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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 11:35 GMT
Q & A: Tackling child cruelty
Child homicide rates have not dropped for 25 years
The director of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Neil Hunt, answers questions on the implications of the Victoria Climbie cruelty case.

Q: How unusual is this case?

Neil Hunt: We know that between one and two children die every week at the hands of their parents or carers. Home Office figures show that the rate of child homicide in England and Wales has not dropped over the last 25 years. In each generation of children more than a thousand will be killed before reaching adulthood. Most will die at the hands of violent or neglectful parents and carers.

The full extent of the problem remains hidden

Neil Hunt
However, these figures underestimate actual fatal child abuse, as many such deaths are put down to other causes. It has been estimated that the real incidence of child killings in England and Wales may be double the official homicide rate. But lack of information on the causes and circumstances of many unexpected or suspicious child deaths means the full extent of the problem remains hidden.

Q: What action could the government take?

Neil Hunt: The government must develop a national strategy to reduce the number of deaths.

Q: How could this be tackled?

Neil Hunt: Child Wellbeing Indicators to help monitor outcomes for all maltreated children, measure improvements, and set future policy goals. These should include national targets to reduce the number of deaths from child abuse and neglect.

Child Death Review Teams to look at all cases where children die and review the causes and circumstances of all unexpected or suspicious child deaths. The teams should provide full reports on reviewed deaths to local and central government, outlining the changes in policy and practice required to prevent future deaths.

Independent Children's Commissioners in each of the UK countries to monitor progress by government and public agencies towards the set targets on reducing child killings. Children's Commissioners could oversee and carry out their own inquiries into cases of child abuse and child death causing major concern.

The NSPCC is calling on the government to consult widely on the legislative and policy changes needed to implement such a strategy.

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