April 30, 2011


I am writing this piece to raise awareness of these so called expert witnesses that are bought in by Social Services and Cafcass more often than not to write damning reports against parents so that they lose their children to permanent foster care or forced adoption.

What the media never print is how much these experts are paid through taxpayers money and how corrupt the whole system is.

These experts who write reports against the parents often do so out of pure motivation to’ get rich quick’. Were they to write a favourable report the work from Social Services and Cafcass hellbent on snatching children to win their case would diminish.

Some of these experts have their fingers in other pies take Karen Houghton Chartered psychologist who not only makes money stating children should not be with their parents but also is listed on a post adoption agency offering therapy to these children for the attachment disorders she has helped to create.

In the next couple of months another so called expert is due to be outed , this is Dr George Hibbert currently under investigation by the GMC . I am just awaiting their decision in writing so cannot say too much at the moment but should be able to in a couple of months when their legal team have given this Dr a chance to respond to their findings.

Below is an article by the independant referring to Southall.


April 27, 2011

MP John Hemming outs Doncaster council over injunction

MP John Hemming outs Doncaster council over injunction

The row over the use of injunctions intensified on Tuesday when an MP used parliamentary privilege to name horse-racing figure Vicky Haigh as being gagged by a council.

Liberal Democrat MP John HemmingLiberal Democrat MP John Hemming

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming told the Commons that Doncaster council has been trying to ‘imprison’ Ms Haigh, who is eight months pregnant, for speaking against them.

He said: ‘Vicky Haigh, who is a horse trainer and previously a jockey, was the subject of an attempt by Doncaster Council to imprison her for speaking at a meeting in parliament.’

The terms of the injunction prevent any further details being disclosed.

Speaker John Bercow urged Mr Hemming to speak to him privately, telling the MP: ‘I don’t intend to have a discussion on the floor of the House.’

Ms Haigh is also prevented from talking about the details.

But she told Metro: ‘It has been so stressful. I have worked with animals all my life and I wouldn’t treat an animal in the way they have treated me.

‘They are so inhumane. They are barbaric. They seem to thrive on making my life hell.’

Mother-of-one Ms Haigh, 40, from Doncaster, is due to give birth to her second child in three weeks.

She said more than £20,000 saved for her wedding this summer has been spent on defending herself in the High Court in London.

Speaking to Metro last night, Mr Hemming, who previously named former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin as the subject of a super-injunction, said he would continue to raise the issue.

He said: ‘I’m planning to carry on exposing the names of those who have been silenced. Parliament makes the law in this country.’

Doncaster council was unavailable for comment last night.

Read more:

April 23, 2011

The judge has forbidden anyone to tell me what he wanted me to hear

The judge has forbidden anyone to tell me what he wanted me to hear

The secrecy of the family courts system has reached a bizarre new extreme, says Christopher Booker.

Torn apart: the system of child protection is a national scandal Photo: ALAMY
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker 7:00PM BST 23 Apr 2011

The attempts by judges to hide the strange activities of our family courts from public view are becoming ever more surreal. Last week they reached a bizarre new extreme, at the end of a case which I reported on last year more than once – a case that illustrates, chillingly, what has gone wrong with a system that too often allows social workers to seize children from blameless and devoted parents, on highly dubious evidence and for no apparent reason.

For some time before the final hearing of this case, there was considerable effort made to let me know that the judge wished I should attend. I knew he was irked by what I reported of the story last year, although I had been careful to observe the reporting restrictions. Naturally, I was curious to know why he now seemed so anxious for me to be present. As it happened, however, I was not able to attend. I have therefore only been able to surmise what occurred.

It seems the judge issued a very strict warning to everyone in court that they must not communicate anything of what had gone on to any outsider. Had I been present, I have no doubt that his remarks would have been particularly directed at me, and I would of course have been prohibited from reporting the case at all, on pain of contempt of court and possibly prison. If this is what happened, however, the judge overlooked one important point: there was no way that anyone in the court was allowed to communicate the judge’s warning to me.

I can only guess – on the basis of my detailed knowledge of what happened earlier – that the case ended in a way which, had I been able to report it, would have deeply shocked my readers. Had it gone otherwise, I would be free to report it in detail.

Judicial gagging orders have been much publicised of late, thanks to the determined campaign being waged to expose what is wrong with them by John Hemming MP. But almost all the media attention has focused on the power of the courts to suppress reporting on the alleged sexual activities of footballers. Less notice has been paid to the real purpose of Mr Hemming’s campaign: to expose the much worse scandal of the secrecy surrounding our family courts, and the horrible injustices too often inflicted on innocent parents who are treated like criminals without their voices being allowed to be heard.

It is this that Mr Hemming wishes to see exposed to public view – and the curious behaviour last week of a judge I cannot name, in a city I cannot name, in a case of which I cannot be allowed to know the outcome, is just a further instance of how grievously this system has been allowed to go off the rails.

Pregnant woman threatened with prison for breach of gagging order

Pregnant woman threatened with prison for breach of gagging order

By Andy McSmith

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The woman, who was eight months pregnant, drove for several hours to get to courtALAMY

The woman, who was eight months pregnant, drove for several hours to get to court

Parliament is being urged to intervene in the case of a heavily pregnant woman who was threatened with prison for naming her local council during a public meeting in the House of Commons.

The woman is subject to a sweeping family court order which makes it an offence to identify her, or the council involved, or any council staff involved, or to say what the case is about. It makes it illegal for her to seek publicity for the case, or for anyone else to approach her for information about it.

It is an example of the kind of gagging order which family courts have the power to issue, to protect the vulnerable, but there are fears that they can also be used as a convenient device for local officials who do not want controversial decisions to be subjected to public scrutiny.

They are distinct from the injunctions increasingly obtained by wealthy or famous men – and nearly all are men – who do not want the media publicising their sexual peccadilloes or information that may harm their businesses.

The increasing use of injunctions prompted David Cameron to say this week that he has become worried that judges, rather then Parliament, are creating a privacy law. John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP who has been campaigning against the spread of gagging orders, said yesterday he has referred the woman’s case to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, because of the questions it raises about free speech. “I have referred this issue to Mr Speaker for a reference to the Standards and Privileges Committee,” he said yesterday.

He also plans to use parliamentary privilege to reveal the name of the local authority when Parliament returns after Easter.

Three weeks ago, Mr Hemming chaired a meeting in the Commons to discuss whether there is too much secrecy around family courts and courts of protection, to which the public were invited. Guest speakers included Anthony Douglas, head of the Court and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) which protects the interests of children in family court cases.

During the meeting, the woman, who was in the audience, spoke about her own experience, referring to a council and a social worker by name. Two weeks later, she received a summons to appear at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The message implied that she faced prison, though she learnt when she arrived in court that the council was not seeking to have her locked up. In the meantime, she had consulted a solicitor and engaged a barrister, leaving her with a legal bill of around £10,000.

Although she is notallowed to talk about the case itself, the woman described to The Independent yesterday what happened after her visit to the Commons. “I had been encouraged by different people to speak to MPs after I had had no joy with the council complaints procedures, so I thought ‘there’s an MP and the head of CAFCASS in the same room’ – that’s why I went,” she said.

“When I got the summons I was shocked. I only found out at a quarter to seven on Monday that on Wednesday morning I had to appear in court in London. I live hours away by car and I’m nearly eight months pregnant, but I got there. I thought it was sensible to attend. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I was totally shocked that it was to do with a meeting in Parliament.”

Mr Hemming, who is collecting information on injunctions to present to the Commons Justice Committee, sees the case as a striking example that the courts, rather than MPs, are making decisions about privacy and free speech.

“With the judges acting to reduce freedom of speech it becomes even more important to protect freedom of speech in Parliament,” he said yesterday. “Citizens should be allowed to raise problems with MPs. The names of the local authority and the mother have to remain unspoken because of injunctions. But it is my intention to reveal this using parliamentary privilege when Parliament reconvenes next week. People need to know what is being done in their name. The truth must come out.”

April 20, 2011

fantastic article by researching reform

Researching Reform wrote an article for Only Dads this week on one of our proposals which we’ve put to the government. Essentially, it looks at the unwitting effects of the family justice system on the mental health of the families that come before it and calls on government to heed the warnings and look to the solutions being offered, not just by Researching Reform but by people who have a wealth of experience in the field and a passion for their subject.

You can read the article at Only Dads here.

(Also uploaded onto Scribd).

Pulling the Trigger: The Mailbox Monster and Martial Law

In ten year’s time, or thereabouts, it will be taken as fact that the family justice system today was responsible, in significant ways, for contributing to soaring levels of mental health disorders faced not just by parents going through the courts, but later on, by their children. I modestly suggest this will also be established in other jurisdictions in the western world, too.

Whilst it would be terribly unfair to suggest that people inside the system have colluded together with the sole purpose of trying to deteriorate the mental health of families that come before them, the heady combination of several high impact stress triggers within the system and the government’s fear of addressing the  problems without finding themselves caught in ever increasing political and financial conflicts of interest means that much like the sub-prime mortgage crisis, it is likely that intervention and reformation will not take place before we’ve paid too high a price. And it would be very easy to make the case that with one small life lost, the price is already too high.

Yet there are very real issues that need to be addressed when considering how the process affects mental health.

The family justice system is not sophisticated. Practitioners themselves, in private, often speak of it as a blunt instrument, often unable to provide the kind of detail that is required in family matters. When that metaphorical gavel comes crashing down, there’s no telling sometimes, where and on what, it will land. And the mess it makes, both physically and mentally, can be devastating.

Stress is often the catalyst for mental health deterioration and to that end we can perhaps group together a few major stimuli that cause stress levels within families to soar when they go through the family courts: these are what could be described as stress triggers. It’s important, I believe, to mention that before families come to the courts, there is an emotional background that is not taken into consideration, which adds to families’ stress levels especially when professionals inside the system don’t understand that they are not working with people at their best – they are working with people often at their worst and are therefore vulnerable and need support.

Arguably the greatest stress trigger is one related to the science in the system. Many professionals don’t seem to be aware of the high levels of stress families are already under by the time they come to it and focusing as they do on inter departmental issues like goal incentives and inter-group politics, the real focus which should be, to my mind, on trying to stabilise families first before supporting with advice, is being ignored. Mediation for divorcing couples is the latest offering in this department but it will not provide government with the solution they crave – supporting families so that they are confident and calm enough to make their own choices or feel comfortable being aided to do so, will bring about the kind of solutions good for families and good for government.

The lack of understanding about the range of emotions that families go through when they come to the courts is also confounding. Social workers often retaliate with anger when a family member shouts at them upon advising, as they sometimes have to in public family law cases that a report into the care of their child may lead to the child being removed. This is a perfectly normal reaction and yet, it remains largely misunderstood. The social worker takes it personally and before you know it, they allow their own upset to muddy the waters and retaliate by taking their hurt out on the family, sometimes through mild forms of bullying right through to court of protection orders, effectively removing decision making from the person in question and doing so without just cause in these instances.

There are unfortunately many cases where families who have perfectly good track records with their children are treated abysmally because they chose to challenge rather forceful social workers on ill-founded assumptions. Whilst physical violence should never be tolerated, there has to be a basic understanding of how family breakdown manifests in families emotionally and an inherent respect for the families in question.  The kind of miscommunication going on at present is causing stress levels to soar, not just for families but for social workers too, who really should be able to spend regular periods of time with councillors to decompress and let out their own anxieties of having to work with often very troubled families. Without that support, people inside the system become very jaded and this has a definite impact on the way services are delivered. We’re all human.

Another stress trigger related to the science in the system stems from the lack of uniform and accepted knowledge on psychiatric conditions. The confusion in the family courts on these matters and the wildly fluctuating standards across the country are also sub-triggers, leaving families feeling as if they are at the mercy of disinterested bystanders sent to fill out forms and load the families up onto processing trays, to be dissected and divided at will. The stress of being misdiagnosed is immeasurable and there are far too many examples in the news from Dr Meadows to mothers who run away from England to escape wrongful diagnosis (due to impending removal of their children from their care) for this stress trigger to be ignored. The trauma this causes to children is enormous: from the fear of losing their parents in scenarios which should never have placed families under such a microscope, to sometimes the need to relocate, whether through fear or a poorly judged court order needs no explanation. And when families are wrongfully separated, one can only imagine the psychological harm that causes, with intense trepidation.

A further factor relates to the family courts being seemingly unaware of how these flaws inside the system all compound together to create major stress triggers and unwittingly force some families to be exposed to several of them at once, for extended periods of time, without anyone trying to stabilise the families during any part of the process. These raw, vulnerable units are often left to deal with the weight of an ailing and heartless system on their own and as they struggle to cope, their deterioration is often wrongfully misinterpreted as an implicit sign of their being something wrong with the families in the first instance, when in reality they are simply responding to insurmountable pressures placed upon them by a Neolithic system.

In fact the system is so basic that even the complaints procedures seem to be a no man’s land of no response and ‘no one home’. But it is even worse than this. With the system’s growing reputation for being unreasonable and irrational, today, people are sufficiently aware that should they even contemplate attempting to complain about poor treatment in the family justice system that they will probably find themselves open to prejudice and their case compromised by irate professionals who feel angered at being singled out for bad behaviour. As a result, even more families are afraid to speak out, leaving countless children at risk of gross injustice. It is of course true that sometimes people complain unfairly about those who work in the system yet the culture of retaliation within the departments in the system is strong and clearly unprofessional. And it’s contributing to the erosion of the system and the mental health of the families that come before them.

An added and significant stress trigger relates to poor communication, not just between families and professionals mentioned above, but by legal sectors which often cross paths during family proceedings. Family matters encompass myriad legal areas, from potential domestic violence issues resulting in criminal convictions or cautions to angry spouses sometimes trying to shed responsibility for financial obligations or even just shuffling assets around to friends and family to appear financially stressed, the system finds it almost impossible, unless you happen to be a millionaire and can conduct the evidence gathering process yourself in some instances, to ‘talk’ with various sectors and find out whether there are criminal judgments or fraudulent activities taking place. So poor is it, in fact, that when a breach of the law is committed in another field, families are often advised that family lawyers can do nothing about it, because it is ‘not their area of expertise’. This is understandable, but neither are matters relating to custody or contact, which is why they farm out these issues to Cafcass officers, for instance. This lack of pro-active and creative thinking cripples the system and leaves families at the mercy of the court’s ignorance, which is particularly dangerous in matters relating to child welfare and potentially violent parents. The levels of stress for children and the vulnerable spouse here is obvious.

And the financial implications of the process, set only to become greater as the government proposes charges for things like help with child maintenance and almost all but abolishes legal aid are a massive stress trigger for families. The cost of hiring lawyers is mind bogglingly high, with customer service satisfaction at an all time low. It’s all very well saying that no one is ever happy with the outcome of a court process in family matters but that is to ignore the often very poor quality service families receive in this area. The number of times families complain that their solicitors don’t even get back to them in a timely manner and seem to be immune to picking up the phone and returning a call is just a small part of a much bigger service provision problem. In private family matters especially, the majority of people simply cannot afford to pay for the kind of service that might, at a stretch, ensure the judge has all the information they need before them to have a shot at making an informed decision and when families try, they are often vilified for spending money doing so.

And after a while, some of the stress triggers become so all embracing, that parents start to take days off work and eventually remove themselves entirely via sick leave. At that point, it’s only a matter of time, before someone loses a job and finances take a hit. With a reduced level of income, already stretched due to the separation and the less than civil treatment families feel going through the process thanks to a system that operates as if it is under martial law, removing civil liberties sometimes without due care and consideration and doling out judgments that seem completely at odds with the realities of the families that come to court, families who are already in distress find themselves on the brink.

It’s a caustic catch 22, a bitter sweet blackmail wrap, that leaves families high and dry whether they bite on the bullet and pay through the nose at the expense of their families’ income or simply forego spending on the process and hope that justice will out, usually in vain. For how can a judge possibly make an effective decision without all the information?

The last major stress trigger is arguably the adversarial nature of the system. It might be fun for lawyers to battle it out in court and I daresay even more so in the corporate world, where the playing field is better suited to the rough and tumble of semantic sparring but to the family who’s future is being held in the balance, the tension and ‘excitement’ is not enjoyable nor indeed is it appropriate by virtue of the fact that there is a definite lack of dignity to the process which sends out a subliminal message: this is about our game not your perspective. The alienation from the process is a sub-trigger in itself, making families feel as if they are not a party to their own fate and more worryingly, that their views on their fate are irrelevant. This, coupled with the tangible hostility that is encouraged in some quarters, only serves to heighten anxiety levels, which parents harbour and take home and often unable to set the angst aside, expose their children to high levels of anxiety at best or at worst, unable to control the fear at all, take it out on their children.

As the court processes in family matters take longer and longer to complete, the chance for mental health to deteriorate and become debilitating, increases. The story of the Mail Box Monster is one such example. It has become something akin to Family Law Folklore, but I’m often asked why letters from solicitors always seem to arrive on Fridays, always carrying some kind of harrowing message and more often than not, laced with passive aggressive-style blackmail usually written with a hostile bite to match and sometimes just downright rude. I have seen many of these letters for myself. None of the ones I read suggested for a moment that the parties in question had fallen foul of the law or the payment of a bill.

Yet this Mail Box Monster manifests every Friday and families have to limp on through the weekend, often trying desperately to put a brave face on for the children, sometimes not succeeding, but leaving parents feeling anxious and tired with worry. If left unchecked, the Mail Box Monster becomes a spectre in the psyche, so much so that families even come to fear their mailbox. And I have experienced this myself. After two years of receiving vitriolic rhetoric from lawyers who thought they were being terribly clever, woefully blinded by what was perhaps well meaning sentiment, I too began to fear and loathe my mailbox. It became very difficult to consider going down to check the mail and every time I saw a letter in the box, I would panic. My heart would start to beat terribly fast and although the court process had come to an end and I knew those letters were not related, I would panic nevertheless as to what might be inside the envelopes: was it good news? Was it bad news? And if it was bad news, how bad would the bad news be? The sheer level of my anxiety, heightened over such a long period of time, had worn down my resistance and my ability to take uncertainty in my stride. My only respite from the fear was the time I spent with my son. During those periods, my anxiety would melt away, lost in the heavenly haze of my motherly pursuits. But being uncomfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable in such a situation, I resolved to sort the problem out. Soon, I was receiving occasional parcels in my mailbox from Amazon, filled with books, for myself and my son. Instead of going down to my local book store to buy novels and children’s stories, I had decided to send them to myself in the post. There were two advantages to this: the books were quite a bit cheaper and my fear of the Mail Box Monster began to die-down, as my delight at finding my favourite books in the box took over. I am now no longer afraid of the mail box and have renewed my patronage at the book store, but it never ceases to surprise me, how many families I come across who are familiar with the Mail Box Monster too.

There is no doubt that we cannot blame the system for the problems  families bring to court but we can take a compassionate view and change the way the system reacts to parents and their children by invigorating the system with a renewed energy, patience and passion to problem solve. All these things are free – they just require a sifting of the system, to find lawyers, judges, social workers and doctors who genuinely care about their work and the families that come before them and who have a deep understanding of the human condition and how it is affected by inter-related processes.

Going through my own divorce, it never ceased to astound me how little empathy and genuine listening went on in the process and how determined people were to take a point of view without full consideration and run with it, often to the detriment of all of us. At the end of the process, a lawyer once turned to me and said “Now can you see that the courts are not to blame and that it really is all down to you and your husband?” He was not a family lawyer and had not been a part of my divorce. I did not want to contradict him but I did reply “I take the view, that everyone has a part to play in the process”. I learned later on that this lawyer had rather unfortunately started to go through a rather acrimonious divorce himself. I did wonder whether his sentiments changed during that period of time.

It would be a pretty bleak thing if everyone had to go through the process themselves before they fully understood the ramifications of the system on the mental health of parents and children going through the courts. But there is plenty of evidence and information out there now for us to conduct research that, I believe, would show quite clearly that the lack of communication on all levels and the sheer cost of the process is unduly harming families and to that end I have asked the government to review a proposal for that research. I don’t know who will be brave enough to take it on, but I hope very much that in ten years’ time, the system will respond to the challenges it faces – and come to life.

Natasha Phillips, 17th March, 2011

April 19, 2011

4th may demonstration against secret family courts.

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 9:05 am


A peaceful march from Trafalgar Square via Downing Street Westminster Abbey,

Westminster Cathedral, to finish at the Ministry of Justice (St James Street). Help save the

children and put a stop to the state abducting and selling children via tax payers’ money.


Our very own SS (social services) are stealing thousands of children a year and selling them via

foster and adoption agencies. The state has the legal right to take your children or

grandchildren away never to be seen again. Grandparents – fathers have no rights, neither do

both parents once the children are taken.

Professer Sir Ian Kennedy has publicly stated that a UNICEF report, ranked the UK bottom

out of 25 developed countries on the wellbeing of its children.

In World War 2 the world knew children were being abducted and murdered by the SS, yet

still the abduction of children continues into the 21st century. We are pleading with the UK

nation on behalf of all children born with a voice but never to be heard. They need your voices

and legs on the 4th May to support and bring justice.


T.Cribb & Sons funeral directors are donating a carriage and horses with a small coffin to

represent the stolen children. We ask all marchers to please bring a white rose to represent the

stolen children and to place them at the cenotaph on passing.

Foster agencies receive £20,000 for every single child they foster to a carer.

Adoption agencies receive £36,000 for every single child adopted; please remember children

are sold into the system on the recommendation of a social worker, as opposed to the social

worker recommending children being cared for by their immediate families. WHY? Money

makes the world go round!

Most of these agents are run or owned by ex social services, the SS social services

are a law unto themselves, their powers exceeding those of our police.

There are millions of loving grandparents, fathers and families, who could give love and

security to a nation of abducted children, so why does Government know this and not act now

to save our next generation and your taxes.




Maggie Tuttle, Mobile 07767710756

Robert Green

Christopher Booker, Journalist, the Telegraph

Ian Josephs M.A.

NEWFathers4justice Roger.

John Hemming MP

Frank Bradfield,

David Amess MP, House of Commons,

James Deuchars

James R. Moore, Esq., Common Law/Lay

Sam Hallimond, Lay Advocate

Please post your gagging orders to John Hemming MP, House of Commons, London . STOP THE SECRET FAMILY COURTS !

Quaero Injunctions and the Inquiry

John Hemming MP, who is campaigning against excessive and unlawful court secrecy, has launched an inquiry in parliament into the growing numbers of gagging orders.

“I will be collecting a range of different gagging orders,” he said, “and then analysing and sorting them into different categories. I will then produce a number of parliamentary petitions summarising the details and pass them to the Justice Select Committee for further investigation.”

“What is clear,” he said, “is that almost all of the super and hyper injunctions have no public judgment. That means that they are not compliant with the rules for a fair trial. There is also the question as to whether there should be an automatic time limit on an interim order. Many cases have an interim order and no final hearing. This is clearly wrong. We also need to know what the costs are both for the applicant and for the media in defending these orders. It is wrong to have a system whereby people can buy the sort of justice they want. That is a contravention of Clause 29 of Magna Carta 1297 (which is still in force).”

“A good example of an injunction that is handled properly is that relating to ZAM and CFW/TFW. This is accompanied by a published judgment. However, what is not in the published judgment is the amount of costs awarded although the fact of the awarding of costs is in the judgment. The judgment should reveal the amount of costs as well.”

New type of injunction – the Quaeroinjunction

Mr Hemming has also revealed a new type of injunction against investigative journalism. “I have recently seen a gagging order that prevents people seeking information about a case from the parties. This goes a step further than preventing people speaking out against injustice. It also puts any investigative journalist at risk if they ask any questions of a victim of a potential miscarriage of justice.

“I call this the the Quaeroinjunction, after the latin work “to seek”. I don’t think this should be allowed in English courts. It has the effect of preventing journalists from speaking to people subject to this injunction without a risk of the journalist going to jail. That is a recipe for hiding miscarriages of justice.”

“Anyone who has a gagging injunction that they would like to go into this proceeding in parliament should post it to me at John Hemming MP, House of Commons, London SW1 0AA.”


Notes for Editors
Magna Carta Clause 29 is here

Article 6 ECHR is here

April 17, 2011

A mother is threatened with imprisonment for talking to her MP

A mother is threatened with imprisonment for talking to her MP

The high-handed power of social workers and the courts, working in tandem, threatens even the privileges of Parliament, writes Christopher Booker.

John Hemming MP is campaigning for greater transparency in our family protection system

John Hemming MP is campaigning for greater transparency in our family protection system Photo: PAUL GROVER
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker 7:00PM BST 16 Apr 201148 Comments

Last week a heavily pregnant woman, whose name is known to millions but whom I am forbidden by law to identify, was summoned to the High Court at very short notice to show why she should not be imprisoned. The charges against her, brought by a local authority I cannot name, were that she might or might not have been in breach of a court order restraining her freedom to speak about a matter which, again, I am prohibited from identifying.

One of these charges was that she attended a meeting, held last month in Westminster Hall, of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on family protection issues, at the invitation of John Hemming MP. He has been campaigning for greater justice and transparency in our highly secretive family protection system, on behalf of families torn apart by social workers for what appear to be no good reasons.

The main speaker at the meeting, the theme of which was transparency in the family courts, was Anthony Douglas, the chief executive of Cafcass (Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service), the state body which purports to represent the interests of children. When the woman raised concerns over the conduct of her case – which, as she understood it, was the meeting’s purpose – it was reported back to the council concerned. This contribution was listed among her alleged breaches of a court order which dictates that she must say nothing about her case to anyone outside the system.

In open court last week, it was stated that the local authority had agreed not to demand her imprisonment, providing that she also obeyed new conditions that forbid her to speak about her case to the media or to any “other persons as the parties may think fit”.

In addition, as I learned from John Hemming, a letter “agreed by all the parties” was sent to him by the woman’s solicitors, requesting him not to make any reference to her case in Parliament. By ancient parliamentary privilege, MPs are entitled to raise in Parliament cases where they believe that the conduct of authorities or the courts has been so questionable that normal rules of secrecy should not protect them from public disclosure. Mr Hemming replied to the lawyers that they were “clearly seeking to influence what I say in Parliament. The case already has aspects which are in contempt of Parliament” and their letter added a further element which “I am inclined to ask should be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee”.

It is difficult to believe, he continued, “when a mother has been threatened with imprisonment for talking to me, that an agreement come to in a court is come to willingly by all parties. It strikes me as an agreement arising as a result of duress.” Mr Hemming went on to say that, before referring to the Speaker a letter which he saw as being “in contravention of the law of Parliament”, he wished the lawyers to explain why he should “feel comfortable that this is something your client should have agreed to without having been threatened with imprisonment and/or the removal of her child at birth”.

He emphasised that he had no intention of disclosing any “information relating to the care proceedings which could be linked to your client or the child”. But from long experience of such cases, he saw the letter “as an attempt by the system to bully your client in an attempt to influence proceedings in Parliament”. He concluded that he would be entitled to “debate the constitutional issues raised simply by naming your client and raising the issues of her treatment by the police and the authorities’ attempts to punish her for her comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group” .

The mention of the police referred, inter alia, to a recent episode where the mother, who is seven months pregnant, was arrested and held on and off in police cells over a period of 60 hours. Three times she was rushed to hospital in serious distress due to complications in her pregnancy. She was then dragged from her hospital bed after midnight to spend several more hours in a dirty cell, before finally being released.

As Mr Hemming sums the situation up: “There are many very disturbing aspects of this case, about which I cannot yet say as much as I would like. But it appears to be a very extreme example of the lengths to which the family protection system will go to hide its activities from responsible scrutiny by Parliament and the media.”

Real-time updating is enabled.

29 minutes ago
Here Here I so agree with you on that 🙂

Yesterday 11:50 PM
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2 people
And here’s me thinking that the SS only ran Hitler’s death camps.

Yesterday 11:40 PM
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5 people
Has anyone raised this with the relevant authorities? That is: the Head of Legal Services and the Director of Children’s Services at Doncaster Council; the Chief Constable of Doncaster Constabulary and the Chief Constable of Humberside Constabulary; and also the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.

If not can I suggest that whomever is representing Ms Haigh do so at once?

On the face of the complaint made Ms Haigh appears to have been the victim of perjury, harassment, wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. As well as police misconduct, and incompetence/dishonesty of social workers.

BTW: it is a criminal offence for someone to claim to be a solicitor when they are not.

Yesterday 11:33 PM
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5 people
Ah, England. Destroyed from the inside. It’s enough to make me convert to Islam.

35 minutes ago
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1 person
I love it, at least we would have more rights than we do at the moment and we would NEVER lose our children on a whim like they take brits at the moment.

Yesterday 11:14 PM
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8 people
This is horrific.

Yesterday 10:39 PM
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17 people
The courts and the ss’s behaviour smacks of intimidation and it is a disgusting way to behave.

Their behaviour has been building up to this for over 20 years.

Their need to have absolute control over others suggest the people who enter these professions have some sort of psychological disorders and quite frankly it is they who should be locked up.

They do it, because they can get away with it. Politicians have sat on the fence for a good 10 years, time for this appalling institutional abuse to be stopped.

I hope John Hemming MP names them (not his constituent) and discloses their behaviour in Parliament. Then it is captured in Hansard. What are they going to do try and get him arrested for doing his job?

Yesterday 10:42 PM
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9 people
Spot on Oldmaid. I have been thinking for ages that they have psychological disorders. They seem to be sociopaths. Cartimandua is a brilliant example.

Yesterday 10:08 PM
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19 people
Cartimandua of course says that MPs should not raise matters in Parliament if told not to by solicitors in the family courts division ! Perhaps MPs should also submit their speeches to social workers before they say anything?

Yesterday 09:59 PM
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14 people
Why isn’t this a headline on the front page?

Yesterday 11:09 PM
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3 people
Because editors value their liberty, perhaps?

Yesterday 09:58 PM
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2 people
The womans solicitors who knew about all of it asked that Hemmings not bring it all up and he did anyway.

2a letter “agreed by all the parties” was sent to him by the woman’s solicitors, requesting him not to make any reference to her case in Parliament.”

Brilliant genius well no, an abuse of his position.

33 minutes ago
@ Cartmandanua, do you know something I don’t expect any other kind of comments than like this from a “Professional Troll” like yourself and all your colleges whom work with you, I mean you are one of the ones who will go to extreme lengths to keep the Courts closed so that nothing can be reported so you will never be caught out for the bull that you and the rest spout”

Yesterday 10:55 PM
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9 people
Why should this woman not be able to speak to her MP?

What statute states a constituent cannot talk to their MP if they are involved in a civil Court case?

Yesterday 10:31 PM
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17 people
What a strange comment. The MP is there to represent the public interest as he sees fit. He is accountable to his electorate, not the Courts.

Yesterday 10:29 PM
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Carty – out for the evening or the weekend? Got your tag on?

You really are an idiot, aren’t you? I elect my MP to look after my interests and that is precisely what Hemmings was doing – what he was elected for.

Go and read the link IJ left earlier and tell me that the events and shady doings by the police in that are acceptable practice.

If our MPs are going to be gagged, and that includes the Family Courts, then that is the rest of our democracy out of the window. People like you need to be held accountable.

Yesterday 10:49 PM
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Comment removed.

Yesterday 11:01 PM
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That’s odd, an constituent can’t talk to her MP about it. A journalist cannot mention it.

But you can and in a newspaper!

I think you have just blown your purported right to secrecy.

Yesterday 09:53 PM
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This woman should have been jailed for the rest of her life,and to all the others on here who are moaning i would have you all rounded up and shot,this is a free democratic country,you can say what you like as long as you are in the bath by yourself when doing so,we are govened by honest, good,god fearing politicians who spend their every waking hour working for us, I fell very proud and so should you be,by the way, Hugh-oxford,you will have called at a bad time,expenses fiddling now takes a lot longer,so a bit more concentration is needed,try and be a bit more thoughtful in future,yes?.

Yesterday 10:04 PM
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My Lord Barnett (or should it be Comrade Barnett) – Presumably you’re in the Upper House and not biased about our honest, god fearing politicians?

Yesterday 10:16 PM
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4 people
Tollie, Is he extracting the urine? I ask myself.
Real-time updating is enabled.

Yesterday 09:42 PM
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If the link in my previous comment is to be believed it would seem that the mother in question could well be Vicky Haigh,the well known ex supermodel, also well known in the horse racing world as an ex jockey who was the first lady rider to win the military cup at Sandown and who was invited to tea with the Queen as a consequence !,She is also an ex trainer of many winners on the best courses in the land and a PR lady/ambassador for Victor Chandler,who is now widely acknowledged as the top individual bookmaker operating on British racecourses !As a confirmed ” horse racing man” I certainly know of Vicky though I have never met her.
Could such a person be the one being persecuted by the “SS” ? Well if it’s not her she can sue me,but I reckon the police did not know who they were mistreating when they dragged her out of her hospital bed after midnight so they could sling this 7 month pregnant lady into a dirty uncomfortable cell” !Maybe they were hoping to provoke a premature birth so that the “SS” could confiscate her baby?

34 minutes ago
Ian I believe it to be from what I have heard about it in the past few weeks, Its a sad state of affairs when even people like Vicky are been gagged etc.

Yesterday 09:52 PM
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Thanks for the info.

Yesterday 09:42 PM
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The way the police and CAFFCASS have handled this case beggars belief. (apparently) Because we are only seeing one side of the story here.
Nevertheless…if the story is accurate, there has to be a high-level inquiry into the way the police, the courts and the social care heirarchy are subverting the role of democracy.

Captain Lump Sum
Yesterday 09:38 PM
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We are bombing Libya right now to stop this kind of persecution happening. Looks like we need to start in South Yorkshire.

Yesterday 10:17 PM
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And the High Court Captain!.

Yesterday 09:36 PM
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This is evil.

Yesterday 09:04 PM
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19 people
Bout time our elected representatives reasserted the sovereignty of parliament over the family courts.

This is surely a shocking stae of affairs tha all parents should be wary of.

Yesterday 09:00 PM
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I would hope that this could be referred to the House of Commons Privileges Committee.

I see no reason why any person, be they solicitor, barrister or Judge, who is involved in attempts to restrict the right of citizens to have access to their MP ought not be imprisoned in the Tower of the House of Commons for contempt of Parliament, without limit of time.

If that were to happen, and Her Majesty had no judges left, we might find a solution to this problem.

Yesterday 08:48 PM
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23 people
I cannot think of any justification for dragging a heavily pregnant woman FROM HER HOSPITAL BED to put her in the cells,especially as her only offence (if indeed it was an offence) was to talk to her MP !

Yesterday 08:37 PM
Recommended by
7 people…

I was sent this link anonymously and I wonder if it refers to the events in Christopher’s column…….

Yesterday 09:57 PM
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IJ, even if it isn’t, it is appalling. Why would the police knock on the door of a heavily pregnant woman at 4:00 a.m.? There is no excuse, and if the baby is harmed in any way through the stress caused by the police, then they should be made to pay. It is victimisation and says a lot about today’s police.

It is well known that Doncaster isn’t a place to bring up children, the SS mafia there are renowned for their cruelty and incompetence.

Yesterday 11:18 PM
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“Why would the police knock on the door of a heavily pregnant woman at 4:00 a.m.?”

That’s the way the police do things under a Socialist regime.

Yesterday 11:16 PM
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Essex SS are just as bad.

Yesterday 08:32 PM
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Outrageous! But it should not be up to John Hemming to uphold Parliamentary privilege. That is the role of the Speaker.

What should happen is that he summons the judge and any other party to the Bar of the House, and reminds them that it is the duty of an MP to make representations to the Executive on behalf of their constituent, and anyone who interferes with this process is in contempt of Parliament.

Of course the Speaker will do no such thing, so Mr Hemming should not then feel bound by any lesser convention. He should speak out and name names. The public interest must prevail.

Yesterday 09:04 PM
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3 people
On reflection, if the judge jails Mr Hemming and the Speaker jails the judge – who wins?

15 minutes ago
The judge should be called before the house and told to apologise on bended knee.

Yesterday 11:18 PM
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3 people
The public.

Yesterday 08:30 PM
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23 people
My (Labour) MP threatened to call the police because I phoned her to complain about the levels of immigration. I haven’t contacted her since.

Yesterday 10:32 PM
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3 people
Name the bitch.

Yesterday 09:04 PM
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5 people
Are you at liberty to say who she is?

Yesterday 09:46 PM
Obviously hugh_oxford isn’t. Pity!!!

Captain Lump Sum
Yesterday 09:40 PM
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5 people
If she’s a female Labour Oxford MP there’s only one culprit, I believe.

Yesterday 10:30 PM
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1 person
Captain, A Labour MP in Oxford? what is wrong in that city?, mind you there is a lot wrong with the other crowd also!.

Yesterday 10:21 PM
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2 people
Of course he is, he’s in the same secure placement as Cartimandua. (But you have to humour them).

Yesterday 09:42 PM
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5 people
Surely some part(s) of the Human Rights Law is being breached here?

And where is Cartimandua, never the same without her. She was acting quite sane in the letters area earlier.

Yesterday 11:26 PM
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3 people
Human rights law doesn’t apply to law-abiding ethnically British tax-paying citizens.

Just try a trick like that with a black or Pakistani mother and see where it gets you, especially if they are in the country illegally or an “Asylum Seeker”.

April 12, 2011

Man gagged by secret family courts now free to speak

Freed man in court secrecy battle

A businessman cleared of rape was told by social workers that he could not live with his young daughter and was then banned from asking his MP for help.

Andy France with his wife Qi and their daughter at his home in Birmingham: Freed man in court secrecy battle

Andy France with his wife Qi and their daughter at his home in Birmingham Photo: CLARA MOLDEN
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent 7:00AM BST 10 Apr 2011

When Andrew France was finally cleared of a rape he did not commit after a four-year ordeal he wanted only to return to the family he loved – and be a father to the daughter who was born while he was in jail.

But social workers told the innocent businessman that if he moved into the family home they would respond by taking his four-year old into care.

And astonishingly, Mr France was even forced into agreeing that he would not speak to his MP about his legal fight, after he was handed what is known as a “hyperinjunction“.

Now, finally able to speak out, he is backing his MP John Hemming’s campaign to crack down on secrecy in the courts and prevent judges from making “anti-democratic” injunctions – a campaign which comes amid rising concern over restrictions on freedom of speech being imposed by courts.

Mr France said: “It’s not right that a court can ban someone from speaking to their Member of Parliament about their problems.

“You’ve just gone through an awful experience like that, and nobody wants to take your case on because you’ve been a convicted sex offender.

“I turned to my MP and he wanted to find out what had happened.

“But then social services left me with no illusions that if I spoke publicly about the case they would knock on the door and take our daughter away.

“I told them that they were gagging me. They replied that if I continued to talk to Mr Hemming, or the media, about the case then they would put in for immediate care proceedings and take the child off us.”

Mr France, from Sheldon, Birmingham, who runs a construction company, added: “It was only when I was a free man that they decided to say they would take the child off us. We did not know what to do for the best.

“The first time I heard about the order not to speak to Mr Hemming was in a letter from my wife’s solicitor in March 2010.

“They were going for what’s known as a fact-finding hearing, where they re-run your criminal trial in a lower court and make a finding on the balance of probabilities.

“I couldn’t believe it. The secrecy in this country is unbelievable.”

Mr France, 48, was released from prison in 2008 while he awaited the appeal hearing.

While the proceedings continued, social workers at Birmingham City Council allowed him access to his baby daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who was being cared for by his wife, Qi.

The businessman had been sentenced to seven years after being falsely accused of raping and sexually abusing a teenage boy.

In December 2009, Lord Justice Moses in the Court of Appeal described Mr France’s conviction as “unsafe” because there was “no rational explanation” why a critical piece of medical evidence was not presented to the jury by the defence team.

After his name had been cleared but when social services refused to allow him to move in with his family, Mr France spoke to a local newspaper about his dilemma.

The local authority then secured the gagging order from Judge Martin Cardinal at Birmingham County Court.

Its terms said that he had “agreed” to not speak to his MP – something Mr France says he only did because of the threat of losing his child, who still cannot be named for legal reasons.

The council eventually dropped its legal proceedings last summer and Mr France was able to finally return to his family.

Mr Hemming, who apart from being Mr France’s constituency MP also specialises in addressing miscarriages of justice in the family courts, said: “It is very clear that orders such as this undermine the inalienable right of citizens to talk to people in government.

“Members of Parliament are normally the last resort for people who have problems with the system failing. Courts which interfere with this right are behaving in an unconstitutional manner.

“Parliament used to stand up for people’s rights and it should stand up again.”

A string of celebrities, many of them prominent sporting stars, have obtained superinjunctions, which prevent the publication of details about their private lives including extra-marital affairs and the use of prostitutes.

Mr Hemming and other advocates of freedom of speech say the use of the orders represents a threat to democracy.

Mr Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to reveal that Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, had obtained a court order preventing the publication of information about him and even identifying that he was a banker.

Mark Newby, Mr France’s solicitor in the appeal case, said: “There is an increasing level of secrecy in the courts. This often means there are too many restrictions and too much is balanced against the defendant.”

A Birmingham City Council spokeswoman insisted that Mr France had agreed not to approach the MP and technically this was not a requirement of the injunction. However, if he had approached the MP he would have been in contempt of court.

“In March 2010, Andrew France agreed in court not to disclose any further details of the ongoing case to anyone. This was not a court order and it was not as a result of a request made by Birmingham City Council,” the spokeswoman said.

“At the conclusion of the proceedings, the judge made it very clear that Mr France was free to discuss the case as he wished, on the basis that the identity of any children were not divulged.

“The welfare of children involved in care proceedings is always the first priority of the city council but the authority does not comment on the specifics of any such case.”

A Judicial Communications Office spokeswoman said: “There is nothing novel about this form of injunction.

“In cases where injunctive relief is granted so as to prohibit the subject of the injunction from disseminating the information to anyone, the subject of the injunction is only able to discuss the order and the proceedings with their lawyer.

“Ordinarily then any injunction granted would prohibit its subject from discussing the case with anyone, including the media, their family and MPs.”

Judge Cardinal, who issued the order, is 58, was called to the Bar in 1977 and served as a district judge from 1994. He took his current role as a circuit judge in 2004.

He is also a lay reader and chancellor of the Diocese of Birmingham.


Seems people who work in industry dont think independent reviewing officers are independent either

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 6:19 pm

Below is part of a thread taken from the social worker forums on communitycare website

Shirack Posted: 4 Jan 2011 11:58 AM

Is there any legislation saying IROs must be self employed or agency? If not why not? and if it remains the same should we not drop the “I” knowing how corrupt upper echelons are becoming.

Situation will get even worse under the present government as more and more decisions will become resource availabiltiy dictated, according to budget.   IROs must be independent now more than ever.

Top 10 Contributor

Rupert M replied on 4 Jan 2011 12:30 PM

You raise extremely pertinent and serious concerns. ‘Independent’ – my eye!!! Who bites the hand that feeds them? Even working through an Agency is not independent as the Local Authority pays the Agency – I speak from first-hand experience. I raised extremely serious concerns with both Sandwell MBC and OFSTED only to find that at the end of the day the responsibility rests with the Local Authority! The whole system is full of professional ‘holes’ and certainly does not offer anywhere near the degree of protection that ‘Looked After’ Children & Young people need and deserve.

Top 10 Contributor

Shirack replied on 4 Jan 2011 12:59 PM

Yes Rupert you are right about pipers calling the tune. So perhaps it’s a dedicated vol org function. Will e mail Eileen.

Top 10 Contributor

JoSoPhine replied on 4 Jan 2011 3:43 PM

As long as a so called ‘Independent’ Review Officer is recruited by or is an employee of the local authority child care service provision being reviewed, then they are never independent. A consultation is currently underway on related aspects of this role.

Section 11 of The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 also has provisions to enable the setting up of a completely and truely Independent organisation for IRO’s and this is one of the key reasons a National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers has been set up.

IRO’s are like England’s Children’s Commissioner which is the weakest one in Europe and Children in the UK don’t really have many effective advocates, well what can one expect from a Society that believes things like ‘Children should be seen and not heard’

11 Power to make further provision concerning independent reviewing officers: England

(1)The Secretary of State may by order—

(a)establish a body corporate to discharge such functions as may be conferred on it by the order; or

(b) confer functions on the Service.



“The Green Paper on ‘Care Matters’ has expressed concern over the lack of independence of IROs, and the potential conflict of interest that arises from using local authority employees. We would submit that Hillingdon provides a very clear illustration of the problems faced by children where the chair of the review is not a totally independent reviewing officer.”

Top 10 Contributor

Shirack replied on 4 Jan 2011 4:05 PM

title=”Yes – Yes“>

Top 10 Contributor

Rupert M replied on 4 Jan 2011 4:56 PM

It must raise serious issues that Anthony Douglas is the Chair of BAAF (click on JoSoPhine’s link at ‘consultation’ above) and call into question a conflict of interests when he is also CEO of CAFCASS – an Organisation hardly renouned for doing what is best for many children including operating a Duty Guardian system which has received national criticism.

Unless and until the injustices around Looked After Children & Young People are properly addressed the system will remain non-independent and budget rather than needs led – Mr Douglas should know all about that but when you earn more than the Prime Minister perhaps you are reluctant to be critical as other threads on CareSpace bear witness.

Top 10 Contributor

Rupert M replied on 4 Jan 2011 7:09 PM

…and I notice in the BAAF response that they basically support the status quo – don’t want to upset the foster-carers do we!!! Perhaps BAAF is ill positioned to both advocate for children as well as support foster carers.

Top 500 Contributor

Digger replied on 6 Jan 2011 8:59 PM



Is there any legislation saying IROs must be self employed or agency? If not why not? and if it remains the same should we not drop the “I” knowing how corrupt upper echelons are becoming.

Situation will get even worse under the present government as more and more decisions will become resource availabiltiy dictated, according to budget.   IROs must be independent now more than ever.


I am an IRO in a northern authority, employed directly by a local authority, and nobody in our authority makes a decision changing a looked after childs care plan significantly without coming through a review, and if the intended change is dodgy, not thought through or the child does not like it and it affects their human rights it does not happen. If I dont like it after taking the lead from the child then it dont happen. We have never had to go past the Director as the LA know they are on a loser.

It would appear that you would very much like an agressive, confrontational, critical IRO service. whose needs does that meet – yours or the children? The best model is that of the LA employed because you forge relationships and create influence and you sustain relationships over the long term with the child. Relationships are the key. The director respects the IRO’s position on cases through influence. The IRO creates alliances for a child within care acting as a block.

ASK YOURSELF A QUESTION – If the IRO service is such a pussycat why did the ADCS submit to Munro that they would like to castrate it? (Because we are exerting influence especially around moving children from placements)

Don’t talk rubbish about hiving it off.

“Independent” privately employed – forget it LA will choose the IRO more easily and less relationship with the child (care tends to be a long affair)

CAFCASS – dont make me laugh – get into the Local Authority is shite and I am going to punish them groove.

NSPCC and sundry vol sec jokers – dont make me laugh they simply dont have the expertise or the orientation and it would cost more – is that what you really want?

Write your email to Munro and berate her that we dont shout loud enough and we should be more shouty. I hope she gives it the derision it deserves although I fear that she is of a similar shouty black and white broad brush strokes type like yourself Shrek.

Top 500 Contributor

Digger replied on 6 Jan 2011 9:04 PM

There are four models of independence outlined in the 2002 guidance I suggest you read the regulations and guidance before you drone on about your very poor understanding of what the term “independent” means as per the regulations.

You might want it to mean otherwise but it does not.

I suggest reading before commenting.

Top 10 Contributor

Shirack replied on 7 Jan 2011 1:23 PM

I was looking at it from the point of view of the service user. Not only must it be independant but be seen to be independant. Ever heard of the police complaints commission? Ask youself why  were they established?


Top 10 Contributor

Rupert M replied on 7 Jan 2011 2:05 PM

I’m with you 100% Shirak – so we must be right!!! Too many IRO’s are Local Authority loyal through and through and often can not see the wood for the trees. How can they possible even THINK that they are independent? – perhaps someone has brainwashed them!!!

Time that some lawyers started suing LA’s for failing to adequately care for their ‘Looked After’ children – if the standard of care isn’t what reasonable and caring parents would provide then it is inadequate – SIMPLES!!!

Top 500 Contributor

Digger replied on 8 Jan 2011 11:09 PM



I was looking at it from the point of view of the service user. Not only must it be independant but be seen to be independant. Ever heard of the police complaints commission? Ask youself why  were they established?




Shrek – I’ll take lectures on independence on those who can spell it correctly.

Rupert M – tell me the details of your complaints re LA practice (PM me) and I will give you an indication of whether it happens here. Always good to hear of how others see good/bad practice.

Top 10 Contributor







I was looking at it from the point of view of the service user. Not only must it be independant but be seen to be independant. Ever heard of the police complaints commission? Ask youself why  were they established?





Shrek – I’ll take lectures on independence on those who can spell it correctly.

Rupert M – tell me the details of your complaints re LA practice (PM me) and I will give you an indication of whether it happens here. Always good to hear of how others see good/bad practice.


Frigger; I will take your point when you learn to spell Shirack. 



Top 10 Contributor

Shirack replied on 10 Jan 2011 1:33 PM










I was looking at it from the point of view of the service user. Not only must it be independant but be seen to be independant. Ever heard of the police complaints commission? Ask youself why  were they established?





Shrek – I’ll take lectures on independence on those who can spell it correctly.

Rupert M – tell me the details of your complaints re LA practice (PM me) and I will give you an indication of whether it happens here. Always good to hear of how others see good/bad practice.


Frigger; I will take your point when you learn to spell Shirack. 




And it’s from those who can spell it correctly not “on those” 


Top 10 Contributor

Shirack replied on 10 Jan 2011 1:38 PM

Frigger: This is how you write don’t not dont as in your previous posting.

Top 10 Contributor

30 all!!!???

Top 75 Contributor

simeon3 replied on 10 Jan 2011 2:21 PM

Can we keep the personal abuse out of this thread please. It’s an interesting topic but it’s in danger of being buried beneath a slanging match.


CareSpace support

Top 10 Contributor


Rupert M:


30 all!!!???


I don’t think we are going to get to love all. 


Top 10 Contributor

I suggest a simple solution to the current arrangements, remove the ‘I’ from IRO – end of?

IRO’s are representatives of local authorities and accountable for their own practice and those of the local authority. They can’t detach themselves from the fact that they are critical in matters of Quality Assurance for children in Public Care, an area of practice that is marked by systemic and institutional failures.

Local Authorities also  seek to avoid duties that would require the use of IRO’s and are also agents of the policies that discharge children too early, thereby removing any need for an IRO oversight of service provision to children in Public Care.

Evidence of bad practice

Joint Committee On Human Rights”The evidence stated that, contrary to local authority guidance, there was no expectation that children would remain “looked after” unless there was an “exceptional reason” and advised social workers to avoid placing asylum seeking children in foster care to avoid the “obvious problems” that would arise. “
Above policy implemented by an IRO-Social Worker/Service Manager of a Child Protection and Review Service

How to avoid looked-after duties and Court Rulings

Top 10 Contributor




Can we keep the personal abuse out of this thread please. It’s an interesting topic but it’s in danger of being buried beneath a slanging match.



I am only human. 

More exposure if a few sparks fly.

There is also more chance of a topic  being buried, if people keep pulling each other up on spelling mistakes.

But I shall be a good boy from now on.



Top 10 Contributor







Can we keep the personal abuse out of this thread please. It’s an interesting topic but it’s in danger of being buried beneath a slanging match.



I am only human. 

More exposure if a few sparks fly.

There is also more chance of a topic  being buried, if people keep pulling each other up on spelling mistakes.

But I shall be a good boy from now on.





I agree with this sentiment. Dyslexia aside, many people use English as an additional language – regardless of how a comment is made, I think it is  more important to try and understand the meaning rather that getting entrapped in a corrective pedant mind-set that can silent important voices.

Top 10 Contributor

A direct quote from an I N D E P E N D E N T Review Officer:

“I genuinely believe this will be a better use of resources and will aid
the throughput of work, and enable the workers to concentrate on the
pathway plan rather than wasting time on paperwork for a second review.
In reality it will make little difference to the services provided to
the young people. If i am asked in Court this is what I will say.


I understand my policy proposals are unlawful and should they end up being tested in Court , my defence will be that a better use of resources is paramount and not law or good practice………………

Top 10 Contributor

Margaret Thatcher got where she did on how she said rather than what. Judge for yourselves witch is the most important.


Sorry which.( Freudian)

Top 10 Contributor

Behave Shirak – there is an edit facility.

JoSoPhine is correct in continuing to highlight lack of independence – so what is the answer? It would be interesting to know how many Cases have ever been referred through to CAFCASS by IRO’s and been brought to Court that way.

I think however that as long as IRO’s are employed / funded by Local Authorities that true independence will never be possible.

Top 10 Contributor


Rupert M:


Behave Shirak – there is an edit facility.

JoSoPhine is correct in continuing to highlight lack of independence – so what is the answer? It would be interesting to know how many Cases have ever been referred through to CAFCASS by IRO’s and been brought to Court that way.

I think however that as long as IRO’s are employed / funded by Local Authorities that true independence will never be possible.



If an individual  I R O breaches the GSCC Codes of Conduct then they can be informed upon. However, should an unlawful policy or practice be introduced by a local authority and they collude with it  they will have a defense that they were merely complying with the authority’s directives, even if they as an   I R O manager/Social Worker developed the policy. They can provide a nuremberg defense that they were just following the orders of the employer and let us not forget that employers do not a have an enforceable Duty to follow the GSCC Codes of Conduct.


Top 10 Contributor

The BASW has a Code of Ethics and The GSCC has a Code of Conduct and now the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers is developing it’s own [Code of Practice] – surely all of these imply something is rotten in the state of Denmark looked-after children’s IRO services?








Top 500 Contributor



I suggest a simple solution to the current arrangements, remove the ‘I’ from IRO – end of?

IRO’s are representatives of local authorities and accountable for their own practice and those of the local authority. They can’t detach themselves from the fact that they are critical in matters of Quality Assurance for children in Public Care, an area of practice that is marked by systemic and institutional failures.

Local Authorities also  seek to avoid duties that would require the use of IRO’s and are also agents of the policies that discharge children too early, thereby removing any need for an IRO oversight of service provision to children in Public Care.

Evidence of bad practice

Joint Committee On Human Rights”The evidence stated that, contrary to local authority guidance, there was no expectation that children would remain “looked after” unless there was an “exceptional reason” and advised social workers to avoid placing asylum seeking children in foster care to avoid the “obvious problems” that would arise. “
Above policy implemented by an IRO-Social Worker/Service Manager of a Child Protection and Review Service

How to avoid looked-after duties and Court Rulings



JoSoPhine – You cant apply a case to all IROs. It is fairly disgraceful to do so. The Hillingdon practice did not and does not take place in the Authority I work for. Similarly, the LA is progressive on homeless youths being looked after.

I take responsibility for the quality of care offered to our lac population.

Dont tar all with the same brush otherwise it looks like you have an axe to grind.

Can we come back to the point that the “Independence” is defined by regulation and guidance and can’t be just what you want it to mean.

Top 500 Contributor



A direct quote from an I N D E P E N D E N T Review Officer:

“I genuinely believe this will be a better use of resources and will aid
the throughput of work, and enable the workers to concentrate on the
pathway plan rather than wasting time on paperwork for a second review.
In reality it will make little difference to the services provided to
the young people. If i am asked in Court this is what I will say.


I understand my policy proposals are unlawful and should they end up being tested in Court , my defence will be that a better use of resources is paramount and not law or good practice………………


You really do have an axe to grind on one case.

Top 500 Contributor


Rupert M:

Behave Shirak – there is an edit facility.

JoSoPhine is correct in continuing to highlight lack of independence – so what is the answer? It would be interesting to know how many Cases have ever been referred through to CAFCASS by IRO’s and been brought to Court that way.

I think however that as long as IRO’s are employed / funded by Local Authorities that true independence will never be possible.


Bringing it to Court is not a measure of success. Getting the practice changed within the LA is a measure of success.

However, I understand that there has been 6-8 referrals (that is – we have met with Chief Executive of said council and are still not happy), with two (?) going to Court.

The valid argument in respect of independence is the purse strings in terms of investment rather than the pay cheque argument, but I struggle to see how that would be resolved in another agency.

Top 10 Contributor




Rupert M:


Behave Shirak – there is an edit facility.

JoSoPhine is correct in continuing to highlight lack of independence – so what is the answer? It would be interesting to know how many Cases have ever been referred through to CAFCASS by IRO’s and been brought to Court that way.

I think however that as long as IRO’s are employed / funded by Local Authorities that true independence will never be possible.



If an individual  I R O breaches the GSCC Codes of Conduct then they can be informed upon. However, should an unlawful policy or practice be introduced by a local authority and they collude with it  they will have a defense that they were merely complying with the authority’s directives, even if they as an   I R O manager/Social Worker developed the policy. They can provide a nuremberg defense that they were just following the orders of the employer and let us not forget that employers do not a have an enforceable Duty to follow the GSCC Codes of Conduct.


If they did have I would not be so concerned about the I in IRO. One or the other has to change. 

Top 10 Contributor

No but they can’t break the law can they? – seems that they can as the DoE states that it is illegal for LAC Children not to have a qualified social worker – so how does Birmingham, for instance, get away with it?

Top 10 Contributor


Rupert M:


No but they can’t break the law can they? – seems that they can as the DoE states that it is illegal for LAC Children not to have a qualified social worker – so how does Birmingham, for instance, get away with it?



This practice of not using a Social Worker seems to be for young people aged 16+ and clearly such must be collude with by IROs – and those ‘GP’ style practices for 16+ LAC only seem to require one Social Worker to supervise the allocated workers – workers who don’t need to be Social Workers…. These practices are also Independent and should things go wrong then the commissioning local authority will have someone else to blame.

Top 10 Contributor

Perhaps that’s why they wouldn’t give me an IRO job in Birmingham!!! Why would they want someone who would not collude with bad practice?

Top 10 Contributor



Is there any legislation saying IROs must be self employed or agency? If not why not? and if it remains the same should we not drop the “I” knowing how corrupt upper echelons are becoming.

Situation will get even worse under the present government as more and more decisions will become resource availabiltiy dictated, according to budget.   IROs must be independent now more than ever.















Social worker who accessed porn at work allowed to continue practiciing

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 11:56 am

Social worker who accessed porn at work allowed to continue practiciing

A SOCIAL worker at a Midland council who accessed pornography while at work has been allowed to continue practicing.

Alan Paling, who was working as an emergency duty team social worker manager for Staffordshire County Council, and had 33 years of experience, viewed a video clip of two girls in school uniform.

He also entered Google searches for porn between January and May 2009 on his work computer.

Paling was caught out during routine check by IT workers and was dismissed by the authority for gross misconduct.

He admitted his actions before a conduct committee with the General Social Care Council.

But he argued that he should not be struck off the social workers’ register.

The committee agreed and said his actions did not alter his ability to practice, allowing him to remain on the register.

Delivering a verdict at the end of a one-day hearing in London on Thursday, the committee said none of the websites were illegal however offensive.

Making their decision they said: “The test this committee has to apply is whether the Registrant’s (Paling’s) actions called into question his suitability to continue to practice.

“The committee is conscious that, in this diverse and pluralistic society, many forms of behaviour may cause concern to some people. That does not make them actions which warrant removal from the Register.”

A spokesman for Staffordshire County Council said Mr Paling’s actions had not endangered any young people but that he had been dismissed for gross misconduct.

The spokesman said: “This was an unusual case which resulted from an audit of internet usage to ensure county council staff only access appropriate sites.

“Mr Paling’s actions had not directly endangered any young people.

“However, he had shown by his own admission, “appalling judgment” which made him unsuitable to continue working with young children.”

Read More


Children’s home budget cuts ‘sow seeds of new abuse scandals

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 12:39 am

Children’s home budget cuts ‘sow seeds of new abuse scandals’

Staff training budget – slashed to just 69p a head – could put already vulnerable children at risk, say care leaders

children in care

One of the first actions of the coalition government was to cancel a £300,000 contract for improving standards in children’s homes. Photograph: Don Tonge/Alamy

A fresh wave of scandals threatens children‘s homes, care leaders are warning, after the government cut annual training funds for staff to just 69p a head.

Only £25,000 has been set aside for work in children’s homes in England out of an overall training budget of £113m for the children and young people’s workforce for the next 12 months.

The bulk of the budget has been set aside for training social workers who operate in the community, considered the priority since the Baby Paffair. But some 12,000 children, including between 10% and 15% of those in care, are looked after in residential homes.

The Social Care Association (SCA), which promotes good practice in the sector, has written to the education secretary, Michael Gove, who is responsible for child welfare, warning that he risks a return to the scandals of abuse in children’s homes.

“It is a sector still recovering from a series of scandals going back to the 1970s and our concern is that this is letting that recovery slip and sowing the seeds of future scandals,” said Nick Johnson, the SCA chief executive.

Gove has authorised £113.4m of spending by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) in 2011-12, of which just £25,000 has been earmarked for “completion of a test and trial of professional practice standards for residential care”.

A £6m training pot previously available for residential care has been exhausted. In addition, one of the first actions of the coalition government was to cancel a £300,000 contract for improving standards in children’s homes that Labour had awarded to the Tribal consultancy.

Although there are no exact figures for numbers of children or staff in residential homes, the SCA’s estimate of 36,000 workers equates to an individual share of the £25,000 amounting to 69p.

Johnson said there seemed to be an assumption that the sector, now dominated by private care providers, should fund its own training. But the state sent some of society’s most vulnerable children to private homes and could not absolve itself of responsibility for their treatment, he said.

“Scotland is funding a nine-year investment programme to support the workforce in its children’s homes,” said Johnson. “My message to Michael Gove is that if you don’t act on this, it will come back and bite you.”

Successive governments were forced to intervene in children’s homes in the 1980s and 1990s in response to revelations of endemic physical and sexual abuse in Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Islington in north London, and elsewhere.

Minimum standards for children’s home workers specify that they must undergo formal induction and hold, or work towards, a workforce diploma qualification. But many are paid only the minimum wage and turnover is high.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We know how important it is to have highly qualified staff in children’s homes who can support and care for often vulnerable children.

“The department is also working with key representatives from the sector to improve the quality of children’s homes. This includes working with the CWDC to train and develop the workforce.”

April 11, 2011

Miscarriages of Justice in Contemporary Child Protection:a brief history and proposals for change Dr Lynne Wrennall

Miscarriages of Justice in Contemporary Child Protection:a brief history and proposals for changeÓPresentation by Dr Lynne Wrennall to the All Party Group on Abuse InvestigationsAttlee Suite, Portcullis House2.12.2004Dedication
I dedicate this paper to Victoria Climbie, to the children we have failed and to the process of becoming civilized. By civilization, I mean the process of getting things done without harming people.
I would like to acknowledge the considerable advice and guidance I received in preparing this paper. Many people contributed directly, indirectly and through the literature. I would also like to acknowledge all the sources cited in the Joint Statement.
Systemic Reform
This paper addresses the questions: what is wrong with the Child Protection system? What are the indicators of the need for change? Which changes will solve the problem?
In this paper, I intend to argue that the Child Protection system is harming children, families and communities. The failure to appropriately act on genuine reports of abuse and the pursuit of false allegations, are seen as two sides of the same coin. This is the problem of too many false positives and false negatives. The causes are inter-related and the solutions must focus on both sides of the problem.
The rapid expansion of the Child Protection discourse has resulted in a loss of focus. Too many normal, trivial and misinterpreted factors are accounted into Child Protection investigations. The general public quite rightly expects Child Protection to focus on genuine cases of child abuse and neglect, not to be involved in general issues in child rearing, health and social care. That Child Protection has been unable to retain the focus on abuse and neglect is the source of the crisis of credibility that the discourse now experiences.
This loss of focus is also linked to adverse health and social impacts. Too many families feel terrorized out of accessing services for their children and for themselves. Social exclusion is the consequence.
The misdiagnosis of abuse also means that children do not receive the appropriate health and social care to which they are legally entitled. In some cases, the result is that children are dying. Professionals are increasingly aware that referring children to Social Services may result in children and families being harmed rather than helped.
Unexplained health problems have been interpreted as abuse and the burden of proof has been reversed. Families rather than doctors have been forced to try to explain why their child was unwell. Unexplained infant death has become an area prone to miscarriages of Justice. As the number of infant and child deaths declines, the proportionate significance of commercially, financially and politically sensitive deaths is likely to increase. This matter must be squarely addressed. There is a very real danger that undisclosed and undisclosable causes of illness and death lead to miscarriages of justice involving wrongful conviction and removal of children from their families.
Wildly inaccurate markers of abuse, draw families into the Child Protection net. Yet cases of serious reported abuse are ignored. Families claim that the potential for Child Protection powers to be mis-used leaves their children unprotected against harm and exploitation. The context is one in which unvalidated models, frameworks, theories, techniques and tests are generating serious adverse health and social impacts. Within this context, Child Protection powers are detoured into purposes which are unconnected with the needs of children. A pattern of discredited approaches linked to inaccurate targeting and pervasive miscarriages of justice legitimates the claim that systemic reform is required.
Some diagnoses and tests have become almost emblematic of the distortions and distractions that have blighted Child Protection. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy/Fabricated or Induced Illness (MSbP/FII) has attained a particular status as a grab bag of myths, mystifications and superstitions. This diagnosis is particularly available for mis-use because it’s markers fall within the broad range of normalacy. Almost anyone could be conceptualized as falling within the diagnostic criteria. MSbP/FII is believed to be associated with large scale miscarriages of justice because the allegation is located in narrative spin and requires no actual evidence of abuse. It joins the long line of discredited approaches to Child Protection, though it’s ambit may be greater than all the other categories of misdiagnosis.
As a closed system, Child Protection has not been able to hear and to respond adequately, to the feedback which has been aroused over more than two decades of criticism. Violation of the privacy of service users co-exists with secrecy over the everyday practices of the discourse. There is grave concern that the secrecy of the Child Protection discourse has concealed and encouraged malpractice by professionals. There is a body of evidence demonstrating that secrecy has concealed child endangerment within the Child Protection system. So deep is the loss of trust now experienced towards the Child Protection discourse that the aphorism, everybody makes mistakes, but doctors bury theirs is increasingly being replaced with, everybody makes mistakes but fostering and adoption conceal the evidence.
The current model of Child Protection in Britain asks professionals to talk amongst themselves but has silenced service users.  This model became an article of faith in UK Child Protection though, like other features of the system, it is without an evidence base. Service users are unable to directly communicate the harm which is done, because to do so would be to risk further punitive action. The direct feedback received by the system thereby understates the harm that is occurring. Social Workers are aware that the Child Protection system is doing harm, but they do not receive the evidence of the full extent of the harm which is occurring. Service Users eventually broke the silence.
Let’s take an example of a service: Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s called Alcoholics ANONYMOUS for very good reason, because if people’s anonymity and confidentiality is not guaranteed, many people will not access the service. In Britain, the problem is that people are afraid that if they access services they will have their children taken from them. If they don’t get the help they need then social problems are not solved and we are all the poorer for that.
However, to know what is wrong with Child Protection, we must know why and I am indebted to Eileen Munro for focusing me on this. Why does the system entertain false allegations and fail to protect children who are genuinely being abused and neglected? Harker and Kendall from the Institute of Public Policy Research have acknowledged a truth that Britain has taken a long time to accept, that the role expectations of forensic investigator and social worker are mutually contradictory. Combining these roles has meant that neither is done well.
The role of forensic investigator and gatherer of intelligence has eclipsed the role of social worker to such a high degree that little actual social work takes place. British children and families have tended to receive police work performed by social workers rather than social work, recognizable by any international standards.
Britain is almost alone in adopting a model of Child Welfare in which these roles are combined. It is not the only country, but one of the few. Social workers have long been aware of the tensions and contradictions between the roles of carer and controller. The dictum, “we sometimes control because we care,” quoted in the literature, was meant to resolve the contradiction. But putting words together in the same sentence is not the same as resolving the problem of irreconcilable role expectations.
The countries which have combined the roles of forensic investigator and social worker in the same personnel, in the same agencies are the countries whose Child Protection systems face the greatest crises of credibility. In Britain, the emphasis has been on proof rather than prevention, such an emphasis is not likely to engender support for the system.
Blending of the care and control functions is also known as linking social control and service provision. Service provision has suffered in the bargain. Large expenditure on intelligence gathering, assessment and surveillance has concealed the impoverishment of expenditure on genuine service provision. Service users and social workers alike, lament the lack of investment in genuine services for families. For fundholders though, something I have termed “nombyism,” the Not On My Budget phenomena takes over. “The service is great idea, but not on my budget.” [A phenomena similar to “Nimbyism,” Not In My Back Yard.]
Forgive me for turning to accountancy, but the Child Protection discourse is strongly dominated by the disciplines of accountancy and law. It makes short term financial sense for fundholders to opt for rapid forced closed adoption, rather than to invest in supplementary services to families in difficulty and in universal provision of preventative services. Rapid forcible closed adoption is an example of financial short termism. However, a full health and social audit would probably demonstrate false economy. Cost cutting on one budget, creates expense on another. Rapid closed forced adoption is probably an example of those small rationalities that together, work against the larger rationality. Similarly, undereducated and untrained staff offered short term budgetary relief. It is time we started to count the cost.
Authoritarian practices in Child Protection centred on control, surveillance, issuing of threats and orders, and severing children’s contact with their families of origin have been counter-productive to the best interests of children. Some of the most vulnerable children of all, are double orphans and to deprive children of their families of origin, de facto creates these children as double orphans. This is what the Children’s Act 1989 aimed to prevent, but the Act has been widely subverted, due to financial conflicts of interest.
A small minority of children removed from their families of origin find loving adopting parents, but fully one quarter of adopted children are returned to the Local Authority. Many children in the “Care” system are under protected against iatrogenic abuse and suffer very adverse outcomes. False allegations of child abuse and authoritarian approaches to families harm children.
We need to face some uncomfortable truths. We need to acknowledge that the Child Protection agenda has been hijacked by interests entirely unconnected with the best interests of children. We need to acknowledge that Child Protection has become a battleground in which the professions fight for their own interests. The bodies and lives of children and families have become the terrain in which they fight their small wars out.
The claim that “the interests of the child are paramount” has become a euphemism for ulterior motives and unacknowledged sectional interests. When strategies which mis-use Child Protection powers for ulterior motives become destructive to children and families, remedy and reform are appropriately sought.
Summary: What is Wrong?Irreconcilable and unclear role expectations.Nombyism.Inaccurate markers of abuse and neglect.Unexplained health problems assumed to be evidence of abuse.Reversal of the burden of proof.Emphasis on proof rather than prevention.Children not actually receiving social work.Financial short-termism.Absence of a true health and social audit.Mis-use of powers due to conflicts of interest.
Summary: Adverse Health and Social ImpactsHealth and social consequences from mis-diagnosis; children not receiving appropriate assessment, treatment and support.Parents and carers being intimidated out of accessing necessary services.Diversion of resources from genuine life-saving courses of action.Families suffering health and social consequences from the trauma of inappropriate assessment, false allegations and false inferences.Children suffering in the “Care” system.
Systemic Reform: Out of the Silence
There is substantial support for the view that reform of the Child Protection system is necessary. The indicators of the need for reform are expressed in parliamentary debate, judicial decisions, research findings, media reports, incorporation as themes in artistic and dramatic works, discussion in professional newsletters and email lists, discussion in cyberspace and in complaints to members of parliament, professional bodies, Health Authorities, Local Authorities and Local Government Ombudsmen. The indicators may be measured numerically and in terms of population diversity.
In the Service Users’ Joint Statement, some 47 research studies were coordinated together with comment and guidance from 50 or so constituencies of children and families, service providers, academics, consultants and other colleagues as part of a research project to determine what reforms in Child Protect were necessary. The reform agenda is underpinned by that research and by an extensive body of critical literature.
Some eighty or so Child Protection service user websites are now in existence addressing the problem of miscarriages of justice in Child Protection.  It should be pointed out that the majority of Child Protection service users are the falsely accused and falsely suspected and their children.
Media reports on miscarriages of justice in Child Protection are probably in the thousands. Approximately seventy families have allegedly complained to the GMC about so called expert witnesses. The number of complaints to other agencies is not currently known, but is believed to be widespread.
Over four hundred Child Protection miscarriages of justice have been identified in the public arena in Britain and America. Yet how many of the 52,00-78,000 British “looked after children” were obtained through miscarriages of justice is not yet known. More than thirty preventable deaths have occurred among children administered by Child Protection. The implications of more than eleven legal precedents are yet be to cascaded down through the system.
Summary: Indicators of the Need for Reform
Miscarriages of Justice. Preventable injury and deaths. Under servicing. Poor outcomes in “Care”Complaints to M.P.’s.Complaints to professional bodies, Health authorities, Local Authorities and the Local government Ombudsman.Legal precedents.Research studies.Media reports: articles in broadsheets and tabloids, letters to the editor, radio & TV news.Documentaries.Internet activity: number of websites, hit rate, participants in chat rooms.Demonstrations.Discussion in professional newsletters and email lists.Artistic and dramatic expression.
Systemic Reform: Listening to Feedback
When perceived needs for reform graduate to the status of expressed needs and are reproduced on a large scale by diverse populations in diverse settings, a political claim may be regarded as having been intensively and extensively made out. Taken together, the indicators of the need for reform are strong and pervasive. The reform agenda has thereby achieved the critical mass necessary to legitimately assert that reform of the Child Protection system is essential.
In speaking to the reform agenda, I wish to stress the importance of consulting health and social care service users and listening to the insights their perspectives generate. The reform agenda has developed from consultation with children and families and those who share their perspectives.
Recommendations for change include the need for the social policing and surveillance functions which characterize Child Protection to be separated from the service provision functions which enhance the lives of children and their families. Under the current British system, contradictory role expectations result in conflicts of interests which undermine the roles that professionals are expected to perform. Families feel intimidated out of accessing services by the presence of draconian Child Protection functions. If they are to be able to access the preventative and therapeutic services which enhance the lives of children and families, then Child Protection must be quarantined, only to be called in where there is genuine evidence of abuse and neglect. To hamper service provision to children and families with destructive and failing Child Protection practices is to fail to meet the needs of children and families.
Summary: The Reform AgendaPlace the needs of children and families at the heart of policy development.Create opportunities for children and families to exert influence at all levels.Use honest language: poisoning is poisoning, suffocation is suffocation.Create role clarity:  police do police work, social workers do social work. Reconceptualise the role of Social Worker to bring it into line with international standards and requirements.Remove conflicts of interest.Locate Social Workers in an independent location to allow them to use child centred and family centred practice and to exercise professional judgment.Favour universally available services over targeted services, as this reduces stigmatisation and traumatic assessment. Divert resources wasted on assessment into service provision.The principle of self-referral to replace coercion.Respect privacy and confidentiality so that people are able to access therapeutic and preventative services.Create transparency and respond appropriately to feedback.Implement the real intention of the 1989 Children’s Act. Reform legislation and policies which are in conflict with the Act.Shared Care: adopt the principle that a child cannot be loved too much. (Abandon closed adoption).Cascade down the implications of International Law on Human Rights.
Placing Children and Families at the Heart of Public Policy
I would like to return to where we started. To Victoria Climbie and to the children we have failed, to those we have failed utterly and completely. I would like to repeat, the question Charles Pragnell asked, “What would Victoria have wanted to happen?” I think it is unlikely that she would have repeated the refrain which has been offered after every Child Protection Inquiry into a Child death that “more communication among professionals is required.”
Victoria would not have wanted us to talk more, but to listen more. Not to speak about her, but to speak to her. She may have wanted to return to the care of her parents. She may have wanted to attend Boarding School. She would have had a special and intimate knowledge of her own needs. We shall never know exactly what that knowledge was, because no one asked. We must now clear away the conflicts of interest so that children can be seen and heard, unequivocally.

Public Law Care Requests

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 10:28 am

April 9, 2011

Parents who had children wrongly snatched by social services win thousands in compensation By ANDY DOLAN

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 7:01 am

Parents who had children wrongly snatched by social services win thousands in compensation

Last updated at 4:12 PM on 22nd December 2008

A couple who had their children taken away from them for two years after falsely being accused of sexual abuse have been awarded a six-figure compensation payout.

Tim and Gina Williams went through a ‘total nightmare’ of having their three young children placed in separate foster homes after being wrongly placed under suspicion by social workers.

The couple’s ordeal began after Mr Williams discovered an 11-year-old boy, semi naked and on top of his daughter, Courtney, then aged five, following a neighbourhood paddling pool party staged at their house.

Mr Williams called police, but a medical examination carried out as part of the subsequent examination resulted in social services stepping in.

Tim Williams, wife Gina and family

Tim Williams and his wife Gina with their children Ieuan (left) Courtney (middle) and Zara (right). The couple have been awarded sizeable compensation after they were wrongly accused of failing to protect their three children from sexual abuse

A doctor who examined the child claimed she had been the victim of abuse by an adult, possibly using an implement.

As a result, social services judged Mrs Williams to also pose a potential risk to Courtney and her elder siblings Zara and Ieuan, and the children were taken away in August 2004. Their parents were allowed just two 90-minutes supervised visits per week, at a neutral venue.

The family, from Newport, South Wales, were reunited two years ago after a High Court judge exonerated the parents, who then began a compensation battle against Newport City Council and Royal Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust.

They were yesterday awarded an undisclosed sum in an agreed settlement at the High Court in Cardiff.

The Williams family also received a full written apology from Newport Council. Under the terms of the settlement, the Williams’s are banned from commenting further on the case. But they have previously spoken about the devastating impact the separation caused their children.

Speaking last December, they said Zara, now 14, Ieuan, 11, and Courtney, aged nine, were like ‘three little strangers’ at times.

Zara had always been studious but was increasingly disruptive in class, whilst Ieuan’s sensitive, quiet inclination had been replaced by an angry persona. Courtney was left too scared to go to sleep in case she woke to find her parents gone.

Mrs Williams, said: ‘None can bear to have us out of their sight because they think we won’t come back. They believe they were taken into care because we didn’t love or want them any more.’

Mr Williams, now 39, added: ‘All three are extra clingy and constantly fight for our attention.

‘If they don’t see us at the school gates the moment the bell rings they freak out, so we have to get there 10 minutes early and stand in exactly the same spot. We take them everywhere with us because they refuse to go to babysitters. But whenever we see the children angry or in tears, we have to remember that it’s not their fault.

‘They were ripped from us and still don’t understand why. One minute we were a family, the next thing we know social services are taking the children away. It was a total nightmare.’

The couple were banned from discussing the ongoing investigation with their children. When the day came for them to be handed over to social services, they told the trio they were going on a little holiday.

As they walked out of the social services office, they heard their children screaming ‘Mummy! Daddy!’.

Over the next two years, they missed milestones such as birthdays, learning to ride bikes and school plays, and two Christmases.

The case against the parents eventually collapsed a week before a final court hearing, after the family consulted an American doctor who found there was no suggestion of any sexual abuse.

A UK doctor gave a second opinion which agreed with the US medic. The original doctor who examined Courtney then accepted their findings.

Newport council asked for the case to be dropped and the children were returned to their parents in September 2006.

The High Court was told at the time that initial evidence against the family was collected by a doctor using outdated practices to examine the girl.

The council later apologised for removing the children but said it had ‘acted in good faith.’

In his judgment two years ago, Judge Crispin Masterman criticised social services for failing to follow recommended procedures and not carrying out a proper assessment of the family.

Speaking after the financial settlement yesterday, the couple’s QC Robin Tolson said: ‘This settlement brings closure, at least of a kind, for Tim and Gina Williams and their children.

‘The effect of what happened will continue to be felt for a long time.

‘But at least this now marks the end of four years spent fighting for their children and their rights before the court.’

A spokesman for the couple’s legal team said that an initial report from the NHS Trust which claimed that Courtney was being abused had been ‘fundamentally flawed’.

Read more:


April 8, 2011

Staffordshire social worker with a smoking fetish ?

Worker sacked for search smoking children pics avoids being struck-off

Worker sacked for search smoking children pics avoids being struck-off

By Phil Corrigan Philip.Corrigan@Thesentinel.Co.Uk

A SOCIAL worker who was sacked for using his work computer to search for pictures of children smoking has avoided being struck off.

Alan Paling, who indulged his habit while working for Staffordshire County Council, was yesterday cleared of misconduct.

The General Social Care Council‘s conduct committee heard that Mr Paling had carried out nearly 200 internetsearches using terms such as “smoking fetish”, “smoking teens”, and “smoking child” between April 2008 and April 2009.

He also accessed an internet video clip of two females in school uniform, although the subjects’ ages could not be determined.

But the committee ruled that while Mr Paling’s behaviour could be considered “questionable”, it did not warrant his removal from the social care register.

The internet searches, which were in breach of the county council’s internet use policy, were discovered by a county council ICT officer in May 2009. Mr Paling, of Foxglove Lane, Clayton, was suspended from his role as an emergency duty team social worker manager, and an internal investigation took place.

GSCC presenting officer Nimi Bruce said that while Mr Paling’s activity was not illegal, it was clearly inappropriate for someone whose job involved working with children.

She said: “The police were contacted in the early stages of the investigation, but it was ascertained that the activity did not cross the threshold for police action.

“On May 18, a meeting took place in relation to the case. It was felt that the nature of the search terms used caused very significant concern.”

Mr Paling, who had worked as a social worker for 33 years without any previous concerns being raised, had his county council employment terminated in June 2009.

During the investigation it emerged Mr Paling had long-standing issues with smoking, and that he felt guilt over his own smoking.

The conduct committee found that misconduct had not been proved.

Panel chairman Ian Daines said: “The committee is conscious that, in this diverse and pluralistic society, many forms of behaviour may cause concern to some people.

“This committee is satisfied that neither the protection of the public nor the public interest calls into question the registrant’s suitability to remain on the register.”

A county council spokesman said there was no suggestion Mr Paling had any professional contact with the young people whose images he viewed.

He added: “After a thorough investigation it was concluded that Mr Paling’s actions had not directly endangered any young people during the course of his work.

“However, he had shown by his own admission, ‘appalling judgement’ which made him unsuitable to continue working with young children. He was therefore dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct.”

Mr Paling declined to comment.


April 7, 2011

Karen Houghton Chartered Psychologist Expert Witness Family Court

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 9:39 pm

I would like to appeal to anyone who has had an assessment done by this lady in family court proceedings.

She not only assesses parents but also children.

She always gives a negative assessment against the parents so as to remove the children but i think she has a conflict of interests you see below is the firm she works for advertising her to do the assessments for court.




A truly shocking story that needs Global Awareness

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 8:52 pm

This is how child safety gave my baby back to me. He was given back after they all visited him in hospital. This is a shocking photo I know, but I believe people need to be shocked to take in the truth of what is going on inside the department of child safety, not only in cairns, townsville, brisbane, queensland, australia, but the world.
These people, the management of Cairns north department of child safety, the child safety complaints hotline, the reunification team leader, all new exactly how dangerous that house was, and how numerous children had already been removed bacause of abuse and neglect from the foster carer. They all witnessed the continuous injuries Luke suffered while staying there, until he finally suffered a fractured skull, which killed him.
What was their response? A letter to me saying “Hi”.
Nobody does that to my boy, especially the so called experts that accused me of being a bad father. Time for them to take responsibility for their negligence and malpractice.


Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 7:07 pm

anti-social-services by Krayze

My gagging order was served by email so as that is not lawful im not gagged !

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 5:57 pm

‘Let’s threaten them with prison’: MP goes to war with judges who hand out gagging orders

Last updated at 12:36 AM on 7th April 2011



Acting to protect citizens: MP John Hemming is fighting against what he calls 'hyper-injunctions' Acting to protect citizens: MP John Hemming is fighting against what he calls ‘hyper-injunctions’

An MP has called on Parliament to take action against the spread of a draconian new type of legal gag he calls the ‘hyper-injunction’.

Liberal Democrat John Hemming wants the Commons to launch an arcane process that could theoretically threaten legal action against judges who hand out these blanket secrecy orders.

They are part of a growing series of complicated gagging writs devised by the courts to prevent people from talking about cases in which they are involved – even to their local MP.

They also bar them from talking to others who may be interested in their case, such as journalists.

Mr Hemming has mentioned four specific hyper-injunctions in the Commons, including the case of Andrew France, a constituent who complained about the conduct of a social worker and who was silenced in a family case; a 26-year-old forcibly sent to a care home; and a commercial case involving allegations of contaminated water on passenger ships.

The Birmingham Yardley MP said he has called on Speaker John Bercow to begin procedures to overturn these orders under Contempt of Parliament precedents dating back to the 17th century.

It remains a legal tradition that people have a right to talk to MPs to petition the monarch and that politicians are free to take up the concerns of their constituents.




Judges who grant hyper-injunctions do so to protect the secrecy of the courts in the name of defending the interests of children or others involved, who they believe could be unfairly damaged by publicity.

Mr Hemming said he had asked the Speaker to give the issue priority for consideration by the Standards and Privileges Committee of MPs, which wields ancient legal powers.

He said: ‘The records of the House of Commons make it clear that people have an inalienable right to talk to Members of Parliament in order to petition the King.’

Protected: Former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin Protected: Former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin

Mr Hemming went on to list the options open to the Commons authorities, including passing ‘a resolution which could imprison someone until the end of the Parliamentary session’.

He added: ‘I do not expect the House of Commons to imprison the judges, but it is important that the House acts to protect citizens today.

‘It is interesting to note that the subjects of the 17th century were more protected by the House of Commons than citizens have been today.  Parliament needs to make a stand to say that it refuses to be deafened or blinded.’

The Lib Dem MP has already played a central role in the campaign against ‘super-injunctions’, the gagging orders from courts so secret that it is a crime to disclose their very existence.

Judges have now accepted that such writs will be reported by the Press.

Mr Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to reveal that the disgraced former Royal Bank of Scotland chief had taken out a super-injunction. He told MPs the order was so draconian that it prevented Sir Fred Goodwin from being identified as a banker.


Read more:


April 6, 2011

Britain’s Family Justice system isn’t working

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 6:26 pm

Britain’s Family Justice system isn’t working

By Alasdair Palmer Politics Last updated: April 6th, 2011

14 Comments Comment on this article

The Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: AFP/Getty)The Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: AFP/Getty)

It used to be said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. “Family justice”, as practised at the moment in Britain, has something of the savour of the Holy Roman Empire about it, because it has little to do with either justice or the family. Almost everyone involved with it recognises that it is not working properly, and that it does not do what it is supposed to do – which is to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, children’s interests are protected and families are preserved.

What “family justice” actually frequently involves is taking children away from their parents. It also has the consequence of ensuring that, in cases where parents divorce or separate and cannot reach an amicable agreement on how to share custody of their children, one parent never gets to see their child again.

The system of family justice is not protecting the family, still less protecting child welfare: on the contrary, it is undermining both.

It is inevitable that to protect children, it will sometimes be necessary, and right, to destroy families, because it will be necessary take them away from the homes into which they were born.

It is also true that on occasion, it may be better for a child if he or she no longer has contact with either his father or his mother.

But it cannot be right that half of all non-resident parents lose contact with their children within two years of leaving the family home; or that children are forcibly adopted, and taken away from their parents, on the basis of claims, not that those children have been harmed, but that theymight be harmed at some point in the future.

Those, however, are among the regular results of the family justice system – which indicates the degree to which it is malfunctioning.

The recognition that there are serious faults in the way family justice operates led to the setting up of the Family Justice Review. The body charged with reviewing family justice, and recommending the changes that would improve it, published its interim report last week.

It started in the right place: with the recognition that the system is not working, that it costs too much, that it involves too long delays,  that far too often, it does not promote or protect the interests of children, and that fundamental reform is needed.

Unfortunately, it did not recommend fundamental reform. Indeed, it did not tackle any of the core problems with the family justice system that lead it to delivering such unsatisfactory results.

The system is based on the sensible idea that the interests of the child are paramount – which of course they are. The central problem with it is that nowhere is any attempt made to define what those interests are in a way that can be used to guide court decisions, or anyone who attempts to intervene in order to protect the interests of children.

Some of those involved in family justice acknowledge the gravity of that problem, but respond by saying that “every case is different” and that it is “impossible to specify what the interests of the child are in a way that could guide judicial decisions in a principled fashion.”

That, however, is just not true. Consider the case of divorcing or separating parents and child custody. The Government insists, rightly, that it is in children’s  interests that, in the case where their parents separate, children continue to see both of their parents regularly: they should have a reasonable degree of contact with both their mother and father.

There is, however, no presumption of reasonable or meaningful contact with both parents in the legislation governing child custody disputes – so rulings that emerge from the family courts usually do not require it. That is why so many children lose contact with one of their parents when custody and visitation rights are disputed.

There are no plans to remedy that situation. The Interim Report from the Family Review does not recommend the introduction of a presumption of reasonable or meaningful contact with both parents.

Why not? The Report’s concern seems to be that if you grant a presumption of equal contact, you will be unable to stop violent or otherwise abusive parents from having contact with their offspring – which is clearly not in the interests of the child. But that is just a mistake. A presumption does not mean granting an indefeasible right. It means you start with the idea that both parents should have meaningful contact with their children. If one or both of those parents behaves in a manner which clearly damages the child, then the presumption is defeated – just as the presumption of a defendant’s innocence is defeated by the production by the prosecution of clear evidence that he is guilty of the crime with which he is charged. A presumption of contact with both parents does not mean that the courts cannot decide that contact should be terminated – any more than the presumption of innocence  means that it is impossible to convict anyone of a crime.

The Interim Report gets itself into a terrible tangle on the question of whether there should be a presumption in favour of contact with both parents. It recommends that there should be a “statement in legislation to reinforce the importance of the child continuing to have a meaningful relationship with both parents”; but it is also insists that “no legislation should be introduced that creates, or risks creating, the perception that there is an assumed parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents.”

The only way of reconciling those two statements is to say that the authors of the Interim Report believe contact with both parents is important for children – but not important enough to do anything that might achieve it.

It is instructive to compare Britain’s cumbersome, ineffective and expensive (it costs the state nearly £1 billion every year) court system for ruling on custody disputes with Norway’s. For 30 years, Norway has a very precise presumption of shared contact written in to its legislation: it involves the children seeing the non-resident parent one afternoon every week, every second weekend, every second Christmas and every second Easter, and two weeks during the summer holiday. Separating parents are free to agree on different amounts of contact if they choose. But if they can’t agree, the law stipulates very clearly what the judge should order – except, of course, in cases where there is clear evidence that continued contact with the non-resident parent would involve abuse or some other harm to the children.

Does it mean that Norwegian judges are forced to order contact orders to fathers who abuse their children? It does not.

There is no “contact dispute industry” in Norway. Court decisions are reached very swiftly, cheaply, and efficiently – and they almost always result in children continuing to have meaningful contact with both their parents, which is very obviously not the case in Britain.

Is there any reason at all why we could not adopt a similar system here? If there is, no one has produced it. Certainly, the interim report from the Family Review has not done so – all it has achieved is to ensure that the family courts continue to be mechanisms for producing one-parent families. No sensible person wants that result. But it looks as if we are going to be stuck with it.

We seem also certain to be stuck with a system that takes children from perfectly adequate families and puts them into care, with usually disastrous results, or forcibly adopts them to other families, often for utterly spurious reasons. It is more difficult to come up with a notion of  ‘children’s interests’ precise enough to  prevent, or at least diminish, such cases, but it is not impossible. Again, a presumption in favour of maintaining children in their natal families would help. That presumption should not be indefeasible, and it does not have to be: it merely needs to be strong enough to prevent care proceedings on the basis of possibleor  imagined harm, as opposed to real and actual harm.

The reform of the family justice system ought to be on of the Government’s most urgent priorities. At present, it is inflicting terrible harm on thousands of children, and thousands of parents, every year. But there is no sense of urgency in the interim report from the Family Justice Review. The Review is quite content for the system to continue operating in the way it had done: it only wants it to be more efficiently administered. But efficiently administered injustice is still injustice: it may be worse if your children are taken from you and forcibly adopted efficiently, and it may be worse for them. Inefficiency at least means delays and sometimes even that the system fails to produce any result at all — which may allow children to stay with the parents who they love and who love them rather than being taken from them.

So no one should welcome a more efficient family justice system if it means one that still operates on the same basis. Until the root cause of the system’s tendency to produce  injustice is tackled, nothing significant about it will improve.


The family justice system is callous, corrupt and staggeringly expensive

David Norgrove’s interim review of the family justice system only scratches the surface of what has become a national scandal, says Christopher Booker.

Torn apart: the system of child protection is a national scandal Photo: ALAMY
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 02 Apr 2011213 Comments


A quick flip through last week’s interim review of our family justice system might suggest that all is not entirely well with our family courts. The “system is not working”. It needs “significant change”. “Children and families do not understand what is happening to them.” The time taken to resolve cases is “little more than scandalous”. “Some cases should not be in court at all.” “The costs are huge.” “These are symptoms of a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.”

But as I checked the report against what I have learnt about this horribly corrupted system, from the dozens of cases I have been following where children have been seized from their parents for no good reason, I had little sense that those responsible for this review have really begun to grasp just how bad the situation has become.

They rightly bemoan how the average time needed to resolve cases has risen from 12 weeks to 53, how the number of children in care has soared to 70,000, how the cost of this alone has risen to a staggering £3.4 billion a year (making foster care one of our bigger industries). But nowhere do they recognise that one reason is how often social workers make some horrendous initial mistake when they seize children, then spin out the case as they scrabble round for evidence to cover up their error.

Very occasionally, as in the instance of one mother I spoke to again at length last week, the victims come up against a judge with the independence of mind to challenge the dishonesty of the social workers who have driven the system off the rails. In this case, the social workers’ blunder was to seize the child after the mother had accidentally fallen out of a window. After alleging that this was a suicide attempt, then falsely accusing the mother of being a potential alcoholic and drug addict (all shown to be untrue), they have tried to cover up their blunder by spinning out the court case for well over a year, falsifying evidence, continuously asking for adjournments and stopping at nothing to part a devoted mother from her daughter.

Fortunately, the mother is very bright and has found one of those rare legal teams prepared to challenge the system. Best of all, she seems to have found a judge robust enough to see through the perversity and arrogance of all those who, at great public expense, are lined up on the other side, seemingly hell-bent on perpetuating a vicious travesty of justice.

I shall return to measuring this interim report against the reality of what goes on in our family protection system. Its authors may hint that all is far from well. But before their final report, it is to be hoped that they will look much more carefully into how and why the breakdown of this system is becoming a national scandal.

Child protection: MPs must act on the scandal of seized children

Britain’s child protection system is off the rails, and only the politicians who built it can fix it, says Christopher Booker

Torn apart: the system of child protection is a national scandal Photo: ALAMY
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker 7:00PM BST 30 Oct 2010394 Comments

Britain’s social workers took a beating again last week. On the orders of the children’s minister, Tim Loughton, full versions of two harrowing case reviews of the Baby P tragedy were published. They found fault not only with Haringey’s social workers but with lawyers, the police and health professionals, Under pressure from social workers, reviews of two similar cases in Yorkshire are still being kept under wraps. Meanwhile, an Ofsted report found that 119 children died or suffered serious injury last year through social workers’ failure to intervene.

Still largely hidden from view, however, is that other scandal, in its way just as disturbing, in which the failure of our child protection system is the very opposite: the seizure of thousands of children a year from loving homes, for no good reason.

In recent months, as I have followed dozens of these cases and been briefed on many more by such experts as John Hemming, the MP who runs the Justice for Families campaign, and Ian Josephs, the former councillor who has helped hundreds of families through his Forced Adoption website, a startlingly consistent picture has emerged. What follows is not based on exceptional cases but on the typical workings of a system which has gone horrifyingly off the rails.

For parents who fall foul of this system, often on no more evidence than malicious hearsay, the first shock is to find themselves treated like dangerous criminals. To seize children, social workers seem able to enlist the unquestioning support of the police, who arrive mob-handed, six or eight at a time, beating down doors, tearing babies from their mothers’ arms, holding parents in custody for up to 36 hours while their children are removed into foster care.

The parents must then wrestle with a Kafka-esque system rigged against them in every way. They find themselves in courts where every normal principle of British justice has been stood on its head. Social workers may give written evidence to a judge which the parents aren’t allowed to see. The most outrageous hearsay evidence may be accepted by the court without the parents even being allowed to cross-examine on it.

A key part is played by evidence from supposed “experts”, psychiatrists or paediatricians who may be paid up to £35,000 for their reports, and who receive regular work from the social workers involved. Parents are forbidden to call their own independent experts to challenge a case made against them. They are, all too often, pressured into being represented by lawyers who, again, work regularly for the council, who fail to put their case and who turn out to be just part of the same system.

Parents may be forbidden to testify on their own behalf, but must listen for hours, even days, to everyone else involved – including their own lawyers – putting what amounts to a case for the prosecution. The guardian appointed to represent the interests of the child may never have met the child and merely endorses whatever the social workers say.

Not surprisingly, these bizarre practices are so geared to the interests of a corrupted system that, in the latest year for which we have figures (2008), of 7,340 applications for care orders made by social workers, only 20 were refused.

Meanwhile, the children themselves are handed over to foster homes, which receive £400 a week or £20,000 a year for each child, and where many are intensely unhappy and not infrequently abused. Foster carers and social workers routinely conspire to tell bewildered children that their parents neither love them nor want them back. Children and parents meet at rigorously supervised “contact sessions”, where any expression of affection or attempt to discuss why the children have been taken from home may be punished by termination of the session or denial of further contact.

The purpose of all this, funded by hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, is partly to keep in being the vast fostering industry, run by dozens of agencies, often owned by ex-social workers, which also receive £20,000 a year for each child they place. Of course, there are many good and responsible foster parents, but statistics show that children in care do very much worse on almost every count, from health to performance in school, than children living with their birth parents.

Another purpose of the system is to ensure that as many children as possible are adopted (at a cost of £36,000 per placement), in accordance with Tony Blair’s personal commitment a decade ago that the target for adoptions in Britain should rise by 40 per cent. Councils are still receiving millions of pounds a year for meeting adoption targets.

Yet virtually none of this reaches the outside world because the system is hidden behind an almost impenetrable veil of secrecy. The nominal reason for this is to protect the identity and interests of the children, but secrecy has been so extended that its real aim is to protect the system itself and all those who do so well out of it.

Parents are forbidden to talk to the media or even to their MPs about the injustice they are suffering. Several times in recent months, councils have sought injunctions to prohibit me reporting anything at all about a case, even though no person or even the council itself would be identified. More than once, parents have been threatened with contempt of court and prison if they talk to me or anyone else about how they are being treated.

Very occasionally a judge or senior lawyer breaks ranks by speaking out against such abuse of state power, as when one Court of Appeal judge recently compared the conduct of a council’s social workers to what went on in “Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China”. But in general this cruel, dishonest and venal system continues on its way, hidden from view, accountable to nobody but itself.

The only people in a position to reform this system fundamentally are those who set it up in the first place under the 1989 Children Act – the politicians. But they have, with one or two shining exceptions – notably John Hemming – walked away from the Frankenstein’s monster that Parliament created. It is now up to them to support Mr Hemming and all those horribly maltreated families who are campaigning for one of the most out­rageous scandals in Britain today to be brought to an end.

Parents denied a voice in court against the child-snatchers

Lord Justice Thorpe was ‘aghast’ at the way children had been removed from their parents by a county court. But such outrages are an everyday procedure, says Christopher Booker

Lord Justice Thorpe

Lord Justice Thorpe in the Court of Appeal was ‘aghast’ at the way three children and been removed from their family Photo: PHOTOSHOT
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker 7:00PM GMT 05 Mar 2011144 Comments

In the Court of Appeal recently, Lord Justice Thorpe said he was “completely aghast” at a case where a Derby County Court judge had ordered three children to be removed from their parents. The only evidence was that of a doctor who “expressed the opinion” that bruising on one child’s ear looked as though it was caused by pinching. The hearing had lasted just 15 minutes and the parents had not been allowed to say a word. Thorpe observed: “There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing, because the parents are so prejudiced [against] in proceedings thereafter. Once you have lost a child, it is very difficult to get a child back.” He ruled that the children should be reunited with their parents.

For once, a senior judge has spoken out about a mockery of justice which is repeated week after week in courts across the land. I have now followed dozens of such cases, where children are seized from their parents by social workers on the flimsiest of evidence, and where the parents then find themselves in the clutches of a system rigged against them in every way. Often they are not allowed to speak while they hear judges apparently accepting extraordinary lies, or evidence given by supposed “experts” which cannot be questioned.

One of the most disturbing features of this system, which protects itself behind a wall of secrecy, is how far it goes to ensure that aggrieved parents are represented only by lawyers who are themselves accomplices of the system. Again and again parents are bemused to find that the lawyers they were advised to use seem unwilling to challenge the case being made against them, however spurious.

Of all the cases I have followed, none is more bizarre than that of a couple whose six children were snatched by social workers last year on evidence which seemed at best highly questionable and was at worst an absurd fiction. The mother was advised to use a solicitor, on legal aid, who she felt was so much on the other side that she discharged him. Just before Christmas, when the council’s case seemed to be falling apart, I tracked down one of the very rare solicitors who has a reputation for fighting the system. His firm applied to the Legal Services Commission for transfer of the legal aid, and when the LSC seemed to be delaying its response, I paid £2,000 from my own pocket to enable the firm to start work.

The local authority learned, it seemed before anyone else, that the LSC would not allow the transfer from the solicitor who had been discharged – and the head of the council’s legal department then sent the mother a list of other solicitors who would be able to take her case on legal aid. By the time the solicitor to whom I had given £2,000 heard that he had been turned down, he was able to present me with a bill which, including VAT, came to exactly £2,000.

By now another solicitor had appeared, who seemed keen to take on the case for a reduced fee. Ian Josephs, who runs the Forced Adoption website, advanced £3,500 towards her fees, on an understanding that she could take the case through to its final hearing for a total of £5,000. Three days before they were due in court, this solicitor too – after a long conversation with one of the array of lawyers appearing, at huge public expense, for the other side – said she was unable to continue working on the case. She has not, so far, offered to return any of the money.

The mother now faces, without legal representation, a final hearing which could result in her losing her children forever. They live, unhappily, in separate foster homes, at a cost to the taxpayer of well over £100,000 a year. She and her husband came to this country a decade ago, full of hope: now she feels utterly betrayed by a system which seems ruthlessly bent on destroying her family. Her only wish is to escape this incomprehensible nightmare and return with her husband to their native country. But to do so, they would have to abandon any hope of seeing their beloved children again.

Forced adoption: another win for the child snatchers

The case of Tony and Debbie Sims illustrates the cruelty of our child protection system, says Christopher Booker.

Debbie and Tony Sims

Seventy-four court hearings : Tony and Debbie Sims
Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker 9:00PM GMT 20 Nov 2010688 Comments

In 43 years of medical practice, said the family’s GP, he had “never encountered a case of such appalling injustice”. To their neighbours, it was so shocking that up to 100 of them were ready to stage a public protest, until being banned from doing so by social workers and the police.

This was the case of Tony and Debbie Sims, which I first reported in July 2009 under the headline “ ’Evil destruction’ of a happy family”, and whom I can now name because their daughter, torn from them for no good reason, has finally, after three years of misery in foster care and 74 court hearings, been adopted.

The story of Mr and Mrs Sims was my first introduction to that Kafka-esque world of state child-snatching which I have so often reported on since. It illustrates so many of the reasons why, hidden behind its self-protective wall of secrecy, this ruthless and corrupt system has become a major national scandal.

Until April 2007, Mr Sims, a professional dog breeder, and his wife, then a branch vice-chairman of the local Conservative Party, were a respectable middle-class couple living happily with their five-year-old daughter, who was the apple of their eye. Shortly after Mr Sims was interviewed by the RSPCA over his unwitting infringement of a new law banning the tail-docking of puppies, their home was invaded by two RSPCA officials and 18 policemen, who had been given a wholly erroneous tip-off that there were guns on the premises.

When the dogs were released from their kennels and rampaged through the house, ripping apart his daughter’s pet boxer, Mr Sims strongly protested – verbally but not physically. He and his wife were arrested and taken away, leaving their little girl, aged five, screaming amid the chaos. Social workers were called and the child was removed into foster care. While Mrs Sims was being held for several hours in a police cell, she had a miscarriage. She returned home that night to find her daughter gone.

When the couple next saw their child – months later, at a “contact” – she said she had been told they were dead and had gone to heaven. For three years they tried to get her back through those 74 court hearings. The social workers claimed the child had been maltreated, because her home was an unholy mess. But this was only because of the police raid and the dogs – a WPC who had visited the house a month earlier on other business reported that it had been “neat and tidy”.

The child could not understand why she was not allowed to go back home with her parents. The courts were unable to consider a report by an experienced independent social worker which the couple were told described them as responsible and loving parents. The only evidence the court heard was that from the social workers and their own “experts”.

When the couple were eventually told that their child would be adopted, they appealed. In a judgment last year, which the media were permitted to report, Mr Justice Boden ruled that because the parents had not shown sufficient co‑operation with the authorities (after four psychiatric assessments of the couple, the father refused to submit to a fifth), the adoption had to go ahead.

One of the first people to contact the parents when this was made public was that independent social worker, who expressed astonishment, saying he had assumed that, because the social workers’ case seemed so flimsy, the family would have long since been reunited. Last week, however, Mr and Mrs Sims had a two-sentence note to say their daughter has now been adopted.

Since I first wrote about this case in 2009, I have come to recognise many of its features in dozens of others I have followed: the mob-handed involvement of the police; the seizing of children for no good reason; the inability of social workers to admit they have made a mistake; the way lawyers supposedly acting for the parents seem to be on the other side; the refusal of judges to look objectively at all the evidence, and their willingness to accept nonsense if told to them by social workers and their “experts”. Too often, these proceedings get away with standing every honourable principle of British justice on its head.

Such is the Frankenstein’s monster created by Parliament in the 1989 Children Act. Yet apart from the tireless John Hemming, and a handful of other MPs shocked into awareness by individual cases in their constituencies, the majority seem wholly unconcerned. So what do we pay them for?


for more stories like this go to

April 5, 2011

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 11:09 pm

If you are feeling low please watch

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 10:56 pm

Message for Sarah Peace and Andrew Jenkinson

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 10:24 pm

After all you put me through
You’d think I’d despise you
But in the end I wanna thank you
‘Cause you made that much stronger

Well I thought I knew you
Thinking that you were true
Guess I, I couldn’t trust called your bluff
Time is up, ’cause I’ve had enough

You were there by my side
Always down for the ride
But your joy ride just came down in flames
‘Cause your greed sold me out in shame, mmm hmm

After all of the stealing and cheating
You probably think that
I hold resentment for you
But uh uh, oh no, you’re wrong

‘Cause if it wasn’t for all
That you tried to do
I wouldn’t know just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you

‘Cause it
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Never saw it coming
All of your backstabbing
Just so, you could cash in on a good thing
Before I’d realized your game

I heard you’re going ’round
Playin’ the victim now
But don’t even begin feelin’ I’m the one to blame
‘Cause you dug your own grave

After all of the fights and the lies
Guess you’re wanting to hurt me
But that won’t work anymore
No more, uh uh, it’s over

‘Cause if it wasn’t for all of your torture
I wouldn’t know how to be this way now
And never back down
So I wanna say thank you

‘Cause it
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

How could this man I thought I know
Turn out to be unjust so cruel?
Could only see the good in you
Pretended not to see the truth

You tried to hide your lies
Disguise yourself through
Living in denial
But in the end you’ll see
You won’t stop me

I am a fighter
(I’m a fighter)
I ain’t gonna stop
(I ain’t gonna stop)
There is no turning back
I’ve had enough

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Thought I would forget
But I, I remember
Yes I remember
I’ll remember

Thought I would forget
But I remember
Yes I remember
I’ll remember

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

“No More Sorrow”

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 10:17 pm

Are you lost
In your lies
Do you tell yourself I don’t realize

Your crusade’s a disguise
Replace freedom with fear
You trade money for lives

I’m aware of what you’ve done

No more sorrow
I’ve paid for your mistakes
Your time is borrowed
Your time has come to be replaced

I see pain
I see need
I see liars and thieves
Abuse power with greed

I had hope
I believed
But I’m beginning to think that I’ve been deceived

You will pay for what you’ve done


Thieves and hypocrites
Thieves and hypocrites
Thieves and hypocrites

[Chorus x2]

Your time has come to be replaced
Your time has come to be erased


Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 10:06 pm

A duty to whistleblow

20 December 2010

If you fear that a colleague is working in a way that puts the safety of service users at risk should you report them? It’s a dilemma that many social workers will face at one time or another and your response will say a lot about the way you see your job and your profession.

Registered social workers are bound by the GSCC’s code of practice. The code is all about the social worker’s duty to protect service users from harm. Part 3.5 says that you must

‘inform your employer or an appropriate authority where the practice of colleagues may be unsafe or adversely affecting standards of care’.

This is easy to say but immensely difficult to do as Owen Davies, Head of Policy and Research at the GSCC, recognises: “As a former social worker, I know that the prospect of reporting a fellow professional is fraught with difficulties, but equally the consequences of not doing so can be serious.” We all feel loyalty to colleagues who may be under great pressure and we are all reluctant to ‘shop’ someone. But where we are convinced that there is a real danger of harm to a client, the first duty is to the service user. Every employer or commissioner should have procedures in place to allow for a social worker to report such concerns.

But that is not the only form of whistle blowing that the code of practice covers. Part 3.4 says that you must

‘bring to the attention of your employer or an appropriate authority resource or operational difficulties that might get in the way of the delivery of safe care’.

The GSCC sometimes gets calls from registrants who say that they are being asked by their employer to do something which they think will bring them into conflict with their obligations under the code of practice. A regulatory body cannot interfere in the relationship between the registrant and their employer – and anyone in such a situation is best advised to seek the support of their union or professional body – but the code says that there is a duty ‘to bring to the attention of the employer’ and you need to be able to show that you have done this where you believe that safe care might be compromised.



Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 1:59 pm




CRISIS IN THE CUSTODY COURT SYSTEM The crisis in the custody court system is responsible for thousands of children being forced to live with abusers and denied meaningful relationships with safe protective parents.  Society will pay a steep price with higher crime, reduced economic prosperity as the victims fail to reach their potential and higher levels of domestic violence as a result of the court system’s failure to recognize domestic violence cases and protect the children and their protective mothers.  Worst of all is the unbearable pain caused by the courts’ avoidable mistakes. HOW DO WE KNOW COURT ORDERED CUSTODY TO ABUSERS IS SO COMMON? 1. Reports by protective mothers:  Although not a scientific study, there has been a steady increase in credible reports by safe, protective mothers that their children have been forced to live with abusers and they have been limited to at most supervised visitation.  Apologists for the court system have sought to minimize the significance of these complaints by labeling the protective mothers as “disgruntled litigants.”  Most of these cases however include compelling evidence of the father’s abuse and a lack of any evidence suggesting the mother is unsafe.  Similarly there is usually nothing in the record based upon up-to-date scientific research that weighs the harm to the children of losing a mother who is the primary attachment figure to the child with whatever harm a continued relationship would allegedly create.  Even when a custody court believes a father has sexually abused his child, he will typically receive at least supervised visitation.  It is the only situation I know of in which a person is required to regularly spend time with their rapist.  In these Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases, mothers often enjoy less contact with their children than convicted rapists.  These extreme penalties are generally in response to the mother’s attempt to protect her child from an abuser and the court’s decision to punish and retaliate against her for complaining about her ex-partner’s abuse. 2. Review of these extreme cases:  When someone looks at an individual case, it is often hard to tell if the outcome is wrong, even when the outcome is extreme because it is possible there was something extremely wrong with the mother.  The common abuser tactic of demonizing the victim exacerbates the problem.  When an expert looks at hundreds or thousands of these cases, however it is easy to see the pattern of mistakes made in these cases.  This pattern of mistakes exposes the systemic problem in the way the custody court system responds to domestic violence and child abuse. 3. Studies of these extreme cases:  Studies of a significant number of domestic violence custody cases have been conducted in Massachusetts, Arizona, Pennsylvania, California, Alaska and New York City.  The studies support each other and demonstrate widespread mishandling of these cases by the custody court systems in each state.  In the forthcoming book co-edited by Dr. Maureen Hannah and Barry Goldstein, Sharon Araji and Rebecca Bosek        wrote an article in which they compare the five statewide studies.  Not only are the state studies consistent with each other, but they also support the academic research on the subject.  In other words they provide multiple confirmations of the crisis in the custody court system that has resulted in so many children being sent to live with abusers. 4. Courageous Kids Network:  If there were a benefit to the widespread use of custody evaluators, the reports would be able to provide information of how various types of recommendations by evaluators have worked out in particular circumstances.  Thus, for instance, there is well-established research that children do better living with their primary attachment figure and do worse living with abusers.  I have never seen an evaluator who could tell me how his or her recommendations worked out because there is no follow-up.  The closest thing we have to such research is the Courageous Kids Network.  These are children who were forced to live with abusers and now are adults and are speaking out about their experiences.  In every case the court claimed to be acting in the child’s best interest by sending the child to live with their abuser (of course the courts often failed to recognize his abuse) and now that they are away from their abusers, they have made it clear the approach used by the courts was a disaster. 5. Scientific research:  Domestic violence only became a public issue in the mid to late 1970s.  Accordingly most of the research is very recent.  Many of the assumptions made earlier have been disproved, but many professionals in the custody courts continue to use myths, stereotypes and outdated theories instead of up-to-date research.  Male supremacists often cite the fact that more mothers than fathers receive custody as “proof” the court system favors women.  As much as we would like to believe our society has changed, mothers continue to do most of the child-care because of sexism.  When a couple separates under circumstances other than domestic violence, the father loves his child, understands the mother is the primary parent and better able to care for the child.  Therefore he agrees to custody for the mother and regular visitation for the father.  The main problem in the custody court system is the worst of the worst contested cases that go to trial and beyond.  The vast majority of these cases involve abusive fathers.  The male supremacist movement has encouraged its members to seek custody as a tactic to pressure the mother to return or punish her for leaving.  Approximately five percent of all custody cases are contested until the end.  The cases are not settled because the purpose of most of these fathers is to hurt the mother and the best way to do so is to hurt the children.  It is an unspeakably cruel tactic.  Incredibly, mothers are often blamed for not settling with their abuser despite the unreasonableness of his demands.  The professionals in the court system do not have the training to recognize and respond to these tactics.  As a result in 70% of these cases the father receives custody or joint custody.  It is from this small group of cases that the extreme outcomes occur. CAUSES OF CUSTODY-VISITATION SCANDAL CASES 1. Lack of training:  Although most judges and attorneys for children now receive some training in “domestic violence,” courts continue to suffer from a fundamental lack of understanding of basic domestic violence information.  There is widespread use of myths and stereotypes and a failure to use up-to-date research.  I have had a unique opportunity to work regularly with judges and court professionals as an attorney and with batterers when I instruct in a New York Model batterer classes ordered by the courts.  Both groups use a similar process in trying to understand domestic violence.  Most people have had some experience with domestic violence as a victim or perpetrator or hearing stories from a friend or relative.  Often the information from these stories is not objective and incomplete.  Nevertheless they take what they think they learned to draw general conclusions they apply to all cases.  The process is often done in good faith, but the conclusions are usually wrong or incomplete.  Experts in domestic violence look for patterns to understand what happens most of the time instead of concentrating on exceptions that abusers often want to discuss.   While some of the information provided at trainings is very useful, many trainings include misinformation or discuss issues out of context.  The Truth Commission recommended that judges and others be trained in specific aspects of domestic violence including Recognizing Domestic Violence, Gender Bias and The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. In our book, Judge Mike Brigner writes that when he trains judges they often complain about “liars” who complain about her partner’s abuse.  They reach this mistaken conclusion when women withdraw their petitions or recant charges; fail to make police reports or seek medical treatment at the time of his abuse or because of the myth that women frequently make false allegations of abuse to obtain an advantage in litigation.  In reality none of these circumstances support the belief the women are lying, but rather demonstrate the judge doesn’t know what to look for to determine domestic violence.  Often professionals look only at physical abuse instead of the pattern of controlling behavior by the abuser.  Professionals often assume a father seeks custody out of love for his children despite this being a common tactic abusers use to control their partners.  Courts rarely look at why a father who had little involvement with the children prior to separation suddenly wants custody, but are interested in why a protective mother did not file charges before the separation (when it might not have been safe to do so).  In the Shockome case, highlighted in Newsweek, the abuser stated directly that he brought his wife here (from Russia) so she had no right to leave him.  He admitted telling her she would never get away.  The judge, not knowing what to look for in determining domestic violence, ignored these admissions. In my book, SCARED TO LEAVE AFRAID TO STAY, one chapter concerns an abusive husband who told the family court judge his wife was seeking to deceive the court by staying in a shelter for battered women.  Judge Sondra Miller responded by saying in her experience women don’t go to shelters unless it is necessary.  This is the kind of common sense response that would be made more often if judges were properly trained.  Domestic violence agencies have very limited funds and screen potential clients for domestic violence in part because they can’t afford to provide services women don’t need.  Furthermore the domestic violence advocates work full time on domestic violence issues and have more and better training in domestic violence then the professionals relied on by the courts.  The chances of a woman who is not a victim of domestic violence seeking services and passing the screening are slim to none.  This is exactly the kind of common sense court professionals should use to recognize domestic violence. 2. Gender Bias:  There have been court sponsored gender bias committees in approximately forty states.  They have all found widespread gender bias and this is particularly true in custody cases.  The New York State Committee on Women in the Courts is typical in finding that women litigants face a higher burden of proof than their abusers, are given less credibility and are blamed for their normal response to his abuse.  In the Shockome case this bias was demonstrated when the evaluator used a certainty standard against the mother while using the proper probability standard for the father.  Neither the trial judge, nor the Appellate Division responded to objections to this obvious example of gender bias.  Similarly when the mother sought to protect her children from the father’s abuse, they blamed her for her normal and appropriate reaction to his abuse, gave custody to the abuser and denied her any contact with her children. 3. Unqualified professionals:  Although lawyers, judges, psychologists, child protective caseworkers and other professionals relied on by the courts receive little or no academic training in domestic violence while in school and limited training thereafter, the courts regularly use such unqualified professionals in domestic violence cases.  It is impossible to understand the family dynamics if you don’t understand the domestic violence in the family.  THE BATTERER AS PARENT, by Lundy Bancroft and Dr. Jay Silverman is the leading authority regarding domestic violence and parenting.  The book recommends that if an evaluator does not work for a domestic violence agency, someone who does should be consulted.  The American Psychological Association similarly recommends consulting with an expert in an area the psychologist does not have such expertise.  Courts have been slow to demand such expertise as a condition to testifying in a case with domestic violence allegations.  The result is that unqualified professionals often rely on the same kinds of myths and stereotypes non-experts use and fail to take advantage of up-to-date research. 4. Male Supremacist Groups:  After the passage of VAWA and other laws designed to increase the collection of child support, male supremacist groups have intensified their efforts to maintain what they believe is male privilege to control their partners.  These are extremists whose agenda is to minimize society’s response to domestic violence, reduce or eliminate child support and discourage laws against incest.  Obviously if they expressed their goals honestly they would get nowhere so they seek to manipulate the courts, legislatures and media with fair sounding requests such as shared parenting, friendly parent and cooperation between the parents in the best interests of the child.  In reality abusers to gain access to their victim and punish her for leaving easily exploit each of these good sounding goals.  They have encouraged abusive fathers who had limited involvement with the children to threaten to take the children if their victim leaves and to seek custody if she does.  This is an unspeakably cruel tactic that the court system has been slow to recognize and respond to.  As a result thousands of children have lost their safe, protective mothers and are forced to endure unspeakable cruelty. 5. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS):  This is a bogus theory developed by Richard Gardner (a pedophile supporter) that is not approved by the American Psychological Association or any reputable professional organization.  It is not in the DSM !V which is used to characterize mental health disorders.  It is not used in any part of treatment or society except for custody purposes.  The theory was selfpublished and never peer reviewed.  The idea is that if a child doesn’t like the father or doesn’t want visitation, the only possible reason is that the mother is alienating the child and the remedy is to send the child to the abuser and keep the mother away.  Male Supremacists love this theory because it serves to prevent or limit investigations into the father’s abuse.  As PAS has become ever more discredited, abusers have sought to use it by another name such as parental alienation.  For more information see the chapter in our book by Dr. Paul Fink on PAS and many other articles.

International studies on abuse of women and children through the family law and child protection systems.

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 4:24 am



International studies on abuse of women and children through the family law and child protection systems. The evidence supports survey studies conducted by NPBSPPC, and highlighrs the admissions made of such abuse in all three Australian reviews.




Compiled by Joan S. Meier, Esq.


One statement in Breaking the Silence: Children’s Voices that has provoked controversy was my statement that “the studies are showing” that up to 2/3 of accused or adjudicated batterers receive joint or sole custody in court. While no empirical study can definitively determine a universal statistical rate, the key point is that the research consistently shows that accused and adjudicated batterers receive joint or sole custody disturbingly often. This confirms the anecdotal experience of domestic violence attorneys and victims around the country. The following research supports this perspective.


I. A History of Domestic Violence is Common among Contested Custody Cases.


The remarkably consistent research on this issue is compiled in my previously-issued statement, Research Indicating that the Majority of Cases that go to Court as ‘high conflict’ contested custody cases have a history of domestic violence (Nov. 9, 2005).


One good example is a study cited by Janet Johnston, a leading researcher of parental alienation, which found that, among custody litigants referred to mediation, “[p]hysical aggression had occurred between 75% and 70% of the parents . . . even though the couples had been separated. . . [for an average of 30-42 months]”. Furthermore, [i]n 35% of the first sample and 48% of the second, [the violence] was denoted assevere and involved battering and threatening to use or using a weapon.”

– Janet R. Johnston, “High-Conflict Divorce,” The Future of Children, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1994, 165-182) citing Depner et al., “Building a uniform statistical reporting system: A snapshot of California Family Court Services,“Family and Conciliation Courts Review (1992) 30: 185-206


II. Domestic Violence Perpetrators are More Likely to Contest Custody than Non- Abusers.


The American Psychological Association’s Presidential Task Force on Violence in the Family, the leading review of the research as of 1996, found that men who abuse their partners contest custody at least twice as often as non-abusing fathers. They are even more likely to contest custody if the children are boys.

  • American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence in the Family (1996) at p. 40.


III. Accused and Adjudicated Batterers Receive Joint or Sole Custody Surprisingly Often.


The research on this has only emerged in recent years, and most studies have been small and local. Nonetheless, they document disturbing trends, which surprised even me when I first discovered them.


A. Multiple studies have documented gender bias against women in custody litigation.


Contrary to the conventional wisdom that women are favored in custody litigation, both the experiences of battered women and the empirical research are showing that women who allege abuse are deeply disfavoredin custody courts.


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Gender Bias Task Force was one of the first states to document the gender bias against women in family courts. This court-initiated study expressly found that “our research contradicted [the] perception” that ”there is a bias in favor of women in these decisions.” Moreover, it found that “in determining custody and visitation, many judges and family service officers do not consider violence toward women relevant.” The Court’s study further found that “the courts are demanding more of mothers than fathers in custody disputes” and that “many courts put the needs of noncustodial fathers above those of custodial mothers and children.”

– Gender Bias Study of the Court System in Massachusetts, 24 New Eng.L.Rev. 745, 747, 825, 846 (1990)


More recently, and since the evolution and widespread adoption of “parental alienation syndrome,” a multi-year, four-phase study using qualitative and quantitative social science research methodologies by the Wellesley Centers for Women found “a consistent pattern of human rights abuses” by family courts, including failure to protect battered women and children from abuse, discriminating against and inflicting degrading treatment on battered women, and denying battered women due process. Histories of abuse of mother and children were routinely ignored or discounted.

– Wellesley Centers for Women Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project, Battered Mothers Speak Out: A Human Rights Report on Domestic Violence and Child Custody in the Massachusetts Family Courts (Nov. 2002)(hereafter “BMTP”),Executive Summary at 2.


A comparable study by the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that most of the women surveyed felt the history of abuse was not taken seriously and that they were ignored, disrespected and discriminated against by court personnel.

– Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project: A Human Rights Approach to Child Custody and Domestic Violence (June 2003), pp. 47, 49, 6.


A study of the Domestic Relations Division of Philadelphia Family Court conducted by the Philadephia Women’s Law Project in cooperation with the court, found that litigants are often denied due process, and that applicable legal standards are “not always observed, particularly in the consideration of abuse in custody proceedings, leaving families at risk.”

– Tracy, Fromson & Miller, Justice in the Domestic Relations Division of Philadelphia Family Court: A Report to the Community, domestic violence report, Vol. 8, No. 6 (Aug/Sept. 2003), p. 94.



B. Studies show Accused and Adjudicated Batterers Receiving Sole or Joint Custody Surprisingly Often.


My own survey of the case law in 2001 identified 38 appellate state court decisions concerning custody and domestic violence. The survey found that 36 of the 38 trial courts had awarded joint or sole custody to allegedand adjudicated batterers. Two-thirds of these decisions were reversed on appeal. – Meier, Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and Child Protection: Understanding Judicial Resistance and Imagining the Solutions, A.U. J. Gender, Soc. Pol. & the Law, 11:2 (2003), 657-731, p. 662, n. 19, and Appendix.


These cases included a case in which the perpetrator had been repeatedly convicted of domestic assault;1 in which a father was given sole custody of a16-month old despite his undisputed choking of the mother resulting in her hospitalization and his arrest;2 in which the father had broken the mother’s collarbone;3 had committed “occasional incidents of violence”;4 and had committed two admitted assaults.5 More such instances can be found in Meier, supra.


A multi-state study found that, even in states with a presumption against custody to a batterer, 40% ofadjudicated batterers received joint (legal or physical) custody. In states with competing (e.g. friendly parent or joint custody) presumptions, only 4% % of courts gave sole physical custody to a mother. Morrill et al, “Child Custody and Visitation Decisions When the Father Has Perpetrated Violence Against the Mother,” Violence Against Women, Vol. 11, No. 8, Aug. 2005, 1076-1107.


The American Judges Association has found that approximately 70% of batterers succeed in convincing authorities that the victim is unfit for or undeserving of sole custody. Another way of saying this is that 70% of batterers obtain sole or joint custody.

  • American Judges Association, “Domestic Violence and the Courtroom: Understanding the Problem . . . Knowing the Victim” (at “Forms of Emotional Battering. . . Threats to Harm or Take Away Children”)


A survey of battered women by the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that courts awarded joint or sole custody to the alleged batterers 56-74% of the time (depending on the county). Many of these cases involved documented child abuse or adult abuse.

– Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project: A Human Rights Approach to Child Custody and Domestic Violence (June 2003), pp. 33-34, 47-49



A study of 300 cases over a 10-year period in which the mother sought to protect the child from sexual abuse, found that 70% resulted in unsupervised visitation or shared custody; in 20% of the cases the mothers completely lost custody, and many of these lost all visitation rights.

– Neustein & Goetting (1999), “Judicial Responses to the Protective Parent’s Complaint of Child Sexual Abuse,”Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 8 (4): 103-122.


The Wellesley Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project found that 15 out of 40 cases resulted in sole or joint physical custody to the fathers, all of whom had abused both the mother and the children.

– BMTP, supra at Appendix A.


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Gender Bias Task Force found that 94% of fathers who actively sought custody received sole or joint custody, regardless of whether there was a history of abuse. While fathers received primary physical custody 29% of the time, mothers received primary physical custody in only 7% of the contested cases. The Study also cited other research which similarly found that fathers who sought custody received primary physical custody 2/3 of the time, with mothers receiving it less than ¼ of the time; and another study which found that fathers seeking custody received joint or sole custody 79% of the time, with mothers receiving sole custody in only 15% of those cases (compared to fathers’ sole custody in 41% of the cases).

  • Gender Bias Study at 831-832 and citing Middlesex Divorce Research Group relitigation study and Phear et al., 1983.


It is likely that a substantial proportion of the fathers in this study had committed domestic violence.

– Meier Statement, Research Indicating that the Majority of Cases that go to Court as ‘High Conflict’ Contested Custody Cases have a History of Domestic Violence (Nov. 9, 2005).


See generally, Violence Against Women, Vol. 11, No. 8, Aug. 2005 (Symposium on NIJ-funded research studies on domestic violence and custody)

1 In re Custody of Zia, 736 N.E. 2d 449 (Mass. App. Ct. 2000)

2 Kent v. Green, 701 So. 2d 4 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996)

3 Couch v. Couch, 978 S.W.2d 505 (Mo. App. 1998)

4 Simmons v. Simmons, 649 So. 2d 799, 802 (La. App. Ct. 1995)

5 Hamilton v. Hamilton, 886 S.W.2d 711, 715 (Mo. App. 1994)


April 4, 2011


The following piece of information is intended for Gill Leather and Donna Greatorex the not so independent reviewing officers employed by Staffordshire County Council. Anyone who has attended statutory reviews about children will be well aware that these social care minions are not independent at all and generally kiss social workers backsides. Should a recommendation be made at these meetings that is not followed through these puppets do nothing about it. This is to remind these people what their role actually is as they do not seem to possess the slightest intelligence in understanding what they are supposed to do.

Social Care News: Looked-After Children – Concern as new reviewing officers’ powers not used

By Ruth Smith Tuesday, 10 May 2005

New powers enabling independent reviewing officers to safeguard the rights of children in care are not being used in practice, campaigners have warned.

An amendment to the Children Act 1989 that came into force in September 2004 obliges independent reviewing officers to review how local authorities implement the care plans of looked-after children. It also enables them to refer cases to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) so it can act on behalf of a child if a claim is made against a local authority. But Felicity Collier, chief executive of BAAF Adoption & Fostering, said that no independent reviewing officers had so far taken a case to Cafcass, despite the fact that plans had not been implemented or inappropriately changed before reviews. Her comments follow a recent meeting of BAAF’s legal group, where serious concerns were raised about how some children’s reviews were organised. Cafcass confirmed that no cases had been referred to it by the end of March. Jane Booth, its director for service delivery, said: “While it is still early days in terms of this new safeguard for children, we would be very concerned if this procedure for the protection of the rights of children in care was not being used.” Andrew Christie, chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services’ fostering group, said he was not “entirely surprised” by the finding. “The procedure is new and you’d expect independent reviewing officers to make every effort to resolve the matter internally first,” he said.—Concern-new-reviewing-officers-powers-not-used

IRO Handbook Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers

IRO Handbook Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children IRO Handbook Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Contents Chapter 1. Introduction 4 Aims and audience 4 Status of the guidance 5 Definitions 5 The legal context 7 The practice context 8 Chapter 2. An overview of the IRO role and functions 9 The care planning and review context 9 Core functions, tasks and responsibilities 10 Competences and qualifications 11 Independence 12 Chapter 3. IRO responsibilities in the care planning and review process 13 The care plan 13 Planning the review meeting 13 Preparation 14 Interpreters 15 Advocacy 15 Attendance and location 16 Timing of review meetings 17 Adjournment of reviews 17 Administration 18 The review: a child centred meeting 18 Issues to consider at the review 20 Statutory requirements 20 Safeguarding 21 Child’s developmental needs 22 Permanence planning 24 Issues in relation to adoption 25 Information that must be provided to children at the review 27 Legal status 27 Outcomes from the review 28 Review record 28 Decisions and recommendations 29 Monitoring the case on an ongoing basis 30 IRO Handbook Chapter 4. Considerations for specific groups of children 33 Children receiving short breaks 33 Children with additional communication needs 34 Children within the youth justice system 34 Children subject to secure accommodation orders 35 Children admitted to hospital 36 Unaccompanied asylum seeking children 36 Chapter 5. Planning transition to adulthood 37 Eligible children 39 Young people leaving care 41 Young people with a disability 41 Chapter 6. Dispute resolution and complaints 43 Complaints 44 Provision of independent legal advice 44 Chapter 7. Strategic and management responsibilities 46 Establishing an effective IRO service 46 Appointment of the IRO 46 Administration of the review process 47 Management 47 Role and functions of the IRO manager 47 Caseloads 49 Role of the director of children’s services 50 Interagency and interdepartmental working together 50 Delay and drift 51 Emergency placements 52 Chapter 8. Cafcass 53 Family proceedings 53 Referral to Cafcass 54 Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children References 57 Annex 1. Overview of statutory framework for care planning 60 Annex 2. Overview of care planning, placement and case review process 61 Annex 3. Key changes to the IRO role and function 62 Annex 4. Involving children with additional communication needs 64 Annex 5. Children in the youth justice system 68 IRO Handbook Chapter 1. Introduction Aims and audience 1.1 This statutory document seeks to improve outcomes for looked after children by providing guidance to independent reviewing officers (IROs) about how they should discharge their distinct responsibilities to looked after children. It also provides guidance to local authorities on their strategic and managerial responsibilities in establishing an effective IRO service. The aim is to give all looked after children the support and services that each one requires to enable them to reach their potential. 1.2 The guidance draws on models of best practice already established throughout the country. It is published as a ‘handbook’ with the aim of providing a format that IROs will find easy to use and enable them to share information about their role with those with whom they work, for example: .. social workers; .. other children’s services staff; .. professionals in other agencies; .. foster carers; .. the child; and .. parents and other relevant adults. 1.3 When consulted about an early draft of this guidance, children and young people were clear what they wanted from their IRO: “When they meet the child they should do this one to one so that the child can talk freely. They must check with both the child, and other people working with the child, on whether the child is OK and happy where they are living and with their care plans. They must regularly ask each child whether they are happy with how things are being done for them, and keep checking what is happening for each child against that child’s plans and the decisions made at their reviews.” 1.4 We have aimed to keep the voices of children and young people consistently in mind as we have drawn up this guidance.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Status of the guidance 1.5 The guidance is issued under two provisions: .. The Children and Young Persons Act 2008, which created a new power for the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance to IROs;1 and .. section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which requires local authorities, in the exercise of their social services functions, to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State; unless there are exceptional reasons local authorities must follow the requirements set out in this guidance. 1.6 This guidance replaces the 2004 guidance.2 It should be read in conjunction with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 20103 (‘the Regulations’). 1.7 The guidance is issued as part of a suite of statutory guidance which, together with the Regulations, sets out how local authorities should carry out the full range of responsibilities in relation to care planning, placement and review for looked after children. Annex 1 shows how these and other documents fit together within an overall framework, the aim of which is to provide looked after children with the most appropriate placement to meet their needs and improve their outcomes. Definitions 1.8 References in this guidance to: .. ‘the 1989 Act’ are to sections of the Children Act 1989; .. ‘the 2008 Act’ are to sections of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008; .. ‘the 2004 Act’ are to sections of the Children Act 2004; .. ‘the 2002 Act’ are to sections of the Adoption and Children Act 2002; .. a numbered section of a Schedule is a reference to that section or Schedule in the 1989 Act; .. ‘the Regulations’ are to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (where other regulations are referred to, the full title is used); and .. ‘local authority’ is the local authority that is looking after an individual child (referred to as the ‘responsible authority’ in the Regulations). IRO Handbook 1.9 The term ‘child’ is used as an inclusive term to refer to all 0 to 18 year olds. Where the context specifically relates to older children, the term ‘young person’ is used. 1.10 The term ‘looked after children’ refers, under the 1989 Act, to all children and young people being looked after by a local authority, namely: .. those subject to care orders or interim care orders (under sections 31 and 38 of the 1989 Act); .. those children who have been placed, or are authorised to be placed, with prospective adopters by a local authority (section 18(3) of the 2002 Act); .. those who are voluntarily accommodated under section 20 of the 1989 Act, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Where children are accommodated under this provision, parental responsibility remains with the parents; and .. those who are subject to court orders with residence requirements (for example, secure remand or remand to local authority accommodation), in accordance with section 21 of the 1989 Act. 1.11 An ‘eligible child’, defined in paragraph 19B of Schedule 2 to the 1989 Act, and in regulation 41 of the Regulations, is a looked after child aged 16 or 17, who has been looked after for a total of at least 13 weeks which began after s/he reached the age of 14, and ends after s/he reaches the age of 16. 1.12 A ‘relevant child’, defined in section 23A of the 1989 Act and regulation 4 of the Children (Leaving Care) (England) Regulations 2001, is a young person aged 16 or 17 who was an ‘eligible child’ but is no longer looked after. 1.13 A ‘former relevant child’, defined in section 23C of the 1989 Act is a young person aged 18 or above (i.e. legally adult) who was either an eligible or relevant child. The local authority has functions and duties in relation to former relevant children until they reach the age of 21 (or 25 in the case of former relevant children who are pursuing a programme of education or training). 1.14 To assist the reader in cross-referencing this text to key sections of primary legislation or to the Regulations or other sets of regulations, this is signposted in the text as follows: [Primarylegislation,e.g.1989Act] [Regulations;Part,Scheduleornumber] Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children The legal context 1.15 A House of Lords judgement4 in 2002 concluded that a local authority that failed in its duties to a looked after child could be challenged under the Human Rights Act 1998, most likely under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to family life. The judgement recognised that some children with no adult to act on their behalf may not have any effective means to initiate such a challenge. 1.16 In response, the Government made it a legal requirement for an IRO to be appointed to participate in case reviews, monitor the local authority’s performance in respect of reviews, and to consider whether it would be appropriate to refer cases to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). This is set out in section 26 of the 1989 Act, as amended by the 2002 Act. 1.17 Later, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Reviewed Case Referral) Regulations 2004,5 made under section 26 of the 1989 Act, extended the functions of Cafcass so that on a referral from an IRO they could consider bringing proceedings for breaches of the child’s human rights, judicial review and other proceedings. 1.18 The 2008 Act extends the IRO’s responsibilities from monitoring the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to a child’s review to monitoring the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to a child’s case, as set out in sections 25A-25C of the 1989 Act (inserted by section 10 of the 2008 Act). The intention is that these changes will enable the IRO to have an effective independent oversight of the child’s case and ensure that the child’s interests are protected throughout the care planning process. 1.19 Together, the amended 1989 Act and the Regulations specify: .. the duties of the local authority to appoint an IRO; .. the circumstances in which the local authority must consult with the IRO; .. the functions of the IRO both in relation to the reviewing and monitoring of each child’s case; and .. the actions that the IRO must take if the local authority is failing to comply with the Regulations or is in breach of its duties to the child in any material way, including making a referral to Cafcass. IRO Handbook 1.20 Section 11 of the 2008 Act includes a power to confer the delivery of IRO services to a national body, outside the control of local authorities if, in the future, the measures to strengthen the IRO function do not contribute to a significant improvement in outcomes for looked after children. The practice context 1.21 The IRO’s primary focus is to quality assure the care planning and review process for each child and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration. To be successful, the role must be valued by senior managers and operate within a supportive service culture and environment. An effective IRO service should enable the local authority to achieve improved outcomes for children. 1.22 Every IRO should feel confident in his/her role and personal authority and understand his/her responsibilities to monitor and review the child’s case and, where necessary, challenge poor practice. This guidance recognises that it is not the responsibility of the IRO to manage the case, supervise the social worker or devise the care plan. Although it is important for the IRO to develop a consistent relationship with the child, this should not undermine or replace the relationship between the social worker and the child. 1.23 IROs were introduced on a statutory basis in 2004, and the Care Matters Green Paper consultation in 2006-07 provided an opportunity to take stock of the new role. The key concerns to emerge were: .. IROs were not sufficiently robust in challenging decisions made by local authorities even in cases where professional practice was obviously poor and not in children’s interests. .. Not every statutory review was being conducted in a way that encouraged a challenging analysis of the proposals for meeting the child’s needs. .. Insufficient weight was being given to the views of the child or to those of his/ her parents, carers, or other professionals with a role in securing his/her welfare. .. Unless care plans are rigorously examined the review is no longer an opportunity for informed reflection on the child’s progress and planning for the child’s future; instead it becomes merely a sterile ‘box ticking’ exercise. 1.24 The changes to legislation, supported by the guidance which follows, take forward the Government’s commitment to securing significant improvements in the contribution that IROs make, in order to improve care planning and secure better outcomes for looked after children.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Chapter 2. An overview of the IRO role and functions The care planning and review context 2.1 Understanding the role and functions of the IRO requires an understanding of the centrality of effective care planning and review to good social work practice, as well as the duties of the local authority in relation to care planning and review, as set out in the Regulations. 2.2 Care planning and reviews are about bringing together children who are looked after, their families, carers and professionals, in order to plan for the care of the child and to review that plan on a regular basis. Effective care planning and review is underpinned by careful assessment of the needs of a child and making the right decisions about how best to meet those needs (see Annex 2). This is a fundamental part of social work, which not only requires an understanding of the importance of planning, but also the relevant conceptual and practice frameworks. 2.3 The Regulations set out the arrangements which the local authority must make for looking after a child and the making of a care plan is central to these requirements [Part2]. The care plan will contain information about how the child’s current developmental needs will be met as well as the arrangements for the current and longer term care for the child. It ensures that there is a clear plan for the child’s future to which everyone is working, including the child, the team around the child and, where appropriate, the family. There should be clarity in the care plan, particularly about the outcomes expected from services and other actions identified. This will support effective reviews. 2.4 The care plan must be prepared before the child is first placed by the local authority, or if this is not practicable, within ten working days of the start of the first placement [regulation4]. The local authority must maintain the care plan and keep it under review and if it is of the opinion that some change is required, must revise it or make a new plan. The care plan must set out the long term plan for the child’s upbringing and the arrangements made to meet the child’s developmental needs in relation to health, education, emotional and behavioural development, identity, family and social relationships, social presentation and self care skills. 2.5 The care plan and the assessment of the child’s needs, upon which the plan rests, should inform the decision as to which placement will be most suited to meeting the child’s needs.  10 IRO Handbook 2.6 The review of the care plan is one of the key components within the core processes of working with children and families of: assessment, planning, intervention and reviewing. It is the responsibility of the IRO to chair this review at regular intervals. 2.7 The purpose of the review is to consider the quality of the child’s care plan, based on the local authority’s assessment of the child’s needs. The care plan for each individual child must specify how the authority proposes to respond to the full range of the child’s needs, taking into account his/her wishes and feelings. The review will need to monitor the progress of the plan and to make decisions to amend the plan as necessary in light of changed knowledge and circumstances. The IRO must be satisfied that the plan identifies who is responsible for achieving the plan’s objectives and clear timescales set. 2.8 IROs then are well placed to assess the quality and effectiveness of local authority planning and support for children. The IRO has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the local authority fulfils its responsibilities as a ‘corporate parent’ for all the children that it looks after. The IRO should ensure that the child is offered stable care that is sensitive and appropriate to each individual’s personal needs so that the child is able to flourish and achieve. The plan for each child must demonstrate how the services provided have fully taken account of the child’s wishes and feelings. Core functions, tasks and responsibilities 2.9 The statutory duties of the IRO are to [section25B(1),1989Act]: .. monitor the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to the child’s case; .. participate in any review of the child’s case; .. ensure that any ascertained wishes and feelings of the child concerning the case are given due consideration by the appropriate authority; and .. perform any other function which is prescribed in regulations. 2.10 The primary task of the IRO is to ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects the child’s current needs and that the actions set out in the plan are consistent with the local authority’s legal responsibilities towards the child. As corporate parents each local authority should act for the children they look after as a responsible and conscientious parent would act. 2.11 There are now two clear and separate aspects to the function of the IRO: i. chairing the child’s review; and  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 11 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children ii. monitoring the child’s case on an ongoing basis. 2.12 In exercising both parts of this role the IRO must ensure that the child’s current wishes and feelings have been established and taken into account, where appropriate. 2.13 As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to monitor the performance of the local authority’s function as a corporate parent and to identify any areas of poor practice. This should include identifying patterns of concern emerging not just around individual children but also more generally in relation to the collective experience of its looked after children of the services they receive. Where IROs identify more general concerns around the quality of the authority’s services to its looked after children, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers about these. Equally important, the IRO should recognise and report on good practice. 2.14 In discharging these duties, the IRO has a number of specific responsibilities. These are discussed in more detail in the chapters which follow: .. promoting the voice of the child; .. ensuring that plans for looked after children are based on a detailed and informed assessment, are up to date, effective and provide a real and genuine response to each child’s needs; .. making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and his/her entitlement to one (see paragraph 3.14); .. offering a safeguard to prevent any ‘drift’ in care planning for looked after children and the delivery of services to them (see paragraphs 3.39 and 7.23); and .. monitoring the activity of the local authority as a corporate parent in ensuring that care plans have given proper consideration and weight to the child’s wishes and feelings and that, where appropriate, the child fully understands the implications of any changes made to his/her care plan. Competences and qualifications 2.15 The role of the IRO is a specialist one which stands alone in the local authority. It is a role that may involve challenging senior managers and may require the IRO to seek legal remedies if the local authority fails in its duties. 2.16 The IRO must be registered as a social worker by the General Social Care Council or by the Care Council for Wales under section 56 of the Care Standards Act 2000 or in  12 IRO Handbook a corresponding register maintained under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland. The IRO should have at least five years post qualifying experience [regulation46]. 2.17 The IRO should be an authoritative professional with at least equivalent status to an experienced children’s social work team manager. To be appointed, a prospective IRO should be able to provide evidence that s/he has: .. sufficient relevant social work experience in children’s social care to undertake the required functions; .. the ability to communicate with children and young people; .. the confidence and ability to work constructively with senior managers, offering a critical perspective and appropriate challenge; .. a thorough understanding of the legal framework relating to looked after children and care leavers, including knowledge of National Minimum Standards6 and the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005;7 .. a thorough working understanding of the legal process and the issues involved when a local authority makes application for a care order; .. experience of providing social work supervision and support; and .. knowledge of the evidence about what makes for good quality practice in working with children and families to safeguard children and promote their welfare. Independence 2.18 The independence of the IRO is essential to enable him/her to effectively challenge poor practice. The Regulations do not prescribe the position of the IRO within the local authority but do prescribe minimum levels of independence [regulation46]. These are that the IRO must not be: .. a person involved in preparing the child’s care plan or the management of the child’s case; .. the representative of the local authority appointed to visit the child [Section23ZA,1989Act]; .. the child’s personal adviser; .. a person with management responsibilities for any of the above; and .. a person with control over the resources allocated to the case. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 13 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Chapter 3. IRO responsibilities in the care planning and review process 3.1 This chapter considers the specific responsibilities of the IRO in relation to chairing the child’s review meeting and monitoring the child’s case on an ongoing basis. Together, these are integral to the overall care planning and review process. Further detail about local authorities’ responsibilities for care planning are set out in Volume 2 of the Children Act 1989 guidance on care planning, placement and review.8 The care plan 3.2 As outlined in paragraph 2.10, the primary task of the IRO is to ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects the child’s current needs and that the actions set out in the plan are consistent with the local authority’s legal responsibilities towards the child. 3.3 In order to properly consider the care plan at each review, the IRO should be satisfied that the assessments upon which the care plan is based are comprehensive and adequate, involving the appropriate people and addressing the appropriate issues, that the proposed care plan results logically from the assessments and that it is relevant, viable and achievable. 3.4 It will be important for the social worker to provide to the IRO the evidence on which the plan was formulated, for example copies of assessments or minutes of meetings. 3.5 In order for the IRO to agree any proposed changes to the care plan, s/he should inform the social worker in advance of the review. The IRO should outline his/her concerns, clarify questions that need to be answered and identify what action needs to be taken by the local authority. If necessary, following the review, the IRO will attempt to resolve the matter informally and, if this is not successful, may consider implementing the local dispute resolution process (see Chapter 6). Planning the review meeting 3.6 It is the responsibility of IROs to chair the review meetings of all looked after children. Reviewing must be understood as a flexible process that will vary in relation to each child. It may be one standalone meeting attended by all the relevant people in the child’s life, or a number of meetings, with one central  14 IRO Handbook meeting attended by the IRO, the child, the social worker and some of the relevant adults in the child’s life. It will be for the IRO and the social worker, in consultation with the child, to agree the best way to manage the process for each child before each review. 3.7 The status of review meetings is made clear in regulation 32(2): “The responsible authority must not make any significant change to [a child’s] care plan unless the proposed change has first been considered at a review of [the child’s] case, unless this is not reasonably practicable.” 3.8 In order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, consideration must be given at each review to the following issues in relation to the care plan: .. whether to confirm or change it; .. what actions need to be taken to implement it; .. by whom; and .. within what timescale? Preparation 3.9 In order for the meeting to be productive and sensitive to the needs of each child, time and careful preparation is necessary: .. The IRO must speak with the child before the review. .. The IRO should speak to the social worker at least 15 working days before the review. .. The IRO should be provided with or have access to any relevant reports/plans or background information, including the current care plan, the report from the social worker (which should be available at least three working days before the commencement of the review), the current health plan or medical assessment report and the current personal education plan (PEP). .. Written consultation documents should be sent out to children, parents, carers and other relevant adults at least ten working days before the review. 3.10 It is important that the review is child-centred and only involves the necessary number of professionals, alongside the child, his/her carers and his/her parents, except where this is not appropriate. A series of meetings may therefore be the best way to involve all the relevant people. The child should be consulted, subject to his/  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 15 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children her age and understanding, about who s/he wishes to attend the meeting and about the venue of the meeting. 3.11 The IRO should ensure that all those involved in the meeting(s) make a meaningful contribution to the discussion so that an informed decision can be made about the short and long term actions that will need to be taken to advance the child’s care plan. The IRO is well placed to identify any concerns about how a child’s care is being managed and to ensure that the long term objectives agreed through the assessment and care planning process are implemented within a timescale appropriate for the child. Interpreters 3.12 Every child and his/her parents should be offered the support of an interpreter, if English is not their first language. This is the responsibility of the social worker. However, as part of the initial discussion between the IRO and the social worker, in advance of the review, the IRO should establish the first language of both the child and the parents. A child may be of the view that his/her use of the language is adequate but it is important that each child can participate appropriately in the process and that his/her views are fully represented. Decisions could be made at a review that will have lifelong implications. It may therefore be helpful for an interpreter to be present, even if his/her services are used for parts of the meeting only. 3.13 In addition, the local authority should have a system in place for the translation of all written documentation produced for the review and following the review. Advocacy 3.14 When meeting with the child before every review, the IRO is responsible for making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and his/her entitlement to one. Advocacy is an option available to children whenever they want such support and not just when they want to make a formal complaint. Some children will feel sufficiently confident or articulate to contribute or participate in the review process without additional help. Others may prefer the support of an advocate. This could be a formal appointment from a specialist organisation or might be an adult already in the child’s social network. 3.15 Every child has the right to be supported by an advocate. The local authority must have a system in place to provide written, age appropriate information to each looked after child about the function and availability of an advocate and how to request one.  16 IRO Handbook Attendance and location 3.16 The review is the child’s meeting (see paragraph 3.29) and discussion should take place between the social worker and the child at least 20 working days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and about where the meeting will be held. This allows time for subsequent discussion about attendance and venue between the IRO and the social worker and for written invitations to be sent out. 3.17 It is expected that parents and the child (if s/he is of sufficient age and understanding) will be present at the whole of the review but this will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. In exceptional circumstances the social worker in consultation with the IRO may decide that the attendance of the child or parent, if this is not in the interests of the child, will not be appropriate or practicable for all or part of the review meeting. This may be the case if there is a clear conflict of interests which might militate against the attendance of either or both the child and parents. However, the anxieties of professionals should not be the reason for excluding a child or his/her parent from a review. Alternative arrangements should be considered. If a parent or child is excluded from a review, a written explanation or the reasons should be given. Other arrangements should be made for their involvement in the review process, and details of this should be placed on the child’s case record. 3.18 If the parents are excluded from the part of the meeting involving the child, the IRO should be satisfied that consultation documents have been sent to the parents for them to complete. If these consultation documents are returned, the views expressed in them should be included in the review record, unless the IRO is of the view that to do so would cause unnecessary distress to the child. In cases of exclusion the IRO should also contact the parents directly and offer to meet with them. IRO contact with parents, though, will require the exercise of professional judgement and some discretion in this may be used, for example where there is a no contact order or the parent has consistently indicated that s/he does not wish to meet or be consulted. 3.19 Any reason for excluding the parents from the review should be kept under regular review with the social worker and team manager and a record of the reason placed on the child’s case record. 3.20 Unless this is the first review, the date will usually have been set at the previous review, with a provisional venue. However, circumstances may have changed since that time so that the venue is no longer appropriate.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 17 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 3.21 The review should take place in a venue where the child is most likely to feel relaxed and comfortable. First consideration should be given to the review taking place in the child’s placement. It may not be appropriate for professionals to be present throughout the meeting and consideration should be given in advance to when they should make their contribution. In some circumstances it may be more appropriate for the IRO to meet separately with members of the professional network and/or with the parents. 3.22 The IRO should ensure that the views of the following are considered at the review, whether or not they attend a meeting: .. birth parents and any other adults with parental responsibility; .. other significant adults in the child life, for example extended family members; .. those caring for the child, such as foster carers; and .. relevant professionals. Timing of review meetings 3.23 The local authority is required to carry out review meetings in line with timings specified in the Regulations [regulation33]: .. the first review of a child’s case within 20 working days of the date on which the child becomes looked after; .. the second review no more than three months after the first; .. the third and subsequent reviews no more than six months after the previous one; .. a review whenever the IRO directs; and .. a review in all other circumstances as specified in the Regulations. 3.24 The date of the review meeting for recording purposes is the date of the first meeting that takes place and the review should be completed within 20 working days of the commencement of the process. Adjournment of reviews 3.25 The IRO has a new power to adjourn reviews [regulation36(2)]. Careful consideration should be given to taking such action and the wishes and feelings of the child, the carer and, where appropriate, the parents should be sought before any decision is made. The IRO should consider the effects on the child of delaying  18 IRO Handbook a meeting for which s/he has been prepared and should weigh up the relative disadvantages of proceeding with the meeting on limited information and the delay in decision making which would result from adjournment. Responsibility for deciding whether or not a review should be adjourned rests with the nominated IRO for the child concerned. In such circumstances the review may be adjourned once but should be completed within 20 working days. 3.26 Circumstances in which the IRO might wish to consider an adjournment include: .. the IRO not being satisfied that the local authority has complied adequately with all the requirements relating to reviews (e.g. the duty to consult the child, the child’s parents and others before taking decisions with respect to the child, or appropriate planning and paperwork being available) and that such omissions will adversely affect the efficacy of the review; and .. the IRO not being satisfied that the child has been properly prepared for the meeting. 3.27 Where the review is adjourned by the IRO, the date of the review for recording purposes is the date on which the review was originally scheduled to take place. Administration 3.28 The local authority should provide sufficient administrative support to facilitate the delivery of an efficient and effective review process. See paragraph 7.3 for more details. The review: a child-centred meeting 3.29 A review for a looked after child forms part of a continuing planning process for that child and is held in order to make plans to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. 3.30 Subject to the age and understanding of the child, the child should be involved in decisions about the date, time and venue of the meeting, the agenda and the invitation list. 3.31 The meeting should take place at a time convenient for the child. Meetings should not be arranged at a time that would result in the child being absent from school or college or an essential health appointment. It should take place in a setting in which the child feels comfortable and relaxed. 3.32 The review must address a specified range of issues and must take place at specified intervals. Neither of these requirements may be in line with the child’s wishes and  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 19 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children feelings. In order to ensure that the meeting remains the child’s meeting as far as is possible, the IRO should always begin from the perspective of the child, listen to his/her views and make sure that s/he is involved as much as possible in the review process. 3.33 The IRO is required to speak with the child in private prior to the first review and before every subsequent review [regulation36]. This should provide the IRO with an opportunity to discuss with the child matters to be considered at the review and for the child to raise any issues. The first review will be important and may set the tone for the longer-term relationship that will develop between the child and IRO. Time and consideration should be given to planning this and all subsequent reviews. It will be important to work with the child to discuss how s/he is likely to be able to make the most meaningful contribution to the review. 3.34 There may be some cases where a formal pre-meeting is not always necessary, for example in circumstances where the IRO and the child have already built up a relationship, the child is in an established placement and no significant changes are planned for the foreseeable future. Then it may be appropriate for the IRO to simply make phone contact with the child to establish his/her wishes and feelings about the planned review meeting. 3.35 In relation to babies and younger children, it may not be necessary or appropriate to see the child alone. Observing the child, or interacting with him/her, for example in play or by reading with him/her, may be a more appropriate way of establishing the child’s feelings and understanding. 3.36 If the main part of the review meeting takes place in a formal setting away from the placement, for example so that the parents can be included, it is important that the IRO also meets with or observes the child in the placement so that consideration is given to the suitability of the placement to meeting the child’s needs. 3.37 The IRO must, so far as reasonably practicable, attend and chair the review meeting, or the series of meetings which have been constituted to be the review for the child [regulation36]. It is hoped that for many older children and young people, especially as they begin to plan for independence, the IRO will hand over at least part of the chairing role to them so that they can take an increased ownership of the meeting.  20 IRO Handbook Issues to consider at the review Statutory requirements 3.38 As the chair of the review, the IRO should ensure that the following issues are all addressed as part of each review process [Schedule7]: .. the effect of any change in the child’s circumstances since the last review; .. whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not why not; .. the legal status of the child and whether it remains appropriate – for example, where the child is looked after under section 20 of the 1989 Act, whether this status provides the basis for legal security for the child so that proper plans can be made to provide him/her with secure attachments that will meet his/her needs through to adulthood; .. whether the child’s plan includes a plan for permanence within viable timescales that are meaningful for the child – this must include plans for permanency from the second review onwards; .. the arrangements for contact in relation to the parents, siblings and other family members or significant others, whether these take into account the child’s current wishes and feelings and whether any changes are needed to these arrangements; .. whether the placement is meeting the child’s needs – this should include consideration of the attachment between the child and those who are caring for him/her, how the local authority is ensuring that the placement provides the quality of care that the child needs and whether any change to the arrangements is necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review; .. the child’s educational needs, progress and development and whether any actions need to be taken or are likely to become necessary before the next review, in order to ensure that the child’s educational needs are met and not neglected (this should include consideration of the current PEP); .. the leisure activities in which the child is engaging and whether these are meeting the child’s needs and current expressed interests; .. the report of the most recent assessment of the child’s health and whether any change to the arrangements for the child’s health are necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review, in order to ensure that the child’s health needs are met and not neglected; Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 21 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children .. the identity needs of the child, how these are being met; .. whether the arrangement to provide advice, support and assistance to the child continues to be appropriate and understood by the child; .. whether any arrangements need to be made for the time when the child will no longer be looked after, so that the child will be properly prepared and ready to make this significant move; .. whether the child’s social worker has taken steps to establish the child’s wishes and feelings, that the care plan has taken these into consideration and that the care plan demonstrates this; .. whether the child is being visited by the social worker at the minimum statutory intervals and when the child requests a visit; and .. that plans and decisions to advance the overall planning for the child’s care have been taken and acted upon in a timely way. 3.39 The IRO is responsible for setting any remedial timescales if actions have not been taken and there is a risk of drift in the delivery of a plan that will meet the child’s needs and planned outcomes within the child’s timescale. Safeguarding 3.40 In most cases where a child who is the subject of a child protection plan becomes looked after it will no longer be necessary to maintain the child protection plan. There are however a relatively few cases where safeguarding issues will remain and a looked after child should also have a child protection plan. These cases are likely to be where a local authority obtains an interim care order in family proceedings but the child who is the subject of a child protection plans remains at home, pending the outcome of the final hearing, or where a child’s behaviour is likely to result in significant harm to themselves or others. 3.41 Where a looked after child remains the subject of a child protection plan it is expected that there will be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the IRO, which meets the requirements of both the Regulations and the guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children.9 3.42 The systems and processes for reviewing child protection plans and plans for looked after children should be carefully evaluated by the local authority and consideration given to how best to ensure the child protection aspects of the care plan are reviewed as part of the overall reviewing process, leading to the development of a single plan. Given that a review is a process and not a single meeting, both reviewing systems should be aligned in an unbureaucratic way to enable the full  22 IRO Handbook range of the child’s needs to be considered in the looked after child’s care planning and reviewing processes. 3.43 It is recognised that there are different requirements for the independence of the IRO function compared to the chair of the child protection conference. In addition, it is important to note that the child protection conference is required to a be a multi-agency forum while children for the most part want as few external people as possible at a review meeting where they are present. However it will not be possible for the IRO to carry out his/her statutory function without considering the child’s safety in the context of the care planning process. In this context consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the child protection conference where a looked after child remains subject to a child protection plan. Where this is not possible it will be expected that the IRO will attend the child protection review conference. 3.44 This means that the timing of the review of the child protection aspects of the care plan should be the same as the review under Part 6 of the Regulations, to ensure that up to date information in relation to the child’s welfare and safety is considered within the review meeting and informs the overall care planning process. The looked after child’s review when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan should also consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a child protection plan. Significant changes to the care plan can only be made at the looked after child’s review. Child’s developmental needs 3.45 The child’s care plan should consider his/her developmental needs – including required action and planned outcomes – in relation to each of the dimensions set out in the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families10 (see Figure 1).  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 23 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Figure 1: Assessment Framework domains and dimensions of need Health Basic care Child Safeguarding and promoting welfare Family and environmental factorsChild’s developmental needParentingcapacityEnsuring safety Emotional warmth Stimulation Education Emotional and behavioural development Identity Family and social relationships Guidance and boundaries Social presentation Self care skills Stability 3.46 Health and education are two key dimensions within the domain of developmental needs. The care plan will include the child’s health plan and the PEP, which in addition to being part of the overall care plan, is part of a looked after child’s official school record. There is a statutory duty on the local authority to keep these documents under review. It is important that they are available to the IRO for consideration before each review. It is helpful if the updating of these documents is completed in advance of each review. 3.47 The social worker is responsible for initiating the PEP in partnership with the child, teachers, parents, relatives and carers. The current PEP should be provided to the IRO at least three working days before the review. The PEP should be the starting point for discussion about education at the review. The IRO should be satisfied that the current PEP has been developed in consultation with the child and all the relevant adults, that targets have been identified, and that satisfactory progress is being made in implementing them. At the review, consideration should be given to the extent to which identified targets and the child’s aspirations are being met. It should also consider whether appropriate support is being provided to the child to reach the targets. There should also be a general discussion about education in the placement, including reading/being read to and structured leisure activities, for example music, dance, sport, art and drama lessons. 3.48 The health plan or report from the most recent health assessment should be provided to the IRO at least three working days before the review. Depending on the  24 IRO Handbook age and understanding of the child, it may be appropriate to discuss with the child whether s/he is happy for this to be made available at the review. Consideration should be given at the review to the physical and emotional health of the child, including an update on any significant health issues or ongoing treatment. The IRO should be satisfied that any actions identified in the health plan are being implemented within an agreed timescale that will meet the needs of the child. 3.49 The IRO should be satisfied that the local authority has a clear understanding of the individual child’s needs in relation to his/her identity, and that the care plan addresses needs, as required in the Regulations [Schedule7]. The IRO should be mindful of the fact that identity issues extend beyond race, religion and ethnicity. The IRO should be satisfied that the care plan takes account of the child’s culture (including diet, disability and personal care needs), language and spiritual/religious needs and of how these needs can practically be met within the placement, the school and the local community where the child is placed, and that any shortfalls are being addressed within the child’s timescale. Permanence planning 3.50 Permanence is the framework of emotional permanence (attachment), physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has parental responsibility) which gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. Permanence provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and families from family support through to adoption. One of the key functions of the care plan is to ensure that each child has a plan for permanence by the time of the second review, as set out in the statutory guidance to the 2002 Act.11 3.51 Achieving permanence for a child will be a key consideration from the day the child becomes looked after. A range of options for permanence exist, all of which can deliver high quality outcomes for individual children. These are described in the bullets which follow: .. For many children, permanence is achieved through a successful return to their birth family, where it has been possible to address the factors in family life which led to the child becoming looked after. .. Other routes to permanence include family and friends care, particularly where such care can be supported by a legal order such as a residence order, special guardianship order or in a few cases, adoption; or long term foster care where attachments have been formed and it has been agreed through the care planning and review process that this is where the child will remain until adulthood. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 25 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children .. For children who are unable to return to their birth or wider family, adoption offers a lifelong and legally permanent new family. Twin track or parallel planning, including concurrent planning, may provide a means to securing permanence at an early stage for some children. .. The planning process, informed by multi-agency contributions, will identify which option is most likely to meet the needs of the individual child and takes account of his/her wishes and feelings. The child’s care plan will set out details of this plan and the arrangements for implementing it. 3.52 As part of permanence planning the IRO should be satisfied that: .. the local authority has explained fully to the child and the parents the implications of the permanency plan; and .. the local authority has provided information on post-adoption or special guardianship support to parents or extended family, where the plan is for adoption or a special guardianship order. 3.53 Review decisions should include timescales for the completion of: .. life story work; .. later life letter; and .. the post adoption/special guardianship plan. Issues in relation to adoption 3.54 Where the child is ‘authorised to be placed for adoption’ (that is, subject to a placement order or the parents have given formal consent to their child’s placement for adoption) or a child has been placed for adoption, the child’s review will be subject to the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 until an adoption order is made. In such circumstances there will be additional considerations for the IRO to undertake during the review process. It may be helpful for local authorities to provide specialist training to IROs in this area of their work. 3.55 Where the child has not yet been placed for adoption, the first review must take place no more than three months after the agency obtained authorisation to place, and thereafter not more than six months after the previous review [Adoption AgenciesRegulations36(1)]. When the child has been placed for adoption, the first review must be held no more than four weeks after placement, the second no more than three months after this, and subsequent reviews held at six-monthly intervals until an adoption order is made, or the child is no longer placed with the prospective adopter.  26 IRO Handbook 3.56 These provisions set out the maximum intervals between reviews. The agency may conduct additional reviews where it considers it appropriate, and should always be prepared to do so at the request of the IRO, the prospective adopter or the child. In addition, if the placement disrupts and the child is returned to or removed from the placement by the agency, a review must be held between four weeks and six weeks after the disruption. 3.57 The Adoption Agencies Regulations set out the matters to be considered at each review [AdoptionAgenciesRegulations36(6)] and the guidance on reviews of looked after children contained in this handbook should also be followed in respect of reviews conducted under the Adoption Agencies Regulations, in so far as it is appropriate. One major difference will be that, once the child has been placed for adoption, the prospective adopters, who have parental responsibility for the child, will always have a major role, and must be consulted, whereas the extent to which birth parents are consulted and involved will be a matter for the agency’s discretion depending on the circumstances of the case. It will, for example, rarely be appropriate for birth parents to attend a review meeting once a child has been placed with prospective adopters. 3.58 The IRO will need to be kept informed about the progress the agency is making in matching a child with prospective adopters, the process for which is set out in regulations and guidance [AdoptionAgenciesRegulationspart5;Adoption Guidancechapter4]. The IRO will also need to be satisfied that, among other things, appropriate timescales are being set and adhered to. Once a decision has been made that a child should be placed with a specific adoptive family, the agency is required to make a placement plan [AdoptionAgenciesRegulationspart6, regulation35;AdoptionGuidance,chapter5]. 3.59 If there is a delay in finding a family for the child, and s/he has not been placed by the time of the second review after the granting of a placement order, the review must specifically consider whether the child should still ‘be placed for adoption’ – that is, whether the adoption plan itself needs to be changed. If it is changed, the IRO will need to be alert to the fact that the local authority should then apply to the court for the placement order to be revoked; if the local authority fails to do so, it may be necessary for the IRO to assist the child to make the application, or to ensure that an application is made on his behalf. 3.60 Even before the child is placed with prospective adopters, once the agency is authorised to place the child, the usual duty (under section 22(4)(b) of the 1989 Act) to ascertain the parents’ wishes before making any decision does not apply and the IRO will need to consider in each case how far the parents should be involved in a review [AdoptionAgenciesRegulations45.2;AdoptionGuidancechapter7].  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 27 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 3.61 Once the child has been placed with prospective adopters, the review should consider the arrangements for adoption support, and whether there should be any reassessment of the need for those services [AdoptionAgenciesRegulations36(6)]. The IRO may wish to refer to the Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005 which set out the process for reviewing support arrangements. 3.62 Prospective adopters are entitled to lodge an adoption application at any time after the child has been living with them for ten weeks, although in most cases it is unlikely that they will wish to proceed so soon. This is a decision for them, but the review will need to consider the implications for the child of any decision about the timing of an application, and in particular whether any delay in starting proceedings is a cause for concern. Information that must be provided to children at the review 3.63 The IRO is under a duty to ensure that the child, where appropriate, has been informed of his/her right to apply, with leave, for an order under section 8 of the 1989 Act, and, where the child is in care, for the discharge of the care order and his/ her right to make a complaint and to an advocate [regulation45]. If the child wishes to take legal proceedings under the 1989 Act, the IRO must establish whether there is an appropriate adult able and willing to assist the child to obtain legal advice or bring proceedings on the child’s behalf or, if there is no such person, assist the child to obtain such advice. 3.64 Taking into account the age and understanding of the child, the IRO will need to consider carefully how best to explain to each child their right to: .. apply for an order or seek discharge of an order; .. an advocate (including an explanation of the role of the advocate); .. make a complaint and how to do this. These are all complex issues to explain to a child and the IRO will need to be able to satisfy him/herself and his/her manager that the child is aware and understands his/ her rights. Legal status 3.65 In addition to advising the child of his/her right to make applications to the courts, the review must consider whether there should be any change to the child’s legal status. The IRO should read all the assessments that have informed the current legal status, including the core assessment, and be satisfied that the child’s welfare continues to be safeguarded and promoted by this status. If the legal status of the  28 IRO Handbook child appears to be no longer appropriate, the IRO should request confirmation from the social worker and their manager that the local authority has given due consideration to the issue and if the response to this is not satisfactory s/he will need to resolve the issue through other routes or through implementation of the local dispute resolution process (see Chapter 6). Outcomes from the review Review record 3.66 The review record will be an important document to support any required changes to the care plan by the social worker. While it is likely that local authorities will have a range of recording formats, it is important that the review record: .. contains an accurate and comprehensive record of the meeting, including decisions made about the care plan; .. contains an accurate and comprehensive record of the views of all those who attended or were consulted as part of the process; .. addresses in detail all the elements of the care plan. 3.67 The IRO is responsible for completing a record of the review, evaluating the extent to which the care plan is meeting the needs of the child and identifying any changes that are necessary in the light of information presented at the review. The record should address all the issues required by the Regulations (see paragraph 3.38). 3.68 The reality of life for a looked after child means that there are likely to be many adults involved in his/her care and planning. The review record should provide a comprehensive record of the child in his/her placement, the needs of that child and the actions that the adults are taking to meet these needs. 3.69 Following the review: .. The IRO should produce a written record of the decisions or recommendations made within five working days of the completion of the review and a full record of the review within 15 working days of the completion of the review. .. The full written record of the review, including the decisions, should be distributed within 20 working days of the completion of the review. .. All those who attend the review should receive a copy of the record and the decisions, with any identifying details removed as necessary, for example, exceptionally, the address of the placement. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 29 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children .. Where parents do not attend the review part of the meeting with the child and contribute their views in some other manner, a discussion should take place between the social worker and the IRO as to whether it is in the child’s interest for the parents to receive a full record of the review and, if not, what written information should be sent to them. Examples of where this should be a consideration are where there is a no contact order or supervised contact only. .. Within ten working days, following the completion of the review, the social worker should update the care plan in relation to any changes to the care plan agreed at the review. Decisions and recommendations 3.70 There has been much discussion and debate over many years about the status of decisions made at reviews and an acknowledgement that the review cannot tie the hands of a local authority in relation to some issues, particularly where there are resource implications. 3.71 In order to remove these difficulties, the local authority should have a system in place for a designated senior member of staff, for example a team manager, to consider the decisions made at each review within five working days of receiving them and to advise the IRO and all those who attended the review if they are unable to agree them. If no response is received the decisions should be considered agreed by the local authority and should be implemented within the timescales set out in them. If the senior member of staff disagrees with any of the decisions within that initial five working day period, this should be notified in writing to the IRO and all those who attended the review. In the first instance the IRO should attempt to resolve the issue informally. If this is not successful the IRO can consider activating the local dispute resolution process (see Chapter 6). In this way the child and all adults involved in the care and planning for the child can be confident that the local authority has made a commitment to implementing the decisions made at a review and within an agreed timescale. 3.72 The decisions should be framed in such a way that the identified needs and planned outcomes are clear. The person responsible for implementing the decision and the timescale for implementation should be recorded. 3.73 The IRO must identify the person responsible for implementing the decisions and the IRO must alert the accountable manager to any failure to take proper steps to implement decisions [regulation36].  30 IRO Handbook Monitoring the case on an ongoing basis 3.74 The monitoring role of the IRO is set out in the 1989 Act [section25B,1989Act]. Between reviews, if the care plan continues to meet the needs of the child there may be no need for any communication between the IRO and the social worker or the child. However, in the event of a change/event in the child’s life that is significant, the social worker must inform the IRO. This includes: .. proposed change of care plan for example arising at short notice in the course of proceedings following on directions from the court; .. where agreed decisions from review are not carried out within the specified timescale; .. major change to contact arrangements; .. changes of allocated social worker; .. any safeguarding concerns involving the child, which may lead to enquiries being made under section 47 of the 1989 Act (‘child protection enquiries’) and outcomes of child protection conferences, or other meetings not attended by the IRO; .. complaints from or on behalf of child, parent or carer; .. unexpected changes in the child’s placement provision which may significantly impact on placement stability or safeguarding arrangements; .. significant changes in birth family circumstances for example births, marriages or deaths which may have a particular impact on the child; .. where the child is charged with any offence leading to referral to youth offending services, pending criminal proceedings and any convictions or sentences as a result of such proceedings; .. where the child is excluded from school; .. where the child is running away or missing from the approved placement; .. significant health, medical events, diagnoses, illnesses, hospitalisations, serious accidents; and .. panel decisions in relation to permanence. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 31 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 3.75 A review will not be required for every change and the IRO will determine whether the change requires a review to be convened. The IRO should consult with the child, where appropriate, and the child’s wishes and feelings about the impact of the proposed change on his/her life should be taken into consideration in reaching a decision as to whether a review is necessary. 3.76 If, following communication with the social worker, the IRO is satisfied that the arrangements in the care plan continue to meet the child’s needs or that the change does not have significant implications for the care plan and that a review is not necessary, a record of this agreement and the reasons for it should be placed on the child’s file. The child and other relevant adults, both within the family and the professional network should be advised of this decision where appropriate. 3.77 However, a review must be convened in the following circumstances, prior to any of the following changes being implemented: .. whenever there is a proposal for a child to leave care before the age of 18, i.e. for the child to become a relevant child, rather than an eligible child [respectively section23AandSchedule2,paragraph19Bof1989Act] (see Annex 3); .. wherever there is a proposal for the child to move from foster care, a children’s home or other placement, to supported lodgings, or to other kinds of ‘semi-independent’ or ‘independent living’ before the age of 18 (i.e. from accommodation regulated under the Care Standards Act to unregulated accommodation); .. prior to children subject to care orders being discharged from custody; .. wherever any unplanned change is proposed to a child’s accommodation that would have the effect of disrupting his/her education or training; .. where a change of placement is proposed that would interrupt the arrangements for the education of a child in Key Stage 4; and .. where a change of placement is proposed for a child who has remained settled and established with the same carer for a significant period of time. 3.78 In all circumstances (other than in an emergency) when a move is proposed for a child, the child’s care plan should be up to date and based on a thorough assessment of the child’s needs. The IRO should be satisfied that the child understands what is being proposed and, if this is not the case, ensure that arrangements are put in place for this to be achieved. However, the child’s wishes and feelings, while being extremely important, will not be the sole factor in deciding whether any move is right for him/her and in his/her interests.12  32 IRO Handbook 3.79 The IRO should ensure that the plan for the move has been subjected to detailed scrutiny in order to establish that it meets the child’s needs and is in his/her interests. The plan should be viable and sustainable. If the IRO concludes that the plan is not likely to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, the IRO should request that the local authority freeze the placement move. At the same time the IRO should initiate the local dispute resolution procedures to ensure that the move is reconsidered and alternative arrangements are made. The child should be advised about his/her entitlement to advocacy and representation and be informed about the right to complain about how his/her care is being planned. 3.80 For children who have experienced multiple placement breakdowns, or have persistently run away or gone missing, the IRO should be satisfied that the new care plan addresses the risks to the child and that the search for and selection of the new placement and the provision of appropriate support to the child and the new carers identifies how the placement will offer stability to the child and/or minimise the likelihood of him/her running away or going missing. 3.81 As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to monitor the performance of the local authority’s function as a corporate parent and to identify any patterns of poor practice. Where these more general concerns around service delivery are identified, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers to these concerns. 3.82 It is equally important that the IRO recognises and reports on good practice demonstrated by individual social workers or groups of social workers.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 33 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Chapter 4. Considerations for specific groups of children Children receiving short breaks 4.1 The planning and reviewing requirements have been modified for children in a series of short breaks. The plans for children in short breaks are reviewed less frequently than plans for other looked after children. This recognises that the child is placed for relatively short periods in each episode of short break care. The first review for children in short breaks must take place within three months of the first placement day or as soon as practicable thereafter. Subsequent reviews must be at intervals of no more than six months [regulation48]. Local authorities may decide to convene earlier reviews in specific circumstances, for example at the request of the child, parent or carer, or in cases where the child is particularly vulnerable or where a child is provided with a high level of short breaks. The local authority should not make any significant change to the care plan unless the change has first been considered at a review. Each review should consider whether the legal provisions under which short breaks are provided are the most appropriate to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. 4.2 The role of the IRO for children looked after in a series of short breaks is likely to be more limited than for children looked after longer term. When working with children in short breaks, it is important that IROs are sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents. Given this sensitivity, parents as well as children and young people can highly value their contribution and independent perspective, especially in helping to resolve any difficulties with the placement. IROs have a responsibility to alert the local authority if the placement is not meeting the child’s needs. 4.3 The review therefore should focus on a consideration of those matters that will ensure that the child’s needs are fully met while the child is away from his/her parents. This will include consideration of the child’s emotional and behavioural development and how carers are meeting the disability and communication needs of the child, the leisure interests and activities of the child and the child’s educational needs, if the child attends school on the day of or the day after the overnight stay. Consideration, as for all looked after children, should be given to the child’s wishes and feelings and to ensuring that the placement is promoting the child’s welfare. Further details are set out the statutory guidance on short breaks.13  34 IRO Handbook Children with additional communication needs 4.4 Children with additional communication needs14 have the same rights as all looked after children in the care planning process to have their wishes and feelings ascertained and given due consideration by the local authority. The principles underpinning the involvement of children with communication needs are the same as for all children. However, this group of children require additional action by IROs. 4.5 If a child has additional communication needs the IRO service should be informed and the child’s preferred communication method should be recorded in his/her care plan. 4.6 The IRO manager should consider the child’s preferred method of communication when allocating the referral. This means allocating such a referral to a specialist IRO with knowledge and experience of children with communication needs or an IRO with experience of the child’s specific communication method. 4.7 Where specialist expertise is not available within the IRO team a presumption should be made that a child with communication needs will be supported by an independent advocate who has the appropriate expertise, with the child having the right to opt out or choose someone else to support him/her if s/he wishes. The allocated IRO should ensure from the outset that the child has access to this specialist support so that his/her wishes and feelings can be elicited effectively. This support should be made available throughout the care planning and review process including when any significant changes are proposed. 4.8 Further information on the practical steps IROs should follow in working with children with additional communication needs is set out in Annex 4, along with a flow chart and supporting case studies. Children within the youth justice system 4.9 The looked after status of children within the youth justice system is complex. Some children who were not previously looked after acquire this status, while others lose it when they are in custody. (For further details see Annex 5.) 4.10 IROs have an important role in ensuring that the local authority fulfils their duties to looked after children who are at risk of offending or involved in the youth justice system. This will include making sure that the child’s care plan addresses any unmet needs that may lead to offending and that, if appropriate, targeted services designed to prevent offending are provided. It is also important to consider the suitability of the placement in managing any behavioural problems.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 35 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 4.11 If a court decides to remand or sentence a young person to a custodial setting,15 his/her entitlement to support will vary according to his/her legal status but the local authority will always retain some duties. The IRO should be notified as soon as a looked after young person is placed in custody, including the details of where s/he is placed and the relevant order. 4.12 Where children are subjects of a care order they will remain looked after during their time in custody. The local authority therefore continues to share parental responsibility and the IRO will have an ongoing role in care planning and review. Going into custody is a significant change requires that if a review will not already be due to take place then one should be scheduled during the period that the young person is in custody [regulation33(3)(d)]. Where a sentenced or remanded child ceases to be looked after because s/he is no longer accommodated by the local authority under section 20 of the 1989 Act, the local authority should ensure that the relevant Youth Offending Team (YOT) case manager is made aware that the child had been looked after up until sentence. The local authority should also discuss with the YOT and the child any arrangements for remaining in touch whilst in custody and for assessing whether the child may need to become looked after again on release. Children subject to secure accommodation orders 4.13 When children are placed in secure accommodation, subject to a secure accommodation order under section 25 of the 1989 Act, the local authority is required under the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 199116 to appoint a panel of at least three persons to review the keeping of a child in such accommodation for the purposes of securing the child’s welfare. The persons appointed to the panel, in reviewing the child’s case and having regard to the welfare of the child, must satisfy themselves as to whether: .. the criteria for keeping the child in secure accommodation continue to apply; .. the placement in secure accommodation continues to be necessary; and .. any other type of accommodation would be more appropriate. 4.14 At least one member of the panel must be independent and cannot be a member or an officer of the local authority by or on behalf of which the child is being looked after. The independent panel member cannot therefore be an IRO. However, an IRO may sit as one of the other two panel members (not as part of the prescribed IRO function), so long as s/he is not the allocated IRO for that child. If the panel concludes that the criteria for restricted liberty no longer apply, the placement is no longer necessary or another type of placement would be more appropriate, the local authority must immediately review the child’s placement.  36 IRO Handbook 4.15 A ‘secure accommodation panel’ review is not the same as a review of the child’s overall care plan and is restricted to the specific question about the necessity of a placement in secure accommodation for an individual child. Children admitted to hospital 4.16 An admission to hospital, whether planned or unplanned, is a significant change for the child and the IRO should be kept informed. In relation to medical admissions, the IRO should be satisfied that there is a plan in place to ensure that the needs of the child are being met. If the hospital stay is likely to be for some considerable time it may be appropriate to hold a review in the hospital. 4.17 In relation to children admitted to a psychiatric unit, whether as a voluntary patient or as a result of a compulsory admission under the Mental Health Act 1983 the IRO will need to be satisfied that the local authority is fulfilling its responsibilities and that appropriate plans to meet the child’s needs and planned outcomes are in place before discharge. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children 4.18 This group of children or young people, mostly accommodated under section 20 of the 1989 Act, have the same entitlements to support as all other looked after children. They are less likely than other children to have any parental figure available to them, may not have English as their first language and will have specific identity needs. The assessment of age may be difficult. They will also have an immigration and asylum status. 4.19 The IRO should help the child to be aware of the implications of all these issues when they meet for the first time before the initial review. At the first and subsequent reviews, the IRO will need to be satisfied that the local authority’s planning takes into account cultural, language and religious issues alongside wider asylum and immigration considerations as part of its plan to meet the child’s needs, in addition to all the other needs the child has as a looked after child.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 37 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Chapter 5. Planning transition to adulthood 5.1 There are a number of significant transitions for all children during their childhood and the local authority should, like any good parent, prepare the child for these in a manner that will support the child to manage the transitions and to reach his/her potential. The first significant transitions experienced by most children will be within the education system and will include the moves from home to nursery, from nursery to full time junior school and then on to secondary school. Looked after children may require extra help and support to manage these transitions and the IRO should be satisfied that the local authority is making appropriate arrangements to meet the child’s needs at such times. 5.2 More specifically, transition planning for all looked after children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs should start at the age of 14 and the IRO should be satisfied that such planning is actively being undertaken and is linked to the child’s care plan. 5.3 At the point at which a young person becomes an eligible child their pathway plan must include their care plan. It should continue to be reviewed with the same frequency for as long as the young person remains looked after. 5.4 The pathway plan should be a comprehensive document that identifies the actions and services required to meet the needs and outcomes of the young person during his/her transition into adulthood and independence. The pathway plan must address: .. health and development; .. education, training and employment – the PEP should continue to be maintained while the young person remains in full or part-time education and information within the PEP should feed directly into the pathway plan; it should also have an explicit focus on career planning, taking into account the young person’s aspirations, skills, and educational potential; .. contact with the young person’s parents, wider family and friends and the capacity of this network to encourage the young person and enable them to make a positive transition to adulthood; and .. the young person’s financial capabilities and money management capacity, along with strategies to develop skills in this area. 38 IRO Handbook 5.5 The planning process should include a meaningful contribution from the young person as the voice of the young person should be at the centre of the pathway planning process. However, the weight given to his/her views will depend on the assessment of need by those professionals who are responsible for providing the young person with care and support. By themselves, these views will not be determinative. 5.6 The IRO should be satisfied that the proposed pathway plan includes the care plan and has been informed by a good quality assessment in which the young person, his/her family and professional agencies have been appropriately involved. 5.7 In a series of cases, the High Court has emphasised the rigour and detail required of a local authority in the pathway planning process. The local authority is required to demonstrate in the pathway plan [regulation43]: .. the manner in which the authority proposes to meet the young person’s needs; and .. the date by which and by whom any action required to implement any aspect of the plan will be carried out. 5.8 The IRO should be satisfied that the pathway plan is aspirational, that it will assist the young person with the transition and that it has contingency plans in respect of health and education. In the event that the IRO is not satisfied that the pathway plan will meet the child’s identified needs s/he should seek to resolve the issue through informal routes or if this is not successful, through the local dispute resolution process (see Chapter 6). 5.9 If a review is not due as the young person approaches his/her 18th birthday, consideration should be given to convening an additional review. This is a matter that should be canvassed in the first place at the final scheduled review before the young person’s 18th birthday. 5.10 The IRO should be provided with an updated copy of the final pathway plan 20 working days before the young person’s 18th birthday, whether or not a review is due to take place and should communicate directly with the young person in relation to the arrangements set out in the pathway plan. In the event that the young person or the IRO are not satisfied with the arrangements, consideration should be given to convening an additional review and/or taking other remedial action.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 39 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Eligible children 5.11 All young people who are aged 16 or 17 who have been looked after by a local authority for a total of at least 13 weeks which began after s/he reached the age of 14 and ends after s/he reaches the age of 16, and who are still looked after, will be entitled to services to enable them to make a successful transition to the responsibilities of adulthood under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. Young people who continue to be looked after are known as ‘eligible children’ and the IRO has the same duties for these as for all other looked after children. Those who cease to be looked after from the age of 16, who were previously ‘eligible’ are known as ‘relevant’. 5.12 Too often young people who have been looked after have experienced accelerated and compressed transitions as a result of which they are expected to assume adult responsibilities before they have been adequately prepared and are ready to do so. While the average age for young people to leave home is significantly higher, some looked after young people are expected to move to more independent accommodation from the age of 16. Furthermore, past evidence has suggested that it was the most vulnerable looked after young people who were expected to make the move to semi-independence at the earliest age.17 5.13 This is inappropriate, as very few 16-year-olds will have the resilience, emotional maturity and practical skills necessary to make a successful move to independent living. Good practice should involve working with young people to take a long term view and providing them with the necessary support so that they are enabled to reach their potential and have some understanding about how they might be able to achieve their aspirations and ambitions. 5.14 The IRO will have a key role to play in making sure that a young person only moves to other arrangements if this move is planned and in the young person’s best interests. The overriding principles are: .. A young person should not be expected to move from his/her care placement at least before legal adulthood, until they have been sufficiently prepared and are ready to take this significant step. .. In any case where the local authority proposes that a young person should move from his/her care placement before legal adulthood, a review must be held so that the young person, local authority staff involved in his/her care, his/her carers, other professionals and any other significant people have the opportunity to consider the implications of the move and, if the move is agreed to be in the young person’s best interests, how the move is to be managed. 40 IRO Handbook .. Where the plan is to move a young person to accommodation that is not regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000, the potential future housing providers (who could be hosts offering supported lodgings, staff from local authority housing services, or staff from a registered social landlord’s supported housing scheme) should be actively engaged in the review process. This should ensure that there is absolute clarity about the young person’s housing needs and what services will be necessary to support him/her when the time is right to leave the placement. .. Before a review is convened for this purpose, the young person should have been made aware of the housing options available and be offered the opportunity to visit any prospective accommodation beforehand. 5.15 In addition to considering all the key areas in the care plan the IRO should ensure that consideration is given to the following: .. how the proposed move will meet the young person’s needs in such a way that the young person can progress in his/her gradual journey to assuming the responsibilities of adulthood; .. that reports provided for the review, discussion with the young person by the IRO prior to review and information provided by others during the review meeting are able to demonstrate that the young person has been properly prepared to make the move and will be able to manage in the new accommodation; and .. that the proposed move will maintain as much stability as possible for the young person, including family contact and links with the community in which s/he has been living. In particular, a young person must not be expected to make a move that will disrupt his/her plans to continue in education, participate in training or gain employment. 5.16 Where a review concludes that it is appropriate for a looked after young person to make the move to independent living arrangements, and such a move takes place, this does not automatically result in the young person ceasing to be looked after. 5.17 It is likely that given their vulnerability most young people will benefit from the support that results from being looked after (including having a pathway plan that is kept up to date and reviewed by an IRO) until the age of 18. However, where there is consideration that it might be in a young person’s interests to no longer be looked after and become a ‘relevant child’ (see paragraph 1.12), then this entirely separate issue must be considered by a properly constituted statutory review of the pathway plan chaired by the IRO. The proposed pathway plan for the young person  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 41 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children concerned must be available for scrutiny at this review. The review should also stipulate how in future the pathway plan is to be reviewed and whether there would be any benefits in these meetings being chaired by an independent person, with an established competence in the provision of leaving care, housing support and other services to care leavers. Young people leaving care 5.18 Unless they return to the care of their parents or wider family, the needs of most looked after children will be best met by their remaining looked after until they reach legal adulthood at age 18. However, in order to maintain safeguards for looked after young people who do leave care before adulthood, ensure equity and enable all care leavers to have the benefit of an independent perspective, local authorities should consider the advantages of IROs continuing to maintain an overview of pathway plan reviews for relevant children. The IRO could oversee this process though s/he may not always be the most appropriate person to chair the review of a relevant child. It will often be good practice for these young people to chair their own review though, at least initially, their former IRO may wish to support them to do this. Young people with a disability 5.19 The transition to adulthood should be an exciting time for young people, when they become increasingly recognised in their own right and respond to new challenges by making important decisions that will influence the rest of their lives. Young people with disabilities will face many of the same experiences and challenges as other care leavers. However, the transition to adulthood for looked after young people with a disability may be particularly challenging as they experience different professional languages, styles, expectations and cultures during the transition from support by children’s services to support from adults’ health and social care services. 5.20 In particular, young people with a disability are able to remain in an education establishment until the end of the academic year following their 19th birthday. Following assessment by adults’ services during Year 13, a child may be financially supported by adults’ services to remain in the same placement, for example a residential school, for a further full academic year (Year 14). By this time, the IRO will cease to have a role. Subsequent arrangements made by adults’ services may be of a type or nature that the IRO would have deemed unlikely to meet the needs of the young person, had these arrangements been part of the final pathway plan reviewed shortly before the young person’s 18th birthday.  42 IRO Handbook 5.21 The IRO then, should be rigorous in scrutinising transition plans for disabled young people from the age of 14 years on and ensuring that children’s services are working closely with adults’ services to commence assessments in a timely manner and identify an adult placement at the earliest possible opportunity. Demand for adult placements for disabled young people is high and it is likely that there will be waiting lists for the most desirable placements. The earlier the assessment is completed and an appropriate placement identified, the more likely it is that the young person will be able to move to it at a time that will ensure a smooth transition. 5.22 The local authority should have agreed and published a protocol with adult heath and social care services in respect of transition arrangements.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 43 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Chapter 6. Dispute resolution and complaints 6.1 One of the key functions of the IRO is to resolve problems arising out of the care planning process. It is expected that IROs establish positive working relationships with the social workers of the children for whom they are responsible. Where problems are identified in relation to a child’s case, for example in relation to care planning, the implementation of the care plan or decisions relating to it, resources or poor practice, the IRO will, in the first instance, seek to resolve the issue informally with the social worker or the social worker’s managers. The IRO should place a record of this initial informal resolution process on the child’s file. If the matter is not resolved in a timescale that is appropriate to the child’s needs, the IRO should consider taking formal action. 6.2 It is the task of each local authority to put in place a formal process for the IRO to raise concerns and to ensure that this process is respected and prioritised by managers. The process is referred to in the guidance as the local dispute resolution process. Taking into account different management structures within each local authority there are likely to be some variations in the process, but it will involve escalating the matter in dispute through a number of levels of seniority within the department with identified timescales for a response at each stage. The IRO may bypass any stage and progress the dispute to the level s/he considers most appropriate. The formal dispute resolution process within each local authority should have timescales in total of no more than 20 working days. 6.3 The IRO has the power to refer the matter to Cafcass at any point in the dispute resolution process [regulation45] and may consider it necessary to make a concurrent referral to Cafcass at the same time that s/he instigates the dispute resolution process. 6.4 The individual IRO is personally responsible for activating the dispute resolution process, even if this step may not be in accordance with the child’s wishes and feelings, but may, in the IRO’s view, be in accordance with the best interest and welfare of the child, as well as his/her human rights. 6.5 There will be times when the IRO may be advised that obstacles in the way of resolving the issue are outside or beyond the control of the local authority, for example in relation to staffing, interagency or resources issues. However, if these are impacting on the ability of the department to meet the needs of a child as identified in the child’s care plan, the IRO should continue to escalate the issue.  44 IRO Handbook 6.6 The resolution of disputes is a time consuming activity and can create tensions between the IRO and the local authority. The managers of IRO services and senior managers in the local authority responsible for corporate parenting, will need to ensure that IROs have sufficient time and support in order to carry out this function of their work effectively. 6.7 The IRO should ensure that all actions s/he takes in an attempt to resolve a dispute are recorded on the child’s case record. Complaints 6.8 The IRO has a responsibility to ensure, where appropriate, that the child understands his/her right to make a complaint to the local authority and to have an advocate to provide support with the complaint, should the child so wish. 6.9 In circumstances where the child does not have the ability or understanding to instigate a complaint, consideration will need to be given to who is best able to do so on behalf of the child. The right to make a complaint extends to parents, those with parental responsibility, local authority foster carers and anyone else that the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the child’s welfare. This could include the IRO [section26(3),1989Act]. 6.10 An outstanding complaint being addressed within the local authority’s complaints procedure should not prevent the IRO from continuing to work to resolve the matter, either informally or by using the local dispute resolution process. 6.11 The local authority’s complaints manager should advise the IRO of any complaint brought by or on behalf of the child and may enlist the help of the IRO to resolve the problem. 6.12 In all cases the welfare of the child is the primary concern. The IRO will need to make a judgement about whether a problem raised as a complaint is sufficiently serious to make a referral to Cafcass appropriate. Alternatively, the IRO may consider that it would be reasonable to await a resolution through the formal complaints procedure, and/or use of the local dispute resolution process. Provision of independent legal advice 6.13 Each local authority should have a system in place that provides its IROs with access to independent legal advice. The reason for this is that the IRO works within a complex legal framework, with a number of other professionals and adults who have access to their own legal advice. The IRO may feel isolated and vulnerable in this position. It is essential that the IRO too can access independent legal advice,  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 45 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children in addition to seeking the advice and support of the IRO manager. In the past some local authorities have been of the view that Cafcass duty lawyers provide this service. However, Cafcass duty lawyers can only provide guidance, not legal advice. Other local authorities have considered it sufficient for an IRO to seek advice from its own legal department. This is clearly not independent. 6.14 It is important that this service is easily accessible by individual IROs and that IROs do not have to struggle to access it.  46 IRO Handbook Chapter 7. Strategic and management responsibilities Establishing an effective IRO service Appointment of the IRO 7.1 If a local authority is looking after a child (whether or not the child is in their care – see paragraph 1.10) they must appoint an individual as the IRO for that child’s case [section25A(1),1989Act]. 7.2 The local authority has a number of duties in relation to this appointment: .. It should have a system in place to ensure that the manager of the IRO service is advised that a child has become looked after within two working days. .. The IRO must be appointed to the child’s case before the first review and, as a matter of good practice, should be appointed within the first five working days [section25A(2),1989Act]. .. Sibling groups, whether or not placed together, should have the same IRO, except where conflict of interest between siblings makes this inappropriate or the size of the sibling group makes this unmanageable. .. The child should be given notification of his/her IRO, along with details about how to make contact with him/her. This could be by email or text. If the child is only informed verbally, then the date that s/he was given this information must be placed on the case record. .. The IRO should be allocated for the duration that the child is looked after and should continue as the IRO if a child returns to care of the same local authority at a later date, if reasonably practicable. .. Where a mother and/or father and their child are looked after, the child should have a different IRO. .. Each local authority must have a written policy regarding the manner in which the child’s case will be reviewed and provide the child, the parents and any other person whose views the authority consider to be relevant (e.g. the child’s foster carer) with a copy. This should include information on the role of the IRO and action that can be taken in the event that decisions made at a review are not implemented. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 47 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children .. If the IRO leaves the employment of the local authority, or for any other reason stops being the IRO for a particular child, s/he should introduce the new IRO to the child in person. .. At no time, apart from in the first five working days, should a looked after child be without a named IRO. .. The name of the IRO and his/her contact details must be recorded on the child’s case record. .. The IRO should meet the child before the first review. Administration of the review process 7.3 The local authority should provide sufficient administrative support to facilitate the delivery of an efficient and effective review process, enabling review meetings to take place in accordance with the Regulations and good practice. Invitations to reviews and consultation documents should be sent out to all those participating in the review at least ten working days before the meeting and the record of the review should be distributed within the required timescales. The manager of the IRO service should inform the local authority of any shortfalls in the provision of this aspect of the service. Management Role and functions of the IRO manager 7.4 Each IRO should be managed by a designated manager who will be accountable for the quality of the service that is offered to each individual looked after child. The role will include providing oversight, professional advice and management support to each IRO. 7.5 The manager will be a qualified social worker who should be able to demonstrate a sound understanding of the legal framework and care planning process governing how the local authority meets its responsibilities towards looked after children. 7.6 The manager should have the independence, ability and confidence to support the IRO through the dispute resolution process and to ensure that the IRO’s employment is not put at risk, should the IRO progress a matter to a more senior level and/or outside to Cafcass. 7.7 The manager in each local authority should ensure that there are policies in place to ensure the quality of service delivery. This should include regular and routine  48 IRO Handbook feedback from parents, children and social workers and an audit of the records and direct observation of the IRO. 7.8 Alongside other colleagues in children’s services, the IRO manager should be responsible for establishing effective arrangements for looked after children to communicate with senior managers in children’s services and across the local authority and other agencies. 7.9 The manager should ensure that the size of the caseloads enables each IRO to comply with primary legislation, the Regulations and relevant guidance in order to achieve the outcomes for every looked after child that a conscientious and caring parent would seek for their own children. This may include having the authority to limit requests made by the local authority for the IRO to undertake additional tasks, which are not part of the IRO role. 7.10 The manager should be responsible for ensuring that IROs receive appropriate training on a regular basis. 7.11 The manager should be responsible for the production of an annual report for the scrutiny of the members of the corporate parenting board. This report should identify good practice but should also highlight issues for further development, including where urgent action is needed. It should make reference to: .. procedures for resolving concerns, including the local dispute resolution process and it should include an analysis of the issues raised in dispute and the outcomes; .. the development of the IRO service including information on caseloads, continuity of employment and the make up of the team and how it reflects the identity of the children it is serving; .. extent of participation of children and their parents; .. the number of reviews that are held on time, the number that are held out of time and the reasons for the ones that are out of time; .. outcomes of quality assurance audits in relation to the organisation, conduct and recording of reviews; and .. whether any resource issues are putting at risk the delivery of a quality service to all looked after children. 7.12 The report should be available as a public document from the local authority. It would be good practice to publish this on the local authority’s website so that  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 49 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children looked after children can easily access their corporate parent’s assessment of the quality of its parenting. Caseloads 7.13 The IRO manager should take into account the following in relation to the size of caseloads: .. anticipated requirements set out in primary legislation, Regulations and guidance; .. caseloads in comparable boroughs; .. outcomes of quality assurance audits; and .. capacity to support developments within the service, especially in relation to increasing the active participation of children in the review process. 7.14 The provision of a quality service to each looked after child requires the IRO to have sufficient time to: .. consult with all the relevant adults, including foster carers, before each review; .. read all the relevant documentation before each review; .. meet with the child in a meaningful way before the review (this may involve meeting with the child on a different day in advance of the review); .. chair all meetings that make up the review; .. provide a full record of the review; .. complete quality assurance documentation; .. undertake any follow up work after the review; .. monitor drift; .. alert the local authority in writing of areas of poor practice; .. consult with the social worker and the child, following a significant change; .. resolve concerns informally, implementing the local dispute resolution process where necessary; .. travel to meetings; and .. undertake training and attend meetings for the purpose of consultation and professional development. 50 IRO Handbook 7.15 It is estimated that a caseload of 50 to 70 looked after children for a full time equivalent IRO, would represent good practice in the delivery of a quality service, including the full range of functions set out in this handbook. This range should reflect the diversity and complexity of cases across different local authorities. Role of the director of children’s services 7.16 IROs are in the front line of ensuring that the local authority acts as a responsible and conscientious corporate parent for the children that it looks after. For this reason it is essential that the director of children’s services (usually through his/her delegated senior manager responsible for corporate parenting, whose responsibilities will include quality of care, rather than operational or resource management) is accountable for the effective performance of the IRO function. 7.17 It will be important that the director is able to demonstrate that the child’s voice has been placed at the heart of the authority’s strategic planning for looked after children. His/her behaviour will provide real evidence that the local authority is committed to providing high quality personal services to every child looked after by them, which strive to be excellent in everything they aim to achieve and are good enough for any child in the community. 7.18 The director of children’s services will need to: .. understand the rationale and statutory functions of IROs and have the capacity to appreciate and support IROs in their role and in the execution of their duties; .. have a sound understanding of the legal framework and care planning process governing how the authority meets its responsibilities towards looked after children; and .. be satisfied that policies and procedures are in place to ensure direct communication between senior managers across the departments and partner agencies. Interagency and interdepartmental working together 7.19 The framework for interagency working between local authorities, health and housing departments is set out in section 27 of the 1989 Act. 7.20 This is further expanded in relation to education and the role of the IRO in statutory guidance on promoting the educational achievement of looked after children,18 which is issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 51 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 7.21 It is not unusual for the social worker, who is often the most junior in the hierarchy, to be left to attempt to implement a review decision that requires the co-operation of other departments or agencies. It is therefore important that the local authority ensures that partner agencies (government and non-government agencies that work with the local authority) are clear about the role of the IRO. Reliable systems should be established that ensure that partner agencies comply with the objectives and demands of the local dispute resolution process. This should allow social work managers to obtain updates, responses and clarification to the local dispute resolution process. In the event that the intervention of the head of service is required, s/he should be able to call in his/her counterparts in partner agencies to seek a resolution within the child’s timescale and to address wider organisational issues that may be creating the obstacles. 7.22 Adult social care services, as well as agencies working with children, should be involved in these arrangements. Delay and drift 7.23 Children and young people are particularly concerned about delay and drift in the care planning for their lives and a lack of communication with them about progress in relation to the implementation of their care plans. In the words of the children consulted by the Children’s Rights Director for England, Roger Morgan, the job of the IRO is to: “make sure that everyone does what they are meant to, make sure the child gets their say and make sure things get done”. 7.24 There is a duty on the IRO to make sure that the person responsible for implementing decisions made at a review is identified [regulation36]. As part of this process the IRO should also identify a timescale for the implementation of the decision. If the decision is not implemented within that timescale, or only partially implemented, the IRO may consider activating the local dispute resolution process. Where the delay is having a negative impact on the child’s welfare, the IRO should not be deflected from fulfilling core IRO functions by issues relating to staffing or budget limitations that are given by others as reasons for delay. The timescale for the child must be the deciding factor. 7.25 IROs have a key role to play in preventing drift for looked after children. They will need to ensure that the local authority adheres to national guidance in relation to planning for and achieving permanency for all looked after children. As part of this role they should request tangible evidence of actions that the local authority has taken.  52 IRO Handbook 7.26 In relation to services required for the child from other agencies or departments, the IRO should expect to receive information about when the referral was made, to whom it was sent and the date by which a response was requested. In this way it should be possible to identify at an early stage any likely drift so that consideration can be given to the timely use of the local dispute resolution process. Emergency placements 7.27 Children are frequently moved to a placement on an emergency basis. This can be for a number of reasons but most often is a result of an unplanned entry into the care system or because of the breakdown of a placement. It will be important for the IRO to ensure that placements secured in these circumstances do not become longer term placements by default. The IRO will need to be provided with evidence to confirm that the needs of the child can be met in the placement and, particularly if the child is placed out of area, that all necessary services will be provided from partner agencies, within the child’s timescale. A series of placement moves for a child is not desirable but, equally, neither is retaining a child in a placement that does not adequately meet his/her needs.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 53 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Chapter 8. Cafcass 8.1 There are two distinct areas in which the IRO will work in conjunction with Cafcass: .. as part of family proceedings when a child is looked after; and .. when an IRO makes a referral to Cafcass. Family proceedings 8.2 In relation to family proceedings, all children who are subject to care proceedings will have a children’s guardian, appointed by the court and an IRO, appointed by the local authority. The Public Law Outline refers to the ‘timetable for the child’. The IRO should feel confident that s/he is being kept fully informed of the progress of the child’s case, during and at the conclusion of the proceedings. This will involve: .. close liaison with the children’s guardian; and .. the legal department for the local authority providing the IRO with all relevant court documents and having a system in place to do so in a timely manner. 8.3 The IRO will need to consider together with the children’s guardian what communication is necessary in order to promote the best possible care planning process for each child. As soon as the IRO has been appointed to a child subject to proceedings: .. the IRO service should provide the legal department for the local authority with the name of the IRO and with his/her contact details; and .. the legal department for the local authority should advise the court of the name of the IRO and of his/her contact details. 8.4 The legal department of the local authority should have a system in place to: .. pass on the name and contact details of the children’s guardian, once appointed, to the IRO; and .. provide copies of all relevant court documents to the IRO, including court orders and directions, the reports of experts and the reports of the children’s guardian, within five working days of receipt of them. 8.5 Once the children’s guardian has been appointed, the IRO and children’s guardian should establish communication with each other. In the event that the children’s guardian has been appointed and is able to attend the first review, this may be an  54 IRO Handbook opportunity to establish the contact. However, if the appointment is not made until after the first review, it will be important for the communication to be established as soon as possible following the appointment. In addition: .. The children’s guardian should be advised of each review meeting and invited, where appropriate. .. Each local authority should have a system in place to ensure that the legal department of the local authority and the children’s guardian receive a copy of each review record. .. The record of each review that takes place during the proceedings should be submitted to court. .. The IRO should ensure that s/he is in discussion with the children’s guardian at intervals, as is appropriate for each child’s case and that the topics of discussion include: – the wishes and feelings of the child; – the current care plan; – whether details of the care plan are subject to a formal dispute resolution process and if so details of this; – any complaints that have been received about the case; and – any issues raised in court in relation to the implementation of the current care plan. 8.6 Prior to the Issues Resolution Hearing, the local authority should inform the court of any dispute between the local authority and the IRO about the plan for the child and of any issues subject to the local dispute resolution process. 8.7 In all cases where the child is to remain looked after, following the completion of the proceedings, the IRO and children’s guardian should have a final discussion about the child’s case with a view to identifying any outstanding issues or particular matters that should be kept under review. 8.8 The content of discussions between the children’s guardian and IRO should be recorded on the child’s case record. Referral to Cafcass 8.9 Since 2002 IROs have had the authority to refer the case of any looked after child to Cafcass [underSection118,2002Act] if they are of the view that the child’s human rights have been breached and all attempts to resolve the matter have been exhausted. The scope for such referrals is now extended.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 55 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 8.10 The IRO now has the authority to refer a case to Cafcass ‘if the IRO considers it appropriate to do so’ [section25B(3),1989Act]. The IRO will encounter a wide range of situations in which there are concerns about the plan for the child or the service that is being provided. In most cases it will be possible to address these through: .. dialogue with the local authority, including access to the dispute resolution procedure; .. use of the complaints procedure, either by the child directly or by an adult who is authorised to act on the child’s behalf; and/or .. application to the court for an order under the 1989 Act, either by the child or by an appropriate adult who is able and willing to act. 8.11 When considering whether to make a referral to Cafcass, the IRO should consider the impact that a referral would have for the child. In some cases, there will be time available first to pursue the full dispute resolution procedure within the local authority (for example where the dispute relates to educational provision for the next academic year and it is currently still the autumn term). In other situations, the matter will be of sufficient urgency that the dispute resolution process needs to be curtailed (for example where there is a plan to change the child’s residential placement within a matter of weeks). It is the responsibility of the IRO to make the decision about whether and when a referral is necessary, based on the timetable for the child. 8.12 As part of any dispute resolution procedure and prior to making a referral, the IRO should notify a nominated local authority senior officer (to be identified in the local authority dispute resolution protocol) that a referral to Cafcass is being considered. Where the IRO has reached a decision to curtail the dispute resolution process to meet the needs of the child, the IRO should explain the reasons for this to the senior officer. 8.13 When considering whether to make a referral, the IRO should have access to management advice and support in addition to independent legal advice where necessary. Cafcass Legal operates a duty helpline which is available to IROs for the discussion of possible referrals. The lawyers at Cafcass Legal cannot give IROs legal advice, but will discuss with the IRO whether any other steps can be taken before a referral is made. 8.14 The IRO can make a referral to Cafcass by contacting Cafcass Legal initially by telephone but the referral should always be confirmed in writing to the duty lawyer who will provide contact details to the IRO. The Cafcass Legal duty helpline telephone number is available from the Cafcass National Office, the contact details for which can be found on  56 IRO Handbook 8.15 The information listed below should accompany a referral to Cafcass. .. copies of any final care order and the final care plan filed in proceedings; .. the report of the children’s guardian immediately preceding the making of any care order; .. the review records from the preceding 12 months; .. a report by the IRO explaining why the matter is being referred at this stage and setting out what steps the IRO has taken to resolve the position with the local authority; .. where the child is of sufficient age and understanding, a report by the IRO on the child’s wishes and feelings, including the child’s views in relation to any potential court proceedings; .. names and contact details for relevant professionals in relation to children’s social care and any other agencies involved, for example another local authority or an NHS Trust; .. any other relevant documentation including a chronology and statement of issues, a list of important people in the child’s life and their relationship and involvement with the child; and information about diversity issues for the child and family including whether the child or family members will need additional assistance to aid communication; and .. the most recent care plan. 8.16 Once a referral has been made, Cafcass will enter into final dispute resolution with the local authority before proceedings are instituted. While Cafcass cannot refuse to accept any referral, it is the responsibility of Cafcass and not the IRO to determine whether a legal remedy should be sought. If the problem is not resolved to the benefit of the child and within the child’s timeframe, Cafcass has the power to initiate the following types of action (under regulation 3 of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service [Reviewed Case Referral] Regulations 2004). .. proceedings under section 7(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998; .. claim for judicial review; and .. other proceedings (for example under the 1989 Act). Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 57 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children References 1. See section 25B(2)(b) of the Children Act 1989. 2. Department for Education and Skills (2004) Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance: Adoption and Children Act 2002. London: DfES. 3. S.I. 2010/959. 4. In March 2002 the House of Lords delivered its judgement on two conjoined appeals, Re S and Re W (previously known as Re W, W and B). These concerned the powers of the court to monitor the discharge of the local authority’s obligations (including implementation of the care plan) once a care order had been made. The judgement concluded that the courts have no general power to monitor the discharge of the local authority’s functions, but a local authority that failed in its duties to a child could be challenged under the Human Rights Act 1998. The most likely challenge would be under article 8 of the ECHR, relating to family life. However, the judgement also expressed concern that some children with no adult to act on their behalf may not have any effective means to initiate such a challenge. 5. S.I. 2004/2187 amended by S.I. 2005/605. 6. Published under the Care Standards Act 2000. 7. S.I. 2005/389. 8. HM Government (2010) The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations. Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Care Review. Nottingham: DCSF Publications. 9. HM Government (2006) Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to interagency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. London: TSO. 10. Department of Health et al. (2000) Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families. London: The Stationery Office. 11. Department for Education and Skills (2005) Adoption Guidance: Adoption Act 2002.  58 IRO Handbook 12. See Liverpool City Council v Hillingdon case [(2009) EWCA Civ 43 ]. In his judgement LJ Dyson said: …But the position in relation to subsection (6) {of s.20 CA 1989} is different. It does not provide that the child’s wishes and feelings are determinative. In view of the emphasis of the CA on the child’s welfare (replicated in subsection (6) itself) this is hardly surprising. Children are often not good judges of what is in their best interests. Subsection (6) is carefully drafted. The local authority is required “so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare” to ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation and give “due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings….as they have been able to ascertain… The child’s wishes are given due consideration in the assessment process, no more and no less. There may be a case when the child’s wishes are decisive. But in my view a local authority should reach the conclusion that the child’s wishes are decisive only as part of an overall judgement including an assessment of the child’s welfare needs and the type and location of accommodation that will meet those needs. 13. Department for Children, Schools and Families (2010) Short Breaks: Statutory guidance on how to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children using short breaks. Nottingham: DCSF Publications. 14. For the purposes of this document children with additional communication needs includes those who use non-verbal means of communication as well as a wider group of children who have difficulties in communicating with others. It may be that they cannot express themselves effectively or they may have difficulties in understanding what is being said to them. Equally those who support them may not understand their way of communicating. This is drawn from The Communication Trust (2009) Explaining Speech, Language and Communication Needs. Available to download from downloads.aspx 15. This could be a secure children’s home, secure training centre or young offender institution depending on the child’s age, gender and particular needs. 16. S.I.1991/1505. 17. Dixon J, Wade J, Byford S, Weatherly H and Lee J (2006) Young People Leaving Care: A study of costs and outcomes. York: University of York Social Work Research and Development Unit. 18. Department for Children, Schools and Families (2010) Promoting the Educational Achievement of Looked after Children: Statutory guidance for local authorities. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 59 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 19. Previous guidance suggested the power should be used “…if all other methods of resolving an identified problem [in relation to the child’s case] have proved or are proving unsuccessful and there is a danger of the child’s human rights being breached … so that legal proceedings can be brought to achieve a remedy.” Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance, DFES (2004), paragraph 5.4.  Existing guidance and regulations -Promotingthe healthand wellbeing of lookedafterchildren (statutory guidance,2009) -Personaleducational allowances forlooked after children statutory guidance,2008 -DesignatedTeacherRegulations2009and supporting statutoryguidance -Fostering ServicesRegulations2002-SpecialGuardianshipRegulations2005 -Children (LeavingCare)Regulations2001-HigherEducation BursaryRegulations2009 CareplanningPlacementsAdoptionFosteringChildrenshomesCasereviewCeasingtobelookedafterShort breaksCaserecordsArrangementsinyouthjusticesystem OverarchingframeworkCarePlanning,PlacementandCaseReviewRegulationsandstatutoryguidance:Guidance,regulations and national minimumstandards coming into forceby April 2011 -Promotingthe educationalachievementof lookedafterchildren (statutoryguidance) -Securing sufficiency (statutoryguidance)-Family andfriends (statutoryguidance)-Nationalminimum standardson adoption -Nationalminimum standardson fostering services -Nationalminimum standardson children’shomes -Visitingchildren in longterm care (statutoryguidance) -IROhandbook:statutoryguidance -Transition to adulthood(amendmentregulations and statutoryguidance) -Shortbreaks (statutoryguidance)-Dutytoprovideshortbreaksfordisabledchildren (regulations) -Visitingchildren in custody (regulationsand statutoryguidance) Keysupportinglegislation: Children Act1989,Children(Leaving Care) Act2000,AdoptionandChildrenAct2002, Children Act2004 60 IRO Handbook Annex 1. Overview of statutory framework for care planning Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 61 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Annex 2. Overview of the care planning, placement and case review process Coreassessment Child needs to be looked after Legal processes to become looked after (S31 or S20) Short breaks under S20) (4) Careplanning– formulate care plan (Regs 5–7) No Does Reg 48 apply? Yes Careplanning– formulatemodiedcareplan (the shortbreakcareplan) Arrange health assessment Careplanincluding: -health plan -personal educational plan -placement plan -provision of services and interventions for child family and carer Placement -initiateappropriate placement (Regs 9–14) Permanence plan: – rehabilitation with family – adoption – other long term placement Visitstochild(Regs 28–31) IRO role (Regs 45/46) Child ceases to be looked after (Reg 39) Review – of care plan (Regs 32–38) Looked afterchild caserecord (Regs 49/50) At last review before age 16, preparation begins for pathway planning. Careplan becomes pathway plan (Regs 41–43) Last review before a child is 18? Transition to adulthood for looked after young people  62 IRO Handbook Annex 3: Key changes to the IRO role and function This annex summarises the key changes to the role and function of the IRO, as introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act 2008. Statutory provision Key change Rationale Section 25A(1) 1989 Act When a child first becomes looked after, a named individual must be appointed by the local authority as the IRO for the child. The intention is that each looked after child should have a named IRO to provide continuity in the oversight of the case and to enable the IRO to develop a consistent relationship with the child. Section IRO to monitor the This duty extends the IRO’s monitoring 25B(1)(a) local authority’s role, which was previously confined to the 1989 Act performance of its functions in relation to the child’s case. authority’s functions in respect of the review. The intention is to give the IRO a more effective independent oversight of the child’s case and ensure that the child’s interests are protected. Section IRO to ensure that the This requirement is intended to reinforce the 25B(1)(c) local authority give local authority’s duty under section 22(4) and 1989 Act due consideration to any views expressed by the child. (5) of the 1989 Act to ascertain and give due consideration to the wishes and feelings of the child when making any decision with respect to the child. Regulation IROs have the This new flexibility is meant to prevent the 36(2) of the authority to adjourn meeting becoming a ‘tick box’, exercise. So, Regulations review meetings if they feel that the process would be unproductive. for example the IRO might use this flexibility because there is a lack of key documentation or because the child has not been consulted about the purpose of the review. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 63 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Statutory provision Key change Rationale Regulation IROs must speak in This requirement is intended to ensure that 36(1)(b) private with each the child is properly consulted on matters of the child prior to each relating to his/her care and is given the time Regulations review so that the IRO personally establishes the child’s wishes and feelings about the issues to be covered at the care planning meeting. to contribute to the content of the meeting. Section 25B Referral by an IRO The intention of this change is to reinforce the (3) 1989 Act of a case to Cafcass should no longer seen a last resort,19 but can be considered at any time. authority of the IRO to challenge poor practice around the child’s case. 64 IRO Handbook Annex 4: Involving children with additional communication needs 1. Children with additional communication needs14 have the same rights as all looked after children in the care planning process to have their wishes and feelings ascertained and given due consideration by the local authority. The principles underpinning the involvement of children with complex communication needs are the same as for all children, however this group of children require additional action by IROs. 2. Children with additional communication needs may use a range of communication methods and approaches. These include signing systems such as British Sign Language, symbol systems such as picture communication symbols, and augmented communication aids. An individual approach to understanding each child’s communication method is required. Some children will communicate with only a sign or word or movement that indicates yes and another indicating no. This does not mean that the child cannot understand or is not able to communicate his/ her wishes and feelings. Some children’s involvement will need to focus on their likes and dislikes, which should be used to inform planning and decision-making. 3. If a child has additional communication needs the IRO service should be informed, prior to or immediately following the planning/placement meeting and the child’s preferred communication method should be recorded in his/her care plan. 4. The IRO manager should consider the child’s preferred method of communication when allocating the referral. This means allocating such a referral to a specialist IRO with knowledge and experience of children with communication needs or an IRO with experience of the child’s specific communication method. 5. Where specialist expertise is not available within the IRO team a presumption should be made that a child with communication needs will be supported by an independent advocate, with the child having the right to opt out or choose someone else to support him/her if s/he wishes. The allocated IRO should ensure that, from the outset, the child has access to this specialist support so that his/her wishes and feelings can be elicited effectively. This support should be made available throughout the care planning and review process including when any significant changes are proposed. 6. The IRO manager should recognise that more time will be required to elicit the wishes and feelings of a child with communication needs and adjust workloads accordingly.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 65 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children 7. Involvement should be seen as a process and not simply measured by attendance at a review meeting. Children with communication support needs should be actively encouraged to attend review meetings that are organised to best facilitate their involvement and feedback should be provided in a format that is accessible to the individual child. Figure 2: Flow chart for involving a child with communication needs At planning/placement meeting Communication support need and child’s individual means of communication identified and recorded in care plan At point of allocationIRO manager to establish if there is a specialist IRO or an IRO who understands the child’s individual means of communication If NoIf YesBy or immediately after By the first review the first review Specialist IRO or IRO who understands IRO to ensure specialist support child’s means of communication such as independent advocacy allocated and workloads adjusted is available to accommodate additional time required By the second reviewChild supported to express his/her wishes and feelings at whatever level and through whatever means works best for the individual child At every subsequent review The IRO assesses the extent and effectiveness of the child’s involvement at each review. Where independent advocacy is not already in place the IRO makes sure the child understands his/her entitlement to be supported by an advocate whenever s/he wants to express his/her wishes and feelings 66 IRO Handbook Case studies 1. IRO and an independent advocate working together Tuan lives in a residential school, over one hundred miles from his home. He has communication needs. He had never attended a review. A new IRO established that his family find the journey to visit him stressful and have requested that he be moved to a school nearer home. Tuan appears to be happy at school and has been progressing well, and the school think he should remain with them. The IRO enlisted the support of an independent advocate to shed light upon Tuan’s perceived wishes and feelings. The advocate met Tuan at school and visited him at home over a period of time. The advocate observed that Tuan was happy at school, but had made only one significant attachment with an adult worker and none with his peers. At home, Tuan had positive attachments with a wide variety of family members, and the advocate observed his joy at being with his family. The advocate was also able to establish that Tuan’s cultural needs were being met by his family but not at school. Although not able to determine what Tuan would say on the issue, the advocate’s observations, evidenced by a photo diary and log of his daily contacts and activities, gave a balanced view regarding Tuan’s life at school and at home. The IRO had a clearer picture with which to review his care plan. The independent advocate is continuing to work with Tuan to establish other important issues in Tuan’s life to feed in to future reviews particularly in the light of his future transition to adult services. 2. Specialist IRO Amy communicates through eye pointing. She has expressed her wish to attend her next review. The team’s specialist disability IRO is Amy’s IRO and her caseload is reduced to allow the extra time required to facilitate involvement of children with communication needs. Although the IRO has no direct experience of using this particular communication method, she does have an understanding of good practice concerning the involvement of children with communication needs, and has developed links with practitioners across the authority so that she can call on their expertise if needed. Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 67 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children The IRO starts with gathering information from those who know Amy well and observes her learning support assistant working with Amy. The IRO familiarises herself with Amy’s book of symbols that she uses for eye pointing and works with staff and Amy to add some particularly relevant symbols. The IRO supports Amy to identify key points she wants to raise at the review, and at Amy’s request ensures that only those professionals who really need to be there are present, in order to minimise numbers. The IRO then makes sure Amy has the chance to contribute in the meeting. The IRO maintains this case, makes sure Amy understands the outcome of the meeting and establishes a way for Amy to contact her if she needs to between reviews. 68 IRO Handbook Annex 5: Children in the youth justice system Care status 1. The looked after status of children within the youth justice system is complex. Some children who were not previously looked after acquire this status through section 21 of the 1989 Act. These are: .. children where police request a transfer of detention to the local authority pending a court hearing under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE); .. children remanded to local authority accommodation under section 23(1) of the Children and Young Person’s Act 1969, with or without a ‘secure requirement’; .. children subject to a youth rehabilitation order (YRO) with a fostering or local authority residence requirement under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (Schedule 1). 2. The local authority does not have parental responsibility but must care for and plan for these children in the same way as other accommodated children, and the IRO therefore also has responsibility for them. 3. Other children lose their looked after status. Children subject to a care order cannot lose that status unless the order is revoked but those looked after under section 20 or section 21 do if they: .. are remanded to custody and placed in a young offender institution (YOI) – these will be 17 year olds, or boys aged 15 or 16 and deemed not to be vulnerable; .. receive a custodial sentence. 4. Even where a child is no longer looked after s/he may still have an entitlement to leaving care services. If a young person is an eligible or relevant care leaver this status remains unchanged while in custody and the local authority that looked after him/her retains responsibility for providing support during his/her time in custody and on release. Some young people will achieve this status while they are in custody on attaining the age of 16: that is, those who have spent 13 weeks looked after since the age of 14 and who were looked after children immediately prior to entering custody. This is set out in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.  Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 69 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children Care planning 5. IROs have an important role in ensuring that the local authority fulfils its responsibilities to looked after children who are at risk of offending or involved in the youth justice system. Looked after children continue to be more likely than their peers to be convicted of an offence. They may be more troubled as a consequence of their history before becoming looked after, making them more likely to offend, and it is essential that their experiences in care help to prevent this rather than increasing the risk. The child’s assessment should have considered any unmet needs that may lead to offending and the care or pathway plan should set out the measures that will be taken to support the child. It may be enough to tackle the potential causes of offending but some children may also benefit from targeted preventative services provided in conjunction with the youth offending team (YOT). It is also important to consider the capacity of the placement to deal with any behavioural problems, both in relation to individual children and the dynamics within the group if several children are placed. The IRO may want to consider the level of supervision that is provided, approaches to behaviour management and whether there is a protocol about involving the police in order to ensure that children are not at risk of being unnecessarily criminalised. Where the IRO identifies any deficiencies in the service or negative trends in relation to offending behaviour, these should be reported to managers and the response monitored. 6. The IRO should be advised of any incidents where a looked after child is arrested or charged with an offence. If the IRO considers that the child’s care plan needs to be amended, s/he should request a review. This is particularly likely to be the case if the child is charged with a serious offence or his/her offending is persistent and a custodial sentence is a possibility. The IRO should seek evidence of the following: .. Is the child’s social worker working in partnership with the YOT, sharing information and actively contributing to the YOT assessment? .. Has the child been provided with expert legal representation? .. Is the social worker accompanying the child to court hearings? .. Has the social worker provided information that will assist the court in reaching an appropriate decision, including any mitigating factors, and the local authority’s plans for the child? .. Is the child’s placement able to support the child, including compliance with any bail conditions? 70 IRO Handbook Children in custodial settings 7. If a court decides to remand or sentence a child to a custodial setting,15 his/her entitlement to support will vary according to his/her legal status but the local authority retains some responsibility. Children can often feel abandoned at this point and it is particularly important that the IRO ensures that proper plans are made to support them both while they are in custody and on release. However, the nature of the IRO’s involvement will vary according to whether the child is looked after while in custody or not. Although a custodial placement does not have the same status as a local authority placement, information sharing and joint planning between establishment staff and the local authority should still take place. Children’s and human rights legislation are applicable, regardless of the child’s care status but subject to the requirements of imprisonment. The IRO should be notified as soon as a looked after child is placed in custody, including the details of where s/he is placed and the relevant order. IRO responsibilities to children who continue to be looked after in custody 8. Going into custody is a significant change in the child’s circumstances and a review should be held. The IRO is entitled to co-operation from the establishment, who should facilitate the review by providing a suitable room, enabling the IRO to have a private discussion with the child and enabling the attendance of key participants. Although the child will be the subject of remand or sentence planning meetings, and there is likely to be some overlap in attendance, it is important that the review meeting is a separate event and chaired by the IRO. It will be appropriate to invite the YOT case manager and a link worker from the establishment (such as the youth offending institution social worker or the child’s case supervisor), subject to the child’s agreement, but the child’s privacy needs to be respected. S/he may feel particularly vulnerable because of the custodial setting and a sensitive approach needs to be taken to the disclosure of personal information. This may also be the case regarding the involvement of parents. 9. The review has the same purpose as any review following a change in circumstances but there will be additional considerations as to how the child’s needs will be met during his/her time in custody. The child’s social worker should have assessed these and provided a report to the review. Specific questions to consider are: .. Is the child safe? .. Is there a risk of self harm? .. What is the child’s emotional state? .. Does the child need money, clothes, books or other practical support? Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their 71 functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children .. Are education staff aware of and able to meet the child’s educational needs, including any special needs or abilities? .. Are the health unit and wing staff aware of, and able to meet, the child’s health needs? .. Are staff aware of, and able to meet, the child’s religious and cultural needs? .. Is the child worried about anything? If so, what? .. What impact has the remand/sentence had on family relationships? .. Does there need to be help with contact arrangements? .. What action is needed to provide for the child’s accommodation on release? .. Are changes needed to the child’s care plan/pathway plan? 10. It is important to consider at this stage where the child will live on release. Wherever possible, placements that were working well should be retained so that the child can return there but if this not possible an alternative should be secured as soon as possible. A child’s ability to cope in custody can be adversely affected if s/he does not know where s/he be living on release. For remanded children, the IRO will need to be satisfied that the social worker is actively working with the YOT to develop a robust plan that would support an application for bail. 11. Although the local authority is not responsible for the placement and cannot terminate it, there may be situations where the IRO is not satisfied that everything is being done to safeguard the child or promote his/her welfare. There are steps that the local authority can take, such as approaching the YOT or YJB to initiate a transfer request, and the IRO can refer to Cafcass in the usual way if these are inadequate. 12. The IRO should establish a timescale for further reviews of the child’s plan according to his/her needs and circumstances but not less than the statutory minimum. The IRO is responsible for monitoring the implementation of plans and the effectiveness of services provided. An additional consideration that IROs should be aware of is the possibility of early release, which will be dependent on a suitable placement having been found and the child’s ability to cope with the required additional surveillance and electronic monitoring. 13. It is good practice to hold a review within the last month of the sentence to ensure that an effective plan is made for the child’s release. This must be aligned with the plans being made for the child by his/her YOT case manager, who will continue to supervise him/her on release, and it should be clear who is responsible for each aspect. Because of the high level of contact that the child is expected to have with his/her YOT case manager, there is a tendency for social workers to withdraw at this  72 IRO Handbook point and the IRO should be alert to this possibility. The IRO should be informed of the Notice of Supervision or Licence, setting out the conditions of the child’s release. IRO responsibilities to children who cease to be looked after in custody 14. Some children who cease to be looked after on entering custody will be entitled to support as care leavers: others will not have satisfied the necessary timescales. Local authorities have a duty [section23ZAofthe1989Act] to appoint a representative to visit and assess children who were looked after under section 20 of the 1989 Act and who therefore cease to be looked when they enter custody. This assessment will include whether the child will need to be accommodated again on release. 15. Depending on the length of the sentence, it may be appropriate for the representative to keep the IRO updated about the child’s circumstances and plan. This will be particularly important if the plan is to accommodate the child again, in which case the IRO should be informed of the plan before the child is released. 16. In the event that the child is re-accommodated on release the same IRO should resume his/her role for the child.  You can download this publication at Search using ref: DCSF-00184-2010 Copies of this publication can be obtained from: DCSF Publications PO Box 5050 Sherwood Park Annesley Nottingham NG15 0DJ Tel: 0845 60 222 60 Fax: 0845 60 333 60 Textphone: 0845 60 555 60 Please quote the ref: 00184-2010DOM-EN ISBN: 978-1-84775-673-2 D16(8675)/0310

A message left on this blog for Sally Rees corporate director

Filed under: Staffordshire — Granarchist @ 8:54 am
Tags: ,

The following message has been left on this blog by one of the sisiters who was beaten abused and starved in Staffordshire Local Authority Care

this was in response to another article on this blog you can see the article and original comment by viewing recent comments in right hand column

but Sally Rees i have been saying all along you are not interested and do not care seems i am not on my own in this

It is very sad to say but al the facts listed above are very true you can read my story of the horrific abuse suffered whilst i was under staffordshire county councils care. Never once have they been apologetic all though they had all the facts and i found that they rather like to side with the abusers to save face. My opionon is that the care system is a complete faliure run by heartless human beinging who only seem to care for themselves.A life in care only leads to a life of ruin you only have to look at the satistics for that. Staffordshire county should be totaly ashamed of the pointless operation that they run and the nice easy ride that they like to give to pedophiles.I would like to start a campaign to get rid of some of these over paid scumbags and see them replaced with people who actually care about their job. Yes Sally Rees i am talking about you!!!!!

You can read her story below and take note that despite the local authority settling an out of court settlement they still refuse to accept accountability .


Twins who were beaten, abused, starved & driven to the brink of suicide by their FOSTER PARENTS

Mar 28 2010 Laura Armstrong


Twins Helen Stuckey & Sarah Walsh (Pic: Newspics)

(Pic: Newspics)

Twin sisters Helen Stuckey and Sarah Walsh hugged each other with joy last week – unlike when they were little girls and hugged as they trembled with fear.

The reason for last week’s quiet embrace was that the 26-year-old sisters have finally won compensation from a council that put them in the care of the foster parents from hell.

From the age of two, Helen and Sarah were regularly beaten by the couple who should have given them a loving, protected life.

Both girls, who have bravely waived their anonymity, were also forced to perform sex acts on each other while their vile foster brother watched.

And Sarah was sexually abused by their twisted foster dad between the age of five and 16.

Staffordshire county council staff visited the children frequently but failed to spot warning signs.

These included both sisters trying to commit suicide DOZENS of times, SEVEN ignored reports of physical abuse and THREE disregarded admissions by their stepfather that he and his wife beat the kids.

Social services were unaware of the sexual abuse but Helen and Sarah claim it would never have happened if they been removed from the evil family’s care.

Helen told The People: “This battle was never about winning a large amount of money. For us it was our way of getting social services to admit blame for what happened to us.

“They will never admit blame – we understand that now – but in our minds this pay-out suggests they at least accept they were negligent.

“Now we can fully move on and try to forget those years of hell.”


The girls were placed with the foster parents in 1985 after their mother – a schizophrenic – was unable to look after them.

Almost immediately after they were taken in, the physical abuse started.

Sarah said: “If we hadn’t had each other, I honestly don’t think we would have survived. We were beaten and abused from almost day one.”

In 1988, social services admitted they were worried that the foster brother – then aged 15- was looking after the five-year-old twins during the day. But NO action was taken.

In 1993 the foster parents admitted to a social worker that the mother smacked them although carers are NOT supposed to use physical punishment. Again no action was taken.

Next year both parents agreed to stop using corporal punishment. This did NOT happen.

Shockingly, the girls weren’t only being physically abused. From 1988 until 1996 Sarah and Helen were forced to perform sex acts while their foster brother watched. Sarah was also sexually abused by her foster dad.

Sarah said: “We never did anything about it because we were too scared.”

Helen added: “Despite everything we have been through, we don’t want to be seen as victims because we know we are lucky to have escaped our foster family.

“But there must be thousands of helpless children out there trapped in abusive families.

“And one day we hope to change the law so that social services staff are required to take responsibility for the mistakes they make.”

Sarah continued: “Our foster mum was a nasty drinker and if she was drunk or hungover she would go after us with anything she could get.

“Whenever she did use her fists, she would wet them so the punch would hurt more, and then pull us upstairs by our hair.

“I wanted so badly for the beatings to stop, but we were frightened to say anything in case the social workers took us away and split us up.

“So instead we learnt to say nothing when we were beaten. And when it was over and we were alone, we would sit and cry together.

“I was so unhappy and frightened but knowing Helen was there holding my hand helped.”

Helen said: “It wasn’t just the beatings, it was the humiliation. We used to be called the waterworks by classmates because we’d always be crying when we arrived at school.

“And we never made friends because other children were too frightened to come to our house. They had seen the beatings, such as when our foster mum pulled Sarah outside by her shirt collar and slammed her up against a brick wall, screaming that she was a slag and telling her to p*** off.

“Other times we’d be banned from eating for ages, or made to eat until we were sick, just for trivial reasons. I remember once as a child eating Stork margarine with sugar on top because I was so hungry.


“I didn’t care that it made me feel sick, I was just so desperate that I just shovelled it in like an animal.”

The People knows the identity of the twins’ foster family but has decided not to name them for legal reasons.

Their foster mother is still inolved with children while their foster brother now has children of his own. Their foster father died of cancer seven years ago. Helen said: “It scares me to think that our foster mum is still working with young children.

“In the 15 years I lived with her she never once showed Sarah or me a shred of pity, let alone any love.

“If we sobbed when she hurt us, she would just hit harder.”

Sarah said: “The things our foster brother made us do was more confusing than anything else at first. But when my foster dad abused me, I felt sick and alone.”

Helen, tortured by the belief that she was to blame for her sister’s suffering, took an overdose of pills and cough mixture.

Sarah was thrown out by her foster mum when the twins were 16. The homeless teenager began cutting her wrists and was hospitalised after four overdoses.

She said: “After years of abuse I really believed what our foster parents had told us – we were worthless and there was no point in living. It was only when my foster dad died in 2003 I finally felt that I could open up about everything.”

In 2006 Helen and Sarah reported the abuse to police.

Their foster mum and brother were questioned but released without charge after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was a lack of evidence of the brother’s abuse and the time limit to prosecute the mother for assault had expired.

So the twins – now mums themselves – launched a claim against Staffordshire County Council.

Now they have received £70,000 compensation three weeks before the case was due to be heard in court.

The compensation is NOT for the abuse but for social services breaching their duty of care.

Sarah said: “Hearing the settlement had been reached was like having a 10-ton weight lifted.”

Helen added: “I still see our foster mum in the street sometimes and she laughs if she catches sight of me. But now I can put all the anger that I used to feel behind me.”

Staffordshire County Council said: “We made an out-of-court settlement but do not accept liability for the allegations which have never been proved. We have, however, offered the claimants help and support.

“The fostering service has come a very long way since the 1980s. We were inspected by Ofsted in 2009 and our fostering service was judged outstanding.”

Solicitor Richard Scorer of Manchester law firm Pannone said: “We were able to find information to support Helen and Sarah’s case.

“Although no amount of money can ever compensate for what they went through, I am pleased to have played a part in getting them justice .”

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