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New measures to tackle child sexual abuse Published Date: 04/04/2023

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has today (Sunday 2 April) committed to a mandatory reporting duty, subject to consultation, for those working or volunteering with children to report child sexual abuse, after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard heart-breaking testimony from thousands of victims let down by professionals turning a blind eye to their suffering.

Mandatory reporting was one of the key recommendations made by the IICSA report to crack down on child sexual abuse and address the systemic under-reporting of this crime.

The first step to introducing the duty is a call for evidence which will be open to professionals, volunteers, parents, victims and survivors, and the wider public. It will be the start of extensive consultation to ensure everyone’s views are represented ahead of implementing the new duty.

Suella Braverman said:

Child sexual abuse is one of the most horrific crimes facing our society, it devastates victims, families and whole communities.

The protection of children is a collective effort. Every adult must be supported to call out child sexual abuse without fear.

That’s why I’m introducing a mandatory reporting duty and launching a call for evidence. We must address the failings identified by the Inquiry and take on board the views of the thousands of victims and survivors who contributed to it.

I would encourage everyone to engage with the process once it starts – it is important to have a national conversation about this to help to shine a light on this terrible – but too often hidden – crime.

The call for evidence will be published alongside the government’s full response to the Inquiry shortly.

To immediately support professionals who work with children, we are providing £600,000 to the NSPCC whistleblowing helpline. If a professional has concerns that their organisation isn’t reporting or handling child abuse cases appropriately, they can contact the NSPCC whistleblowing helpline for support.

The helpline was launched in 2016 following Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. Since then, it has provided advice to 1,062 individuals and led to over 300 referrals to the police.

Additional funding is also going to be made available for the NSPCC’s adult helpline, which is for anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a child. The helpline has established procedures and protocols around referring reports to statutory safeguarding partners, including children’s services and policing, so that they can be investigated and acted on.

The government is also speeding up the process for members of the public to find out if someone they know has committed child abuse in the past in order to better protect vulnerable people from predators close by.

Known as Sarah’s Law in memory of 8-year-old Sarah Payne, who was murdered by a previously convicted sex offender in 2000, the updated guidance for the Child Sex Offender’s Disclosure Scheme will make it easier for the public to raise a concern online and reduce the timeframes for police to respond to enquiries, which will help the public get the information they need sooner and protect children from harm.

Dr Sara Payne MBE, the mother of Sarah Payne, said:

After the news of my Sarah’s murder in 2000, I promised her that her death would not be in vain or forgotten or indeed, only remembered for the manner of her death. Since 2010, after years of campaigning, so many children have been protected in her name, a much more fitting epitaph to my princess.

I would like to thank my family, my own dedicated Phoenix team and the Home Office Sarah’s Law team for helping us all to reach this day, where I am pleased to announce the latest Sarah’s Law updates for 2023.

There is always more to do. This is an historical ‘turning point’ day today for child protection and I for one, sincerely welcome these much-needed changes to Sarah’s Law 2023, as we all know keeping up with ‘sex offenders’ is not and will never be ‘enough’.

Further information on the changes to Sarah’s Law

Online applications

The introduction of online applications will make it easier for the public to request information. The public still has the option of applying over the phone, by calling 111, or in person at a police station.

Shorter timeframes

The timeframe for applications to be processed to completion is reduced from 44 days to 28 days. The guidance is clear that when immediate risks are identified the police should take action immediately.

Formalising proactive disclosure processes

This will help ensure that the police provide information to the right people at the right time to protect children from harm. The ‘right to know’ route is now formalised within the guidance, so that Sarah’s Law processes can be followed when police are made aware of the need to make a disclosure even when an application hasn’t been made.

Incorporating discretion into communication methods

Police forces will be able to complete some stages of the process by video or phone call.

Aligning processes with the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS)

If someone applies to one scheme, but there is information to disclose for the other scheme the police can share that information under the “Right to Know” route without asking the person to apply again.

Find out if a person has a record for child sexual offences - GOV.UK