Wednesday, 29 April 2009

CASE STUDIES; Family courts

The rudimentary Press sign, stuck with Blu-Tack on the door of what moments before was an interview room, indicated that the officials at Ipswich County Court were not used to such intrusions. One looked shocked when told that The Times had entered the building, and security guards insisted that the press keep identification cards visible at all times and await court hearings in segregation from the various parties.
The establishment recovered quickly, however. Within 45 minutes the flimsy Press sign had been replaced with a smarter, laminated version, and The Times was granted access to a care order hearing without any disruptions or objections from the various legal parties.
It was only at the lunchtime recess that Judge Peter Thompson acknowledged the press in the courtroom two journalists from The Times and one from the local newspaper, the Ipswich Evening Star. He emphasised that the normal reporting restrictions applying to the anonymity of children in the case still stood, but said nothing further about the new legislation and imposed no further restrictions.
The Times was thus afforded access to Day One of the hearing in its entirety care proceedings initiated by a council in relation to a ten-month-old girl. An interim care order, under which the child was placed with a guardian last October, was being contested by both parents.
It was an illuminating glimpse into the workings of the court. Psychological experts altered their conclusions as they were being questioned on the stand, and complained on numerous occasions that they had not been given enough information about the case to make satisfactory conclusions.
It emerged that, of the three psychological experts on whose testimony the childs fate will be decided, only one had interviewed all the parties (the mother, aged 32, the father, 41, and the child). One said that he was making conclusions about parenting ability without having seen the way that the mother or the father interacted with the child.

Family Courts; Manchester

At one point in proceedings, the judge asked the pregnant mother before him whether she was in the habit of giving birth on the due delivery date. Normally, on time, she replied cheerily.
Judge Ian Hamilton, sitting at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre yesterday, was not being solicitous about her welfare. He was simply anxious to fix a date for a hearing to decide who will care for the unborn child and its two older brothers.
The parenting of the mother, a drug addict on a methadone programme, and her partner had given such cause for alarm that her eldest son was already being cared for by his paternal aunt.
Now aged 12, he was said to have suffered a neglectful childhood and been so emotionally traumatised that he lived in fear and had withdrawn into a shell, spending many hours in his bedroom playing computer games.
It was clear that Judge Hamilton was growing exasperated at the lack of progress of what had become a long-running case. It did not help that counsel for the local authority had not turned up on time, and then appeared to have no plan of action to push the matter forward.
Judge Hamilton brought proceedings to a close by ordering the local authority to come up with a care plan by May 11 and then fixed three days for the final hearing in July. It will certainly give Mum time to have recovered from the birth of the new baby in any event, he said.
Cases involving an abusive family and traumatised children, although dismally routine in such a building, would have been closed to the media until the change in the law came into force yesterday.
It was clear that the court staff at the centre, known as the Filing Cabinet because of its distinctive design, had been briefed about possible media interest.
When I presented my press accreditation to the court usher and then to the court clerk, they were aware of the changes of the law. I was told that the various counsel would have to be informed, and this may mean a delay.

Family Courts; Cardiff

The Times arrived at Cardiff civil justice centre yesterday on the first morning of a fact-finding hearing relating to a child.
After alerting the clerk to my presence before the case started, I was allowed to take a seat at the side of a small, brightly lit family proceedings courtroom on the third floor.
Although they knew about the rule change, my arrival was a surprise to at least some. On his way in, one of the solicitors involved in the case spotted that I had a copy of the new regulations allowing me to be there, and asked if he could borrow them to take a look. The judge asked to see my press card, and then explained to the court that I was there in accordance with the new access regulations that came into force yesterday, and was subject to the reporting restrictions imposed by the 1989 Childrens Act and the 1960 Administration of Justice Act.

Family Courts; Barnet

If judges and court staff were ready for what has been hailed as a revolution in the family courts, lawyers at Barnets Civil and Family Court Centre were slightly taken by surprise by the arrival of the media.
Two cases had to be adjourned while lawyers discussed whether to oppose the admittance of The Times, but both, in the end, agreed realising that stringent reporting restrictions remain in place.
After decades of holding such hearings behind closed doors, no one quite knew what to do. One counsel for a local authority at least had on him the guidance on admitting the media just issued by Britains most senior judge. But he confessed to Judge Marcia Levy: I dont know what our position is . . . I simply dont know. I was asking for ten minutes to take instructions from the team manager.
The judge, who was preparing to give an hour-long judgment in a case involving two young children, said that neither their names, nor those of other children involved, could be mentioned; nor those of the parents, nor schools, places or anyone else connected with them that would enable them to be identified.
Nonetheless, her detailed unravelling of the complex family circumstances of a young mother who faces losing her two children, one aged 4, the other a baby, cast light on the daily difficult balancing exercise that the courts face in such cases.
The mother, in her twenties, was the step-daughter of the man who had fathered her children. She had grown up with his four other children, and had helped to look after them. A relationship developed and two children resulted.
There were allegations of sex abuse (denied) between the father and one of his other children; of inappropriate sexual behaviour between those children; and evidence of his unpredictable personality, glue-sniffing, lack of ability or willingness to care for them in any appropriate way or put their needs first.
Rather than worry about his children, the judge, noted, his main concern was for himself.
The action was brought by one London council but three others were mentioned and one, Judge Levy noted, had been criticised by the guardian (the social worker for the children) for failing to take action over the elder child at least three years ago.

Family Courts; Bath

The list on the notice board at Bath County Court said simply: A Minor. They were two short words that concealed a world of heartbreak.
Seated to one side of a horseshoe of tables in front of the judges desk was the mother of a six-year-old boy. At right angles to her, but never once catching her eye, sat her mother. The childs father, separated from the mother but siding with her, appeared briefly but did not speak. All were accompanied by lawyers.
At issue was the grandmothers belief that her daughter was not a fit parent. She wants the boy, who is living with her, to remain permanently. The question before the court was whether he should be allowed to stay with his mother on three weekends between now and the full hearing in June to determine his future home.
In the family court yesterday were district judge, six lawyers, two parents, a grandmother, a legally appointed guardian, hundreds of pages of testimony and experts reports and, for the first time, a reporter. The hearing was scheduled to last a full day.
In the past few weeks in the course of my duties for The Times I have been savaged by an alsatian (I was allowed to wear a padded suit), been pursued by a herd of Nazi cattle and come face to sucker with a bathful of giant leeches. The prospect of facing a court room full of hostility was worse than any of them.
I need not have worried. The move towards greater openness was welcomed not only by most of the lawyers but also by the judge, Francis Goddard. Only the barrister representing the boys mother attempted to have the case heard in private on the ground that it was an exceptional case that involved allegations of abuse and the mothers history of mental health problems.
Judge Goddard ran through the list of grounds for excluding the media under the new regulations, which include the possibility of disorder and the risk that it could endanger the safety of a witness, then said that he was happy as long as the case was anonymised and the boy could not be identified.

Family Courts; Central London

Of the 66 hearings listed for the Principal Registry of the Family Division in Central London yesterday, 11 were already marked Not open to the media.
In those cases, Her Majestys Courts Service said, the press were automatically barred, and so the hearings were not covered by the new regulations.
Of those hearings to which the press was allowed to try to gain access, many were harrowing residency cases involving children, or divorcing couples arguing over dwindling assets. But in nearly all, the press was allowed to report only the workings of the court, to avoid identifying the children involved.
In some cases, barristers had been employed by local authorities or childrens charities seeking judicial approval about the best way to return youngsters to parents who now appeared fit enough to look after their offspring.
On the first day that reporters were allowed into the imposing seven-floor building just off Chancery Lane, The Times was granted access to sit in a hearing involving a celebrity who was trying to gain the right for his child to live with him.
However, the presss presence in the case, which already has a series of strict reporting restrictions placed on it, led Her Honour Judge Vera Mayer to transfer it to High Court to establish exactly what journalists could report, if anything.
Referring to the new regulations allowing journalists to attend such sensitive cases, she said: I think this is a new field and none of us has any proper guidelines. It has come at a speed that none of us anticipated.
And a case of this nature has issues very specific to it; a foreign element and many other specific concerns. It could either be a case making bad law or an error which if it happened could not be rectified.
The case was adjourned and the celebrity left court. One divorced couple who had probably not exchanged a civil word in months, paused as the immaculately dressed man walked passed them in the corridor, before one nudged the other and said: Isnt that, you know?

Age of secrecy ends as family courts are opened to media scrutiny

A disturbing case in which a local authority failed to act to take a child into care was able to be revealed yesterday, after the groundbreaking decision to admit the media into the family courts came into effect.
The case, set against a background of alleged sex abuse, revealed how a family had managed to slip through the net of three London councils because they kept moving home and were not known to the social services.
The details are typical of the kind that would have remained unknown but for the opening of such hearings after decades of decisions being taken behind closed doors.
The historic opening up of the courts was taken by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, after sustained pressure from families affected by the courts decisions and the media, led by The Times.
Under the reforms more than 200,000 hearings involving sensitive and traumatic cases, and with decisions that will have a huge impact on the lives of children and their families, will now be open to media scrutiny.
However, there is still confusion in the courts as to how this reform should operate, although The Times was admitted to most hearings at the six court centres it attended yesterday.
Strict reporting restrictions remain in force, which many including judges fear will undermine the reform and dilute its impact. There is also no automatic access to papers that have been laid before the court as evidence.
No identification of parties can take place and there was a mixed message over whether local authorities, often the butt of criticism in care cases, can be named.
The Times attended the above case, at the Barnet Civil and Family Court Centre, in which a council wants to remove a four-year-old child and baby into care.

Friday, 24 April 2009

National Anti Forced Adoption Week; 9th November 2009 until 15th November 2009, Anti Forced Adoption Week

Anti Forced Adoption Week 9th - 15th November 2009.BAAF working to find A way to split families up, so children can be stolen all year round. Every November they draw the nation's attention in stealing more children. Each year they Campaign to steal more children. Read and listen to people who have been affected by Forced Adoption. The adoptive parents and adopted people are fooled in to the corruption with deception. If you feel ready to make the next step towards becoming an Abductor parent, we'll help guide you to the next steps. Stealing Children is open to more people than you think. BAAF, Social Services, Solicitors, Judges, The Government All Steal Your Children From You. There are opportunities to Email Your Local Social Services to Tell Them About Your Own Account Of How They Steal Children. In aspects of forced-adoption. Just Contact Your Local Authority, I'm Sure They Would Be Able To Steal A Child For You.

Kimberley; Young Mum 10 Years on (Channel 4)

Full Documentary:

A True Story Video Documentary!

A Child Abducted At 10 days Old and Return to Her Natural Parents at 6 Years Old!

Social Services and the Court say a child cant be returned to its natural parents if the Child has been in care for a long period of time, this documentary says otherwise!

An astonishing true story, The Girl Who Came Back from the Dead documents the tragic tale of Luz Cuevas (pictured). In 1997, a deadly fire engorged Cuevas' house, claiming the life of her newborn child. Driven by the fact that the youngster's remains were never found, Cuevas was utterly convinced that her ten-day-old daughter was still alive. Six years later, she proved her doubters wrong and made a truly amazing discovery.

Full Documentary:

Kimberley; Young Mum 10 Years on (Channel 4)

Full Documentary;

In 1999 Kimberley was a teenager with big dreams, in love for the first time and keen to avoid getting pregnant young like her mum and sister had done. Almost 10 years later and Kimberley is now a 24-year-old mum-of-two, and Daisy has reintroduced the camera into her life. Kimberley lives on a South London council estate in a one-bedroom flat on a budget of £110 a week. She has already had one child removed from her by social services, and now she's in danger of losing another. Her two-year-old son, Harvey, has been on the child protection register since he was a baby. But Kimberley is now determined to turn her life around. This tough yet tender portrait of a young mum on benefits asks just what makes a good enough mother, and explores how we pass our behaviour down through the generations. Interviews with Kimberley today are inter-cut with archive footage of her as a teenager, producing a powerful dialogue between Kimberley now and her 15-year-old self. Can Kim prove to social services that she's a 'good enough' mum, and keep hold of Harvey? And with new boyfriend Anthony at her side, will Kim be able to finally break with her own past, and build a happy family life for the future?

Full Documentary;

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Burning The Saint Gorges Flag

Saint George's Day Protest
This Is What I Think Of St George's Day
Burning the Saint George's Flag in Disgust
We Live In A Country That Steels Children for Profit
Enjoy the Burning Of Our Nations Flag
The Government Needs To Change
The Government Needs To Stop Steeling Of Children

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

This child is special, an Oscar child. So now we want £200k (News of the World)

THE poverty-stricken father of Slumdog Millionaire child star Rubina Ali plans to become a millionaire himself-by SELLING his nine-year-old daughter.
In a bid to escape India's real-life slums, Rafiq Qureshi put angel-faced darling of the Oscars Rubina up for adoption, demanding millions of rupees worth Pfund200,000.
As he offered the shocking deal to the News of the World's undercover fake sheik this week, Rafiq declared: "I have to consider what's best for me, my family and Rubina's future."
Rafiq tried to blame Hollywood bosses for forcing him to put his daughter up for SALE.
As he tried to fix the illegal adoption deal, real-life slum dweller Rafiq declared: "We've got nothing out of this film."
Then, almost embarrassed to speak it out loud, he whispered to an accomplice the price tag he has put on his innocent young daughter: "It's Pfund200,000!"
That was an astonishing FOURFOLD increase on his opening demand. But Rafiq's equally demanding brother Mohiuddin insisted: "The child is special now. This is NOT an ordinary child. This is an Oscar child!"
Dad Rafiq is desperate to cash in on their nine-year-old's success in the blockbuster film by selling her to the highest bidder.
He sees it as his family's escape route from the notorious Bandra slum sprawl of Mumbai.
Rafiq revealed his scheme to undercover News of the World reporters posing as a wealthy family from Dubai.
We travelled to Mumbai to expose the illegal sale after a tip-off from a concerned close family friend and former neighbour.
Shockingly, this sort of transaction is far from unusual in an impoverished nation where human life comes cheap and children are often treated as a commodity.
Rubina won the hearts of film-lovers around the world playing young Latika in British director Danny Boyle's movie that picked up eight Oscars and a pile of other glittering awards. It tells the rags to riches story of a young man from the slums who wins the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Filmed in Mumbai's seething pauper ghetto it depicts starkly true scenes of poverty and child cruelty, where young orphans are blinded and crippled by Fagin-like thugs and forced to beg on the streets. And with a staggering 11 million children abandoned in India every year, there is no shortage of young prey.
Our informant, now a city tour guide, told us: "Rubina's family are furious that despite the film doing so well and their pretty daughter becoming so famous, they are still living in such rough conditions.
"They were approached by one wealthy Middle Eastern family who saw their plight in an item on Al Jazeera TV. The couple expressed an interest in adopting young Rubina and her parents' eyes lit up.
"Dad Rafiq is streetwise and knows that soon his daughter's success will be forgotten and her moment of fame will be over. He has a family to feed and simply can't
BUY MY DAUGHTER: Father Rafiq (centre) and uncle Rajan More (left) pose with Rubina and our undercover team
afford it. He is keen to find a rich family to bring up Rubina but only if they are willing to help the whole family to get out of the slums.
"The Middle East family were moved to tears by the plight of the young orphans shown in the film and fell in love with Rubina.
"Just as Western stars like Madonna do, they want to adopt children from poor areas and give them a better life.
"This family wanted to take Rubina abroad. They agreed to come to Mumbai to discuss the adoption in May.
"But the approach has made Rafiq very greedy and he has said that he will consider the highest offer for his child. But they realise that the money will soon stop coming in and Rafiq is open to all offers."
Our investigator made contact with Rafiq and said we had heard he was considering having Rubina adopted. He told Rafiq he was acting for a wealthy Arab sheik who wanted to take the youngster to live with him 2,000 miles away in Dubai.
Rafiq replied: "Yes, we are considering Rubina's future.
"Why don't you speak to my brother-in-law, Rajan, and he will discuss it with you? I will ask him to call you."
After contacting us, Rubina's uncle Rajan More - who speaks good English - confirmed: "Yes, we are interested in securing our girl's future.

The Girl Who Came Back From the Dead (SKY 3)

A True Story Video Documentary!
A Child Abducted At 10 days Old and Return to Her Natural Parents at 6 Years Old!
Social Services and the Court say a child cant be returned to its natural parents if the Child has been in care for a long period of time, this documentary says otherwise!
An astonishing true story, The Girl Who Came Back from the Dead documents the tragic tale of Luz Cuevas (pictured). In 1997, a deadly fire engorged Cuevas' house, claiming the life of her newborn child. Driven by the fact that the youngster's remains were never found, Cuevas was utterly convinced that her ten-day-old daughter was still alive. Six years later, she proved her doubters wrong and made a truly amazing discovery.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Inspirational women of the year: Alison's son was snatched away after she was wrongly branded a child she fights for justice for mothers

The months Alison Stevens spent apart from her son still haunt her.
Twenty four years on, she cannot forget the pain she felt when social services took away her three-year-old without warning - or just cause.
Doctors should have diagnosed brittle bone disease when Alison took Scott to A&E with a broken leg. Instead, they decided he was being abused by his parents and put him in care immediately.
It took 12 long, tormented weeks for Alison and her husband, Andy, an electrician, to clear their names and win their son's return. The joy and relief they felt at having their family reunited was immeasurable. Alison was left so affected by the experience that she was determined to help other people fight similar injustices.
Since then, she has helped thousands of parents as the head of the national organisation Parents Against Injustice (PAIN).
'I will always remember the hurt and confusion I felt back then,' says Alison. 'It was horrendous finding Scott's hospital bed empty, then being told by nurses they thought we were to blame for his injuries. For months we had to visit him in a foster home when we desperately wanted to have him home.
'I am compelled to help other people because I understand what they are going through and how badly the system can work. This can happen to anyone and, when it does, you feel powerless.
'The toll it takes on you is indescribable - parents call me on the brink of suicide. But through PAIN I am able to help them get their children back.' While the agony still feels fresh to Alison, it was back in 1985 that her son Scott was put in care. He had been having a bath with his brother Lee, then five, when he tried to get out and slipped awkwardly, hurting his leg.
'Leaving him was like having my heart ripped out'
When Alison and Andy took Scott to hospital, doctors insisted he stay in for observation.
'Returning to the hospital that evening to visit Scott, I never suspected anything was amiss,' says Alison.
'But when we reached his bed it was empty.

'No bullying' at children's unit

An independent report has found no evidence of staff bullying at Reading's children's services.
The council started an investigation and ordered staff to come forward following allegations made in January.
Michael Hake, a former director of social services with no previous links to Reading, found some workers felt they had experienced bullying.
But he said the examples given "fell short" of the definition of bullying within the council's own procedures.
The report added: "Whilst a small number of staff were genuinely upset, the evidence does not support the claim that this happened 'all the time'."
Critical report
During the course of his investigation, Mr Hake interviewed a total of 38 current and former members of staff.
He acknowledged the council's child protection services went through a period of change between 2006 and early 2008 and faced a number of challenges.

Police say no action to be taken over Old Buckenham Hall School allegations

Suffolk Police have said no action will be taken after concluding an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour by staff at Old Buckenham Hall School, in Brettenham.Officers were called in to investigate claims at the boarding school in February.
It came after concerns were raised in an Ofsted welfare inspection.
Two staff were suspended during the investigation, which was carried out jointly between police and Social Services.
Police last month said no further action would be taken against one of the staff and today police issued a further statement saying the investigation had now concluded and no police action would be taken.
"Following extensive inquires into allegations of inappropriate behaviour by members of staff at a school in West Suffolk, Suffolk Constabulary can confirm that its investigation has concluded and no police action will be taken.

Rapid change in children's services department

VULNERABLE children in Reading are safer now than last year but social services is still too reliant on agency staff fresh from university.
The child protection teams have improved their performance across a swathe of categories since last years damning assessments by Ofsted which rated them inadequate.
But 25 of 80 posts in the two key child protection teams are covered by agency staff, and although eight new permanent staff have been recruited in recent weeks some do not start until July.
At Tuesdays Reading Borough Council Cabinet meeting, department director Anna Wright said: People are increasingly saying they dont want to work in child protection.
Borough childrens services leader John Ennis, appointed to the role earlier this year after Cllr Pete Ruhemann resigned over the failures in his department, said: Morale is low, but progress is being made and we have to acknowledge that. We still cant recruit social workers, but there are one or two teams that are beginning to be settled now. Weve got to assist them while maintaining scrutiny.

Jury finds teen mother guilty of child abuse and murder

SALT LAKE CITY -- After deliberating for three and a half hours, a jury found a young mother guilty of murdering her toddler son by snapping his spine.
There is no question that 22-month-old Alejandro Lucero had a difficult life. Not only did the medical examiner testify that his spine was broken in half, but also that there were past signs of abuse as well: bruises and a fractured rib.
His mother, Adrianna Lucero was sobbing as she sat in court Friday afternoon as a jury read their verdict against her: Guilty of child abuse. Guilty of murder.
Outside the courtroom, her lawyer expressed surprise. "I don't think the evidence was there," Stephen McCaughey said. "I think any case like this is difficult, but the jury didn't seem to have a lot of problems with it coming back quickly."
Friends and family left visibly upset.
Prosecutors told the jury that, last August, the then 17-year-old mother was overwhelmed as a single parent. She snapped and broke Alejandro's spine while at her boyfriend's apartment in Kearns.

Policewoman who collapsed in labour died of natural causes, coroner rules

Woman pregnant with twins collapsed in hospital toilet after labour started and amniotic fluid entered her bloodstream
A policewoman who collapsed in a hospital toilet while in labour with twins died of natural causes, a coroner ruled today.
Sarah Underhill, 37, whose babies were conceived through IVF treatment, collapsed on 5 October last year after going to the toilet at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.
A postmortem examination revealed that the Thames Valley police neighbourhood officer died after labour started and amniotic fluid entered her bloodstream.
Her babies had been due to be induced the following day, in her 36th week of pregnancy, as she was suffering from pre-eclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure, Oxford coroner's court heard.
The Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, said: "The twins were successfully delivered but sadly she went into a cardiac arrest from which she could not be retrieved."

Limit imposed on social workers’ child abuse caseloads

SOCIAL workers are being limited in the number of child protection cases they handle at any one time in Londons East End.
A Child Death overview panel has also been set up to make sure lessons are learned from incidents where children die in unexpected circumstances.
The moves are part of a series of recommendations at Tower Hamlets aimed at relieving the pressure on overworked social services where children are in danger.
It follows the case of Baby P who was battered to death in north London last year.
A similar case known as Baby H hit Tower Hamlets and Redbridge the year before with the death of an infant killed by his father.
The childs parents were under Tower Hamlets social servicesbut were moved out to Redbridge before the father bashed the infants head on the floor. The father was later jailed by the Old Bailey.
A national review of child protection procedures was ordered by the Government in light of a number of child-battering incidents such as Baby H and Baby P.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Justice for Families Report - APRIL 2008

For a number of reasons the JFF newsletter has not been sent out recently. There have been many more stories about the failures of the Public Family Law system in England and Wales and this newsletter does not contain Ali's media report - which would otherwise be much bigger.
List Server:(JFF News Letter Only!)This is the first newsletter to be sent using a list server. It allows people to independently subscribe to and unsubscribe from the newsletter. The Liberal Democrats have kindly allowed JFF to use the Lib Dem list server for this newsletter. That does not mean that there are any formal links between the LIb Dems and JFF, merely that the servers are being used.

Father hits out over murder term

The father of a 17-year-old schoolgirl who was stabbed to death in an Ayrshire street has hit out at the length of time her murderer will be detained.
John Wilson, 20, was given a life sentence after he admitted murdering his former girlfriend, Michelle Stewart, in Drongan last November.
The judge said Wilson must serve at least 12 years.
Ms Stewart's father Kenneth said his daughter had been "completely let down" by the justice system.
Mr Stewart said: "The family is totally disappointed. He stabbed my daughter 10 times, 12 years is not enough for pre-meditated murder.
"I expected a 17 year sentence - a year at least for every year of Michelle's life."
He added: "When you get to 17 or 18 you have the world in front of you, but now it has been taken away from her."

Social worker vacancies in adult services on par with children's

Disparity in staff investment for adults' and children's services
Staff shortages in children's departments are being tackled with a Pfund73m cash boost, but similar problems in adults' services are overlooked, finds Andrew Mickel
No one is under any illusion that there is not a shortage of children's social workers in the UK. But the common assumption that the problem is less severe in adult care is undermined by exclusive research by Community Care which shows that the difference between vacancy rates for children's and adults social workers in England is narrower than is widely assumed.
However, the investment being put into the workforce bears little relation to the balance of vacancies on the ground. Some Pfund73m has been committed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to developing children's social workers as part of the Children's Plan from 2008 to 2011. That was even before the Baby P fallout focused the minds of council chiefs on doing something about shortages.
Sums and plans
But there are neither grand sums of cash nor similarly structured plans for developing the adults' workforce - and other agencies remain similarly focused on the children's workforce. Only in March, the Local Government Association launched a campaign to lure back 5,000 professionals who have recently left children's social work.

Family of murdered schoolgirl say justice system has let them down

The family of a teenage schoolgirl who was murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend said they were let down by the justice system after he was jailed for at least 12 years.
John Wilson, 20, stabbed 17-year-old Michelle Stewart ten times in front of her friends in a street in Ayrshire last November.
He was given a life sentence at the High Court in Glasgow after he had earlier admitted murder.
The teenager's father Kenneth said his daughter had been "completely let down" by the system.
Mr Stewart, 48, added: "He stabbed my daughter ten times. She was going to be 18 next week and she had her life in front of her.
"I've got to go to the graveyard and put down 18 roses on my daughter's grave for her 18th birthday, that's all we've got left.
"That guy will get out in 12 years but we've got the life sentence. I would have expected at least a 17-year sentence for every year Michelle has lived.
"When you are 17 or 18 the world is in front of you, but it was all taken away from her." Miss Stewart's mother Josephine wept as she said: "He has taken away my child."
The victim's brother Kenny, a nurse who tried to help his sister at the scene, added: "He will be out after 12 years. We will never get Michelle back. Life should mean life, like it does in America.

Changes made to child protection

Sweeping changes are to be made to the way vulnerable children are protected after a toddler was murdered by his father.
Leon McIntyre, two, was smothered by his paranoid father, Andrew, who then tried to kill himself.
Today, distraught mum Marie Tuckey spoke publicly for the first time about the tragic death of her son and said she felt she was not given enough support to deal with her violent ex.
An independent review into the tragedy has found no-one could have predicted McIntyre would harm his own son.
But the report recommended changes to the way staff deal with cases involving people in violent relationships especially those with children.
Ms Tuckey said her ex-partner's violent rages against her which she reported to care workers should have rung alarm bells.
Ms Tuckey, 35, said: "These people may think they have dealt with Leon's death, but that is not how I see it.
"They are on your back when you don't need them and when you do they are nowhere to be seen.
"I contacted the authorities at least 20 times about Andrew's abuse towards me, but I was told I had to sort it, to get rid of him. I didn't get the support I needed."
Last year, McIntyre pleaded guilty to killing Leon on October 5, 2007, in Thornholme Close, Beaumont Leys, Leicester, and was sentenced to serve at least 16 years in prison.

Social worker shortage forces UK to recruit in Australia

With unemployment soaring past the two million mark, new work opportunities will come as a great relief to the nation's desperate jobseekers.
Offering pay of up to Pfund42,000 and perks such as a final salary pension scheme, Essex County Council are seeking to recruit 50 more social workers.
But unfortunately for Britons seeking fresh employment, the public sector jobs are being advertised in Australia and New Zealand.
Officials say they cannot find enough recruits here, despite unemployment having passed the two million mark.
As well as a final-salary pension scheme, potential candidates are being offered four months of free accommodation, a Pfund3,500 relocation allowance and help to buy a car.
At present, around one in ten social work positions across the country are unfilled while 5,500 are filled by temporary staff.
Last month, an Ofsted report in in the wake of the Baby P scandal revealed that 40 of the 149 councils assessed by the watchdog provided inadequate or the bare minimum of children's services.
Critics said that bringing in foreign workers will not solve the problem.
Ruth Cartwright, of the British Association of Social Workers, said: 'What often happens is social workers come over here to get experience and then want to go back, only filling gaps in the short term.'
She added: 'As we are in a recession one would like to think there are enough social workers, or potential social workers, within Britain.'

Confused process led to unlawful removal of Baby K

Case Review report published by Nottingham City Council
A case review report arising from the unlawful removal of a baby (K) at birth has been published by Nottingham City Council. The baby had been separated from the mother for just over 7 hours but was reunited with her following a decision from Mr Justice Munby that the removal was unlawful (see G (R on the application of) v Nottingham City Council [2008] EWHC 152 (Admin). The next day the child was properly removed under an Interim Care Order and eventually the mother was found guilty of child cruelty.
The report concludes that the error was not due to inexperience of the professionals involved or lack of knowledge of the overall legal framework and that that there was an appropriate decision making and accountability structure in place. However, there was
a confused process between the Initial Child Protection Conference and the birth planning meeting, probably caused by the difficulties in managing the Initial Child Protection Conference and the volatility of the situation led to making a plan which was unlawful.

Plan to join up social services and NHS care in Blackburn and Darwen

SOCIAL services could join up with NHS care under new plans for Blackburn with Darwen.
The proposals would mean that primary care trust NHS Blackburn with Darwen would be upgraded to a new-style Care Trust Plus, taking on the councils social care responsibilities.
It is hoped that the move would save money as well as improving services for patients and their families.
The primary care trust and Blackburn with Darwen Council are set to hold a series of public meetings to discuss the changes, and are also calling on residents to make their views known through questionnaires.
The consultation period will be open until June, when the council and the PCT will make a formal decision on whether to bid for the new status.
If accepted, they hope to have the Care Trust Plus up and running by April 2010.
The council and the PCT already work closely together, particularly on the Re:fresh campaign to improve public health, which has included the council offering free leisure to everyone living or working in the borough.
NHS Blackburn with Darwen chief executive Judith Griffin said: We have along history of close partnership working between the NHS and council in Blackburn with Darwen.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Chief social worker quits before crucial inspection

Surprise as Aberdeen allows her to retire early at critical time
The chief social worker at a council with one of the worst child protection records in Scotland has quit her post weeks before a crucial follow-up inspection, it emerged last night.
Aberdeen City Council approved Sandra Powers request for early retirement late last month, even though she was heavily involved in ensuring 23 recommendations for improvements to social work services were made.
The Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA), which said in a damning report last May it was not confident children at risk were being adequately supported, is returning to the city on Monday.
A spokeswoman for the agency, which is behind the recommendations, said inspectors expected to interview the chief social work officer alongside other managers and staff as part of the follow-up inspection.

Kim Bromley-Derry says profession has felt 'under siege' since Baby P

The new president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services has promised to restore morale to children's social work by highlighting its value to society and working to improve post-qualifying training.
Kim Bromley-Derry, director of children's services at Newham Council in London, told a reception yesterday to mark his election that the profession was "feeling under siege" following the Baby P case.
Public criticism
He feared recruitment and retention problems could worsen as the sting of public criticism took effect, adding: "Social workers have said to me, 'why would you want to enter this profession [in the current climate]?'."
But Bromley-Derry pledged to take action on the issue.
'Demystify social work'
Firstly, it was important to "demystify" social work by engaging with families and the media, Bromley-Derry said.

Social worker struck off

A SOCIAL worker convicted of stealing money from a mentally ill pensioner she was providing care for has been struck off by the General Social Care Council.
Martha Wright, 33, was employed by Trafford Councils Social Services when she stole almost Pfund5,000 from the elderly woman over a period of nine months.
She was convicted of nine counts of obtaining money by deception at Manchester Crown Court in 2007, and given 240 hours community service, and a suspended sentence.
At a hearing yesterday, the GSCC Committee said Wright had significantly abused her position of trust and had caused direct harm to a particularly vulnerable service user, who was left with virtually nothing in her bank account.
They said Wrights behaviour was fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be a registered social worker, and that dishonesty associated with professional practice is so damaging to public confidence in social care services, removal was the only appropriate sanction.
They also said shed clearly breached the Code of Practice all social workers sign up to when registering with the GSCC.

Social worker put kids at risk

A social worker has been struck off after she put children at serious risk by ignoring allegations of child abuse and domestic violence.
Joy Coless failure to follow up warnings by police, the NSPCC, schools and the public meant vulnerable children were needlessly left in danger for many months.
Miss Coles, a manager at Leicester City Council, failed to properly deal with 90 referrals.
She put the children of nine families at significant risk of further harm.
Today, Bob Clark, the city councils director of childrens services, said systems were now in place to ensure Miss Coless deception could never be repeated.
A conduct hearing yesterday banned her from working as a social worker again.
It was told Miss Coles failed to take action on cases referred to her, which she was supposed to assess and allocate to staff.
George Davies, chairman of the hearing, said: These were serious failures which left vulnerable children at significant risk and she knowingly misled managers about the numbers of cases she had not dealt with.

My adopted son came home after 23 years.. and nearly ended my marriage

A reunion with a long-lost family member may seem like a cause for joy but things dont always turn out the way you planned.
When Philippa Hope found the son shed put up for adoption 23 years earlier, it had a catastrophic impact on her marriage.
Having given up Anthony when she was just a teenager, shed gone on to marry Rick Hope, 40.
But when Anthony found her, it almost ended their marriage.
It wasnt that Rick was unhappy about me finding Anthony, it was just hed never imagined how jealous it would make him feel, says Philippa, 47, a charity worker from Whitstable, Kent.
Once my son and I were reunited, we couldnt get enough of seeing each other. I know now it was torture for Rick. I felt caught between two men who both meant so much to me.
Philippa was just 19 when she split with Anthonys father before finding she was pregnant. Mum wanted me to put the baby up for adoption, says Philippa. I didnt want to but felt I had to.
After giving birth in August 1981, Philippa couldnt bear to look at her son knowing she was going to lose him.
After two days she went to find him in the hospital nursery. I told him Id always love him, says Philippa. Her son was always on her mind but when she met Rick 13 years later, they had a whirlwind romance, marrying after just three months.

Reunited with adopted son (This Morning)

At just 19 Philippa Hope (now 47) gave her baby boy, Anthony up for adoption. 23 years later, Anthony tracked her down and they were reunited.
But, all was not happy as the son she gave away almost ruined her marriage. Philippa had been too ashamed to tell her husband Rick the truth about the adoption.
Rick says; "I was hurt and angry, I confronted her straight away. But I calmed down and we had a proper conversation about it and I understood why she had done it."

Brothers charged with boys attack (BBC Newsnight)

Two brothers have been charged with attempted murder over an incident which left one child with serious head injuries and another with knife wounds.
The boys, aged 10 and 11, were arrested after another 11-year-old boy was found with head injuries in a ravine in Edlington, Doncaster, on Sunday.
His nine-year-old friend was found bleeding from knife wounds nearby and has undergone surgery.
The boys are also charged with robbery, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
They were remanded into secure local authority care after appearing at Doncaster Youth Court and will next appear in the same court on 14 April.
The older boy wore a red England shirt and his younger brother a grey T-shirt as the charges were read to them.
Chris Hartley, head of the service's Crown Court Unit, said: "We have now authorised the police to charge a boy aged 10 and a boy aged 11.

Sedation link to birth defects - Kendall House Abuse (BBC Newsnight)

Hundreds of girls heavily sedated in UK care homes during the 1970s and 1980s may be at risk of having children with birth defects, the BBC has found.
Radio 4's Today found 10 ex-residents of a children's home run by the Church of England in Gravesend, Kent, have had children with a birth defect.
They were given massive doses of tranquilisers and other drugs while being restrained as teenagers.
The Diocese of Rochester says it will co-operate with any future inquiry.
One childcare expert said hundreds of children may have been drugged in the care system across the UK throughout the 70s and 80s, potentially subjecting them to the same health risks as those learnt about by the BBC.
Mike Lindsay, national co-ordinator for the Children's Rights Alliance for England, said: "Using drugs to control the behaviour of children was perfectly acceptable as far as their own professional understanding at that time went."
The Kendall House home in Gravesend was run by the Church of England in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s but the site is no longer a children's home.
In a statement issued through the Church of England, the diocese said it was unable to discuss individual circumstances for legal reasons.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Family Justice - Camilla Cavendish's campaign

Family justice: what we can do to protect our children
A ten-point plan to make our courts system fairer and safeguard it from forces which are largely unaccountable
Family justice: your word against theirsIn the third of our special articles,
we look at the pernicious types of allegation that are almost impossible for parents to disprove
Family courts: the hidden untouchablesIn the second of our special articles,
we explain how family courts operate in secrecy
Family justice: the secret state that steals our children
Every year thousands of children are taken from their parents, largely on the say-so of ‘experts'.
Moving response to our justice campaign
The Times call for an end to secrecy in family courts has produced a huge reaction
The public needs confidence in family courts
Professionals are well aware of the difficulties they faceTimes wins battle over secrecy of family courtDetails disclosed of a private family court case that led to a mother fleeing the UK with her son after he was placed in care
Adoption case a 'disgrace' and cannot be repeated
Family judges want greater openness of proceedings so that their decisions can be seen to be fair and they can rebut criticisms of bias
Family Justice: share your stories and experiences
We're trying to find people who've been involved with the family courts system. You can help by taking our anonymous survey.
Plus Many More.....

Bloggers excluded as family courts opened

Thousands of family hearings that take place behind closed doors will be opened to media this month, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said yesterday.
Under the reform, accredited media will be able to attend all levels of family courts from April 27, removing the inconsistency of access between magistrates’ courts, which are generally open, and the county and high courts, which are closed.
Courts will still be able to restrict attendance if a child’s welfare requires it or if it is necessary to do so for the safety and protection of parties or witnesses. Parties to cases will be able to make representations to a court if they feel that there are good reasons for excluding journalists.
The Justice Ministry said that journalists who attended family courts would have to be accredited through the British press card scheme, which has a wide membership and is open to those working wholly or mainly in the media.
The scheme is not open to bloggers, those who write occasional newsletters or to foreign media.

Spare us from state-regulated grannies

If grandparents are paid for childminding, the bureaucrats will inevitably want to regulate them
It was fairly inevitable, I suppose, that sooner or later a pressure group would demand that the taxpayer pay grandparents for looking after their grandchildren. After all, there is barely anything in life these days that passes unpaid, so the climate must be right for some judicious exploitation of this most uncomplicated of relationships. So, we are told, your average granny would now like to be rewarded for her hard work with little Sofia or Emily or Jack. Or all three at once.
Looked at through accountant's spectacles, grandparents are a big business proposition. The UK has an estimated 13 million of them, more than a third of whom are said to spend the equivalent of three days a week caring for their grandchildren. If they all received extra state funding - in the form of national insurance credits and two weeks' “granny leave” - and if their children received childcare tax credit for using them as carers, we are looking at a scheme that involves a considerable bill for the taxpayer.

Social worker struck off after biting son

Woman whose sons were placed on protection register should not be in position of responsibility for other children, panel rules
A children's social worker was struck off the professional register today after biting her son while under the influence of alcohol.
The General Social Care Council (GSCC) said it could not name the individual or reveal the local authority where she worked. It received medical evidence that she suffered from an abnormal personality and longstanding mental health issues.
The case was heard in private by a conduct committee in Birmingham, under rules that guaranteed the social worker's anonymity. She did not attend.
The committee accepted evidence that the woman's two sons were considered at risk of emotional abuse and placed on the child protection register for 11 weeks in 2003.

Child abuse whistle-blower arrested

A controversial Jersey politician who claimed officials on the island covered up child abuse is considering legal action against the police after he was arrested.
Whistle-blower Stuart Syvret was arrested in the parish of Grouville in connection with an alleged breach of data protection law.
The 43-year-old senator was not charged and, after a day in custody, was released "pending further inquiries".
He said officers searched his home and he was kept in a police cell all day other than for a two-hour interview. He claims the police did not have a warrant to search his property and believes the arrest was politically motivated.
Mr Syvret said: "The whole exercise was designed to intimidate and harass me and to intimidate the whistle-blowers who give me information. This was an act of oppression against the person who is leading the opposition to the establishment on this island.

Father had children snatched from him for five years after partner made false paedophile claims, High Court told

A father branded a paedophile in a police and social services 'witch hunt' is claiming damages for being put through a 'ghastly nightmare' five years long.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was suddenly accused by his disturbed ex-girlfriend of abusing their three-old-daughter - and an investigation was launched.
Although the mother was later said to be suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy - in which parents fabricate afflictions for their children - her claims were treated with deadly seriousness.
A social worker, Sandra Sullivan, and a policewoman identified only as WPC Grey, carried out an 'outrageous and oppressive' interrogation of the toddler, and decided sexual abuse had definitely occurred.
And it is claimed that WPC Grey then falsely told the father, identified only as B, that medical evidence proved he had abused his daughter, known only as L.

Paedophile jailed for tot assault

A paedophile who admitted indecently assaulting a 17 month old baby has been given an indeterminate prison sentence.
Andrew Lintern, of Five Acres in Kings Langley, was arrested when he believed he was meeting a 13 year old girl intending to have sex with her.
The "child" whom he had been grooming for months online went under the name Jessie and was in fact a covert police officer.
At Southwark Crown Court in London on Monday (March 16) the former Oxford University research chemist was jailed for a minimum of three-and-a-half years. After this time he can be considered for parole.
He had previously pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a 17 month old baby seven years ago, making, distributing and possessing 20,000 indecent images of children and travelling to meet a 13 year old girl after grooming her via the internet.

Doncaster: The rotten borough they call the Haringey of the north

The social services department in Doncaster has such an appalling record of caring for children at risk that it is known to social work insiders as the 'Haringey of the North'.
This is a grim reference to the equally hapless North London council which failed to prevent the deaths of Victoria Climbie and Baby P.
Less than a month ago, Children's Secretary Ed Balls said there were 'serious weaknesses' in Doncaster's provision for youngsters and ordered a new management team into the crisis-hit authority.
He was forced to act because, despite repeated criticism, the figurehead of the so-called 'Rotten Borough', its controversial mayor Martin Winter, has refused to accept responsibility for - or even recognise - the department's chronic mismanagement and lack of accountability.