Mark Williams champions a Private Members Bill on the emotional neglect of children

mark williamsMark Williams, Lib Dem MP for Ceredigion, is promoting The Child Maltreatment Private Member’s Bill, which will have its second reading this Friday. It aims to make emotional neglect of children a criminal offence. The current law on child neglect, which has been in place for 80 years, only covers physical harm to children.

The Express carries the story with this quote from Mark:

The law, as it is, fails to protect some of the most vulnerable children throughout England and Wales. If the Government is really serious about safeguarding children, the law has to be changed.

The Bill has drawn support from Action for Children. Their research has shown that nearly 70% of police officers believe that the legislation should include emotional neglect.

MPs from all parties have signed a letter to Damian Green, the Justice minister, asking him to support the bill. You can ask your MP to sign it here.

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  • Malcolm Todd 19th Nov '13 - 5:06pm

    I find this deeply worrying. What is the purpose of it? Emotional neglect is, I think, already taken into account in the law on children, that is on making decisions about removing children from their parents and so on; and is obviously taken into account by social services when intervening in families. I very much doubt that having the threat of criminal sanction for what would surely be, as Caracatus says, a phenomenally subjective (and undoubtedly very culture- and class-based) offence, would be welcomed by social services professionals (including family court judges). I’d certainly be more interested in their views than that of police officers.

  • Morgan Inwood 19th Nov '13 - 10:25pm

    I am doing my Politics Dissertation on child protection failures, this Bill is interesting from that point of view. The same thing props up in child protection, the joined up approach (different services working together). I wonder what the views of those directly involved in child protection think of this Bill.

  • Helen Dudden 19th Nov '13 - 11:36pm

    This could apply in child custody cases. Children abducted, and illegally removed from the parent who has the main responsibility.

    Children suffer with the cause and effect, especially within international cases.

    One little boy was taken and he remembered many years later, about his bear, he left his bear.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Nov '13 - 11:46pm

    For a while after I came out of the army – after finishing at college – I worked at an education establishment for children with Emotional and Behavioural problems. Some of those children were hurt by the lack of emotional connection with their parents.

    In my view we should not punish those parents whose lack of emotional attachment (or inability to demonstrate their feelings for their children), driven by either psychological or sociological reasons, have resulted in damage to their offspring. It happens because of a lack in the parents – punishing them for exhibiting the symptoms of that lack is not going to help either the parents or the children. At the school I was at we quite didn’t punish the children who act out the symptoms of emotional neglect – some of them violence against staff or property, we should not do so against the parents.

  • The word “neglect” doesn’t help. As the article says, “child neglect” is currently defined in terms of physical harm. But you surely don’t “neglect” a child by causing deliberate physical injuries. You abuse the child.

    Emotional “neglect” is horribly subjective. How do you distinguish emotional “neglect” from the naughty step? No jury will convict on subjective or debatable evidence, and that’s how it should be.

    Emotional “abuse” should be the crime, to prove which the prosecution must convince the jury that what happened went beyond punishment, beyond family rows, beyond tiredness, beyond inadequacy, and beyond the emotional problems of the parents themselves. There might be fewer prosecutions for such a crime, but the convictions would be safer.

  • @Helen Dudden

    Surely in cases like that the problem is just the opposite of neglect, i.e. too much love, and thinking it overrides the other parent’s love, the court system and the real interests of the child.

    It seems to me that either “neglect” is going to be defined in an absolutely different way to its dictionary definition, or not really defined at all (which is presumably why the police like it), or we are trying to use the force of law to make people love their children.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Nov '13 - 10:11am

    We are talking about international law, the difficulties and problems caused to a child, who is taken to another country.

    As you understand about the Hague Convention, and the Brussels 11 Regulation I will not go further on the explaining, I would not suggest something that the Police Authority, also agree with, in a high percentage.

    If you read on the Reunite web page about the issue, also, there will be other accounts on line.

    I do not suggest that too much love is good, I am a mother and a grandmother and a great grandmother, but I do understand the difference in what I am highlighting.

    Also, I do read law, so that is a further addition.

  • @Helen Dudden

    Well, are we talking about international child abduction? Would an abductor be charged with “emotional neglect” rather than child abduction? If so it sounds like a catch-all charge and I want to know what else it covers.

  • Richard Dean 21st Nov '13 - 8:06am

    The present text of the bill is here

    Seems far too vague to me. But if the police have identified this as a problem then surely it is worth seeing if something less subjective could be developed? It’s surely worth while working out what parents are expected to do, and maybe using this as a basis of one aspect of an approach to improve children’s lot – other aspects might include education of parents, and some form of social support and care for them – it’s harder for some.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Nov '13 - 6:05pm

    Do you believe in emotional bullying? It should be labeled a crime as it covers quite a few things.

    A child is bullied, then the worst thing happens a child ends its life, have you never heard of on line bullying. You don’t have to use physical abuse, to hurt others. Continued abuse of this type does cause problems.

    This, also happens in child access, I can assure you. You must of heard of cases, where children are caught up in tug of love cases. Anyone, who has anything to do with these cases, I am sure will agree.

    I will leave the rest to you, and simply look on line.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Nov '13 - 3:35pm

    @Richard S. I think that could be an understanding of the situation. Do you feel a parent or family member has the right to inflict control over the child in their own personal interest?

    This is not going against any court rulings, for the safety of the child. Safety of a minor is of course a most important factor.

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