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Children: Protection

Justice written question – answered on 27th June 2012.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) what assessment he has made of the report by Action for Children, Keeping children safe: The case for reforming the law on child neglect; and if he will make a statement outlining the Government's response to that report;

(2) if he will consider reviewing Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 for the purposes of assessing the effectiveness of the Act for tackling and preventing child neglect.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Justice) (Prisons and Probation)

The Ministry of Justice has noted the content of the report. The Government is already addressing many of the concerns raised. We continue to shift the focus onto earlier intervention, recognising that the earlier that help is given to vulnerable children and families, the more chance there is of turning lives around and protecting children from harm. Early intervention is key to addressing problems in their early stages to prevent them escalating and so to protect vulnerable children from neglect and cruelty.

The Government is undertaking a number of reforms to strengthen social work practice. This includes improving the social work degree and developing further the skills of existing social workers in critical areas such as child protection. We have advertised for and intend to appoint a Chief Social Worker, who will work with the new College of Social Work and the newly designated Principal Child and Family Social Workers in local authorities to drive improvement and raise standards. On 12 June the Department for Education published its revised training resources and guidance ‘Childhood neglect: Improving outcomes for children The framework' and ‘Childhood neglect: Improving outcomes for children—Guidance for trainers’ to assist practitioners from all key disciplines to develop the knowledge, skills and values required to work effectively as part of a network of support and protection.

The offence of child cruelty under section 1 of the 1933 Act covers a wide range of behaviour and while some of the language in the 1933 Act may now be considered old fashioned the courts interpret the elements of the offence in the light of contemporary understandings.

The Ministry of Justice has not been made aware of any difficulties experienced by prosecutors in using section 1 of the 1933 Act, nor of any indication that they think it needs to be amended.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is part of a comprehensive legislative framework for protecting children and keeping them safe from harm. Other relevant legislation includes the Children Acts 1989 and 2004 and the Education Act 1996. Given the provisions of the legislative framework as a whole, there are no plans at present to amend the 1933 Act.

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