Council chiefs, social workers and teachers who fail to act upon suspicions of child abuse face five years in prison to help “eradicate the culture of denial”, David Cameron will announce.
The Prime Minister will warn those who turn a blind eye to child sexual abuse out of a “warped sense of political correctness” that they face criminal prosecution in the wake of the Rotherham grooming scandal.
Police forces will be ordered to treat the threat child sexual abuse as a “national threat” equivalent to terrorism and organised crime.
His intervention comes ahead of an independent inquiry which is expected to find that more than 300 children were sexually exploited by gangs in Oxfordshire over 15 years.
Mr Cameron will on Tuesday tell a Downing Street summit: “We have all been appalled at the abuse suffered by so many young girls in Rotherham and elsewhere across the country.
“Children were ignored, sometimes even blamed, and issues were swept under the carpet – often because of a warped and misguided sense of political correctness. That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated.”
Under plans drawn up by Mr Cameron, an offence of “wilful neglect” that was recently introduced to protect elderly people in care homes will be extended to protect children from paedophiles.
It sets in law a moral duty of teachers, social workers, elected councillors and other officials to act on suspicions of child sexual abuse, and comes with a maximum five year jail term and unlimited fines.
Organisations, such as councils, that mismanage their staff in a way that “amounts to a gross breach of duty of care” and allows sexual abuse to flourish will also face prosecutions and fines.
Downing Street said the offence would cover every tier of the public sector, from rank and file employees to the most senior bosses. The measures come alongside government proposals for mandatory reporting, which would make it a criminal offence for public sector workers to fail to sound the alarm over child abuse.
Both will be subject to public consultation shortly.
An investigation into grooming in Rotherham found more than 1,400 children suffered sexual abuse, torture and violence over sixteen years.
Council officials repeatedly dismissed allegations as “politically motivated” lies, while social workers refused to speak out for fear of appearing racist.
The Prime Minister will unveil the plans at a summit of social workers and police chief constables in Downing Street today, attended by five Cabinet ministers: Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling, Nicky Morgan and Eric Pickles.
He will say: “Today, I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable.”
“It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officer and socialworkers – do the jobs they are paid to do.
“We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better and ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated again.”
Among the measures announced today, a new national whistleblowing hotline will allow social workers and teachers to sound the alarm where an authority is turning a blind eye to abuse.
Health authorities, police and education bodies will be subject to new, joint inspections. A national taskforce of leading experts willsupport authorities struggling to tackle child abuse.
The Strategic Policing Requirement, a Home Office doctrine that outlines how police constabularies must co-operate to fightcross-border crime, will be re-written to include sexual abuse as a national threat alongside civil disorder, terrorism and cyber crime. It will oblige police forces to pool their intelligence and officers to tackle abusers who travel around the country.
An extra £7 million will be allocated this year and next to centres that care for traumatised victims of sexual abuse.