RCPCH position on mandatory reporting of child abuse

A mandatory reporting duty is a duty or obligation, placed on an individual or organisation, to report child abuse to the relevant authority (“mandatory reporting”).  

The goal of any child protection policy is to ensure that children are protected from harm. An evidence review by the RCPCH has shown that mandatory reporting increases the instances of reported abuse; however, there is limited evidence to show that an increase in reports leads to an increase in protection or better outcomes for children. 

Outcomes for children depend, at least in part, on the capacity of the system into which reports are made. We must be sure that reported abuse will be investigated and acted upon, and that potential unintended consequences of mandatory reporting do not occur. 

RCPCH is asking the government to consider five key points before considering whether a mandatory reporting duty is best for children in England and Wales:

  1. All types of child abuse must fall under any mandatory reporting duty
  2. A children’s rights-based approach must be followed and a children’s rights impact assessment must be carried out
  3. A Government systems impact assessment must be carried out
  4. Measurable outcomes for children must be built into any plans
  5. Clearer definitions must be provided before further consultation 

RCPCH cannot recommend a blanket introduction of mandatory reporting until these recommendations are addressed, however our position statement highlights important strengthening measures which can be applied to existing mechanisms, such as better use of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) system, increased registration (by regulators) of professionals, and an alignment of standards across the UK regulators in relation to mandatory reporting.

You can download our full position statement on mandatory reporting of child abuse below.

This position is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

RCPCH will continue to review this position as further information and evidence becomes available.