The NSPCC below offers professionals advice on tackling child abuse in British south Asian communities.
A recent NSPCC survey of 500 British south Asians revealed that 42 per cent of those who suspected child abuse did nothing about their concerns. Of those who did act, less than four per cent reported it to the police and only three per cent reported it to social services.
Manager of the NSPCC’s Asian child protection helpline and member of the Asian community, Saleha Islam says this is no surprise. Islam believes the south Asian communities, social services, police, and other child protection professionals need to work together to break down the barriers to reporting abuse so that south Asian children can be protected.
“As part of the south Asian community I know that people are afraid to go outside the community to get help. They have real fears about the child being removed from the family and outsiders not understanding Asian cultures, religions and languages.
“The results of the survey showed that most people choose to deal with the problem themselves by telling a member of the child’s family or speaking to the child they suspect is being abused themselves. I have had calls from people on the NSPCC’s Asian helpline reporting abuse but refusing to give the contact details of the family because they want to deal with the problem themselves, rather than getting the authorities involved.
“Through the NSPCC’s work with south Asian communities over the years and calls to the Asian helpline, we hear directly from the community about what stops them from seeking professional help. People often wrongly believe the authorities are not to be trusted and intervention by the authorities is to be avoided.
“Many do not understand why authorities get involved and what happens when they do. Some believe urban myths about children being removed from their homes after midnight or placed for adoption because they were smacked.
“Being Asian, I know the importance of family life and keeping the honour of the family name. If something goes wrong it falls on the shoulders of the adults in the family to sort it out themselves. The problem is that individuals or families who delay getting help early can risk further harm to a child and furthermore protect the perpetrator, making the situation much worse.
“To address these issues and help encourage the south Asian communities to turn to the authorities for help, child protection professionals must take into account cultural differences and be knowledgeable of the barriers faced by south Asian individuals wanting to protect a child.
“To help them do this, best practice advice and help on these issues is available to professionals through the Asian child protection helpline. Professionals can talk to staff with specialist knowledge and experience over the phone free of charge about Asian families they work with, so they can help families manage these issues without compromising their children’s safety.
“This service is also there for anyone in the south Asian community to turn to who has concerns about a child.
Counsellors can take calls from adults and children in Bengali, Sylheti, Gujurati, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and English to give advice and support to keep children safe.
“The south Asian community must understand that putting ethnic and cultural beliefs before the safety of a child can put them in danger. Attitudes must change to working with and seeking help from the authorities.
“Child protection professionals and the south Asian communities working in partnership will help break down some of the barriers that prevent individuals from getting help. Early reporting and interventions can make a difference and save children’s lives.”
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