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14 August 2012

Plans to tackle faith-based child abuse welcomed

Plans to tackle faith-based child abuse welcomed

The Alliance has welcomed government plans to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief.

The Department for Education announced today its plans to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to take practical steps to prevent such abuse.

The action plan has been developed in partnership with members of the National Working Group, which includes Alliance partners the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) and Bishop Joe Aldred, secretary of minority ethnic Christian affairs at Churches Together in England.

The announcement follows a number of high-profile cases of faith-based child abuse in recent years, including the murders of Kristy Bamu in 2010 and Victoria Climbie in 2000.

Scotland Yard has reported it has conducted 83 investigations into such abuse over the past 10 years.

Dr Aldred said: "Being a member of the working group over the past 18 months has been a sobering experience. Although the numbers are not high, the wellbeing of every child, young or vulnerable person is of utmost importance and so urgent attention must now be given to the contents of the action plan to tackle such abuse. 

"Every child has a right to grow up supported by adults to reach their God-given potential. No child deserves to have that life blighted by abuse, whatever the excuse. While in the overwhelming majority of cases children prosper in faith settings, sadly at times their safety is put in jeopardy precisely because this can be used as cover for abuse and too many are unaware of the harm that can be, and sometimes is, perpetrated under the cloak of faith or belief. This is why we must raise awareness across society of child abuse linked to faith or belief, empower practitioners and empower victims and those at risk, so the wellbeing of all children is assured."

Simon Bass, CEO of CCPAS, commented: "We are pleased that government and all members of the working group have understood the gravity of the problem and recognise that a multi-layered approach is needed if the evil of faith-based abuse is to be combated successfully. We now look forward to working with all parties, particularly faith leaders, to implement its proposals.

"CCPAS's particular status within the Church community has enabled us to initiate engagement with church communities, which led to us professionally train well over 4,000 leaders and workers in how to prevent abuse from taking place in their churches. We are now well-placed to help deliver the other key strand of the Action Plan's strategy, empowering practitioners, since we act as the natural bridge between churches and the statutory agencies."

The action plan is organised into four themes: engaging communities; empowering practitioners; supporting victims and witnesses; and communicating key messages.

Steve Clifford, director general of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "Child abuse of any kind, in any setting, cannot be tolerated. Especially not within the Church. This is why the Evangelical Alliance has worked closely with CCPAS over the years to ensure safeguarding within our member churches and is happy to help raise awareness about the issue. Churches need to be – and the vast majority are – a safe and welcoming place for all, especially the most vulnerable within our communities. This is why we welcome the Department for Education's action plan and look forward to assisting in helping our churches be the safest possible places."