‘Witchcraft’ cases may be missed by new plans for information collection

A significant number of child “witchcraft” cases could go undetected under government plans for local safeguarding children boards to collect information on such incidents, a children’s services director has warned.

Andrew Webb (pictured), co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services’ children and families committee, said new government-commissioned research, which led to the proposal, showed geographical variations in how cases were handled.

He said this could mean some cases would not be identified under the plans for safeguarding boards to collate information about witchcraft and feed it back to the Department for Education and Skills.

The research, published last week, found that “witchcraft” cases were not acted on at an early stage because of strict eligibility criteria for social services involvement.

Some public sector professionals lacked understanding of the cases and acted in ways that were not always in the best interests of children, it added.

The research identified 74 cases of abuse clearly linked to accusations of “possession” and “witchcraft” across the UK between January 2000 and December 2005.

Webb said safeguarding boards did not have a high level of resources and that “additional capacity building in key agencies” would be a better approach than giving the boards an extra responsibility.

“It’s of slight concern to me that we won’t pick up on all the information in the right way and therefore we won’t record it,” he said.

Debbie Ariyo, director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said the database was not enough.

“It doesn’t make any sense just to make a database. The organisations that will probably end up on the system will be the good ones and not the ones which you have a problem with,” she said.

Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of “Possession” and “Witchcraft”

Government action

  • Social workers to be based at five ports of entry into the UK and immigration screening units.
  • Good practice guidelines on witchcraft cases for agencies working with children to be published by the end of the year.

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