the protection of minors must be a “collective effort” and has announced that any adult who works with children will be required to report sexual abuse or face sanctions.

The policy comes after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) warned in October that “victims and survivors suggested that professionals feared allegations of racism and that this was prioritised over their safety”.

One victim told the inquiry that professionals were afraid of being called racist for pointing out the behaviour of ethnic minority men and that they “dismissed her allegations of sexual abuse as ‘cultural differences’ when she was a child”.

The mandatory reporting scheme will mean that adults in positions of authority cannot “turn a blind eye” to sexual abuse, the Home Office said.

IICSA raised other concerns about the reporting of child abuse, including that victims were accused of lying when they came forward to report their experiences.

Others told the inquiry they had been blamed by those in positions of power for their own grooming, or that institutions wanted to cover up the abuse altogether.

Criminal sanctions

The policy will apply to teachers, doctors, nurses and other professions that come into contact with children.

Mandatory reporting has previously been opposed by the NSPCC, Britain’s leading child protection charity, over concerns victims will not disclose their abuse to adults if they know an investigation will be triggered automatically.

In 2016 the charity called for teachers and other professionals to be given “discretion” over when they should report concerns to local authorities.

At the time, the Home Office consulted on the introduction of mandatory reporting and said just 12 per cent of 750 respondents were in favour of the policy.

But IICSA’s final report in October recommended mandatory reporting was introduced in England and Wales and that criminal sanctions apply to professionals who receive disclosures from children but do not report them.

The report said that “an individual working with children may recognise indicators of child sexual abuse that give rise to a reasonable suspicion that the child has experienced, or is experiencing, sexual abuse” and said it had evidence that in “a number of cases clear signs of child sexual abuse were missed or not acted upon”.

Ms Braverman said: “Child sexual abuse is one of the most horrific crimes facing our society, it devastates victims, families and whole communities.

“The protection of children is a collective effort. Every adult must be supported to call out child sexual abuse without fear.

“That’s why I’m introducing a mandatory reporting duty and launching a call for evidence. We must address the failings identified by the Inquiry and take on board the views of the thousands of victims and survivors who contributed to it.

‘National conversation’

“I would encourage everyone to engage with the process once it starts – it is important to have a national conversation about this to help to shine a light on this terrible – but too often hidden – crime.”

The Home Office will also give £600,000 to the NSPCC’s whistleblowing helpline, which is for professionals that feel their institutions are not reporting or handling child abuse cases correctly.

Since its introduction in 2016, following a report into child abuse in Rotherham, it has led to over 300 referrals to the police.

IICSA’s report also raised concerns that police forces had not recorded the ethnicity of child sex abusers because they feared being called racist.

John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, told The Independent last year: “We need to break the culture where people are worried that they might be accused of being racist just because they record factual information.”