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HEALTH MINISTER RESPONDS TO NSPCC REPORT

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The government will continue to strengthen measures to protect children and support families in real need, health m...
The government will continue to strengthen measures to protect children and support families in real need, health minister Simon Burns has pledged.

Responding to a report published by the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse, Mr Burns, the minister with responsibility for child care and protection, said:

'The National Commission has produced a wide-ranging report. It raises public awareness and underscores the need never to relax our guard against the evil of child abuse. We will look carefully at its recommendations. But we must not overlook the needs of all children, like disabled children who need help and support too.

'However, we disagree with some of the report's conclusions. It is a mistake to widen the definition of child abuse. Child care workers and others need clear advice on the signs of abuse, not vague definitions which are in danger of being misinterpreted.

'Nor do we agree that the law should be changed to prevent parents using 'reasonable chastisement'. We will continue to defend the right of parents to smack their children. The report is wrong to equate sensible discipline with child abuse.'

As the report acknowledges, the department of health spends £1.75bn on children's services, over 34% of the total spent on personal social services. The report places great emphasis on preventing abuse through greater involvement of local communities, voluntary organisations and support for families. Mr Burns continued:

'The department of health has already identified this as a key element of its new strategy for refocusing children's services and our thinking has moved on since this inquiry began two years ago.

'In line with one of the main recommendations, we have announced that we will revise our Working Together guidance to reflect the change in emphasis on child protection from purely crisis intervention to support services for children and families in need, including victims of child abuse.'

-- The report - Childhood Matters - is available from the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse, 42 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3NH. Tel 0171 825 2745.

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