HC Deb 20 November 2003 vol 413 c1462W
Mr. Woodward

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what measures are being taken to change the system whereby abusive parents can gain visitation rights to their children; [138170]

(2) how many children were injured during contact visits with an abusive parent in (a) 2001, (b) 2002 and (c) 2003. [138171]

Margaret Hodge

In considering applications for contact (visitation rights) the courts apply the principle, enshrined in the Children Act 1989, that any decision must be based on what is in the child's best interest. We have amended the Children Act 1989 to extend the definition of harm to include harm to a child caused by witnessing domestic violence. We will commence this new provision as soon as resources allow. In 2001 the Government endorsed guidelines on contact and domestic violence produced by the Children Act Sub-Committee of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Board on Family Law. The guidelines have been promulgated and are being monitored and evaluated by research. I will shortly be announcing successful applicants for new supervised child contact centres, funded through joint Children's Fund/Sure Start funding. These new centres will provide safe venues where supervised contact in cases where safety is an issue can take place.

Data about the factors underpinning contact applications, such as allegations about injuries caused to children during previous contact with an allegedly violent parent, are not collected, either by the courts or centrally.

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