After a string of high-profile child abuse cases shed a light on just how many abuse victims have been repeatedly failed by the system, Starmer is calling for the introduction of mandatory reporting so that teachers and health workers who fail to sound the alarm for suspected child abuse face prosecution.
In an interview with BBC’s Panorama, which was aired on Monday, Starmer commented: “I think the time has come to change the law and close a gap that’s been there for a very long time. I think there should be a mandatory reporting provision.”
In the US, Canada and Australia, it is a criminal offence for health workers not to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities – a law that Starmer believes would help to bring the UK into step.
Starmer’s recommendation comes one year on from revelations that TV personality Jimmy Savile had abused hundreds of victims on hospital, school and BBC premises over a period of five decades, and was never apprehended despite serious concerns and complaints about his behaviour which were filed with police and care workers.
Another recent case in which mandatory reporting could have changed the outcome, was the tragic case of Daniel Pelka, the four-year-old who was tortured and starved by his mother and stepfather in his Coventry home.
The Pelka case review found that social workers, teachers, and police officers missed countless opportunities to save the child before his death.
While guidance makes it very clear that professionals should immediately report any concerns for a child to social care, the implementation of a clear and direct law could play a role in earlier intervention.
Survivors of child abuse often face problems later on in life that can stem from resurfacing trust and anger issues. If you are struggling to come to terms with an experience of child abuse, emotional support from a professional counsellor could help you to understand and explore your feelings, allowing you to eventually move forward in a positive light. To find out more about how counselling may be able to help, visit our Abuse fact-sheet.