20 March 2020

New programme launched to support fight against ‘witchcraft allegations’

The centre dedicated to fighting female genital mutilation (FGM) has launched a first-of-its-kind e-learning programme to address the startling rise of witchcraft allegations against children.

The National FGM Centre has launched its programme to tackle witchcraft and other harmful practices against women, such as forced marriages and honour-based abuse.

Over the past 18 months the centre, which is run in partnership by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association (LGA), has supported 38 children and young people who have experienced child abuse linked to faith and belief.

The centre believes this scale of the issue, however, is far greater, but many of those working with children have inadequate knowledge and are failing to spot the signs and make appropriate referrals.

‘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% 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,’ said Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre.

‘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.’

To fill this knowledge gap the centre has developed the e-learning package.

Aimed at teachers, social workers, police, lawyers and health professionals, the programme equips those working with vulnerable children with the right knowledge and skills to identify and refer cases of child abuse linked to faith and belief.

‘Vulnerable children are being overlooked and missing out on the support and care they need to overcome the trauma they have experienced,’ said Dr. Bartholomew

‘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.’

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