Survivor charities are calling on Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, to act now to help prevent further abuses of children which can lead to the tragic consequences presented in the Daniel Pelka case. NAPAC (the National Association for People Abused in Childhood), The Survivors Trust, Respond, Survivors UK and Innocence in Danger are calling for law to be introduced in schools and similar institutions¹ which requires staff to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer of all concerns and known child abuse so that experienced and independent assessment is introduced immediately. Presently the reporting of abuse is discretionary, and the system fails frequently.
The Serious Case Review into Daniel Pelka’s death is due to be published on Tuesday 17 Sept 2013. Already Coventry’s Safeguarding Children Board has published a ‘Brief Outline of the Facts’ http://www.coventrylscb.org.uk/dpelka.html which said of Daniel’s injuries and behaviour: ‘Whilst these injuries were seen by different school staff members, these were not recorded nor were they linked to Daniel’s concerning behaviours regarding food. No onward referrals were made in respect of these injuries.’ (Our underscoring)
Reporting any child protection concern is a frightening prospect for most staff. Too often reports fail to happen for varied reasons. Staff working in Regulated Activities need to be supported to make the most difficult report they will ever have to make, and this needs to be through the introduction of legislation which mandates staff to report.
Peter Garsden, President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and Adviser to Innocence in Danger said: “Child protection framework is outdated and leaves children at risk. The introduction of mandatory reporting would far better protect children and staff when concerns arise. It is only when concerns are reported that a child stands any chance of abuses being addressed.
Fay Maxted, Chief Executive of The Survivors Trust, said: “Spotting the signs of child abuse can be challenging, and there is presently all too often a reason not to report as Serious Case Reviews have shown in the past. If law is introduced, staff will have no doubt what to do, and they would have legal protection from recrimination which presently can follow when a member of staff takes the conscientious step of reporting. ”
The introduction of ‘mandatory reporting’ of concerns and known abuse would convert guidance which is not working, into law which would have a transformational effect on the protection of children in Regulated Activities.