High threshold criteria prevent social care agencies from being able to act when child “witchcraft” cases are presented to them at an early stage, according to government commissioned research published yesterday.
The study also found that a lack of understanding around the cases and failure to apply best practice led some public professionals to act in a way that was not always in the best interests of the child.
The accusations of possession or witchcraft by children’s carers frequently went unrecognised by professionals and in some instances children was thought to be making them up the research says.
The study covered cases that occurred since January 2000 within and outside London and found seventy four instances of abuse clearly linked to accusations of “possession” and “witchcraft”.
It says that the number of cases is small compared to the total number of children abused annually. In the 12 months up to the end of March 2005 30,700 children were placed on child protection registers in England.
Other findings included that perpetrators are usually carers – often not the natural parents – and the abuse usually happens in the house where the child lives.
The majority of the cases in the report, which was carried out from September until December 2005, were from London but incidents were found across the UK.
Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of “Possession” and “Witchcraft” from: www.dfes.gov.uk/research