Statement from Chuka Umunna MP in response to the National Action Plan To Tackle Child Abuse Linked To Faith or Belief

Chuka Umunna MP has made the following statement in response to the National Action Plan To Tackle Child Abuse Linked To Faith or Belief:

“Children branded as witches or as being possessed by evil spirits have faced some of the worst abuses and neglect possible. The recent case of Kristy Bamu was a terrible tragedy – an inexcusable crime that happened in the heart of our capital city and was unimaginable in the scale of its brutality. I am clear that there is no way that as a society we can stand for practices of this kind – we cannot afford to stand by while these abuses happen.

“For far too long, this kind of abuse was under the radar, too little known in the corridors of power or even among those with specific responsibility for the safeguarding of children. Groups like AFRUCA did brilliant work in bringing this to wider attention. Their work continues. This problem is not one that can be tackled by government alone, communities have a vital role too, but government attention is absolutely necessary – this is why I held the first parliamentary summit ever on this issue and why I welcome this Plan from the National Working Group.

“The Working Group is right that further research is needed – we still do not know enough about the problem. There is no doubt that abuse of this kind is rare, but the extent of this abuse is likely to be greater than officially recognised and we need to know more about how, where and why this abuse is happening. Whatever the outcome of this further research, it is clear that just a single instance of this abuse should be unacceptable to all of us.

“While it is right that further research is needed, I am pleased that the plan does recognise many other things need to be done. To tackle this problem, important steps need to be taken to ensure that those responsible for safeguarding are as fully aware and as fully informed as possible.  Ensuring that social workers and other frontline practitioners have specific training so as to be better able to recognise and respond to this kind of abuse is crucial, and it is right that Local Safeguarding Children Board’s and the criminal justice system should be involved in the extensive joined-up work that is required to tackle this issue.

“It is important to recognise that no element of this plan is an attack on any community, or on any faith or religion. It would be totally wrong – and potentially harmful – for it to be seen as such. The plan recognises that a broad community approach, in conjunction with work to support victims, to help front-line practitioners and to engage everyone in our communities, is essential. These steps are all incredibly important – but we should be clear that at this stage this is only a plan – it cannot work unless it is followed through at every level, including with appropriate resources.

“As a constituency MP I will be working in Parliament to make sure that the government acts on the Working Group’s recommendations and that the Department for Education follows up on each and every one of the vital steps outlined in this important and welcome Action Plan.”

You can read the National Action Plan by visiting https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/DFE-00094-2012

The Executive Summary can be found at https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/DFE-00095-2012