Luton Borough Council was prosecuted by the HSE late last year following an incident at a high school in which an assistant headteacher was attacked by a pupil and left with life-changing injuries.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidance and advice to improve health and social care. It was asked earlier this year by the Department of Health (DH) and the Department for Education (DfE) to provide guidelines for all professionals on when to report signs of child abuse.
According to the DfE figures, in 2015/16 there were more than 50,000 children known to the Government in England as needing protection from abuse. In 2014/2015, reported incidents of sexual offences against children rose by 38% and incidents of neglect by 10% from the previous year, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC) 2015 report.
Under current legislation, however, there is no legal requirement for anyone working with minors in England, Wales or Scotland to report incidents of abuse or concerns to local authorities, children’s services or to the police. This has been the case for the last 60 years, during which time the majority of international policies have made such reporting mandatory. Mandatory reporting would enable early detection of cases that otherwise may not come to the attention of the authorities.
According to Mandate Now, a pressure group campaigning for mandatory reporting legislation in the UK, “The current lack of legislation in England, Wales and Scotland fails staff, children and parents”. The group feels that the Government needs to introduce a much stronger culture of prevention upon which reliance can be placed.
The draft NICE guidelines, which were published in February, are due to be finalised and published in September. They inform professionals what to do when they feel something that is wrong. They list ‘soft’ signs that should be considered as potential abuse in children, and there is guidance on signals that should cause professionals to suspect abuse, and instigate an investigation.
At Anthony Collins Solicitors, we have extensive experience of working with people who have endured sexual, physical, emotional or mental abuse. A common theme in these scenarios is for the people who have suffered abuse to feel let down by public authorities, who have failed to intervene and to protect them from further harm. We, therefore, welcome the proposed changes to these NICE guidelines. Hopefully, further changes will be designed to help those who are suffering abuse to gain access to appropriate care and to protect them from further abuse.
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