Mandatory reporting of child abuse will not be introduced as it could undermine practice and result in tick box approach to the way important safeguarding work is carried out, the government has announced today.
In a long-awaited response to a consultation in 2016, home office minister Victoria Atkins said the case for a mandatory requirement for frontline staff to report or act on concerns “has not currently been made”.
It concluded the threat of sanctions would lead to an increase in referrals and could create a “needle in a haystack” effect, making it less likely that the children’s social care system will identify key cases.
The government also said mandatory reporting may lead to “less consideration of the most appropriate stage for referrals”, resulting in a “tick box” approach by social workers, health and education practitioners, and the police.
It added: “Furthermore, mandatory reporting will not itself improve the quality of practitioners’ judgement about whether what they are seeing is abuse or neglect, and how best to respond; this remains the ultimate focus for best supporting children at risk of harm.”
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services vice president Stuart Gallimore welcomed the government’s decision, describing it as “sensible”.
He added: “The government has acknowledged that there is no evidence that such reporting systems will provide greater protection for children nor improve their outcomes.
“Instead they risk overwhelming the systems already in place to protect children.”
Mr Gallimore added many professionals already face sanctions if they knowingly fail to pass on information about suspected abuse.
He said: “We believe the most common reason people do not report abuse and neglect is because they simply don’t recognise it for what it is.
“We need to ensure all professionals, and local communities, are aware of the signs of child abuse in all its forms, the need for vigilance and how best to raise concerns with the appropriate agency.”
The government said the level of referrals to social services are already higher in England than in other countries which have mandatory reporting, such as the USA and Australia.