Government 'may have underestimated' mandatory reporting impact

By Mark Conrad | 20 March 2024

The Home Office may have underestimated the additional number of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases when mandatory reporting is introduced, experts have warned.

Its assessment of mandatory reporting revealed officials estimate the increase in total UK referrals likely to be caused by mandated reporting as between 1% and 3% on top of the around 78,000 cases reported annually.

Whitehall’s impact assessment said this would result in between 575 and 1,500 more children being assessed as CSA victims and processed through the social services system.

The Local Government Association (LGA) told The MJ that while it welcomed the Government’s plan to compel many public staff to report CSA, the impact assessment made ‘relatively little’ reference to the effect the policy will have on children’s social care.

Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Louise Gittens, warned public bodies faced a ‘significant shortfall’ in specialist support for CSA victims and urged the Government to fund the new burdens.

Cllr Gittens continued: ‘We are concerned the impact assessment makes relatively little reference to children’s social care despite the significant impact that increased reporting would have on services which are already extremely stretched and undergoing a range of other Government reforms.

‘It is vital that children’s social care has the resources [for this], including sufficient social workers and access to specialist services.’

A senior councillor at a council managing historical CSA allegations added: ‘Councils should benefit from mandatory reporting through improved safeguarding, but the policy will come at a cost and requires sustainable funding.

‘The Home Office’s estimate for the likely increase in reported CSA cases seems low.

'Councils may need extra funding to support children who report CSA and train specialist staff.’

As the Government finally moves to introduce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, councils are warning a complete programme of action is needed to significantly reduce the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people. Mark Conrad reports.

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Whitehall Finance Local Government Association Child abuse Policy Councillors Children Safeguarding Children's social care