Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are considering a bill which would define and criminalise the neglect and emotional abuse of children.
The measure was introduced by Early Years Minister Mark McDonald of the Scottish National Party (SNP). He said the Children and Young Persons Act, first enacted in 1937, contained “archaic language … [which] has resulted in difficulties in prosecuting offences”.
McDonald proposed this bill following two reports on child protection in Scotland. They concluded that while the system worked well overall, there were “opportunities to strengthen all aspects of the system to better protect … children”.
One of these reports was written by former head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Catherine Dyer. The COPFS is a department in the Scottish government which deals with the prosecution of crimes. In Dyer’s report, she made a series of recommendations to improve the system. These included the creation of a child protection register, a national child protection leadership group and a new set of standards for case reviews.
McDonald told MSPs that his proposal would put all of Dyer’s recommendations into effect. He said that in one year’s time, if “there is little evidence of real and substantial progress then [he] will not hesitate to bring forward legislation to provide an appropriate statutory underpinning”.
The measure was widely supported by members of the opposition parties, with Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur praising the SNP’s willingness to take on board all of the report’s recommendations.
Meanwhile in England, the Public Accounts Committee has criticised the government for being “too slow” in their efforts to improve child protection measures. They noted that only 23 per cent of local authorities had been rated “good” by Ofsted in this area and that “by no standards can this be seen as an improvement”.
Photo of the Scottish Parliament building by morebyless via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.