Society must change to prevent abuse

Society as a whole must take responsibility for stopping child
abuse, a conference was told.

David Mitchell reportsSimon Lewis\posed my modelThe need for a
radical reappraisal of how society can prevent child abuse was
underlined when more than 120 child care experts met in Glasgow
last week.

Organised by the National Commission of Inquiry in to the
Prevention of Child Abuse and Community Care, the conference
examined ways ahead following a similar event in London earlier
this month.

The commission was set up in August last year to consider how
child abuse can most effectively be prevented. It is meeting,
taking evidence and carrying out visits throughout the UK before
reporting next spring.

Commission member Stewart Asquith, St Kentigern Professor for
the Study of the Child at Glasgow University, said prevention
strategies had to operate at a number of levels including the
population as a whole, groups at risk, and cases where children had
been taken into care.

‘We are considering the need for a more extensive notion of
abuse to cover the range of experiences children and young people
go through,’ he said.

Asquith called for a fundamental look at society’s response to
abuse, along with an examination of the place of children in

‘A preventive strategy will have to address not just why
children are abused and in what way, but also the social climate
which inhibits them from revealing that they have been abused,’ he

Veteran poverty campaigner Bob Holman claimed neighbourhood
projects, controlled by local residents in areas of social
deprivation, had a part to play in prevention.

‘We should aim for equality in child care, for a society in
which there are no great differences in the conditions and
advantages available to all children. Abuse of all kinds will be
less likely in such a social environment,’ said Holman, a community
worker in the Easterhouse area of Glasgow.

‘If neighbourhood projects have a part to play in forming the
kind of communities and services which promote family life then a
strategy is required to fund them,’ he said.

Christine Hallett, professor of social work at Stirling
University, claimed there was a distinct lack of knowledge about
the effectiveness of prevention programmes.

‘We need to be more specific about child abuse, what it is we
are trying to prevent, why particular policies are effective in
some circumstances and what works in prevention,’ she said.

Several recent studies had examined the perspectives of abusers
and survivors to learn messages about prevention, said Hallett.

She said she preferred social policies which promoted a greater
degree of social justice and equity. ‘The more child-centred
culture we have, and the more respectful of children we are, the
less need there will be to put in place strategies for the
prevention of child abuse.’

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