This section sets out the targeted action that the Government is taking in response to
issues raised by consultation. In particular, we will address four key issues around
reporting and acting on child abuse. These include the importance of understanding and
reporting abuse, information sharing between agencies that work with children, best
practice and professional training, and continuing to assess the legal framework and
evidence to ensure the approach we are taking is effective and adequate.
27. We have already overseen significant reforms to the child protection system, following the
conclusion of the Munro Review of Child Protection in 2011, but we want to do more to deliver
the best outcomes for children, and are doing so. The policy paper Putting Children First
(2016) set out how we are transforming the children’s social care system by delivering major
reforms under key pillars:
• people and leadership – bringing the best into the profession and giving them the right
knowledge and skills for the challenging but hugely rewarding work ahead, and developing
leaders equipped to nurture practice excellence;
• practice and systems – creating the right environment for excellent practice and
innovation to flourish, learning from the very best practice, and learning from when things
go wrong; and
• governance and accountability – making sure that what we are doing is working, and
developing innovative new organisational models with the potential to radically improve
28. We are already taking steps to deliver improvements in safeguarding and child protection
which we expect will bring real benefits to children. We also recognise that there are more
steps we can take to enhance the likelihood of abuse and neglect being recognised and
reported at an earlier point so that the appropriate action can be taken.
29. We will address directly the issues raised by the consultation through a combination of these
ongoing reforms and the following programme of action.
To ensure there is strong awareness of the risks and need to report abuse, we are:
30. Launching a further phase of our communications campaign, Together, we can tackle
child abuse. The third phase of the campaign continues to raise awareness, improve
understanding and normalise reporting behaviour in communities so that more children can be
kept safe from harm. The campaign builds public understanding of how to interpret and act on
concerns, educating individuals about the signs of abuse and neglect, and encouraging
reporting. Through the campaign we will also engage with local authorities and practitioners in
areas such as police, health and education, to reinforce existing professional duties to take
action if they have concerns about a child’s welfare, where reporting a concern is more
important than protecting the reputation of an individual or organisation.
31. Making Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)
mandatory in all schools. Given the increasing concerns around child sexual abuse and
exploitation and the growing risks associated with growing up in a digital world, there is a
particularly compelling case to act so that children are better equipped to protect themselves.
That is why we are legislating to make the subjects of Relationships Education mandatory in
all primary schools and RSE mandatory in all secondary schools. Whilst we are clear that the
most pressing safeguarding concerns relate to Relationships Education and RSE, it is evident
that wider concerns about child safety and wellbeing relate to the core knowledge these subjects can teach, such as understanding of the risks of drugs and alcohol, and safeguarding physical and mental health. We therefore think it is important that we have the ability to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) mandatory as well, subject to the outcome of thorough consideration of the subject. The Department for Education has conducted a thorough engagement process on the scope and content of Relationships Education and RSE, including further consideration of PSHE.
This process involved engagement with stakeholders and a public call for evidence, and will be followed by a formal consultation on the resulting regulations and guidance. Elsewhere the Government has also provided £2.3 million funding for the second phase of the successful ‘Disrespect Nobody’ campaign, which raises young people’s awareness of healthy relationships and safe choices.
32. Increasing the effectiveness of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance.
We plan to update this guidance for education professionals to reflect current safeguarding
concerns and understanding of good practice, including an already strong focus on the
importance of referrals and information sharing. We published a public consultation into
proposed revisions to KCSIE on 14 December 2017, the consultation closing on 22 February
2018. The intention is to publish revised guidance, for information, in the summer term 2018 to
be effective from September 2018.
33. Targeting support for areas where abuse concerns are emerging, including in sport. In
response to allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse that surfaced in late 2016, the
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working with other government
departments and the sport sector to ensure that sports clubs and organisations have strong
processes in place for dealing with any allegations of non-recent abuse and to ensure that
current arrangements for safeguarding children and young people in sports environments are
as robust as possible. Our Together, we can tackle child abuse communications campaign
aims to reach practitioners and volunteers across a broad range of sectors and communities,
including those not part of traditional child protection arrangements, and in both regulated and
non-regulated professions and settings.
34. Creating a safe space for whistle-blowers. We have established a whistleblowing helpline
for practitioners to raise concerns about their organisation’s ability to protect children from
abuse and neglect. Such measures are vitally important to counter the sort of behaviour
where it appears the imperative to report and act on child abuse is wrongly counterbalanced,
or even outweighed, by a desire to safeguard personal status, institutional reputation or
To improve information sharing, we are:
35. Improving multi-agency working, in particular local information sharing. Following the
passage of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, we will introduce, during the current
parliament, new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements to ensure shared and strengthened
ownership of local safeguarding, replacing Local Safeguarding Children Boards. This is a
major reform of the fundamental workings of local child protection. By supporting local areas
to develop stronger, bespoke working arrangements between local authorities, health and the
police, we expect to see a step change in the quality of inter-agency work to safeguard
children. The new arrangements will provide additional powers to secure effective participation
from key agencies and agree plans to strengthen information sharing. We know that the best
multi-agency arrangements are those which enshrine consistent and effective information
sharing arrangements. These improvements to the system of multi-agency working at a local
level will be coupled with new arrangements for reviewing serious child safeguarding cases at
both the local and national level, as well as new child death review arrangements.
36. In support, a public consultation was launched last autumn on the related secondary
legislation and revised statutory guidance (Working Together to Safeguard Children) which
closed on 31 December 2017. We are preparing for formal commencement of the new
arrangements, and publication of the updated guidance later in 2018.
37. Tackling the barriers to information sharing, including considering legislative
improvements to support more effective information sharing for safeguarding purposes
between practitioners. We will also look again at the Government’s information sharing
practice guidance to examine what more can be done to break down common barriers to
sharing information. We will also look to strengthen the forthcoming update of the NHS
Confidentiality Code to make it clear when information about vulnerable children and young
people should be shared.
38. Supporting the Child Protection Information Sharing project. This NHS Digital-led IT
system links information on looked after children and children on child protection plans
between local authorities and unscheduled health settings (such as emergency departments
or walk-in centres), in order to help practitioners make decisions about how to keep children
safe. We are investing in an accelerator fund to support local authorities and health settings to
implement the system.
39. Expanding and strengthening the information sharing requirements in Working
Together to Safeguard Children. As part of our revisions we have strengthened and
consolidated existing guidance for practitioners on sharing information, including the guidance
for practitioners on referring concerns to local authority children’s social care. The guidance,
incorporated from practice guidance now into statutory guidance, makes clear that where
there are concerns about the safety and welfare of children all practitioners should share
information without hesitation or concern for their individual or organisational reputation.
Working Together is now also clear that action should be taken by employers against
practitioners whose conduct and/or practice falls below acceptable standards.
To improve practice and decision-making, we are:
40. Improving the skills and confidence of practitioners so that they can better safeguard and
promote the welfare of children. A national assessment and accreditation system for social
work will introduce a new practice-focused assessment to establish the knowledge and skills
that child and family social workers need. Amongst other social work workforce reforms set
out in our Putting Children First paper, we are establishing through provisions in the Children
and Social Work Act 2017, a new specialist regulator for social workers in England. Over time,
the regulator, Social Work England, will drive up standards in social work education, training
and practice and operate a quality assurance system for continuous professional development
ensuring all social workers remain fit to practice. We will also consider how statutory guidance
supporting the new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements could support the provision of
effective multi-agency safeguarding training within local areas. Separately, we are also
committed to improving training for the police and health service providers in the context of
tackling child sexual abuse. The Home Office has made £1.9m available to the College of
Policing to deliver a package of specialist training for vulnerability, essentially introducing a
‘licence to practise’ regime.
41. Increasing accountability in the child protection system. We have put in place a new
system of joint targeted area inspections by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI
Constabulary and HMI Probation, as part of strengthening local authority children’s services
inspections more widely.
42. Introducing a new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel. Implementing the changes
in the Children and Social Work Act 2017, a new system of national and local reviews will
create a national framework for considering the lessons of the tragic events where a child is
seriously harmed or dies. Despite changes to improve serious case reviews over a number of
years, a systemic suspicion persists that their main purpose is to apportion blame. The new
system of child safeguarding practice reviews will be supported by tighter regulation and
guidance. This will lead to a national learning framework predicated on high quality, published,
local and national learning inquiries, with the clear purpose of identifying improvements both
locally and nationally.
43. Building our knowledge of best practice in child protection. We have a comprehensive
programme of work which by 2020 will create a new national learning system for children’s
social care. This will see the strengthening of the evidence base via the Children’ Social Care
Innovation Programme and Partners in Practice, along with practice improvements identified
through a new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and a What Works Centre for
Children’s Social Care. We also need to do more to properly understand the nature of child
sexual abuse and how best to address it. To this end, we launched a new Centre of Expertise
on Child Sexual Abuse with £7.5m of long term funding, which aims to identify, generate and
share high quality evidence of what works to prevent and tackle child sexual abuse and
exploitation to inform policy and practice.
44. Delivering a focused programme of reforms to tackle child sexual abuse. In February
2017, the Government published its Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: Progress Report and
announced a £40m package of measures to protect children and young people from sexual
abuse, exploitation and trafficking and to bring offenders to justice.
45. We have prioritised child sexual abuse as a national policing threat and are investing in
specialist policing capability to ensure children are better protected. We provided significant
extra investment to transform the police approach to child sexual exploitation (CSE), through
our Police Transformation Fund, and the National Crime Agency has also received additional
funding which will help it to tackle online child sexual exploitation even more effectively. The
NCA’s CEOP Command leads the law enforcement response to online child sexual
exploitation and abuse and works with law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas, to
identify victims and pursue offenders engaged in grooming children on the internet.
Specifically, £20 million has been provided to help combat child sexual exploitation and
significantly increase our capability to target the online grooming of children.
46. The new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse will also assess UK and international
evidence on prevalence, responses and what works in tackling child sexual abuse and
To ensure the action we are taking is effective and adequate, we are:
47. Assessing whether the current legislative framework is able to deal appropriately with
concerns about concealment of child abuse and neglect. As noted above, a small number
of organisations that responded to the consultation suggested that a specific criminal offence
in this area should be introduced. We will commit to scoping this issue fully and identify
whether there are any gaps in the current statutory framework during the current Parliament,
including working with representative organisations such as the NSPCC and the Office of the
Children’s Commissioner. An appropriate offence would constitute the strongest response in
terms of deterring and criminalising intentional cover-ups, such as those that advocates of
mandatory reporting have pointed to in closed institutions. Such an offence may allow us to
set a clearer bar in terms of targeting the most wilful and egregious behaviour. This may
provide the strongest and most targeted response to address cases where child abuse is not
reported due to a desire to protect personal position or institutional position.
48. It should also be noted that the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is looking
at a range of settings in which there may have been institutional failings and high-profile
instances of child sexual abuse being covered up. The Inquiry is hearing evidence currently
and will present its recommendations in due course, which we will use to inform our future
49. Continuing to monitor and evaluate the evidence. Notwithstanding all of the arguments
and existing evidence set out in this response, the Government remains committed to taking
whatever action is necessary to protect the safety of every child. We recognise past failures
where children have been let down, and the progress still needed to realise our vision of
services which always deliver the support children need at the time they need it. It has been
valuable to explore these issues and to give proposed new statutory measures thorough
consideration. However it is evident that there is not generally a demand for this proposal from
those working in the sector or more generally from those responding to our consultation. We
have also considered the effectiveness of the proposal under an assumption that greater
resources could be made available, for instance for more social workers working at the front
door of social care, or to fund assessment of a greater number of children. Even approached
this way, at the current time, the case for a mandatory reporting duty has not been made, but
we will remain open-minded should an emerging body of evidence or a new policy landscape
50. We will continue to evaluate whether our reform programme is having the intended impact
once fully implemented, in addition to continuing to assess any new or different evidence on
mandatory reporting. The new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will identify
consistent and systemic errors in how children are protected, including any recurring issues
around reporting, and this will be valuable to our ongoing assessment. We will also in
particular be interested to understand evidence emerging from the recent introduction of a
mandatory reporting duty in Wales placed at an organisational level, and any other new
international evidence, to consider whether this alters the conclusions we have drawn from the
current evidence. The same applies to the mandatory reporting duty for female genital
mutilation, which came into force in 2015, informed by monitoring the impact this has had in
practice. If the evidence strongly suggested that a mandatory reporting duty was likely to
improve outcomes for children, whether now or at a future time, the Government would not
hesitate to act to make the reforms necessary.