04 March 2015
Church officials should be liable for neglect of children too, says Christian charity
Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that under new laws public sector officials could be legally liable for the wilful neglect of children, and a Christian charity has urged for this to be extended to church officials, too.
Welcoming the prime minister's proposals, The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) agreed that the sexual exploitation of children is a national threat that must be tackled.
The Evangelical Alliance member said there must be a sea change in this country, resulting in a clear accountability structure for reporting child abuse.
Many church denominations, including the Church of England, have also announced their support for this extension of protection.
Simon Bass, chief executive of CCPAS, commented: "Mr Cameron's announcement reflects both how endemic this form of abuse has become across the UK and how urgently we need to address it.
"The proposal to hold senior public sector officials accountable when they have wilfully neglected children is a very welcome direction of travel, but it must include others with duties of care to children as well.
"This must include everyone who works with them in churches and places of worship."
CCPAS hopes that this will be a "watershed in establishing another key plank in child safeguarding" – mandatory reporting.
But Mr Bass said he would be concerned if the proposals were used "merely to facilitate witch-hunts against social workers, police officers or church leaders."
"The nub of wilful neglect is intent – precisely why did someone not report suspected abuse? If it can be proved that they failed to act because they were protecting the reputation of an institution, or high profile individuals within it, that should be the criminal element".
CCPAS claims it is aware of a number of cases where, rather than report known abusers, churches and denominations instead moved them elsewhere within the organisation, in order to protect reputations.
The charity welcomes the move to prioritise child sexual abuse in the same way as terrorism and organised crime, believing police forces will now have a duty to collaborate with each other across force boundaries to safeguard children.
This would bring about efficient sharing of resources, intelligence and best practice, all supported by specialist regional child sexual exploitation police coordinators.
The Evangelical Alliance and CCPAS are working together to assist all Alliance member churches and organisations in ensuring that they are safe places for both children and adults at risk.
CCPAS is the only independent Christian charity providing professional advice, support, training and resources in all areas of safeguarding children, vulnerable adults and for those affected by abuse.