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Duty to report suspected slavery cases

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Councils will be legally obliged to tell the National Crime Agency about any suspected slavery cases, under measures announced in today’s Queen’s Speech.

A Modern Slavery Bill, detailed in the speech, will create a statutory duty for local authorities, police and immigration personnel to raise the alarm about potential victims of modern slavery.

The bill was announced alongside a Serious Crime Bill, which will include new measures on child neglect.

The legislation will update the 1933 criminal offence of child cruelty, to include emotional neglect and abuse.

A Cabinet Office report on the proposed legislation said it would “strengthen and update laws to protect vulnerable individuals at risk of child cruelty, sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation”.

But Alan Wood, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “There is no evidence to suggest a change in the law will prevent further instances of neglect from occurring.

“The current law as it stands allows prosecution for ‘suffering’, and emotional abuse and neglect can be considered under this.

“Creating a new criminal offence would not alter the way in which local authorities intervene to protect children. Practitioners are fully aware of the harm caused by emotional neglect and abuse. Emotional abuse is the reason given for nearly a third of child protection plans. This shows that local authorities are acting to keep safe children who are suffering from emotional abuse.”

Mr Wood added that extra help and support for parents and social workers would be more effective then new legislation.

David Simmonds (Con), chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Emotional abuse has been recognised as a significant child protection issue for a number of years, and it is right that criminal law is brought into line with the legislative framework that social workers already follow.

“It is, however, vital that any new law is effectively targeted at perpetrators of abuse. Vulnerable victims of domestic abuse, for example, should not find themselves doubly victimised by both their abuser and the courts should their child be found to be suffering emotional neglect as a result of their abuse.”

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