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Penny Booth: Children - who is protecting what from whom now?

Date:24 MAR 2010

Penny Booth

Leading doctors are calling for a ban on smoking in cars in an attempt to provide protection for children from passive smoking. This makes the The Times front page news today, plus a stern letter on the letters page inside.

The expansion of protective law like this is overdue (can't think why it wasn't brought in before) but it really does beg some questions and provide yet another law that it is going to be hard to enforce.

Oh yes, the obvious lighting-up as you get into the car to take those obese children home from school could be 'tutted' at and could be enforced, but will it mean cleaning out the car every time a fag is lit up enroute by the combustion engine method, before you can give a lift to yours or someone else's child? Goodbye to outings as they used to be. It won't be the only combustion around, in all likelihood. No doubt (and I don't doubt that it is) a good idea but one that will be hard to operate - and that really is a poor law, isn't it? We will think we are protecting children but all we will do is make smoking as attractive as all those other sinful and secret activities and as they go underground they will become more attractive for the young.

Now, compare this with another aspect of child protection this week... the Pope and the priesthood are really getting it; no, not smoking this time, but the allegations and occurrences of child abuse that find a centre round the Catholic Church. Ken MacDonald 'Call the Police: that is what the Pope should have said' (The Times, page 19 Wednesday 24 March 2010) makes a good read, outlining the result of failing to deal with a crime of disgusting proportions.

It does seem that between the two, a Church (any church?) we should be able to trust, and our parents and carers (who are supposed to protect us) we are running out of individuals and institutions to trust for child care - emphasis on the 'care'. I, for one, find the third alternative, the State, not one I feel I might always be able to trust. After all, barely a week goes by without some social worker trusting in their latest-thinking modern approach to social care and forgeting to apply refined common sense. So it seems to me, anyway. After all, the State in all its magnificence is supposed to provide appropriate laws - and isn't doing so.

Penny Booth is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.