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Attempt to criminalise emotional neglect of children stalls in parliament

A private member’s bill which would extend the current definition of child neglect to include emotional abuse has stalled in parliament.

The current legal definition of child neglect refers to physical harm only and the police cannot intervene when youngsters are subjected to verbal abuse, humiliation and similar behaviour.

The Child Maltreatment Bill was tabled by Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams. A second reading had been scheduled for Friday (July 12) but has now been postponed until November after parliament failed to find time to debate the measure.

Mark Williams said:

“It is a matter of great sadness that the Child Maltreatment Bill was not afforded the time to be debated today, despite the seriousness of the problem facing us. I hope the Government will….think again about reforming Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.”

He added:

“I will continue to push for reform of this law, which has its roots in the Dickensian age, working in tandem with Action for Children.”

The bill was drafted by charity Action for Children. Head of campaigns Matthew Downie said:

“We’re frustrated and disappointed that parliament wasn’t able to find time to debate this much needed law reform to protect neglected children.  The current 80-year-old law is simply not fit for purpose and is failing hundreds of neglected children every year. We’re calling on the public to continue to remind MPs why children suffering from emotional and psychological neglect need protection.”

He added:

“We were delighted that today, the professional body for social workers, the British Association of Social Workers, publicly backed the campaign. Along with our supporters we’ll now be working to ensure this important issue remains on the political agenda ahead of its rescheduled second reading on 22 November.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    In view of the track record of Social Workers in making the occasional totally bonkers and cruel decisions that they have in the past the idea of tasking them with such subjective judgement and the power to act on it is, it seems to me, very worrying.

  2. Paul says:

    Parental alienation will be conveniently overlooked in all of this just as it is in all the regulations and statutory guidance governing child protection. Alienation is an unrecognised form of emotional abuse. Worse, mothers who alienate children from their fathers are given a pat on the back by social services and told they are being “suitably protective.

    Government and its agencies conveniently live in denial.

  3. Dana says:

    Social workers should be given a mandate of assisting & helping families, not to remove kids because its an easier short term solution. The ramifications of taking a child into care and what that child suffers from being apart from its own family should be embedded into any decisions made as I believe this is all to often overlooked in their blinkered process.

  4. Herald says:

    There is a gross naivete to such a bill, which makes one wonder whether its author was born yesterday. Very noble intentions there may be on the surface of things, but passing more bills that encourage blatant abuse of the system by implacably hostile parents will just lead to a thousand times more child abuse.

    Maybe its author isn’t naive after all, though, but just another cog in the sleezy wheel of the status quo and the profit motive.

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