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‘Wilful neglect’ could apply to public sector workers who fail to flag abuse

The government is to consult on whether to extend the crime of ‘wilful neglect’ to social workers, teachers and councillors. 

Earlier this year, the prime minister set out the idea of extending the criminal offence, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years, following the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal. 

The government added that if any officer or councillor is found guilty of such an offence that should be “automatic grounds for dismissal or disqualification”. 

During the passage of the Serious Crime Bill, the government committed to carrying out a public consultation on mandatory reporting of abuse of vulnerable children and adults, including the question on extending wilful neglect, within 18 months of the Act’s Royal Assent. 

In the DCLG’s response to the report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, it said: “The consultation will be launched later in the year, well within the commitment to complete the consultation within 18 months from Royal Assent of the Serious Crime Act (i.e. by Sept 2016). 

“The consultation will seek views on sanctions for failure to take action on child abuse or neglect where it is a professional responsibility to do so, including the option of extending the crime of ‘wilful neglect’ to cover children’s social care and education.” 

DCLG added that ‘wilful neglect’ would impose criminal sanctions for those who are found guilty of “deliberate, wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment of children”. 

This would cover “inaction, concealment and/or deliberate cover ups” and would ensure that those responsible for the very worst failures in care can be held accountable. 

The statutory inspection into Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council led by Louise Casey concluded that the council “goes to some lengths to cover up information and silence whistle-blowers”. 

Therefore, at a national level, the government will create new national single point of contact for child abuse-related whistleblowing reports to ensure that all professionals can raise concerns about how their organisation is protecting children from the risk of abuse. 

DCLG said: “This new single point of contact will be able to spot patterns of failure across the country and link to the new joint area inspections where there are concerns.”


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