Sunday, 17 November 2013

Emotional Neglect - leave well alone

The campaign to make emotional neglect a criminal offence in England seems to be being driven forward without much attention to either the priority or the logicality of the proposed changes.

An article about this in the Independent seems to me to put mostly only one-side of the argument.

We are told that a majority of police officers want a change in the law, but we are not told what social workers, child psychiatrists and psychologists, paediatricians and other professionals think.

Nor are we told that the civil law in England treats emotional abuse and neglect in just the same way as other type of abuse. There are no legal obstacles to intervening in these cases and bringing matters before the Family Courts.

The only effect of the proposed change to the law would be to allow people who emotionally neglect their children to be arrested and tried in the criminal courts, even imprisoned. In my experience most people who emotionally neglect their children are not rational and calculating; rather they are drug or alcohol dependent or mentally ill. The priority should be to get such people adequate treatment, not put them in prison.

Punishing failing parents seldom does much for their abused and neglected children. In most cases children want the abuse and neglect to stop, not to see their parents behind bars.

And I believe that if the law were changed it would not be long before somebody would be tried and convicted who clearly is not bad but sad. That would then bring the law and child protection into disrepute.

I am surprised by how much support seems to be given to a proposed change in legislation that is supported by so little evidence. Messing about with this issue is a distraction that is likely to result in bad law.