Abuse survivors are cautiously welcoming David Cameron’s proposal that teachers, councillors and social workers could be jailed for up to five years for failing to protect children from harm.
The prime minister said the government is considering the proposals in a bid to tackle child sexual exploitation following the Rotherham scandal where evidence suggested at least 1,400 children had been abused.
The plans which will extend the offence of ‘wilful neglect’ to cover education and children’s social care already cover the neglect of patients by care workers.
South West Londoner spoke exclusively to abuse survivors to gauge their response to the proposals.
Marie E, 37 from Essex, welcomes the plans. She suffered abuse from the age of eight and was placed in care at 14 – she felt teachers should have picked up on signs that she was being abused.
She said: “I was constantly falling asleep, my grades were bad, I was introverted, I couldn’t make friends – something was clearly wrong.
“Teachers see kids every day. Kids should be in school – if they are not in school then there is a problem.
Kirsty T, aged 35 from Gloucester, believes the proposals are a positive step forward.
She was placed in care at seven years old having suffered abuse at the hands of her mother from birth.
She’s since requested access to her files from social services and queried why she was left in her mother’s care for so long.
Kirsty said: “The worst case scenario is someone loses their job if a child dies when actually a crime against humanity has been committed.”
“The worst case scenario is someone loses their job if a child dies when actually a crime against humanity has been committed.”
However 24-year-old Perry James from London, who was in care from the age of eight until 19 years old, agreed with the idea in principle but didn’t understand how it could work in reality.
He questioned how a teacher in charge of a class of 30 could dedicate their time and attention to just one child and also cited the high turnover of socials workers as another reason why some children slip through the net.
He had 14 social workers looking after him over the course of 11 years – the longest stayed with him for just 12 months.
He said: “Social workers get moved about so quickly and they can’t do anything about it.”
He explained that he felt uncomfortable disclosing any information with a social worker who would only be with him a couple of months.
Mr James added: “If anything the same social worker should be with the same child for a number of years.”
Merton’s cabinet member for Children’s Services Councillor Maxi Martin explained that all of the council, including safeguarding partners, have a responsibility to look out for young people across the borough.
She said: “Safeguarding our young people is our top priority.
“The whole of society has a responsibility to inform the relevant authorities if they have any concerns about the safety and wellbeing of children so that specialists working in the field of child protection can take the appropriate action and offer help and support where needed.”
If anyone needs any information, guidance or support visit www.nspcc.org.uk.
Young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111.
Calls are free and confidential. Alternatively contact, Merton Safeguarding Children Board on 020 8545 4226 between the hours of 9-5pm or the out of hours service on 020 8770 5000.
Featured image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks