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Farrer & Co | New duties to report and act on child abuse?

In its consultation paper "Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect", the Government is asking for views on the possible creation of two new legal duties:

  1. a duty for certain organisations/practitioners to report abuse or neglect to the local authority if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect it is taking place;
  2. a duty for certain organisations/practitioners to take appropriate action if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring. "Appropriate action" would depend on the circumstances and may include reporting, sharing information with other agencies or stepping in to protect a child. Unlike the duty to report, which would be discharged once a report was made, this responsibility would be ongoing.

The duties would apply to those whose activities bring them into close and frequent contact with children, for example in education, childcare, social care and healthcare.

The consultation paper lists the pros and cons of introducing each duty and outlines the possible sanctions for breach (along with ideas about what might constitute breach in each case). The Government is seeking feedback on whether, if the duties are introduced, they should apply to organisations, individual practitioners, or both. It suggests that, if they do apply to individuals, they should apply not only to frontline practitioners but also to those in managerial positions and support/administrative staff. A table on page 19 of the consultation paper lists various types of activity that would be affected by the new duties, and the organisations and specific roles they would encompass. For example, "social care" activities would affect care homes, certain voluntary organisations, and the social workers, care assistants and care home managers who work for them.

If introduced, then, the new duties could have a significant impact on charities in certain sectors.

The consultation questions are in Part E of the paper and are mostly set out as a list of statements, with respondents asked to indicate how strongly they agree with those statements by ticking the appropriate box. There are, however, also spaces for respondents to write more freely, both on specific aspects of the proposals and more generally.

The consultation ended on 13 October 2016. You can read the paper here.

If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact Rachel Holmes (rachel.holmes@farrer.co.uk , 020 3375 7561) or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000. Further information can also be found on the Child Protection Unit page on our website.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, October 2016

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