BREAKING LONDON

The Met is joining with partner agencies to launch The Amber Project to enhance its response to child abuse linked to faith and belief

The project will be formally launched today [Tuesday, 23 November] during an international multi-agency audience event held online. It offers training on abuse linked to witchcraft and spirit possession and how to make referrals to the authorities.
Officers from the Met have been collaborating with the London Borough of Redbridge, University of Chester, University of Cambridge and Barnardo’s National Female Genital Mutilation Centre to co-develop the project.
Inspector Allen Davis, from Crime and Vulnerability, said: “The knowledge and awareness of these offences are not where they should be, and a wide range of professionals need to recognise the potential for abuse in certain situations.
“Cases are often missed or misdiagnosed. Practitioners may not recognise the risk of harm involved, chalking up these accusations to mental health problems or delusion.”
“We need a concerted and coordinated response, where this issue is ‘championed’ locally so that it ceases to be viewed as a taboo issue and hidden harm. Despite its complexity and the cultural sensitivities involved, we need to mainstream our response and ensure professionals are confident to discuss beliefs in a careful but direct and professionally curious manner.”
Dr Naomi Richman, from the University of Cambridge, said: “Efforts are needed to break down the stigma in beliefs in witchcraft and possession, as these are common to so many cultures around the world and are rarely used to justify harm. The Amber Project seeks to equip audiences with the tools to navigate cultural and religious sensitivities, so that they can feel empowered flagging concerns whilst steering clear from negative and damaging stereotypes.”
For some people, evil forces like witchcraft and demons may be responsible for their misfortune. If a particular person is identified as a witch, or as demonically-possessed, an accusation may follow, and in some situations, lead to abuse. (It is also important to be aware that witchcraft in this context does not refer to the Wicca movement, a pagan religion recently re-popularised in which people see witchcraft as a force for good).
Initial evidence indicates that the significant disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the risks of this kind of abuse. Harmful accusations are directly connected to socio-economic upheaval.
In addition, earlier this year the United Nations passed a historic resolution on harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft that result in human rights violations, showing a growing awareness in this area and appetite to address this kind of abuse.
The Amber Project training will consist of an online webinar exploring what this abuse is and how to make effective referrals. It will be followed by question and answer sessions with an audience of 400 plus key safeguarding professionals from faith communities, the Department of Education and the Home Office, teachers, local authorities, non-governmental organisation and more.
Since October 2020 this intervention has been delivered online, with webinars delivered to an average audience of 200 key safeguarding professionals. Today’s event marks the official public launch of The Amber Project.