No duty to report
It’s often said that the widespread abuse of children in residential care – whether private or state-funded – that occurred throughout the 20th century could not happen in the 21st. Certainly, improvements to child safety have been made. But as Stiff Upper Lip explains, it is still unusual for children to report any attempted abuse, often because of fear or shame. There are organisations, like the NSPCC, working on that issue.
But the most shocking problem today is that there is still no clear legal requirement on those working with children to report either known or suspected child abuse or neglect. This puts British children in a less safe position than most of those in Europe. In scandal after scandal – from Jimmy Savile’s career of abuse in the BBC and the NHS to the systematic crimes in schools detailed in the book – adults did know that children were abused and did nothing about it. Cover-up and denial has always been the first recourse.
There is however a strong movement in Parliament and outside to change the law; to turn the painfully confused guidance currently given by government (see here) to those with a duty of care of children into something tougher and effective.
There’s more information on these problems and on the progress of the campaign for mandatory reporting on the Mandate Now site. This group collates information and argues for law ensuring that all staff in regulated organisations that work with children report any concern about their welfare to the designated officer in the local authority.
History shows that reporting concerns about children’s safety only within the organisation just does not work: the impetus to cover-up is just too great.
Private schools, tax and charitable status
Private schools pay only 20% of business rates and receive other benefits as charities, which most of them are. There is not VAT on school fees. Former education secretary Michael Gove made an interesting intervention on this in The Times in March 2017
Put VAT on school fees and soak the rich
Removing the tax advantages of private schools would boost standards in the state sector and raise vital extra funds
There is one group of highly successful enterprises that is pretty much insulated from the present row about business rates. Our private schools. Because charities get an 80 per cent exemption from the levy. And, to my continuing surprise, we still consider the education of the children of plutocrats and oligarchs to be a charitable activity.
Charitable status, and the tax exemptions it offers, is very far from the only way the state subsidises private education. We taxpayers give free uniforms, weapons and rations to private school cadet forces, indeed we pay for the instructors and hand over £20 cash per cadet. The Eton Rifles are welfare junkies.
It doesn’t end there, however. Not by a long chalk. Private school fees are VAT-exempt. That tax advantage allows the wealthiest in this country, indeed the very wealthiest in the globe, to buy a prestige service that secures their children a permanent positional edge in society at an effective 20 per cent discount.
How can this be justified? I ask the question in genuine, honest inquiry. If Times readers can tell me why we should continue to provide such egregious state support to the already wealthy so that they might buy advantage for their own children, I would be fascinated.
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