Monday, 5 January 2015

Mandatory Reporting in Wales

It seems that the Welsh government has passed legislation that will have the effect of placing an obligation on professionals to report any child believed to be at risk of abuse or neglect.

An important difference exists between this provision and some of the laws suggested by campaign groups for England. In Wales there does not appear to be any form of criminal offence associated with failing in the duty to report. 

In contrast the so-called “Walmsley amendment” (to the Serious Crime Bill) which was withdrawn in the House of Lords when the Government promised to look into the question of mandatory reporting in England, is a much more Draconian proposal than the Welsh law. It includes a possible three year prison sentence for failing to report.

My objection to mandatory reporting is that it has the potential to introduce yet more fear and blame into child protection work. That is likely to result in the opposite of the intended consequences. After a tragedy, rather than admitting to a wrong decision or mistaken perception, the possibility of years in jail is likely to make some people remain very tight-lipped indeed. So what went wrong will never be known and children will be less, not more, safe.