To ask the Secretary of State for Education what plans his Department has to prevent the abuse of children who are branded as witches or possessed by evil spirits.
The number of cases in this country of child abuse linked to belief, including belief in witchcraft or spirit possession, is believed to be small. Where such abuse occurs, however, it causes horrific distress and suffering to the child. It is likely that a proportion of this type of abuse remains unreported.
Research commissioned by the Department for Education in 2006 reviewed child abuse cases occurring between 2000 and 2005 to identify any cases where the abuse was linked to accusations of possession or witchcraft 38 cases involving 47 children were found to be relevant and sufficiently well documented. The children came from a … variety of backgrounds including African, South Asian and European. There has been no research conducted by the Department since the 2006 report and there are no official statistics on this type of abuse.
The Department for Education has this year commissioned a small-scale research study to draw together what is already known about the issue. It is hoped to publish the report of this research in the autumn.
I have also established, and chaired during its start-up phase, a Working Group on Faith-Based Child Abuse, involving partners in the statutory, voluntary, faith and community sectors. During the next phase of this work, proposals for tackling this abuse will be shared with a wider group of professionals, voluntary sector, organisations, faith and community groups.
The proposals currently focus on the four themes of engaging communities;. empowering practitioners; supporting victims and witnesses; and communicating our messages.