Social workers will be expected to be more aware of the signs of witchcraft and faith-related child abuse when ministers publish research on the issue later this year.
A national working group, set up by ministers last year, will publish proposals on tackling faith-based child abuse, including actions for government, local authorities, community and faith organisations.
The proposals could be published in the next couple of months, Community Care understands.
It follows concerns from charities and faith-based groups that witchcraft and faith-related child abuse is a growing problem in the UK.
Yesterday Eric Bikubi, 28, and Magalie Bamu, 29, were found guilty of murdering Bamu’s 15-year-old brother Kristy who the pair had accused of practising witchcraft.
A jury at the Old Bailey heard the couple – who live in Newham but are both originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo – drowned the teenager in a bath on Christmas Day in 2010, during a ritual designed to exorcise the 15-year-old of suspected witchcraft.
The pair were remanded in custody and are due to be sentenced on Monday.
In a statement, the Trust for London – the largest funder of preventative work to tackle child abuse linked to spirit possession – described the case as “horrific” and said more needs to be done to prevent child abuse linked to accusations of witchcraft and spirit possession.
The charity is concerned not all professionals know how to deal with such abuse and urged councils to invest in training so frontline workers are confident about identifying, and responding, to this type of abuse.
Child protection agencies should also reach out to local faith organisations to offer training and advice, and to help identify potential risks to children.
“Although incidents of this type of abuse appear to be rare, this case demonstrates that the impact can be devastating; the latest recorded statistics show that in the UK there have been victims from white British, Asian and African backgrounds.
“Those working with children need to remember that no faith or culture promotes cruelty to children and not be afraid to intervene if someone is wrongly using belief as an excuse to harm children,” the charity said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Child abuse should be tackled wherever it occurs, in whatever community and whatever form it takes – it is never acceptable.
“Councils and voluntary, community and faith organisations are working together with the Government to understand faith-based child abuse better, raise awareness of this issue among professionals and the public, and support communities to tackle this form of child abuse.”
- Community Care Inform: Guide to tackling issues relating to spirit possession and demonisation associated with places of worship
- Community Care Inform: Research study – Safeguarding children’s rights: exploring issues of witchcraft and spirit possession in London’s African communities
The challenge of witchcraft to child protection social services