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Violence Children Welfare
This essay will discuss the criminological understanding of violence against children and provide a brief history of Acts which have been introduced to protect children’s welfare, and give those who are most vulnerable rights to safety within the home. Over history many policies and legislations have been introduced to protect children from violence and these will be discussed. Statistics will also be given to demonstrate the amount of children who are ‘at risk’.
The first Act introduced to protect children from abuse and neglect was the ‘Children’s Charter’ which dates back to 1889. This Act enabled children to be removed from their parents care, and cared for under the Poor Law. In 1894, the Act was amended and it allowed children to give evidence in court, with mental cruelty towards children recognised for the first time (Hendrick, 2005).
In 1908 a Children’s Act was passed which established juvenile courts and registration for foster parents was introduced along with the punishment of ‘Incest Acts’ which made sexual abuse by a family member a matter for the state (Hendrick, 2005).
Following the recommendations of the ‘Report of the Care of Children Committee’ known as the Curtis Report in 1946, which took place following the death of a Dennis O’Neill, as a result of child abuse, local authorities introduced ‘children’s departments’ which led to the introduction of the Children Act 1948 (Walsh et al; 2000).
Under the legislation of the Children Act 1948, according to Walsh et al, (2000) local authorities were given the duty to place children in care, if they were “orphaned, if their parents were unable to look after them or they were victims of abuse”, and they were made responsible for child welfare and protection issues, including that of fostering, the adoption of children, children’s residential care homes, and family casework. With progression of them being responsible for the investigation of child abuse cases, and child protection issues in 1952 (Walsh et al; 2000)
However, it was not until 1963, when it was required for them to work with families to prevent child abuse. Furthermore, the proposal of a single social services department, which would introduce the merging of all children’s health and welfare departments together was established as a result of the Seebohm committee proposal, in 1968, which developed after the introduction of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (Walsh et al; 2000).
Furthermore, following the death of 7 year old Maria Colwell by her step father, who physically abused her to the level of torture over a long period of time in 1973. The physical abuse of children was brought to the public eye, which therefore increased the involvement of social services departments with children, and as a result the Children Act 1989 was introduced, which had the underlying principal of respect towards the ‘needs of the child’ in all decisions made about their welfare, which would be ‘in their best interests’ (Walsh et al; 2000).
The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child was ratified in 1991 and it became effective in the UK in 1992, and was introduced to protect the rights of the child, and provide the child with rights (Kehily, 2005). Furthermore, according to Kehily, (2005) “providing appropriate support and services for their healthy development, protection from exploitation, and abuse and allowing participations in decisions about their upbringing and care”.
Social policies in respect of preventing violence against children include the introduction of ‘Every Child Matters’. The government in 2003 published a green paper namely, ‘Every Child Matters’ which coincided with the release of the formal response by Lord Laming following the report into the killing of Victoria Climbie, who at the age of 8 years was killed by her auntie, Therese Kouao, and her aunties partner, Carl Manning, in February 2000 (Every Child Matters, 2003).
Prior to her death, Victoria had come into contact with four different social services departments, two child protection teams, a specialist centre managed by the national society for the prevention of cruelty to children, hospitalised on two separate occasions in different locations, and following her aunts initial contact with a ‘homeless persons unit’, was also registered as requiring housing assistance, with at least two more housing authorities. (Victoria Climbie Inquiry, 2003).
Following the report of the inquiry into Victoria Climbie’s death by Lord Laming, recommendations were made which included the need for public protection agencies to work closely together, and share information with each other, therefore providing the availability, and consistency of information held in respect of a person, which could be shared across various areas, as guided within the Multi Agency Public Protection Agency Arrangements, imposed following the introduction of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (Benn, 2003).
Children who are put on child protection registers are at risk of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect, all of which have a child protection plan, which are managed by their local social services department. Also, according to Creighton, (2003) “children whose names are placed on Child Protection Register, are largely drawn from the most vulnerable sections of society those in need”.
Even though, most of the children which are placed on the register continue to live within their family, with the assistance and guidance of the child protection agency staff (Creighton, 2003). In accordance with the Department of Health, Home Office and Department of Education and Employment, there are four different criteria’s for placing a child on the child protection register which include, the neglect of children, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and the emotional abuse of a child (Creighton, 2003).
Meanwhile, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC, (nd) the physical abuse of children includes “hitting shaking kicking punching scalding suffocating and other ways of inflicting pain or injury to a child. It also includes giving children harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol or poison. If a parent or carer reports non- existence symptoms of illness in a child, or deliberately causes illness in a child, this is also a form of physical abuse”. Furthermore, the NSPCC, (nd) also state that “physical abuse has damaging and long lasting effects” and that “it can be fatal –each week at least 1 child in the UK dies at the hands of their parents or carers”.
Also, The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC, (nd) suggests “that hitting children is wrong whatever the circumstances. It is emotionally and physically harmful and sets a bad example to children. What’s more it isn’t even a very effective way of encouraging better behaviour”.
Furthermore, boys outnumbered the amount of girls which were placed on the child protection register in three of the following four age group categories, which consist of 0-4years, 5-9years, 10-15 years and 16-17 years respectively, with girls being the highest in the eldest grouping up to the year ending, and dated 31st March 2002 (Creighton, 2003). In the United Kingdom there were 31.034 children on the child protection register for the
year ending 31st March 2002, which consisted of 16.067 boys and 14.967 girls, and babies of both sexes under the age of 1 year having the highest rate of registration (Creighton, 2003). With children between birth and 4 years of age according to Creighton, (2003) to be “assessed to be most in need of protection”.
Whiston, (nd) stated that “The truth is mothers kill more babies and young children than fathers do, and women abuse more children than men do”. In 1992, 385 deaths of young babies were reported as homicides, and there is a likelihood of the murder of boys which are less than a year old, at the ratio of 55 per million babies, in comparison to baby girls, which is 42, per million (Whiston, (nd). Also Haralambos et al; (2000)
suggested “that women’s domestic roles gave them the opportunity to hide crimes such as poisoning relatives and sexually abusing their children”.
Evidently, according to Gorin, (nd), “the link between child physical abuse and domestic violence is high, with estimates ranging between 30% and 66%, depending upon the study”. Furthermore, Gorin, (nd) stated that “88% of those who self-assessed as neglected, 75% physical abused, 71% emotionally abused and 54% sexually abused also reported domestic violence”.
According to the News-Medical.Net, (2006) “The World Health Organisation has issued a practical new guide to help countries prevent violence against children. Children are the victims of startling levels of violence, often at the hands of those who should be protecting them”. Furthermore, a study conducted by the United Nations Secretary-General ‘violence against children’ revealed that children between the ages of birth and 14 years old suffered a large amount of violence by care givers, family members and consequently, effected the child’s development and health which can last into adulthood, with the increased risk of being victimised further and becoming the perpetrator of such behaviour (News-Medical.Net, 2006).
Whilst, violence against children is a worldwide problem, it is also a hidden problem. Although, in some instances it is considered as acceptable and the norm within society and viewed as punishment for unacceptable behaviour (Violence against children and teenagers – Plan (nd). Furthermore, according to ‘The Study on Violence against Children’ in 2006, there were 53,000 children murdered in 2002 (Violence against children and teenagers – Plan, (nd).
The extent of violence against children is evident in figures from the National Health Service, which show that 58 youngsters a day are being admitted to hospital in England after being purposely injured (Revill, 2008). Furthermore, information from the National Health Service suggests that the rate of deliberate harm to children is on the increase.
Statistics show that in 2003, approximately 16,600 children suffered deliberate harm, but the figure rose to 21,859 in 2007 (Revill, 2008). These figures omit children who were taken to the casualty department and returned home, or who had died as a result of their injuries (Revill, 2008).
According to Gittins, (1993) in the past “Men for centuries were legally entitled to use violence on children; this was seen as an essential support to their patriarchal authority.
Despite the legislation to protect children from family violence, the agencies of the law remained highly reluctant to ‘interfere’ or prosecute cases of family violence or rape of children. To do so was seen as an infringement of ‘privacy’, better understood as a challenge to the patriarchal authority invested in the notion of fatherhood and enshrined in the ideology of the family. Relations of power and authority between the sexes and between adults and children permeate, and permeated, society at all levels from the simplest household to more social and political institutions”.
Furthermore, according, to Gorin, (NSPCC) “In 3 out of 5 cases where children had suffered physical abuse, neglect and emotional abuse, the mothers were also subject to violence by their male partners. The associated risks and the fact that many of the children witnessed violence to their mothers, was given little attention by professionals. Yet domestic violence was a feature of most of the cases with the worst outcomes.
However, due to the changes in recent legislation, and the introduction of the amended Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 the law can now intervene within the family. The Domestic Violence Act 2007 now makes common assault an arrest able offence, and the breech of non-molestation orders a criminal offence, carrying a five year prison sentence. As a result of this, children are now protected within the home (HMCS, 2007).
In conclusion, this essay demonstrates that since the Curtis Report in 1946 and the ratification of The United Nations Convention on the right’s of the child in 1991. The right’s of a child has been protected by one and the child has also been given right’s by the other.
Government legislations and social policies have recognised the needs for the protection of children in the home, and with global recognition. Finally, with the introduction of the amended Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 the law can now involve themselves within the family setting. The Domestic Violence Act 2007 now makes common assault an arrest able offence punishable by imprisonment.
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