Children (Parental Access)

Education and Skills written question – answered on 14th November 2005.

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Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent estimate she has made of the number of children who have suffered non-accidental injuries during unsupervised access with their absent parent.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Children and Families)

holding answer 9 November 2005

We do not hold data on the number of children who are harmed during unsupervised contact with their non-resident parent, whether court ordered or otherwise. However, we take the issues of child protection and domestic violence extremely seriously and have taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of children involved in contact disputes.

On 31 January this year, we introduced new 'Gateway forms' designed to ensure that any issues of domestic violence can more readily be raised at the very start of Children Act 1989 private law court proceedings. We have also commenced section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which clarified the definition of 'harm' in the Children Act 1989, which now makes explicit that it includes any impairment suffered as a result of seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another. In addition, section 1 of the Children Act 1989, which applies whenever the court is considering an application for a contact order, requires the court to have the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration. This is reinforced by the welfare checklist at section 1(3) of that Act, which requires the court to have regard to any harm the child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering.

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