We must do everything we can to protect children from abuse and neglect. That’s why in our 2015 manifesto, Labour said we'd introduce mandatory reporting.
Placing a legal duty on people working with children to report suspected abuse will help prevent the horror of child abuse. A horror which has destroyed so many lives - and will continue to do so unless, and until, something changes.
The Government consultation, called Reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect closed this week. It sought views on two different options:
1) placing a mandatory duty on persons working with children to report suspicions, or known abuse, to children’s social services, or
2) placing a duty to act on such persons, leaving the reporting of abuse as a voluntary option.
Our view has not changed. Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect must be introduced. But it's more than just a tick-box exercise.
Over the past twelve weeks, we have consulted with experts from fields including social work, education, children’s charities and academia - as well as survivors of childhood abuse. Among the evidence we reviewed was research carried out by international expert, Professor Ben Mathews.
Professor Mathews undertook a 7 year study in Western Australia on the long-term impact of mandatory reporting. A study which was not mentioned in the Government’s consultation document.
At a Committee meeting in parliament this week, I was joined by Labour MPs Sarah Champion, Peter Dowd, Steve McCabe and Emma Lewell-Buck. We heard from a variety of experts - all with different but complementary views.
Concerns have been raised about the extra demand, which would be created by the introduction of mandatory reporting. Concerns have been raised, too, about the quality and availability of training for the people who would be directly affected by a mandatory requirement to report; hard-working professionals who are the backbone of our communities.
If we are to make mandatory reporting work, we do need to consider whether services that are already stretched have the capacity and resources they will need.
The Labour Party will be writing to Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Education Secretary Justine Greening to feed into the Government consultation.
We are all too aware of the pressure our public services are under, mostly due to cuts carried out by this Tory Government. But now it has carried out this consultation. It must take action to protect our children. And we, the Labour Party, must be ready to hold them to account. If you agree, please share this post now.