Todays announcement by the NSPCC that over the last year cases of emotional abuse referred by them to Children’s Social Services or the police had risen by nearly 50% reignites the debate concerning the Action for Children proposal to introduce the so call ‘Cinderella Law’ which would amend the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933.

At the moment traditionally, the 4 categories that are considered in child abuse are:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • neglect
  • emotional

More often than not you argue that if there was evidence of a child being abused under the first three categories that inevitably that also was emotionally abusive. Now, however, the singling out of emotional abuse in its own right clarifies matters more for the many children who are caused unnecessary suffering but just not physically or sexually or neglected. Though I must admit this is arguable.

The proposal is to make it a crime in it’s own right and the NSPCC’s helpline in 2013/14 received 8,000 calls – of which 5,300 merited further attention.

Emotional neglect includes telling children they’re worthless, they’re not loved anymore or that they are lesser human beings than their siblings – and I’m not talking of just once in anger but systematically. It also includes ¬†forcing children to exceed what’s reasonably expected of them and imposing sanctions if they don’t achieve unreasonable levels of success. It also can include stopping children from socialising with peers and experiencing activity that would be considered reasonable in any family – again not on a one off basis but systematically and cruelty.

We are all aware of the very difficult cases where children are neglected by omission. In other words where a parent has no understanding of how to properly parent a child, but that lack of expertise or understanding on the parents part is not, in my view, deliberate abuse and so when working with a parent, change is possible.

What we are talking about here is fundamental, deliberate, impairing of the child’s development by persistent deprivation of love and affection and allocating tasks and targets that the parent knows the child will never obtain – and punishing them for it.


I think these figures from the NSPCC indicate the depth of need out there in the community and this proposal for the so called ‘Cinderella Law’ is now being supported by substantial data. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

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