The House of Commons Education Select Committee has published a report into the child protection system, calling on local authorities to intervene at an earlier stage to try and prevent the abuse of children.
The report – entitled Children first: the child protection system in England – focuses on the three key areas: neglect, older children, and the thresholds for intervention in cases used by local authorities.
On the latter issue, the report claims that a more positive attitude to care proceedings should be encouraged:
“The balance of evidence is heavily in favour of care being considered as a viable, positive option at an earlier stage for many children. It is essential to promote a more positive picture of care to young people and to the public in general. Ministers should encourage public awareness of the fact that being taken into care can be of great benefit to children.”
On neglect, the report calls for a review of the criminal definition, noting:
“Neglect is the most common form of child abuse inEngland. Having looked at both the criminal and civil definitions of neglect, we recommend that the Government investigate thoroughly whether the narrow scope of the criminal definition contained in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is causing problems in bringing criminal cases of neglect, but we have seen no convincing evidence that the civil definition is insufficient.”
The report also claims that the current child protection system is failing to meet the needs of older children on a number of levels and calls for an urgent review of these issues:
“We heard many concerns that the child protection system is not meeting the needs of older children (aged 14-18). Our inquiry has revealed a worrying picture with regard to the protection and support of this group. This is characterised by a lack of services for adolescents, a failure to look beyond behavioural problems, a lack of recognition of the signs of neglect and abuse in teenagers, and a lack of understanding about the long-term impact on them.”