Child safety was on the agenda when London Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis held a roundtable at the European Parliament today with the British charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). The event, entitled “Tackling child cruelty in the EU”, brought together representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

At the round table, the NSPCC circulated the conclusions of its report ‘Child Abuse and Neglect in the UK Today’. The report finds that fewer young adults are reporting physical violence, sexual abuse and prolonged verbal abuse in childhood than a decade ago.

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP said: “The UK has made giant steps in tackling cruelty to children. Nevertheless, the challenge of stamping out child abuse remains. 1 million British children of secondary school age have been abused or neglected. This is a shocking statistic which shows how much children still need our protection.

”I hope that the NSPCC’s presentation here in Brussels will serve as an opportunity to exchange best practice in the field of child protection. Child cruelty is a problem not only in the UK, but also throughout the European Union. I personally believe that the EU should be about sharing knowledge and experience rather than top-down diktats from Brussels. This applies equally to preventing cruelty to our children.

“While I appreciate the work of the Child Rights Team at the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, I must express my concern about the rising cost of such “EU quangos”. The Fundamental Rights Agency costs EU taxpayers €20 million a year and duplicates much of the work done by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, to say nothing of the valuable contribution made by Member States’ own governments including the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“We must skilfully employ the resources at our disposal to protect our children rather than wasting money and efforts through pointless duplication.”

Dr. Lorraine Radford of the NSPCC said, “Reliable and accurate data is crucial to helping us understand the scale of child abuse - where it happens, which children are most at risk and who is doing it. We can then find better ways to prevent it, tackle it and help the children who are victims of it.

“The NSPCC’s research gives a fuller and more up-to-date picture of child abuse and neglect than we have ever had before. The research shows the UK has been made some progress with 18 to 24 year olds reporting experiencing significantly less physical, sexual and verbal aggression in 2009 than in 1998 but it is still widespread. Most cases are still never reported and no action is taken. This is totally unacceptable. That’s why we welcome the European Commission’s commitment to addressing the lack of reliable, comparable and official data in the EU”