Not only is a change in the law on ‘mandatory reporting’ now being proposed but also the crime of child abuse will be upgraded to ‘national threat’.
Both of these developments are significant and both will help to safeguard children in the future.
But this will need funding, not just rhetoric. Mandatory reporting will mean an increased workload on forces as there will be greater reporting of these crimes against children, this and the increased threat level will mean that more resources will need to go into police units that specialise in this type of crime.
There will be a cost but the costs both financially and to society of not prioritising sexual crimes against children are far greater.
Child sexual abuse is to be upgraded to the status of “a national threat”, so that it is placed on a par with serious organised crime by police chiefs and elected police commissioners in their strategic planning. They will be required to cooperate with other police forces across county boundaries to safeguard children.
Cameron believes his plan to extend the offence of wilful neglect beyond the health service and adult social care sector to a far wider group of public service workers will send out a message that child abuse can no longer be regarded as a second order issue by public service workers. He hopes the reforms will herald a culture change and come close to meaning that public service workers would lose criminal immunity if they failed to report or act on clear evidence of abuse.
The wilful neglect or ill treatment offence was first introduced in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act passed earlier this year. It applies to individual care workers or care provider organisations looking after children and adults in the NHS and adult care homes. Some critics have claimed that the measure is likely to threaten the desired culture of openness in dealing with the problem and could lead to scapegoating, whereby individuals are blamed for organisational failings or lack of public funding. But Cameron will say: “It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officers and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do.”