Emotional Neglect Of Children To Be Made Illegal In England And Wales

Action for Children has won a campaign to outlaw emotional abuse of children.

The emotional neglect of children will soon be illegal in England and Wales thanks to a three year campaign by Action for Children.

Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical harm, with long-lasting effects on a child. Emotional neglect can include forcing a child to witness domestic violence and the enforcement of degrading punishments.

Action for Children's chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: "This is a monumental step forward for thousands of children who we know suffer from emotional abuse and countless others whose desperate situations have yet to come to light.

"I've met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved. The impact is devastating and can lead to life-long mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.

"We are one of the last countries in the western world to recognise all forms of child abuse as a crime. Years of campaigning have been rewarded, the government has listened and this law will change lives."

Neglect is the most common reason for a child protection referral across the UK and emotional abuse is more common in these referrals than physical abuse, according to the Department for Education.

Currently, the criminal definition of child neglect, which affects as many as one in ten children, covers physical harm only.

Prior to Action for Children's campaign to fill the legislative gap, child neglect legislation had not been reviewed in the UK for more than 80 years and is still based on the 1868 Poor Law (Amendment) Act.

Throughout the campaign, the call to update the criminal law gained the support of MPs from all parties, more than 100 of whom signed a letter to the Ministry of Justice supporting the change, as well as the support of social workers, police, children’s charities, senior lawyers, legal academics and other experts.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

30 May 2014
Dramatic Rise In Emotional Abuse Cases
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is experiencing a surge in the number of emotional neglect and emotional abuse cases, including those so serious they require onward referral to the police and children's services.
01 April 2005
Home Office launches crack down on Net paedophiles
The Home Office has announced new measures to protect children from being 'groomed' by internet paedophiles. As part of the plans new Centre for Child Protection on the Internet will be set up to provide support for the police and child protection agencies.
08 July 2014
Retired Judge Appointed Chair Of Historical Sex Abuse Inquiry
Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has been named as the chairman of a new, wide-ranging, review into historical child sex abuse. The 80-year-old retired senior judge previously led the Cleveland child abuse inquiry in the 1980s.
29 January 2013
Proposal Will Allow Childminders To Accept More Children
New proposals will allow nurseries and childminders in England to look after more children, providing carers qualifications meet new standards. The proposals, due to come into effect in the autumn, would make more childcare places available and reduce costs for parents in the "long term", children's minister Liz Truss has said.
27 May 2008
Foster Care Boosted
Young foster children with emotional or psychological difficulties are to get extra support to stop them getting into trouble at school and help them settle in care placements, thanks to a £3.8 million pilot project announced today by Children's Minister Kevin Brennan.