The Department for Education has this week published data confirming that witchcraft and black magic are increasing factors in the abuse of children, with the abuse of children on the basis of faith or belief increasing from 1,460 to 1,950 cases between 2016/2017 and 2018/2019. The Local Government Association is now calling for more resources to tackle the problem as Authorities are dealing with the equivalent of 38 cases per week.
Lancashire, Bradford and Leeds recorded the highest number of cases in 2018/2019.
Some are seeing this data as evidence that social workers are getting better at identifying often hidden and culturally complex factors in abuse. Others however have expressed alarm that the numbers are rising so much after the high profile deaths of Victoria Climbie, Khyra Ishaq and Kristy Bamu from ritual and spiritual abuse.
In a briefing, the Metropolitan Police has stated that belief in evil spirits that can ‘possess’ children is often accompanied by a belief that a possessed child can infect others through sharing food, or simply being in their presence. Rebelliousness, nightmares or falling ill can also be taken as symptoms of possession. The briefing also stresses however that only a minority of people who believe in witchcraft or spirit possession go on to abuse children.
The data also showed the number of children identified by Local Authorities through a social work assessment as either having or being at risk of female genital mutilation has reached a record high with 1,000 such cases in 2018/19, up from 940 cases the previous year.
David Milton, Partner, BLM