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Labour pledge on sex abuse claims

A Labour government would make it mandatory to report allegations of sexual abuse in an effort to prevent a repeat of the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the measure would help change the culture of institutions where abuse claims had not been taken seriously enough in the past.

The Government is already considering whether to introduce the measure, but the Department for Education said it would not necessarily have made a significant impact in Rotherham.

The pressure to act has been stepped up following the publication of a devastating report into events in Rotherham which found at least 1,400 children were abused over 16 years from 1997.

Ms Cooper told The Observer: "We are still seeing the same mistakes being made, victims not being listened to. It is now time to have the mandatory duty to report, to make clear that cultural change has to take place in every institution.

"It will also challenge the idea that any professional should be tempted to think that things can be solved quietly or privately by brushing them under the carpet. A clear signal needs to be put out that people should not put institutional reputation before protecting children."

Labour is also planning to make the cover-up or concealment of known child abuse a criminal offence, the newspaper reported.

Ms Cooper said: "There cannot be any hiding behind ethnicity or communities when abuse is being committed."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We fully understand the public's anxiety about the potential under-reporting of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, and are actively considering the case for a mandatory reporting duty. We are co-operating with the Home Office who are leading the work on this.

"It's important to note that mandatory reporting is not a silver bullet and would not necessarily have made a significant impact in the case of Rotherham where referrals were made - but the response was not good enough.

"Existing statutory guidance is already crystal clear that professionals should refer immediately to social care when they are concerned about a child or vulnerable adult.

"Many thousands of referrals are made to children's social care each year. In the year ending March 2013 there were 593,500 referrals."

A committee of MPs is poised to examine the treatment of a 2002 report by a Home Office researcher into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham which was "effectively suppressed" by the authorities in the town, according to Prof Jay.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz told the Independent on Sunday: "We would be very keen to get from the Home Office a full and frank response to the research that was commissioned in 2002.

"This is an essential part of the jigsaw to determine why the council failed to act, and whether the Home Office could have done more to ensure that it did act."

He added: "We want to see every piece of information the Home Office holds on this, and I will be writing to the Home Secretary to see what files it holds no this horrific behaviour in Rotherham."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has challenged the Government to set up its wide-ranging inquiry into child abuse as soon as possible following Professor Alexis Jay's report on Rotherham.

The inquiry, announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, was announced in July but was set back after Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down as chairwoman.

Mr Miliband said: "T he case now is overwhelming for the Government to get an overarching inquiry into child abuse up and running.

"We have seen scandals of child abuse in different institutions, in different parts of the country and stretching across different decades.

"An overarching inquiry has been delayed too long and needs to get moving as fast as possible to start listening to all those who have been let down by a system set up to protect them.

"Alongside the inquiry, it is of vital importance that we kick-start a culture change in child protection that leads to a stronger system that will keep our children safe."

Rotherham's MP Sarah Champion said o ne of the most upsetting aspects of the scandal was that babies born to some victims were taken away from them and their mothers will never see them again.

The Labour MP said it "spoke volumes" about how the authorities did not see these children as victims, adding that she will investigate what counselling the mothers have been offered.


From Belfast Telegraph