International congress for the prevention of child abuse and neglect

In September, Dr Angie Cucchi, lecturer in psychotherapy and counselling at Regent’s, joined over 400 experts, professionals, and high-level officials in Muscat, Oman for the sixth international congress for the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The congress was organised in close co-operation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and included professionals from over 35 different countries. 

The international platform allowed attendees to share their wealth of knowledge and experiences in the field of child rights and child protection, promoting evidence-based practices in preventing and responding to child maltreatment. Several themes were addressed during the conference ranging from violence against children, child abuse, cyberbullying, domestic violence and its impact on the well-being of the child, legislation and successful initiatives addressing child violence. 

The United Nations’ Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children highlighted that: ‘There is a change in attitudes at every level […] but we also see increasing trends of children on the move due to conflict, natural disasters and climate change. More needs to be done, better and faster, to protect children worldwide […] and to ensure that no child is left behind’. 

The UNICEF Representative echoed this: ‘A generation of children is being shaped by violence, displacement, and a persistent lack of opportunities for reasons of geography, gender or ethnicity. We hope that this unique stage will allow us […] to take stock of the progress made in improving the lives of children and adolescents.’

Dr Cucchi gave a presentation and a skills-based workshop on stopping intergenerational transmission of trauma through mentalising-based interventions. She commented: ‘I was delighted to see that the programme was holistic and included topics that have traditionally been considered lower priority, if not taboo. 

‘The wide definition of child maltreatment allowed for honest and transparent conversations around the prevalence and the psychological/physical impact of female genitalia mutilation and the practice of forced feeding, amongst many other issues.

‘There is a long way ahead of us to ensure that all children are free from psychological and physical harm but opening up conversations and having high-ranking government officials listening is a first step in the right direction. I am happy to be part of that push for change.’

Following the conference, Dr Cucchi was approached by officials from the Omani Ministry of Health and Education regarding the possibility of further work to tackle young people’s well-being. ‘In collaboration with my colleague, Professor Cecilia Essau (University of Roehampton), we have arranged to take a capacity-building cognitive behavioural therapy programme to schools in Oman’.

The programme, called Super Skills for Life (SSL), was devised by Essau and Ollendick (2013) as a trans-diagnostic approach to mental health prevention in young people. It aims to target the common core risk factors of emotional and behavioural problems. Whilst still at the planning phase, the Omani government has agreed in principle to the implementation of the programme and has arranged for a special committee from both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

‘The thing that I am most excited about is the systemic nature of the programme. In fact, by training professionals to deliver the programme in schools and in youths’ centres, our interventions will have a ripple effect and we’ll be able to reach young people on a much wider scale. I am really looking forward to that.’