MINISTERS will consult on proposals to make it a criminal offence for teachers, social workers or councillors to ignore the abuse of children before the end of the year.
The idea of extending the crime of ‘wilful neglect’ - which carries a prison sentence of up to five years - to cover social care, education and those elected to office was set out by the Prime Minister earlier this year in response to the Rotherham child abuse scandal.
A Government response to a report by MPs into what happened in Rotherham has now promised that a formal consultation on the move will be “launched later in the year”.
It says: “This is a complex and emotive issue. It is right that Government hears the views of a wide range of professionals, experts, communities, non-governmental organisations and parliamentarians before taking any action. The consultation must be thorough, open and transparent with a rigorous evaluation of the responses.
“‘Wilful neglect’ would impose criminal sanctions for those who are found guilty of deliberate, wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment of children.
“It would cover inaction, concealment and/or deliberate cover ups and would ensure that those responsible for the very worst failures in care can be held accountable.”
The Government was responding to a report published by the Commons Communities and Local Government committee before the General Election.
It recommended that if ‘wilful neglect’ is extended to cover children’s social care then being found guilty of the offence should be grounds for automatic dismissal or disqualification from holding such a post in future.
A team of Government-appointed commissioners was sent in to run Rotherham Council earlier this year following a highly critical report by Louise Casey.
The Government’s response raises the prospect of council functions being returned to normal on a phased basis.
It suggests some council operations could return to normal as early as this year with more significant functions following after elections next year.