Parts of new government guidance on child abuse linked to a belief in spirit possession have been slammed as “naive” by a charity.
David Pearson, executive director of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, criticised expectations that people who had fled persecution and were in fear of removal to their countries of origin would routinely seek help from statutory agencies.
He said: “Communities that have experienced horror in their country of origin are often terrified of repatriation. To expect oppressed marginalised, frightened people to calmly ‘seek advice from the statutory agencies’ is simply not realistic.”
The non-statutory guidance aims to help practitioners apply the government’s statutory guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, to such cases.
Research commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills last year identified 38 cases, involving 47 children, linked to spirit possession since January 2000. The guidance says migrant families are likely to turn to non-governmental and faith-based organisations if they are facing difficulties.
It warns that, although some of these organisations may be helpful, some faith groups may also be instrumental in this form of abuse and local checks on groups should be made. The guidance also states that if immigration status is a factor affecting a family the Immigration and Nationality Directorate must be invited to any strategy meeting and be aware of any potential abuse of the child.