Childhood matters

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7081.622 (Published 01 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:622

Doctors have a vital role in identifying children at risk of abuse

  1. C J Hobbs, Consultant community paediatriciana,
  2. P L Heywood, General practitionerb
  1. a St James University Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF
  2. b Street Lane Practice, Leeds LS8 1AY

    Britain is failing too many of its children. This is the bleak conclusion of the recently published report of the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse (Childhood Matters).1 At some time, 10% of children are at risk of substantial harm. This could be prevented, and, rightly, few agencies or professional groups are spared the requirement to improve.

    The commission defines child abuse as “anything which individuals, institutions or processes do or fail to do which directly or indirectly harms children or damages their prospects of a safe and healthy development into adulthood.” Hence, the omissions of our professions and our tardiness in implementing change, from this perspective, are themselves abusive. This has already attracted criticism from the government, the key institution with parent-like responsibilities, which is presently considering a return to more brutal methods of child rearing.2

    Evidence was taken from over 10 000 people, including many who were abused …

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