By Kate James
Proposed new child abuse legislation in the UK would make everyone who comes into direct contact with children responsible for reporting any suspected child abuse. Many people, especially parents, may immediately see the benefits of such a scheme that will help stop child abuse as soon as possible. However the other side of the argument is whether penalties for not reporting child abuse will result in an overflow of reports, putting strain on child protection services to investigate them all. Many reports may not lead to anything and the strain on services may make it harder to identify and act in cases where there is legitimate abuse.
Despite these concerns, the US experience of mandatory reporting in many states has proven to identify higher numbers of abused children without putting extra strain on the system. Unfortunately it seems that despite the measures many people still fail to come forward with their suspicions, due to fear that that child may be further hurt.
In Western Australia compulsory reporting came into effect in 2009 and since then twice as many sexually abused children have been identified. Currently in Australia the legislation varies from state to state, with only the Northern Territory imposing an obligation for every adult to report child abuse. Other states limit the obligation to classes of people, such as people in certain professions. Here in the ACT there is quite an extensive list of people who are required to report child abuse. To see more on relevant state legislation, see this website: https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/mandatory-reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect
If you are currently experiencing family issues in which there is child abuse, please call Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400. Child abuse is a serious issue and if you need help understanding the law the best people to speak to are qualified professionals who have experience in these matters.
To read more on child abuse debate, see: http://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/should-child-welfare-professionals-be-made-to-report-child-abuse-the-case-for-and-against#.Vz1akpF96Ul