Now, I’m sure that we are all familiar with fairy tales. “Once upon a time”, “happily ever after”; does that ring a bell? I thought it would. Whilst these stories tend to end with true love and happiness for our beloved protagonists, we cannot ignore their journey to that point, often clouded by doom and gloom. Turning to these stories can demonstrate clear examples of ill-treatment that you could experience in your life. It is important to be aware of how the law in Wales protects you if you were ever in similar situations and books can help us to understand. Let us focus on the story of Cinderella, adapted by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm.
Cinderella is the story of a young girl who suffered a great deal of sadness. After her mother tragically passed away, her father married another woman. Well, it is fair to say that it did not take long for the fog to lift, unveiling the truly horrible nature of Cinderella’s new stepmother. To make matters worse, the evil stepmother brought with her two evil daughters who followed in their mother’s footsteps. Surrounded by her cruel family members, Cinderella was subjected to wickedness and injustice, until her luck began to change.
We shall not get carried away with the magic that unravels as the story transpires, but rather our attention is directed to Cinderella’s life at home. Cinderella was forced to work all through the day and all through the night. She cleaned, she scoured, and she slept on a straw bed on the floor. With nothing but dirty rags provided for clothes and no freedom, it is clear that she is neglected. Additionally, our damsel in distress is mocked and bullied by her evil stepsisters. Whilst you may not be able to see emotional abuse and the psychological damage it may cause; it does not make it any less real for those who experience it.
Cinderella was very unhappy and dared not to complain to her father and therefore, did not receive help. This poor girl suffered and endured a life that no one should have to. If you feel that you can relate in any way to the treatment Cinderella received, you may want to learn about your rights.
What to do if you are neglected and/or emotionally abused at home?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights at the Child (UNCRC), signed by the Welsh government, provides rights for children. In Wales, the UNCRC has been adopted as Welsh Law under the rights of Children and Young Persons (Welsh) Measure 2011. This means that the Welsh government must consider the rights for children under UNCRC when creating new laws.
To some, home is somewhere that you can be sure you will be safe. To others, as shown in Cinderella, it is not. Article 9 (UNCRC) states that you have the right to live with your parents and to not be separated from them, providing that you are receiving appropriate care. If you are suffering from neglect or abuse in any way, then this is not an acceptable level of care. If this is something that you experience, there are people and organisations that can help you. You can speak to another adult, such as your teachers, who will do their best to protect you.
As Article 19 (UNCRC) provides, you should not be harmed, you should be looked after and kept safe. If your teachers are made aware of or suspect that you are suffering abuse, they must inform the local authority. s130 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 requires that health and social professionals and teachers must inform the local authority if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect or other types of harm. In other words, it is the law that they report it!
If a concern is raised regarding your care, the local authority child protection team has a legal duty to investigate this. If a child is in immediate danger, the local authority can take action through the courts to remove the child from the home of the abuser, to a place of safety. If a child is not in immediate danger, there will be an initial assessment of the child’s needs. Under s21 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, the local authority has a statutory duty to assess the needs of a child if they appear to need additional support to that provided by their family. If a child appears to be suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm, the local authority has a duty to investigate under s47 of the Children Act 1989.
Therefore, seeking help can lead to your parents receiving better support for looking after you or finding a more suitable carer for a time, depending on your circumstances. During this process you have rights to protect your views and your voice. The priority should always be your best interests. Article 12 (UNCRC) protects your right to say what you think should happen and you should be listened to. This is important to remember; your views will not be ignored!
What is clear in Cinderella’s story is that she most definitely did not experience a high standard of living. She did not have access to appropriate clothing, nutrition or a bed to sleep on. A high standard of living is a right that each child has, under Article 27 (UNCRC). Your development is so very important, and you should have secure living conditions to reflect this.
If, like Cinderella, you are subjected to psychological harm, or you experience physical harm via emotional abuse, you have a right under Article 39 (UNCRC) to receive special help in recovery. This right covers any form of neglect or degrading treatment or punishment. Abuse in any form is unacceptable and you have a right to be protected from this and to receive assistance with recovering from any such experiences.
Whilst this blog has covered some upsetting themes, these are situations that can occur in real life and of which we should be aware. We are all human beings and whether you are a child or an adult, the law is there to help protect you.
If you aren’t aware of what happens next to Cinderella, do read on. This timeless story reminds us that being good at heart will shine through in the end.
My name is Kaitlin Markey. I have just recently graduated from my LLB Law degree at Swansea University. I hope to become a successful solicitor but in the meantime, I am enjoying volunteering where I can. When I was younger, I adored reading the Harry Potter books (and still do!) but my favourite authors were Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy.