Children are not properly protected against the small percentage of the population who abuse them. Although statutory bodies have access to police records, there are lengthy waiting lists for screening of job applicants. And gaps in the procedure still exist, for example in parts of the voluntary sector.
I was concerned, too, by the anti-male bias of many of your letter writers. The majority of abuse cases which have been brought to light involve adult males, often closely related to the children themselves. But increasingly evidence is coming forward of abuse by women as well as men. The motivation, qualifications and attitude towards children of all applicants should be closely scrutinised, a basic element of a national child protection strategy.
We must also recognise that a growing number of children are being brought up in lone-parent households, where the resident parent is a woman. In my view, children lose out if they do not have both male and female role models. Surely all the evidence points to the desperate need, not only to move away from the increasingly unrealistic role-stereotyping of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, but also to improve parenting skills of boys as well as girls.
I would argue for a nationwide scheme providing quality, affordable nursery education for all children, irrespective of their parents' working status, and provided by qualified, properly paid staff. In an ideal world this would be a cornerstone of a child-friendly society which took time to listen to children, through the offices of a Minister for Children and an independent Children's Rights Commissioner. A society which, furthermore, made clear statements about the value it placed on its children, and on those who look after them.
Joan Lestor MP
House of Commons SW1Reuse content