BASW backs “amnesty” for whistleblowers on child abuse following inquiry announcement

Social workers aware of allegations likely to have been under "extreme pressure to keep quiet", says association's professional officer

Photo: Image Broker/Rex Features

An amnesty for whistleblowers on institutional child abuse has been backed by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), after the government announced an inquiry into historic abuse claims.

BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said protection from sanctions for social workers and other professionals who were aware of historic abuse allegations may encourage them to come forward.

Her comments follow a call from MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk for an “amnesty” for whistle blowers on child abuse to come forward to the government’s inquiry about cover-ups by their employers.

Mansuri said: “It is my belief that those working in child protection services that were aware of these allegations were probably under extreme pressure to keep quiet.”

“They may have had nowhere to go with their concerns and having to live with them for all this time may have proved pretty torturous. A full scale inquiry could well be a liberating process for them and I hope that those who were aware of some of the things that took place will now have the courage to come forward and tell their stories.”

She added that a climate fear still exists where social workers find it difficult to raise issues about their organisation’s poor practice, out of concern that they will be left open to capability procedures being instigated against them by their employers.

The proposal from Danczuk, a Labour MP who has raised significant concerns about an establishment cover-up of historic abuse,   comes in the wake of home secretary Theresa May’s announcement of an inquiry into institutional child sex abuse. Alongside the inquiry, which will be led by the former president of the family courts, Lady Butler-Sloss, NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless will conduct a review of the Home Office’s handling of child sex abuse allegations.

The Facts

• Home secretary Theresa May announced the inquiry into historic allegations of child sex abuse in parliament this week.
NSPCC head Peter Wanless has been tasked by Theresa May to review the how the Home Office has handled child sex abuse allegations in the past.
• In addition to Wanless’s review, there will be a broad panel inquiry into public bodies with a duty of care to children, which is not expected to report until after the election in 2015.
• The panel is to be headed by retired senior judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, who headed an inquiry into child abuse in 1988.

The NSPCC said today that the reporting of institutional child abuse should be made mandatory, in a significant U-turn from their previous stance.

The charity’s head of corporate affairs, Alan Wardle, told the BBC’s Today programme this morning that it wanted certain authorities bound by a statutory duty to report cover-ups of abuse.

Wardle said: “The problem that we have seen up and down the country is where, in certain institutions and organisations, people have sought to protect the organisation’s reputation rather than protecting children and that has meant abuse has been covered up, swept under the carpet and people have been moved on.”

“Where professionals know about such cover-ups, that should be a criminal offence,” Wardle told the Today programme.

However an NSPCC briefing document published in January suggested mandatory reporting would not have the desired effect on child protection because “children who wish to disclose abuse may not do so if the information is not dealt with confidentially”.

In the same interview on the Today programme, Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) president Alan Wood said he “did not think the first step is to move towards mandatory reporting”.

“People need to be confident that they are reporting the right thing…without fearing that they themselves will face some kind of retribution,” he added.

In a separate interview with Community Care, Wood said: “We want this to be carried out as far as possible without an impact on current social work and current child protection.”

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2 Responses to BASW backs “amnesty” for whistleblowers on child abuse following inquiry announcement

  1. Nick Johnson July 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Such ‘amnesties’ were the very device that protected abusers in North Wales – how do we differentiate between reluctant witnesses and participants?

  2. Joe Burns July 9, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m curious to know why it wasn’t social workers or children’s charities didn’t push for an inquiry in the first instance?

    Wouldn’t people who work in Child Protection be the first to know that such abuse was taking place?

    Why is it that the children have to grow up before abuse is reported and prosecuted?