APPG launches report on its inquiry into Positions of Trust but is it enough?

APPG launches report on its inquiry into Positions of Trust but is it enough?

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Settings, has launched a report today calling for Government to close the loophole in the law that allow adults in ‘positions of trust’ to legally engage in sexual activity with the young people they are working with.

According to their website Thirty One Eight - they state - Under current legislation, only certain job roles are designated as a ‘position of trust’ under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, including teachers and youth justice workers. As a result, it is against the law for them to engage in sexual activity with the 16 or 17-year-olds that they supervise. However, adults working in other settings, such as faith organisations or sports clubs, do not commit a crime if engage in sexual activity with children aged 16 or 17 under their supervision, even though adults in these positions often hold significant power and influence over the child. This means that in non-statutory settings children are unnecessarily left more vulnerable to abuse.

Firstly I would like to say that a great deal of hard work has gone into this report and the recommended changes would certainly improve safeguarding for children but will those recommendations be enough?

This report is the result of an inquiry into The Effectiveness of ‘Positions of Trust’ in Safeguarding Young People within Faith Settings was launched by the APPG in August 2019 and explores the extent to which the current provisions within the SOA 2003 for ‘positions of trust’ (s16-20) and the offence of ‘abuse of a position of trust’ (s21-24) adequately enable the safeguarding of young people receiving services and support in the wide variety of faith settings that exist across the country.

The objective of this Inquiry was to discover and document current knowledge relating to law and practice concerning ‘Positions of Trust’ within the SOA 2003, to ensure faith settings are sufficiently within scope to allow young people to be better protected from harm within the variety of such settings. This report will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice to assist in the completion of a review of this legislation.

The report put forward five recommendations:
  1. Policy & Legislative Change - The Government should amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 so that the application of the definition of ‘positions of trust’ as an adult that is ‘regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge’ of a child is not limited to the professions listed in Section 21 of that Act but instead extended to any adult to which that description applies.
  2. The Government should launch a public campaign to communicate the change in legal definition so that adults working with children, organisations, parents and young people are aware that it is illegal for any adult ‘regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge’ to have engage in sexual activity with a child under their care.
  3. Practice Development - The Department for Education should lead the development and implementation of guidance and training provided to LADOs and Local Safeguarding Partnerships to raise awareness of issues around child abuse and abuse of trust in faith settings.
  4. In consultation with the National LADO Network and other appropriate professional groups, the Department for Education should research and develop detailed guidance on recording of cases using agreed standardised categories for positions of trust in faith settings.
  5. The Department for Education should urgently revise ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ to take better account of the role and extent of faith group activity in safeguarding children and young people, to include a focus on a broader application of position of trust. ‘Recruiting Safely: helping keep children and young people safe’ (CWDC, 2009) should be revisited and revised to address the broader issues of position of trust within settings and contexts that are currently not included.
The report calls for the Government to make a simple change in the law so that the definition of a ‘position of trust’ is not limited to the defined roles in Section 21 but applies to any adult who is ‘regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of such a person’ as per Section 22.

Sarah Champion said who is Chairperson of this APPG and who has done some outstanding work recently on Rotherham Grooming Gangs and generally on the protection of children said: 

 “This issue can be easily remedied by a simple change in the law. A definition of ‘position of trust is already there in Section 22 in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Government simply needs to apply it to every adult who holds supervising responsibility for a child they are working with and not limit it to a few professions. This will bring clarity and help to prevent abusers from exploiting the system to groom and abuse children. There is no reason why the Government should continue to resist. We have faith, sports and safeguarding organisations all demanding this change in law – now is the time for action not further excuses or delay.”

Do the recommendations go far enough? 

This really good report which you must read in full is a great step forward to the protection of children. But I wonder what effect if any it will have on the many diverse faith based groups that we have here in the UK?

I have a great interest in the subject of the safeguarding of children in faith based settings as I have for the past thirty or so years on and off worked with faith based organisations and helped police, social services investigations. Also provided input for the 1989 Children's Act. Sadly despite offering to provide input on this inquiry never heard back from them perhaps if I could have pointed out that many faith based groups or even larger organisations would consider the recommendations as not applying to them.

‘position of trust’ is not limited to the defined roles in Section 21 but applies to any adult who is ‘regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of such a person’ as per Section 22.

Many faith based groups would not accept that having children attend services under the supervision of their parents would consider themselves as Caring, training, supervising or being in sole charge.

The problem with creating a report is that those writing it can often choose the information or evidence they wish to hear and so can easily miss out on possible valuable input. 

My conclusion is that although I applaud the fantastic work gone into this report and the proposed changes in legislation I have to say that it in my humble opinion does not go far enough. There is another way though.

The report can be found on the following website - 

Thirtyone:Eight is a fantastic charity working on safeguarding - Their website says -

We are an independent Christian charity which helps individuals, organisations, charities, faith and community groups to protect vulnerable people from abuse. Our vision is a world where every child and adult can feel, and be, safe, and to achieve this vision we work together with a network of thousands of organisations across the UK helping them to create safer places. Read more about our mission, vision and our unique membership support model for organisations, and why we're a trusted and recommended source of support for all your safeguarding needs.