Interview - Jonathan West

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Jonathan West @MandateNow campaign

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What is the @MandateNow campaign calling for?

We are calling for a law that requires professionals who work with children in ‘Regulated Activities’ who know, suspect or have reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting child abuse, to inform the local authority designated officer (LADO) or – in appropriate circumstances – children’s services. Staff would inform their designated safeguarding officer (DSO) of any concerns, and the DSO would be required to pass them on. Failure to inform would be a criminal offence.

Why do you think the current system for reporting abuse is failing children?

Presently, the statutory guidance issued by Department for Education says that staff ‘should’ inform the DSO of concerns. After the DSO has assessed a report, he or she makes a decision as to whether the incident has reached subjective thresholds that indicate it ‘should’ be referred to the LADO. This is nothing more than a behavioural expectation; it has no force in law. Once they have looked at the statutory guidance, nurseries are legally free to do whatever they want, including nothing.

Serious Case Reviews have repeatedly revealed that professionals have suspected that abuse was taking place but failed to inform anyone. Sometimes the setting’s safeguarding arrangements are ineffective, and concerns don’t get passed on because of incompetence and disorganisation. Sometimes management makes a decision to ignore concerns because it doesn’t believe a trusted staff member could be an abuser. Sometimes they handle an allegation ‘in-house’ to avoid bad publicity.

Bad safeguarding is often not detected by inspections. Repeatedly, Ofsted has passed the safeguarding arrangements of settings that were later found to be dysfunctional.

How would mandatory reporting protect children in early years settings?
It would introduce a much stronger culture of abuse prevention by supporting staff to ensure concerns are reported promptly, hopefully before much harm has been done. This in turn would deter many abusers, because of the high risk that they will be caught.

What would be the implications for managers and early years staff?

Managers would have to ensure that they have clear procedures for staff to report concerns and for management to pass those reports to the LADO.

Staff would have to be trained to recognise and report child protection concerns. In addition, staff would be supported when reporting, because mandatory reporting would remove any temptation from management to handle reports of abuse in-house to avoid bad publicity for the nursery.

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