Safeguarding course tackles witchcraft allegations and honour-based abuse

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A rise in allegations of witchcraft against children has sparked the release of an e-learning programme to help professionals spot the signs of this little understood form of abuse.

The online CPD has been developed by the National FGM Centre and the course will also cover other safeguarding issues including forced marriage, honour-based abuse and female genital mutilation.

Department for Education children in need data shows an increase in the number of witchcraft and faith-based abuse cases being identified. In 2018/19, there were 1,950 cases, a 34 per cent increase from the previous year.

The National FGM Centre, which is run by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association (LGA), says that this is a “startling rise” but fears that it is just the tip of an iceberg as many professionals do not know what signs to look out for and so fail to make appropriate referrals.

It also fears that professionals lack the skills needed to undertake comprehensive assessments.

It comes amid fears that the current pandemic will see further rises in accusations of witchcraft. This is because families who believe in spirit possession and witchcraft will often think this is the reason for a death within the family, a period of illness, financial hardship or unemployment.

Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, said: “This belief system led to an increase in accusations of witchcraft during the Ebola epidemic and it is thought the current crisis could lead to this happening again.”

The new e-learning programme has been set-up to fill these gaps and is aimed at teachers, social workers, police, lawyers and health professionals.

Child abuse linked to faith or belief will often present as neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and the challenge for professionals lies in identifying the underlying cause of the abuse.

Mr Bartholomew added: “In the last year the number of child protection cases in England where child abuse linked to faith and belief was a factor went up by 34 per cent to 1,950. While that may seem alarming, what is even more worrying is the fact that this is, in all likelihood, a massive underestimate.

“There is clearly a need to address this issue, but there is a distinct lack of awareness and understanding of harmful practices and a lack of good quality training for professionals.

"Because of this, vulnerable children are being overlooked and are missing out on the support and care they need to overcome the trauma they have experienced.

“This is unacceptable. With this new e-learning tool, those working with vulnerable children will be trained to recognise the signs of abuse linked to faith and belief, so that survivors will hopefully get the help they need.”

The National FGM Centre also offers CPD and training focused on FGM and the practice of breast flattening and child abuse linked to faith or belief.


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