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Child welfare campaigners recognised with honorary doctorates

UEL students graduation

Two leading figures in the fight to protect vulnerable children urged the next generation of social workers to be collaborative, innovative and loving at a graduation ceremony held on Wednesday for students belonging to the University of East London’s Cass School of Education and Communities.

UEL honoured Mr Mor Dioum and Ms Stephanie Yorath of The Victoria  Climbié Foundation at the ceremony with Honorary Doctorates of Education. Many of the graduates they spoke to received degrees in social work.

"Go out there. Focus on children. Prepare to implement the training you received from the University of East London," Mr Dioum said. "Be prepared to be open-minded, innovative and creative, and be prepared to share information with a focus on safeguarding children."

"Ultimately, I would like social work students to take three words forward: to share, to love and to care," Ms Yorath said.  "We would like you to learn from the mistakes of the past. We would like you to care because the work you are doing is so important."

Mr Dioum and Ms Yorath are the heart of The Victoria Climbié Foundation – an organisation that rose from the ashes of tragedy to become one of the country’s foremost advocates for improving child protection policies and practices.

Over the past dozen years, the Foundation has worked with policymakers to improve legislation and policy, developed innovative advocacy services for families and collaborated with local authorities to improve practices.

Mr Dioum represented Victoria Climbié’s parents during the public inquiry that followed the young girl’s death in 2000, which occurred after multiple public agencies failed to intervene in the long-term abuse she suffered at the hands of her aunt.

In 2003, Mr Dioum and Victoria’s parents created the Foundation to campaign, in Victoria’s name, for improvements in child protection policies and practices. Ms Yorath joined the organisation in 2007.

The Foundation led the government’s National Advisory Group for Preventing Faith-Based Abuse, which resulted in the publication of the national action plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief.  The foundation has also intervened in high-profile abuse cases such as that of Kristy Bamu, the 15-year old boy killed in Newham by family members who accused him of witchcraft.

Mr Dioum and Ms Yorath and The Victoria Climbie Foundation have been working with UEL’s Centre for Social Work Research, based at the Cass School, since 2008. Collaborations include the organising of a conference that looked at ways to safeguard children from abuse children from abuse through witchcraft and spirit possession.

"The partnership is an example that needs to be out there among academics and the establishment, for the better safeguarding of children," Mr Dioum said on Wednesday. "Our partnership has, over the years, contributed to the improvement of child protection work in the UK."

All of UEL’s graduation ceremonies are taking place this week at indigo at The O2 at Peninsula Square in London.