In my career I have worked with many children from diverse backgrounds but those that stand out from most are the ones that have been emotionally deprived at home. Research has shown that these children not only have poor relationship/social skills but also are more likely to develop mental health problems than other children with a more balanced emotional life at home.
So it is not surprising that I have read this week that 70 per cent of our police officers believe that emotional cruelty to children should become a criminal offence.
Children not legally protect in the same way as adults
Whilst there are many laws for the protection of children against physical abuse, experts assert that children do not have the same level of protection from harm in terms of emotional abuse as adults. The law related to domestic violence changed last March to encompass such types of emotional abuse as isolation and intimidation but only for adults.
Currently emotional neglect toward children is not included in the legal definition of child neglect and today the matter will be debated in Parliament. A letter demanding a review of the law addressed to the Ministry of Justice has been signed by In excess of 80 Members of Parliament from all political parties. An alternative law to resolve the gap in existing legislation has been draw up by Mark Williams, a liberal democrat MP, and Action for Children.
7 in 10 police officers feel law related to emotional abuse of children should change
A poll conducted by YouGov of some 200 police officers in England and Wales revealed that 7 in 10 officers felt the law should be changed, with just 5 percent thinking the law should remain unchanged. 25 per cent were not sure.
Children who are used as scapegoats, humiliated, the subject of punishment that is designed to degrade or witness to domestic violence are all exposed to emotional neglect; treatment that all too often leads to problems with social interactions and mental health issues.
There are certain sections in The Children and Young Persons Act is which date back as far as 1868 so it is well overdue for an update according to experts.
Emotional abuse of children 20 percent higher in referrals
Government statistics show that the most common cause for children being referred to child protection services is neglect; and emotional abuse is 20 percent more common in these referrals than physical abuse. Changes in legislation would mean that the same definition of neglect would apply to Government and social workers as well as judges and the police.
Whilst it is currently possible to prosecute for “emotional abuse” under existing criminal law, Damien Green, Justice Minister stated that it was necessary to ensure that “the law in this important area is fit for purpose.”