Action to tackle child abuse linked to “witchcraft” accusations has been stepped up following a report into the issue, the government says.
The government-commissioned study into cases among UK African communities said belief in witchcraft was widespread.
But the number of child abuse cases as a result was small compared with the overall figure, researchers said.
Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said any cases of abuse would not be tolerated.
“Child abuse can never be acceptable in any culture, any community, in any circumstance,” Ms Hughes said.
A comprehensive multi-agency strategy had already been put in place to speed up identification of cases and deal with the perpetrators, Ms Hughes said.
And a new project funded by the government would intensify efforts to tackle the problem in London, she added.
The report by Eleanor Stobart was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in the wake of high-profile court cases involving the abuse of African children following allegations of witchcraft.
It follows a controversial Metropolitan Police report last year suggesting that abuse linked to churches was rife.
The report, Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of Possession and Witchcraft, examined cases of abuse which occurred since January 2000.
It identified 74 cases of abuses linked to witchcraft allegations, many of which had common factors – such as a child being scapegoated, family structure and disability.
“By recognising these patterns and links it may be possible to identify children at risk early and prevent cases from escalating,” the report states.
The report makes five principal recommendations, saying national and local government should:
- Maintain a central record of child abuse cases linked to witchcraft allegations
- Collect better information about the movement of children in and out of the UK
- Ensure places of worship have child protection procedures in place
- Encourage the preparation of “good practice” guidelines by agencies in the field
- Forge better links with non-governmental organisations
The report has been welcomed by a church child welfare group.
David Person of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service said the vast majority of established African churches took seriously their responsibility to safeguard children, but newer groups needed to be targeted.
“Many of these congregations are made up of people who are relatively recent arrivals to the UK who have not addressed the issues,” Mr Pearson said.