Speech on the adverse effects of child abuse, including child sexual exploitation, and mandatory reporting of child abuse, delivered at the British Medical Association Annual Representative Meeting, June 2015.


Right now, today, in regions all across the UK and worldwide, children are being abused, neglected and exploited by the very families and communities that ought to be looking after them, caring for them and helping them to grow up in the way that they, the children and young people, would wish to.

Each year in the UK, of those children who are physically abused, over a quarter of a million are injured and around 75000 require medical attention.

20% of 11-17 year olds have been severely maltreated by a parent or guardian and 1 in 20 children have experienced contact sexual abuse.

In the six years leading up to the end of 2014, there were thirteen thousand reported cases of nine major sexual offences against under 16 year olds, no, not in the UK, but in Greater Manchester alone.

There is no doubt that communities need to do more to support and protect children.

Alongside that we as professionals need to do more. The abuse that has been suffered by children is appalling in its own right but, tragically, children have been ignored and in some cases even blamed for the abuse that has happened to them.

The world is a dangerous place to live in, not because of those people who do terrible things, but because of those people who do not do anything about them.

Uncomfortable words, Representative Body, but the reality for some children who have suffered from horrendous things that have no place in our modern society.

We must ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

There are calls in this motion for better community education about adverse childhood experiences. Better professional education and training, including about slavery and trafficking and a Health Needs Assessment in relation to child maltreatment in the UK.

There is in principle support for mandatory reporting child abuse legislation, with proper scientific evaluation, to better protect those children who have reported abuse, or who are suspected of having been abused, but who have been ignored or dismissed.

As doctors, as a nation, we must do better. We have to strengthen our resolve to give every child and young person the security, opportunity and bright future that they deserve. We all have a responsibility to create safe places for children to live the lives that they would wish to.

Raising a healthy next generation is both a moral obligation and a national imperative.

These are not just words but a realistic possibility if all of the communities in our global society pull together.

The part you can play is to carry all parts of this motion today.

Because, Representative Body, what is the use of us being doctors, what is the use of this meeting, what is the point of us living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this troubled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone.

Chairman, I move.



That this meeting is very concerned about the adverse effects of child abuse, including child sexual exploitation, and:-

i) condemns the abuse or maltreatment of children in all circumstances (carried unanimously)

ii) highlights the need for communities to do more to support and protect children (carried unanimously)

iii) calls for standardised child protection training programmes for all professionals dealing with children and families (carried by an overwhelming majority)

iv) calls for a Health Needs Assessment to be undertaken in relation to child maltreatment in the UK (carried by an overwhelming majority)

v) in principle, supports the introduction of “Mandatory Reporting” child abuse legislation and insists that any introduction is scientifically evaluated (carried)

vi) recommends that organisations working in the community on child abuse prevention programmes should incorporate material related to Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACEs”) (carried unanimously)

vii) insists that, following the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, statutory guidance, education and training for appropriate professionals, must be provided (carried unanimously).

Declaration of interest: as a Churchill Fellow I wrote a report into child abuse and neglect in the UK and overseas, called Living on a Railway Line, from which this motion arises.

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