Government remains committed to controversial plans to jail social workers

Minister says consultation on potential five year jail terms will be launched after 'too many young people' were failed by services

Man in handcuffs
Photo: Rex/West Coast Surfer/Mood Board

The government has reaffirmed its stance on holding a consultation on unpopular proposals that could see social workers jailed for five years for the criminal charge of wilful neglect.

Speaking at a conference today, Karen Bradley, minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said the government will later this year consult on plans to expand the crime of wilful neglect to children’s social workers who fail to report abuse.

Social work failings

This, she said, was because “too many young people” have been failed by children’s services, following Professor Alexis Jay’s report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham last year.

Bradley’s speech, at an event hosted by the NSPCC, came on the same day after police figures revealed that sexual offences committed against children rose by a third last year.

The proposals are intended to prevent children from being failed by social workers who lack, “the professional curiosity to explore the underlying reasons for challenging behaviour, or who knew abuse was being ignored and did not speak out”, Bradley said.

Unintended consequences

Extending the criminal charge of wilful neglect to children’s social workers will be part of the consultation on the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

The plans, which were fiercely opposed by the social work sector, were originally announced by David Cameron in March.

Bradley warned that any proposals must not lead to “unintended consequences”. This could include “diverting the child protection system from the most serious cases or creating a culture that favours reporting over acting,” she said.

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