The Labour Party must do everything within its power to help stamp out the horror of child abuse. Which is why this week, I have asked our shadow cabinet members to work with our leader's office to co-ordinate an urgent response to the Government’s consultation on Reporting and Acting on Child Abuse and Neglect.
The twelve-week consultation is seeking views on placing a mandatory duty on persons working with children to report suspicions, or known abuse, to children’s social services - or a duty to act on such persons. This duty would include, but not require, the duty to report.
Over the past four years, I have worked on the issue of unreported abuses of children. I have seen the dreadful consequences first hand. Why is this issue of mandatory reporting so important? Because the Office of the Children’s Commissioner has made it abundantly clear that the majority of child abuse is not reported.
I have benefited from expertise and advice given by professionals with considerable experience in this field. I'm in no doubt that mandatory reporting is right and necessary. But there remains much to discuss and agree on, in terms of the form and function of such a duty.
The police have received allegations against 1084 unique institutions since 2014. Three hundred of these would not be included in the mandatory duty as currently proposed.
The Labour Party has already committed to introducing a mandatory reporting duty for child abuse. Shadow Ministers have shown their commitment through speeches and supporting petitions. Now is the time to turn that commitment into action.
This consultation impacts on a number of governmental departments, and we have until October to respond. I'm trying to co-ordinate a considered and comprehensive response. Failure to do so will let more children down.
We can’t let that happen. Please respond to the government's consultation by making it clear how vital it is that a mandatory reporting duty is put in place.