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MPs sign letter in support of child neglect law reform

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More than 30 MPs have signed a letter in support of a private member’s bill which would  extend the legal definition of child neglect to include emotional harm.

The Child Maltreatment bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams, is set for a second reading on November 22, after failing to find time in the parliamentary schedule during July.

Charity Action for Children has drafted an open letter to Damien Green, who is the Conservative Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice. It calls on the Minister to use the second reading to fully explore the issues highlighted by the act.

Action for Children believes the current law surrounding child neglect is out of date and no longer fit for purpose.

“The law excludes emotional and developmental neglect which are now known to be hugely damaging to the development of children.”

The charity adds:

“The wording of the criminal offence stems from 1868. It’s out-dated and confusing creating difficulties for police officers and social workers to use the criminal law to respond to neglect when it is appropriate.”

The campaign has also attracted support from high profile former judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stated earlier this year:

“’The current law explicitly fails to recognise the full range of harm done to neglected children, and creates problems of practice and interpretation for legal professionals. This cannot be our best effort as law makers at protecting neglected children, and so I am determined to see through a reform of the law in this area. I invite my fellow parliamentarians to support this as a matter of great importance and urgency.”

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. Paul says:

    And are these legislators knowledgeable about child alienation – a common phenomenon in child access and custody disputes – and will they have the balls to recognise the phenomenon and cite alienation as an example of serious parental harm to a child? Do social services recognise it too? Will they act upon its signs?

    I very much doubt it. These people are all in the dark ages. Moreover, the distant prospect of alienation being recognised will trigger the usual suspects aka professors of social policy, to produce Nuffield-style research to “prove” alienation either doesn’t exist or that the father is abusive and deserves the child’s disapproval.

  2. James @ Actionfor Children says:

    Thanks so much Marilyn for sharing our campaign to update the 80 year old law on child neglect. More and more MPs are signing the letter everyday and the campaign is gaining some real momentum.

    We need more MPs to show their support though. If your readers would like to ask their MP to sign the joint letter on child neglect, they can do so using our simple online form at

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