Insights

Adam Ratliff: 4 minute read

How laws in England and Wales are being updated to protect children

Whether we are at work, home, school or at an after school club, it does not matter. We should all be able to feel safe and secure wherever we are. This is unfortunately the dream and the reality is that the world is not perfect. We need laws and we need those who are dedicated to making a difference in order to make the world a better place. In England and Wales, new laws are set to be expanded to close 'loopholes' and offer more protection to children. It is a move that has been heralded by campaigners.

What do the new Laws Mean?

Sports coaches, faith leaders, charity workers and teachers are all bound by one consideration, children. Children will interact with most, if not all of these areas at least once across their lifetimes. These are positions of trust in which parents send their children to. Sometimes voluntarily and sometimes the child will end up crossing paths with a charity worker or faith leader due to the situation at home. At that moment the child is vulnerable and the new laws are arriving to ensure that those who take advantage of moments such as these are punished.

Sports coaches and faith leaders who have sexual relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care will be breaking the law under new legislation planned for England and Wales.

The move would put them on par with roles like teachers and social workers.
Child abuse laws to be expanded in England and Wales, BBC News

These new measures have been described by the children's charity the NSPCC as a "landmark step" for the protection of young people. It is a sentiment in which we echo as an organisation. Whilst we all like to live in a world where laws such as these are not necessary, we do not. Whilst the majority of people are law-abiding and seek to help those who are vulnerable, there will always be those who seek to cause harm.

By extending laws we can ensure that children, one of the most vulnerable groups in society, are safeguarded. This is more relevant today than it ever has been with an increase in domestic abuse calls during the first lockdown, many of these including children.

‘More than 40,000 calls and contacts were made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of lockdown’
BBC News, Coronavirus: Domestic abuse helpline sees lockdown surge

Other changes within the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill also include the ability for judges to give whole life orders for the premeditated murder of a child.

Playing Our Part

We all have a part to play in the safeguarding of children, as we are all a part of society. We should be proud of living in the United Kingdom, working together to make the most of Brexit and the opportunity for change. Whilst it is something in which we may not necessarily agree, it is here and provides the chance for re-invention. The United Kingdom is on its own again and we need to look to the future and what element is most important when looking at the future? Children.

Children are the future. They see and hear much and will shape what comes next. We, as adults, have a duty of care to them. A duty to protect children and help them to grow, teach them right from wrong and protect them as much as possible, for as long as possible. Whilst we cannot be everywhere, all the time, we can have laws in place which punish those who break them.

Anywhere, at anytime

We can also invest in anonymous technology which can enable the reporting of safeguarding concerns, quickly and easily. In this manner, the net is extended further, those who are then tempted to stray will be up against the full force of the law and the public. This is not to suggest that we suddenly become a police state, such as that which was presented within George Orwell's famous 1984 novel.

What we are suggesting is what works best. When policies work hand in hand with efficient software, we can improve lives for the better. If there was a central source in which concerns could be raised in a confidential manner then we would be able to help those who are vulnerable stay safe. In saying this, there would be an inevitable increase at the start of such a shift, as reports would go up, but with time, understanding would arrive.

Humanity is not perfect and so we need to protect it from itself. We need to ensure that those who are considered vulnerable such as children are protected. They are the future and need help today. For every ten happily families, there are those who are living in a troubled family. For every ten happily families, there are children who have received inappropriate advances and have no idea how to feel.

By extending laws and enable confidential reporting we can create a society in which children are placed first. We can ensure that they are protected as much as possible and parents have confidence in allowing them to go out and explore the world.

A Final Thought

Our legacy is what is important and if we want to make Brexit work, then we need to ensure that the next generation inherits this nation in one piece. They should be able to grow and develop, safe in the knowledge that they can do almost anything and be whatever they choose to be and not be a victim.

The new laws are a positive step forward but momentum cannot cease. We need to ensure that safeguarding concerns can be raised quickly and easily, at the click of a button to extend the net of protection around children. They are the future and their present will shape how to tackle that future.

We are happy to see the change in law but believe that this is only the first step. Children deserve the opportunity to grow and learn in a world safe from fear or intimidation.