Covering up child abuse should be a criminal offence, NSPCC says

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The charity is calling for a duty on institutions, such as hospitals and children’s homes, to report abuse.

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The NSPCC wants covering up of abuse to be made a criminal offence

The charity’s chief executive Peter Wanless, who is leading a review into how the Home Office handled historical allegations of child abuse, wants covering up of abuse to made a criminal offence.

Currently there are no specific mandatory regulations in the UK requiring professionals to report suspicions about child abuse to the authorities.

Previously the NSPCC had opposed all forms of mandatory reporting of abuse.

Peter Wanless said, ‘Recently we have witnessed a disturbing number of cases of abuse in institutions. We have concluded that the balance between the support for staff to do the right thing and the challenge if they do not, must be out of kilter.

‘We want a change in the law specifically to prevent child abuse cover-ups. We believe anyone who tries to hide such incidents should face criminal changes. The reputation of an organisation should never be put above the safety of a child.’

He added, ‘A culture of openness to challenge, transparency and well-trained staff are crucial too.

‘Our focus for criminalisation is on cover up, not the merest suspicion that a child might have been harmed.’

The charity’s call follows a proposal from Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Walmsley to amend the Serious Crimes Bill, being discussed later this month, to make reporting of sexual or physical abuse mandatory for all institutions.

Jonathan West of the @MandateNow campaign, which wants reporting of abuse to be made mandatory for all professionals who work with children, welcomed the NSPCC's u-turn decision to support mandatory reporting, but said their proposal does not go far enough.

He told Nursery World, 'We welcome the NSPCC's change of heart, but their proposal as it currently stands is so narrow and would provide little protection to children.

'The NSPCC is concentrating on known abuse, whereas people normally only have suspicions of abuse, and mandatory reporting for residential settings, which covers a minority of children. This would not have protected the children at Little Ted's Nursery and Daniel Pelka.

He added, 'A proposal that applies to only residential settings is like having a drink drive law just for lorry drivers.'

 A petition by @MandateNow has more than 7,000 signatures.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said, 'The inquiry into historic child abuse is set to be one of the most important investigations of institutions ever held. 
 
'Institutions have and continue to play a large role in all our lives and we will all rely on them at some stage – often when we are vulnerable and in need of support.  This is particularly the case for children.  The failure of those organisations to protect the very children in their care from abuse and exploitation should be abhorrent to us all. This inquiry is an opportunity to ensure that no child suffers further abuse because the system or the institution fails to protect them. Authorities responsible for protecting our children must be held accountable for the failures which allowed child abuse to happen. '