22 Aug 2012
The Government has produced an action plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief.
Drawn up with social workers, faith leaders, the police and charities, the plan aims to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to take practical steps to prevent such abuse.
Recent high profile cases including the murders of Victoria Climbie and Kristy Bamu have brought the issue into the public eye but the Government fear much more abuse is hidden.
The action plan states: “The number of cases of child abuse linked to a belief in spirits, possession and witchcraft is small, but where it occurs the impact on the child is great, causing much distress and suffering to the child. It is likely that a proportion of this type of abuse remains unreported.”
Figures compiled by the Department of Education between 2000 and 2005 show that 38 cases of abuse involving 47 children were linked to beliefs including possession and witchcraft. Further independent research suggests the number of cases is higher and on the increase.
The plan calls for closer engagement of local communities and better training for practitioners. It also aims to provide better psychological and therapeutic support to victims.
In producing the plan the Government recognised that the issue is broader than just abuse related to witchcraft or spirit possession, as abuse linked to belief can occur with and equally be condemned by people from all cultures, communities and faiths:
“Our top priority is the protection of children and young people. This plan makes absolutely clear the importance of identifying children who are suffering or are likely to suffer harm and of taking action to keep those children safe. We are clear that this is not about challenging people’s beliefs, but where these beliefs lead to abuse that should not be tolerated.”
A full copy of the action plan is available here: