Thursday, 24 April 2008

Strange Decisions by Courts and Social Workers

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John Hemming MP told the House of Commons of a number of strange decisions by family courts in an adjournment debate yesterday. He explained the details behind the case of Fran Lyon and that Doctors in Sweden believe she should sue doctors in the North East for Medical Malpractise.From Hansard:Fran Lyon’s case never encountered the courts. She was a pregnant mother who became one of my constituents for a while before she emigrated. She was told that she was such a great risk to her baby that the child had to be removed within 15 minutes of birth and she could never breast-feed. However, her case was reviewed in Sweden. All the information cooked up by children’s services and doctors in Northumberland was examined and it was decided to discharge her from hospital. Fran suffers from angiodaema so she has a tracheotomy. The doctors in the north-east said she had Munchhausen syndrome by proxy and caused her angiodaema herself. The doctors in Sweden said that she should sue the doctors in the north-east for malpractice because her angiodaema was not self-induced—it even occurred when she was unconscious. Yesterday, I received the official English translation of the Swedish social work report, which concluded:“Our assessment is that there is no need for support or any other programme with regard to Fran’s capacity as a parent.” In England, the plan was to take the baby 15 minutes after birth, which would have also involved the usual twin-tracking adoption plan. In Northumberland, there was systematic and corrupt abuse of process. Sadly, that is all too common in the system. Another story was about teenagers forced to remain in care and keep away from their father because they wouldn't speak to their estranged mother. From Hansard:A good current example is a case covered in the following verse in the song I referred to earlier:“The boys they say that they won’t talk to their momThe judge says foster care is what must be doneDad says its wrong by writing a bookHe’s put in jail ‘cos somebody looked.”It is absolutely absurd to place two children aged 13 and 15 in foster care because they will not talk to their mother, who is estranged from their father. The father would like to appeal, but the lawyers, including his own solicitor, are working against him. To appeal, he needs a judgment, but he still has not been given it. On Monday, I spoke to the 15-year-old, who is in fact 16 today, and he said, “I think children’s social services are a complete disaster. My brother is mortified because he wants to go back to his dad. I think the way things are happening is pathetic. My father has never hurt either of us.” Let us understand the reality of this. Tens of thousands of pounds are being spent to keep in care two children who have never been hurt by their father. In effect, they are being imprisoned in care for no good reason. However, outside Parliament, we are not allowed to scrutinise the reasoning. The problem is that the rule of law is systematically undermined in the family division. He also told of children being lost by the system and women suffering Domestic Violence in silence because they are frightened of having their children taken away if they as for help. The Minister criticised his speech as being "ranting".
Best to read the whole debate here: Debate in Hansard

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Milk teeth found in Jersey search (ITV News)

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Two milk teeth thought to be from a child or children have been found by experts searching a former children's home on Jersey.
Forensic archaeologists also found further bone fragments in the area following indications from specialist search dogs.
A States of Jersey Police spokeswoman said: "We cannot be sure at this stage if the bone is human or animal and it will be forwarded to the UK for tests.
"The teeth could have come from the same child although further tests will be necessary to try and ascertain if that is the case, and how the teeth might have come to be there."
The teeth were found as specialists continued to probe the last two of four underground chambers referred to as "punishment rooms" by victims who claim they were physically and sexually abused.
Last week police revealed that they had found found bloodstained items in the same area.
Experts are also continuing to investigate the site of an unexplained pit dug in the 1970s or 1980s.

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Babysitter 'was wrongly jailed' (ITV News)

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A babysitter jailed for murdering her neighbour's toddler is the victim of a "serious miscarriage of justice", a court has heard.
Suzanne Holdsworth, now 37, was jailed in 2005 for repeatedly banging two-year-old Kyle Fisher's head against a wooden banister at her home in Millpool Close, Hartlepool in August 2004.
At the time, Teesside Crown Court had heard that the impact on the child's head was similar to being thrown from a car at 60mph.
The mother-of-two was present in the dock of the Court of Appeal in London as Henry Blaxland QC presented her case before three judges at the start of proceedings expected to last four days.
Holdsworth was accused of having snapped when minding Kyle, who lived at nearby Troutpool Close, while the child's 19-year-old single mother was having a night out.
She consistently denied injuring the child and claimed he had suffered a fit as they sat watching television, but a jury found her guilty of murder and she was jailed for life and told she must serve at least ten years before applying for release on parole.
Mr Blaxland told Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Aikens and Judge Michael Baker QC, that the doctors who gave evidence at trial "got it wrong" and "collectively failed to diagnose" that the child had a "highly unusual brain", with abnormalities that predisposed him to epilepsy.
He said fresh evidence "establishes that there is a reasonable possibility that the child suffered a prolonged epileptic seizure just before exhibiting signs of depressed central nervous system function, which played a critical role in the ultimately fatal swelling of the child's brain".

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Appeal over toddler death verdict (BBC Newsnight)

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When toddler Kyle Fisher fell mortally ill in 2004 while being looked after by babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth the police concluded that she must have murdered him - and a jury agreed.
The murder conviction against Holdsworth, now 37, from Hartlepool, rests on the assumption that Kyle was fundamentally a healthy little boy.
But this assumption, it now turns out, may be mistaken.
On Monday Newsnight is to broadcast fresh evidence in a troubling case, a day before the High Court will hear Holdsworth's appeal.
Fits can kill
Kyle had something immediately and obviously wrong with him. His right eye drooped. The jury had seen a photograph of his poorly eye but had little idea what lay behind it.
What the jury did not know was that behind the drooping eye lay major brain damage from a year-old eye injury - nothing to do with the babysitter.
Nor did the jury hear that two surgeons had examined Kyle six months before he died.
They planned to operate on the brain injury and noted their concerns in Kyle's medical notes. The brain damage could cause Kyle to fit and fits can kill.
Nor did the jury hear that a senior officer on the case, Acting Detective Sergeant Sharon Birch, had read the medical notes and asked that statements be taken from the two surgeons.
For reasons that have yet to be explained, the murder inquiry did not take statements from the surgeons. Mrs Birch was removed from the inquiry.
Holdsworth, from Hartlepool, looks haggard in the police photo taken shortly after her arrest.

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Baby died after warnings missed

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A woman's first child died two days after birth when medical staff failed to spot 30 warning signs indicating the baby's life was at risk during labour.
Alwyn Callaway suffered fatal brain damage after his heart started failing while his mother Lisa, now 41, gave birth at Watford General Hospital.
Mrs Callaway, 41, from Cardiff, took the case to the Health Ombudsman which described the case as "indefensible".
The hospital has since employed 18 more midwives and strengthened training.
A report has found Alwyn would have lived if he had been delivered earlier.
The baby was born at 3.32pm, but an independent expert who examined records of the birth said Alwyn would have enjoyed a "good outcome" if he had been delivered by Caesarean section before 10.50am.
Mrs Callaway, who has had two more children since Alwyn died three-and-a-half years ago, told BBC Wales one midwife had raised concerns with senior staff on 11 separate occasions during the labour and recorded them in her notes 30 times.
Alwyn was being monitored with a heart trace known as a cardiotachograph (CTG), and his mother was being given a drug called syntocinon to speed up her labour, which the Ombudsman said should have been stopped once the baby got into distress.
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Council of Europe to consider investigating UK Family Law - Record to be released

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A motion has been tabled for the Council of Europe to consider investigating UK Family Law. John Hemming MP, Chairman of Justice for Families, said "This is good news for families in England and Wales. This is the first step towards getting a Supranational body to properly investigate the way in which Human Rights for parents are being abused in the UK. This is likely to lead to a proper inquiry that hopefully will allow parents and children to tell the Council of Europe what the UK has been doing to them." The text of the motion is: The Parliamentary Assembly recognises that human rights are part of the Council of Europe’s key values. It recognises that systems are needed for the protection of children when they are at risk. The Assembly believes, however, that those who are tasked with protecting children need to be accountable for their actions and need to operate in a way which protects the human rights of those people they are dealing with The Assembly notes that there is substantial concern that the secrecy of the Family Division of Courts in England and Wales has caused the development of an environment in which practitioners are not properly accountable. It notes that a number of people have emigrated from England because they feel persecuted by the authorities tasked with Child Protection. The Assembly particularly notes the use of Section 54.4 of the 1999 Access to Justice Act by the Court of Appeal in England which is preventing cases being considered by the Supreme Court in England and the way in which this acts to undermine the rule of law allowing the Family Division of Courts to operate in isolation from the wider body of law. The Assembly recognises that questions have been raised as to whether the judicial proceedings in England’s Family Courts are compliant with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Right to a Fair Trial).

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Security features added to ‘Stop Injustice Now’ Main Site!

New security features have been added to our main site, this is so the local authority, social services and agencies can not print or copy from the site. This will help to stop them using it in court, as the site is copyright protected, and the source code has been encrypted. This will also make it illegal to copy the site and use it in court. Anyone wishing to have access to parts of the site to print should email me at, you will need to explain why you need a printed copy of the page or pages. You need to tell me where and what you plan to do with it.
If you use the site in the normal fashion, you need to allow the site to access your clipboard as the site does not save a copy to your P.C. or Mac. The site has a valid certificate, and will not collect any information from your machine. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has and will cause. Please pass this information on to as many people that you think should know. Thank you all in advance.

P.S. If anyone else would like to have their site encrypted, please email mail at for a quote (The encryption only works if you have access to the root folder of your site). The cost would vary from site to site. But would be approximately £10:00 per 100 pages. It can include print disable, source encryption, copy disable, copyright protection for images etc. Extra features costs a little more, so don’t worry to much.
Regards from the ‘Stop Injustice Now’ Team!

Friday, 11 April 2008

We want your story's - Adoption, forced Adoptions, Fostering

'Stop injustice now' are looking for story's to publish on the Story's page of the main site.
If you have been affected by the issues covered by our site, we want to know. If you have an injunction on you, don't worry. We can use false names if you want to. You don't have to. Let the world know how the system in the UK is not working and how it should be changed! We will try to publish all of your story's. Email us at:
We will let you know when your story will be published.
Regards 'Stop Injustice Now' Team.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Press Release 4, Grandparents Apart - 09/04/08

As Grandparents we are terribly worried about the treatment of our grandchildren and all children.The governments refuse to give grandchildren/grandparents the legal right of contact. The minimum contact that is essential for their safety is a couple of hours a month or by negotiation, letters, calls, texts, emails, presents on birthdays and Christmas. A helpline that no other organisation can provide because of the unique bond between them.The major children’s organisations claim they can only answer half the calls from children so what happens to the other half. Children locked in a drug or alcohol home where they are neglected and possibly abused without any chance of help because the law makes it possible for addicts to refuse contact to grandparents.
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Study calls for more practitioner support

Social services and health professionals are struggling to prevent death and serious injury among abused and neglected children in England, according to a government-commissioned report.The research, carried out by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, found the risk of children dying from abuse or neglect could be reduced through more practitioner support and improved inter-agency working.Of 161 serious case reviews studied in England between April 2003 and March 2005, two-thirds of the children died and the rest were seriously injured. Almost half of the children were younger than 12 months.
In a quarter of cases, the children were aged between one and five while a further quarter were over 11, including a significant minority over 16. Of 106 fatalities, suicide was the known or probable cause of death of 14 adolescents.Preoccupied with eligibilityResearchers revealed 55% of the children were known to children’s social care at the time of the incident and 12% were on the child protection register. It also found 83% of the families involved had been previously known to children’s social care.Crucially, the report revealed all agencies were preoccupied with eligibility for services rather than having a primary concern for the welfare of the child. Poor inter-agency communication was also common.Agencies were blamed for neglecting “hard to help” older children, particularly those older than 13, and were found to waste time arguing over who was responsible for their care.In families where children had suffered long-term neglect, social workers often failed to take account of past history.
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The shameful secrecy of the adoption system

It seems inconceivable that such things could happen in a modern civilised country...two hours after giving birth, the young mother was lying in her hospital bed when officials from Nottingham social services snatched her baby away. The damage that this must inflict on the mother, let alone the child, is almost impossible to conceive. But what makes the case worse is that the social workers acted without legal authority. For the moment, Mr Justice Munby has ordered the child reunited with its mother. But the really disturbing aspect is that far from being an isolated incident, it seems to be part of a sinister pattern. The number of babies under one month being taken into care for adoption is now four a day, a 300 per cent increase on a decade ago. What is more disturbing is that social services have arguably been encouraged to behave in this way by a financial incentive, introduced by Tony Blair to increase the number of adoptions. Instead of trying to place the more difficult older children with parents, local authorities have been concentrating on babies, for whom it is far easier to find adoptive parents. Meanwhile, the number of seven-year-olds being adopted has halved. Mr Blair's perverse incentive is being quietly abolished, but the damage has been done. This deeply worrying scenario is made worse by the cloak of secrecy surrounding the family courts, where parents are unable to challenge - or even talk about - their decisions, however perverse.
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No family snaps of little Hugo

POLICE were unable to find a single family photograph of little Hugo Wang.Given his miserable 16 months of life, during which he lived at half a dozen different addresses, it is no surprise.What police did see at the Salford flat where he lived his final days were his tiny shoes, discarded on the floor. He was an unwanted child. His mother, Zhen, was 16 when she gave birth and his father had asked for `medicines' to be sent from China in a bid to terminate the pregnancy.Zhen was too scared to seek an abortion through the NHS because of her status as an illegal immigrant.Hugo was born at Trafford General in 2005, two months premature, and named Jia Jun. Hugo was his English name.Asylum status While his mother tried in vain to get asylum status, they lived in Stretford, Sheffield, Leeds, Cheetham Hill, and Salford - then she went underground when her appeal was dismissed. Hugo was aged 10 months at the time. Before vanishing they had been in the care of social services in Trafford and Yorkshire.The next time Hugo was seen by the authorities he was on a life support machine in Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, hours from death.
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How social services are paid bonuses to snatch babies for adoption

For a mother, there can be no greater horror than having a baby snatched away by the State at birth. The women to whom it has happened say their lives are ruined for ever - and goodness knows what longterm effect it has on the child. Most never recover from this trauma. Imagine a baby growing in your body for nine months, imagine going through the emotion of bringing it into the world, only to have social workers seize the newborn, sometimes within minutes of its first cry and often on the flimsiest of excuses. Yet this disturbing scenario is played out every day. The number of babies under one month old being taken into care for adoption is now running at almost four a day (a 300 per cent increase over a decade). In total, 75 children of all ages are being removed from their parents every week before being handed over to new families. Some of these may have been willingly given up for adoption, but critics of the Government's policy are convinced that the vast majority are taken by force. Time and again, the mothers say they are innocent of any wrongdoing. Of course, there are people who are not fit to be parents and it is the duty of any responsible State to protect their children. But over the five years since I began investigating the scandal of forced adoptions, I have found a deeply secretive system which is too often biased against basically decent families. I have been told of routine dishonesty by social workers and questionable evidence given by doctors which has wrongly condemned mothers.
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The Law Explored; bribing a judge

A billionaire Arab sheikh thinks Britsh judges can be bribed, according to an allegation made at a recent employment tribunal in Scotland. Sheikh Maher al-Tajir, whose family owns 24,000 acres of land in Perthshire, is alleged to have said to Chris Mulqueeney “You’re so patriotic. Hasn’t anyone told you that the law of this great land works on money, not justice?” The sheikh allegedly said he’d stitch up Mulqueeney and then fix the judges: “I’ve got enough money to buy any of them . . . all have their price in this country.” It’s undoubtedly true that for much of British history there was significant judicial corruption, but not today. You can buy at lot of things in Britain but you can’t buy a judge. Mulqueeney’s case is in Scotland but English law is just as intolerant of bribery. It is a serious crime for anyone to give any judge or magistrate a gift in order to influence a decision or for something already done. It’s a crime punishable with up to life imprisonment. Where the judge reports the briber, the offence is punishable even though the bribe was rejected. If a judge accepts such a gift, he also commits a crime. In earlier times, corrupt judges were periodically caught and removed from office. In the 13th century, six judges were sacked for taking bribes. In 1350, the Chief Justice, Sir William De Thorpe, was kicked out when his corruption became intolerable. In 1384, the Lord Chancellor, Sir Michael de la Pole, was accused by a London fishmonger of taking bribes after they fell out. The Chancellor was acquitted but his work was soon discovered to be decidedly fishy and he was later impeached for other offences.
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Council snatch of baby illegal

A JUDGE ordered the immediate return of a newborn tot — hours after he was unlawfully snatched by social workers yesterday. Mr Justice Munby said officials had no right to take the two-hour-old baby boy without a court order. And he told the High Court in London that no tot can be removed simply “as the result of a decision taken by officials in some room”. The 18-year-old mum, an ex-drug user with mental health problems who had just left local authority care, is set to sue social services. The baby was born at 2am yesterday in Nottinghamshire and taken away at 4am. At midday the judge ordered social workers to “reunite mother and baby forthwith”. The tot was back with the mum 45 minutes later.
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Social services make renewed attempt to take newborn into care

Social workers who were forced by a judge to return a newborn baby to his teenage mother will today make another attempt to take the boy into care.The 18-year-old woman won back her son yesterday lunchtime after obtaining an emergency high court order that ruled social workers had broken the law when they removed the baby at 4am yesterday, two hours after his birth.Mr Justice Munby ordered social workers to hand him back to his mother, referred to as G, immediately. The judge said that "on the face of it" social services officials from Nottingham city council, who "should have known better", acted unlawfully in taking the baby from hospital without obtaining a court order.The judge described the situation as "most unfortunate". He said no baby could be removed simply "as the result of a decision taken by officials in some room".Ian Wise, appearing for the mother, said the baby was taken without the mother's consent after hospital staff were shown a "birth plan" prepared by social services. The plan said the mother, who had a troubled childhood and suffers from mental health problems, was to be separated from the child, and no contact allowed without supervision by social workers.
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UK's first drug and alcohol court opens for business

The UK’s first drug and alcohol court, which aims to tackle substance misuse before it splits up families, sat for the first time this week.The groundbreaking court is based on a US model where specialist drug and alcohol courts are widely used.Early findings in America suggest these courts have been successful in enabling more children in care to return home because their parents have engaged with substance misuse services.The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) sits at Inner London Family Proceedings Court in Wells Street and will run as a pilot for three years covering Camden, Islington and Westminster.The idea for the court came after research showed that two thirds of all care proceedings initiated by Camden, Islington and Westminster are because of parental substance misuse.Professionals in the three boroughs pioneered the idea for the court and with Brunel University successfully lobbied central government for support and funding.The Family Drug and Alcohol Court will provide intensive assessment, support, interventions – such as one-to-ones and group work – and coordination of care for families affected by parental drug and/or alcohol misuse. A judge, drug and alcohol treatment specialists and social workers would see cases where children might have to go into care because of their parent’s substance misuse and can make same-day referrals for help, advice and support.
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Kinship care's key role in supporting children

Jean Stogdon is chair and co-founder of Grandparents Plus, and a keynote speaker at Community Care's Kinship Care conference on 12 March.
While the idea of children being looked after by members of their extended families is as old as the hills, the notion of kinship care in social policy is relatively novel.
The Children Act 1989 prioritised the placement of children needing substitute care with relatives or other members of their social network, marking the rediscovery of the extended family after a lengthy period during which such placements appeared to have fallen from favour.
In its relatively short history, social work has had many phases. Currently, we seem to be in a phase which places less emphasis on working with relationships. By comparison, 30 years ago the picture was very different: many social workers were motivated into the job by a wish to work with challenging relationships to overcome what we would now call the barriers to social inclusion.
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How councils keep talented staff

Simon Cowell can teach social care a thing or two about spotting and managing talent. Aside from high-waisted trousers, the outspoken judge on ITV's X Factor is renowned for his ability to identify and nurture individuals with a bright future, and to help them on to a glittering career.
"Talent management" is a relatively new expression to enter the social care vernacular. Although there is no universal definition of what it is, a recent study for the Chartered Institute of Personal Development highlights three traits associated with identifying talent: current or high performance high potential and effective leadership/management.
For Andrea Rowe, chief executive of Skills for Care, it is simple: "It is making the best use of the potential of your workforce's skills, competencies and leadership." She believes this is important in social care because of its recruitment and retention problems.
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Safeguarding in schools

The major reforms in children services in recent years have placed schools at the centre of strategies to improve outcomes for all children, an emphasis of particular importance for vulnerable children and for those who are in need of protection.
The most recent government guidance in this area, Working Together to Safeguard Children (DfES, 2006) and additional responsibilities under section 175 of the Education Act 2002, all reinforce the crucial role schools play in keeping children safe. Schools usually have more contact with children than any other individual agency and, when children face adversity in their home lives, can be an important source of resilience and support. Historically, however, relations between teachers and their colleagues in social care have not always been as co-ordinated or productive as they might be. Both inspections and serious case reviews have highlighted the need to improve practice between education and social care in relation to child protection. This study therefore looked at the respective roles and nature of collaboration between schools and local authorities in safeguarding children. The author sought to identify factors that both promoted and impeded effective communication. In order to do this she examined referrals from schools to social care, by examining, from the school's perspective, the two following questions:
● How are child protection concerns addressed and what judgements lead to a referral?
● What happens when a school makes a child protection referral?
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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions 'Neutral Citation Number; [2008] EWCA Civ 15 Case No: B4/2007/2168'

P (A child) ____________________
Miss P attended court (together with a MacKenzie Friend)
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Wall :

This is an application by the mother of a female child born on 7 May 2006 for permission to appeal against care and placement orders made by Her Honour Judge Butler sitting in the Nottingham County Court on 29 August 2007. Although this judgment is a public document, and although in due course there may be an application for the child and her mother to be identified, I have, for the time being and with the applicant's agreement, imposed reporting restrictions. Nothing must therefore be published which would identify the child or her mother; and I propose in this judgment to refer to the child as KP and to her mother as "the applicant". KP was born prematurely on 7 May 2006, and remained in hospital. As the judge stated – and this does not appear to be in dispute - KP "has very many serious medical conditions with which to contend" and requires skilled day to day care and management. Care proceedings in relation to her were instituted in September 2006, and on 23 November 2006, pursuant to an interim care order, she was discharged from hospital into the care of foster parents, with whom she has remained. She has thus never been in the sole care of the applicant.
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Social care rules are inconsistent and unfair to carers too

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers welcomes the announcement by Social Care Minister Ivan Lewis of a review of eligibility criteria and hope that the review will pay particular attention to the impact of unfair assessments on carers, following the release of the Commission for Social Care Inspection Report.The Trust also welcomes that the government has formally accepted that the current system of allowing councils to decide how to ration social care for elderly and disabled people is unfair and inconsistent. Carers have always known this, having been at the sharp end of assessment processes that can seem designed to withhold community care rather than to offer it to those in need. The rules say that disabled and elderly people should be offered a level of support based upon their individual needs, not upon the current availability or cost of services. But too many assessments result in lower offers of support where a family member can be identified to provide care, regardless of the impact on that carer. This means that in some areas carers are feeling forced to take on unacceptably high levels of care that result in them having to give up work, their social life and even their health. To make matters worse, some areas are now threatening major cuts to the voluntary sector services which support those carers to carry on caring.Alex Fox, a spokesperson for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers says, ‘For the system to be made fairer, families must be given accurate information about their rights to support without assumptions being made about the role of carers.
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The young victims of a system in need of reform

If Britain's overcrowded prisons are damaging the mental health and future employment prospects of male prisoners, this is doubly the case for females who fall foul of the criminal justice system. The 4,321 female prisoners in England and Wales are at greater risk of suicide than their male peers. Proportionately, more women prisoners suffer from mental illness too.But perhaps the greatest damage their incarceration inflicts is on their children. Sixty per cent of women in prisons are mothers. Half of these are lone parents. This means some 18,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment each year. Some are cared for by relatives, or friends. Many are taken into care by the social services.The criminal justice system is unduly harsh on mothers in numerous ways. They are twice as likely as men to be held more than 50 miles from their home. And since female offenders tend to commit less serious crimes than men, they are usually given shorter sentences. But a short sentence for a young mother can be just as bad as a longer sentence for a single man because it entails a lack of contact with her child.On top of this, the prison infrastructure is plainly inadequate for dealing with female prisoners. There are eight Mother and Baby Units in prisons in the UK, where mothers are allowed to keep their very young children with them while they serve their sentences. But the units are never full. This is partly due to the fact that female prisoners are often unaware of them. It is also because of their location. If female prisoners know about them, they are often faced with an invidious choice of moving to a distant area where they can be with their youngest child, or nearer home to maintain contact with their older children and family. Many choose to be nearer home.It is a failing system. Even those unmoved by the harm that prison inflicts on young mothers themselves must concede that it is hardly in society's interests for them to be separated from the children. The evidence suggests that children of a jailed mother are considerably more likely to fall into a life of criminality. There is also the cost imposed on the state of caring for a child to consider. All the major political parties agree that children are better off cared for within family units. So why do they tolerate a criminal justice system that breaks up so many families unnecessarily?
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In the shadow of a tragedy, Victoria Climbié

Lord Laming's report into the murder of Victoria Climbié, published five years ago, was meant to herald a new era in child protection. But, says Liz Davies, his reform plan has led to many tried and tested systems being ditchedIt is five years since Lord Laming wrote his 108 recommendations in the Victoria Climbié inquiry report. It is also eight years since Victoria was murdered and Lisa Arthurworrey, Haringey council social worker for Victoria, still awaits her appeal hearing against the decision not to register her as a social worker. Victoria's killers, her great aunt, Marie Therese Kouao, and the woman's boyfriend, Carl Manning, were convicted; practitioners and managers, from various agencies and authorities, were criticised and one social worker remains the scapegoat. Since the inquiry, more children have died as a result of criminal acts of child abuse and I have no doubt that key errors evident in the Climbié case are being repeated. However, rather than blame individual incompetence, I would challenge the steer of government policy which, prior to the death of Victoria, had already moved professionals towards a family support practice model which encouraged the assessment of children's needs rather than intervention to protect. This trend was vastly accelerated on the basis of Laming's recommendations and as a result further tragedies were not only predictable but inevitable. Following Laming's report, the government used the findings to justify a policy shift away from the proactive protection of a few children at high risk of harm to intense state surveillance of every child and family though technology and broad based strategies to address child concerns. The language of protectionWith the subsequent launch of the Every Child Matters agenda, the phrase "children at risk" gained new meaning. Children were now defined as at risk of becoming future criminals, rather than victims of abuse, and professional attention was diverted away from the investigation of child abusers and their criminal activities. A set of five outcomes included the ill-defined "staying safe" and the language of protection became almost obsolete.In BBC Radio's File on Four last week Laming was questioned about numbers of recent child death tragedies where professionals had placed the needs of adults over and above those of the children, had not responded to allegations of serious child abuse and had failed to implement child protection protocols.
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Family judge orders drug addict mother to give up her 14 children

A judge has revealed that he has ordered 14 children from the same mother to be taken into care because of her addiction to crack cocaine and other drugs. Family court judge Nick Crichton spoke out to highlight the growing problem of drug addicts trying to bring up large families. The 14 children from one family in London were ordered into care by the judge amid fears for their safety. It is claimed the bill to look after the children is likely to exceed £2million. It costs an average of £25,000 to hear each court case of care proceedings. Judge Crichton said the case was not the worst. One of his colleagues in the Midlands dealt with a woman who has 15 children in the care of her extended family and local authority foster homes after becoming an addict. In another case, a heroin addict in Yorkshire had her first three children taken away, but then had seven more by at least three men. One by one they were taken away until she had lost all 10.
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Women prisoners need life support

There are more than 4,400 women prisoners in England. Four out of five women prisoners have mental health problems, most commonly depression and anxiety. Almost half have been subject to abuse during their lives. One in three has a child under five. For many women, even a short spell in prison can achieve nothing positive but create havoc with their family life and further damage their mental health. With only 17 women's prisons in England, and none at all in Wales, many women are imprisoned long distances from their families. For some, a spell in prison is just long enough for them to lose their children and their home.The Corston report, published in March 2007 following a major inquiry led by Baroness Corston, made far-reaching recommendations about the future of women's prisons. It called for a more "distinctive approach" to women in the criminal justice system, replacing women's prisons with a network of smaller, urban units for women in custody and for far greater use of community alternatives to prison. It was especially critical of the use of prison for women on remand.
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Trafficked child thieves to be returned to parents

The parents of five children rescued from people traffickers by police last week have flown from Romania to be reunited with their offspring.Trafficking gangs are believed to have smuggled in more than 1,000 children from Romania, often buying them from their poor parents for a few hundred pounds. Once in England, the children are forced to work as pickpockets and shoplifters in major towns all over the country. It is estimated that they are making more than £100 million a year for the gangs. Last week, after an intelligence operation lasting more than a year, officers from the Metropolitan Police, Thames Valley and British Transport police raided 17 homes in Slough, Berkshire. They arrested 25 people and removed ten children, many of them under the age of ten, who are now with social services. They will be interviewed by specialist police officers to find out how they came to England. Police found a total of 68 children in the houses. The aim of the raids was to “disrupt organised criminals involved in child trafficking, theft of personal property, pickpocketing and cash machine theft crime on the streets of Westminster”, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.
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Karen Mathews remanded by court (BBC News)

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The mother of Shannon Matthews has been remanded in custody after appearing in court charged in connection with the nine-year-old's disappearance.
Karen Matthews, 32, of Moorside Road, Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, faces charges of child neglect and perverting the course of justice.
Shannon vanished on 19 February and was found 24 days later after one of the county's largest missing person hunts.
Ms Matthews was remanded in custody until 16 April.
The details of the child neglect charge state that she "wilfully neglected or abandoned" Shannon "in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to her health", between 18 February and 15 March.
The second charge states that Ms Matthews "repeatedly concealed information in relation to the whereabouts of Shannon Matthews in interviews and other contacts with officers with the West Yorkshire Police and claimed to have no knowledge of her whereabouts."
'Fair trial'
During the 13-minute hearing, Ms Matthews was flanked by four dock officers.
She arrived in handcuffs at Dewsbury Magistrates' Court after being driven from the town's police station.
More than a dozen police officers were stationed outside the vehicle entrance to the court as the white prison vehicle entered the complex.
Ms Matthews was arrested on Sunday and charged with the offences on Tuesday night.
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Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Shannon's mum, Karen Mathews charged! (ITV News)

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Police have charged Shannon Matthews' mother in connection with the schoolgirl's disappearance.
Karen Matthews has been charged with perverting the course of justice and child neglect three weeks after nine-year-old Shannon was found at an address just one mile from her Dewsbury home.
Mrs Matthews will appear before magistrates in Dewsbury on Wednesday.
She was arrested on Sunday night and was questioned by detectives at Wakefield police station.
Speaking at a news conference at Dewsbury police station, Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Peter Mann said: "Having carefully considered all of the evidence provided in the file by West Yorkshire Police, we have decided that there is sufficient evidence and have authorised that Karen Matthews be charged with perverting the course of justice and child neglect.
"She is in the process of being charged and will appear before Dewsbury Magistrates' Court o Wednesday morning. We will continue to keep this case under constant review."
Mrs Matthews is the fourth family member to be held in connection with the case.
Michael Donovan, of Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, was arrested on March 14, after Shannon was found in his flat following her disappearance on February 19.
He was later charged with Shannon's kidnap and false imprisonment and is remanded in custody awaiting trial at Leeds Crown Court on November 11.
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