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Right of Reply: Debra Shipley

The Labour MP, a sponsor of the Protection of Children Act, reacts to Diane Coyle's recent article in which the legislation was criticised as over-protective of children
I DON'T know to whom the headline "What our children really need is a regime of benign neglect" is designed to appeal, but it certainly doesn't appeal to me. If Diane Coyle were to read letters in my postbag, the notion that neglect can ever be benign would be quickly banished.

Organisations such as the NSPCC are at the sharp end of child-related issues. Its officers see first-hand the abuse that children suffer - from strangers, from childcare workers and from family members. It is not a climate of fear that is developing but a climate of honesty. And not before time.

For years and years children were physically, mentally and sexually abused by those who were meant to protect them. Now, at last, their voices are being heard and their stories believed.

When I brought in the Protection of Children Act (which makes vetting of potential childcare workers a statutory duty), I was shocked at the paucity of existing safety regulations to protect children. The Government is now proposing that it should be a criminal offence for a convicted abuser to seek work with children.

My Act and the Government's proposals certainly don't add up to a "bureaucrat with powers over other people's jobs". Rather the legislation will help protect the vulnerable and provide a degree of peace of mind for genuinely concerned adults.

Ms Coyle states that "we must accept that there are bad carers, bad parents, and bad people". OK, so we accept it. Now let's do something about it. So what about this notion of "benign neglect"? Neglect is neglect is neglect. A child who isn't fed properly, loved, protected, educated, is neglected. There is nothing remotely benign about neglect.