Support not Separation launched
at moving powerful meeting

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An important new coalition was launched in London on 11 July 2017. Support not Separation (SnS) is campaigning to end the unwarranted and damaging separation of children from their mother or other primary carer. Coordinated by Legal Action for Women (LAW) the coalition SnS has come from the decades of work by LAW, and other grassroots organisations based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. The launch follows the publication of LAW’s dossier Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers released in January 2017.

The SnS coalition launch was hosted by MP Emma Lewell-Buck, shadow minister for children and families, and attended by another three MPs. It was held in parliament and the room was packed. People spoke movingly and powerfully from their painful personal experiences, strengthened by the awareness that they were no longer alone – so many had come together to fight for justice and to support each other.

SnS brings together a wide range of organisations, social workers, psychotherapists, teachers and other professionals alarmed at the huge rise in children taken from their families.

Research by Professor Andy Bilson of Central Lancashire University published this year found that 144,555 children were in care, adopted from care or in special guardianship in 2016 – the highest number in 35 years [1]. In a message welcoming SnS, Dr Bilson pointed to the class bias of child removals:

‘In the poorest and most deprived communities [2]… 45% of children are referred to children’s services before they are five-years-old and 22% come under suspicion of having been “abused”…This blaming approach to child protection… provides a smokescreen for [the present government] to implement austerity measures whilst blaming parents for the impact of these policies on their children.’

Given that nearly four million children (28%) are living in poverty in the UK and that 90% of adoptions are without the consent of the birth family, the potential reach of these policies is huge.

Anne Neale reported that since January, over 50 mothers have approached LAW, desperate to keep their children. Running through the findings of the Dossier, she accused the authorities of targeting families on low income.

‘Most were single mothers; half were Black, of colour and/or immigrant; half had mental health issues or other disabilities; and 2/3 had been victims of domestic violence…

‘What’s happening with adoptions is clearly social engineering. Kids are being taken from poor working class families and given to middle class families to raise…There is no evidence of actual harm that has been caused, it’s all based on future possible harm that might be caused. It’s hard to imagine other situations where you are punished because of something that might happen in the future…And there is no evidence gathered about how many adoptions break down or what actually happens to those children once they get adopted…

‘…one in four mums with children who are placed for adoption grew up in care…Mums are told, “Oh, you don’t know how to parent because you were brought up in care.” Rather than getting support and protection, the care leaver is then punished by having her children taken away…

She described the monthly self-help meetings that many mothers have been attending, based on the collective experience of the organisations at Crossroads.

‘We work on the basis of self-help, we don’t accept the usual relationship of service provider vs client, we are all in this together fighting against separation…It does mean that every mother has to take charge of her own case, keep track of her own papers, know what’s happening with court hearings…Our starting point is that something can always be done.’

Many were in tears when Antoinette Simpson told how her last two babies were forcibly put up for adoption despite no evidence of harm and the strong bond they had with her.

‘Sixteen years ago I had two children removed from me. I changed my life around after that. I had twins in 2015 and I had them brutally removed from me. I was a good mother but because of my past they were removed from me. What happened to me was wrong. I want to go public. I want justice.’

Liz Hilton [3] was adopted at birth in Australia; her adoption ‘failed’, as do a substantial but undisclosed number in Britain. She described the damage this caused her and her mother:

‘I was born at a time when the government was determined to provide babies to middle class families and created the myth that poor mothers were unfit mothers…We were broken…We were supposed to be eternally grateful and forever ashamed…

In the UK you use the term taken into care. For the vast majority of mothers and children it’s cash that’s lacking, not care…I was taken out of care at birth…’

She encouraged mothers not to give up because

‘Even if it takes years, the fact that you fought will mean so much when you and your child find your way to each other.’

Jean Robertson-Molloy (Movement for Adoption Apology) brought to life the thousands of single mothers whose ‘illegitimate’ children were taken in the 50s and 60s.

‘Everything that happened to us was exacerbated by secrets and lies…We were told “you’ll get over it” and “don’t talk about it”…I am delighted to be with this group. I feel that what happened to us was a forerunner of what’s going on now…We are still fighting for an apology…[and] with you people involved I feel we have a chance…There’re so many people that still can’t come out and talk about it.’

Donna Clark, whose granddaughter was adopted against her wishes, has joined monthly self-help meetings at Crossroads and is using her experience to support younger women who are under the scrutiny of child protection. She described how different social services were in the 90s, when she was a young mum, compared to now.

‘Back in 1996 there was the money and the will to help struggling families like ours…We had access to services such as mental health, extra support with schooling and respite care. We were given money so we could have days out together as a family, help with travel costs to appointments, and the social worker even bought Christmas presents for my kids. We were being helped and supported to stay together as a family as that was what was best for children…

In 2012 I saw a massive change of attitudes from social workers and social services. We were made to feel like criminals and the social workers behaved like detectives closely investigating a crime that hadn’t been committed but which they wanted to prove would happen in the future. There were no offers of help, there was no care, just the drive to remove my granddaughter from us. It was a cruel and heartless process.’

From the chair, Nina Lopez (LAW and Global Women’s Strike) pointed to flaws in the Children Act 1989 and how it is being implemented:

·         The Act doesn’t mention mothers despite mothers being the primary carer in 90% of households.

·         The family courts are misapplying the law. The ‘welfare of the child’ is supposed to be paramount. Separating children from their mother, or other primary carer and siblings, is deeply traumatic and should be avoided. But the serious harm caused by such separation is often dismissed in favour of speculative claims of ‘future emotional harm’.

·         Families are not getting the support and resources they are entitled to under the Children Act. Instead they are accused of neglect.

Selma James (Global Women’s Strike and a founding member of SnS) underlines the centrality of the relationship between child and mother, or other primary carer, who is the first provider of emotional security and protection. Without that protection, a child can be vulnerable to every abuse of power by state institutions, violent predators and profiteers. The child rape scandals which have rocked the UK in the past years – from Saville, Rotherham and Wales to Belfast, Glasgow and Jersey – tell us how little our children are valued and how dependent they are on the protection of those who will fight for them.

Breastfeeding advocates are also part of SnS. Solveig Francis (The Milk of Human Kindness) has previously raised that the courts often dismiss breastfeeding even though it is essential to the welfare of the child; they disrupt the child’s breastfeeding by insisting on overnight contact with the father and have even taken breastfeeding babies from their mothers.

Zurina Ali (Lactation Consultants of Great Britain) thanked SnS:

‘We really want to support the Coalition because we are fighting to raise equality for everyone, for every child. It’s a human right for babies to have breast milk, especially for low income families…We need to work together to make this happen, to help mothers…We are hoping to raise the breastfeeding rate in the UK which is the lowest in the world: 1% at 12 months…We need to do something for our future generations.’

Lisa Longstaff and Nicola Mann (Women Against Rape) have highlighted that mothers who report domestic violence or rape are most at risk of having their children taken from them on grounds that they ‘failed to protect them’ from witnessing the violence; yet courts often insist on violent fathers ‘right’ to contact with their children – 19 children have been killed by their fathers in the past 10 years as a result of court enforced contact.

Cristel Amiss (speaking for Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape), condemned the courts:

‘Mothers have gone to the authorities for help – the police, social services, the mental health team – only to have their lives examined, found wanting and the children taken away…Traumatic conditions which any of us would suffer if we had been victims of rape or domestic violence are misdiagnosed… and used to say you are an unfit mother…

‘So often the courts side with the men; even when the man is a convicted rapist he is somehow still a better parent than the mother who may be struggling to put her case forward…The only way this will change is by naming the judges that are doing this and shaming them.’

Dr Felicity de Zulueta (Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust), attacked the political context where

‘Anything that makes money, including people’s disasters, is ok; capitalist fundamentalism is what’s going on…

‘My work is based on attachment, this bond that children have with their parents…They’ve cut services to parents, legal aid’s been removed…And then you go into huge profit making in adoption services and care homes, now privatised…

The abusers in these care systems, private care systems of all types, are abusing with impunity. I have a patient from Jersey, and the police are very involved in the whole racket…there is collusion by the state to keep the system going.’

Claire Glasman (WinVisible), spelled out what disabled mothers face when seeking help:

‘Both disabled mums and disabled children are not getting financial or support services that we need…Under Universal Credit, they say it’s simplifying benefits but it’s actually cutting in half the disabled child tax credit allowance; it will affect 100,000 disabled children. They are expecting mums to manage…

‘Under the Care Act 2014 you are supposed to get extra support if you are a disabled person who cares for a child, in reality disabled parents are frightened to approach social services because the mums immediately get threatened with fostering and adoption. The mums with learning disabilities are among the first to lose their children…

We are for this Coalition pressing for resources and to debunk that myth that there is no money for care services. The money is there; it’s priorities.’

Kim Sparrow (Single Mothers’ Self-Defence – SMSD) is a key founding member of SnS. She condemned the impoverishment caused by benefit cuts and sanctions which is then used to accuse mothers of ‘neglect’, and described the protest outside the family court in Holborn which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month:

‘To be outside the family courts that are doing so much damage in secret has been wonderful…There is a massive movement against having our children taken away…we hear of mums going on the run with their children, of children as adults and also younger searching for parents they’ve been separated from. Kids in care are rebelling because they are furious…

We are protesting together to strengthen all our cases…We are able to break the silence, to know that we are not facing it alone, to expose what’s being done to us…If we could do these pickets outside the family courts all around the country, it would be terrific.’

Child welfare is a devolved issue but similar injustices are going on in Scotland where thousands of children are removed every year, though more are placed with relatives than in England. The Scottish Kinship Care Alliance has been working with LAW, SMSD and the GWS in England over the last few years. Micheleine Kane from Glasgow has fought for years to keep her daughter’s children within the family and for financial support for kinship children.

‘We´ve lost our kids to austerity, to addiction, to alcohol, to a Thatcher government …My [disabled] daughter was taken into intensive care when she was having a baby…I’m sitting there and in come two social workers ready to take the baby. My daughter hadn’t yet woken up to see her baby! I said you come back when you’ve got paperwork. I knew they didn’t have paperwork because they wanted mum and dad to sign to let the baby go voluntarily, to “rehabilitate” the family.

‘They don’t give me a penny for keeping [my grandchildren] but they’d pay £50,000 to take my granddaughter out of her family who love her, who can care for her, without a thought.’

A message from Dr Lorna Brookes, founder of a support service for the children of prisoners in Liverpool, was read.

‘Children with mothers in prison are particularly disadvantaged and many are left distraught and emotionally scarred from being separated from their mothers.

Positive contact arrangements are crucial for most children of prisoners to cope and survive this trauma, yet I have consistently seen their needs and rights ignored by the system and those who have decision making powers over them. I’ve been refused access to court proceedings to offer my views, despite the fact that I have been the lead practitioner supporting a child.

‘I sincerely hope the needs of prisoners’ children can be seriously reviewed and supported as part of this worthwhile coalition.’

Robyn Kemp, Centre for Social Work Practice, now in SnS, commented.

‘Such deeply moving stories. As social workers we don’t go into the profession to cause this kind of harm and this level of distress. We are looking to redefine the task of social work. It has moved so far away from our original ethical aims, it’s unrecognisable to me…Your story [Donna] in particular resonated with me because I was a social worker throughout the 90s and I’ve seen it, what you described, just beautifully described, and I thank you for it. The only way we are going to change things is by joining together because together we are a much louder voice.’

Michael Coleman, a former social worker now in Payday men’s network, has spoken out exposed how taking children into care was considered ‘high status’ while keeping families together was ‘low status’.

Jean Robinson, Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) and founding member of SnS, was unable to attend but sent her love. AIMS has a long history of opposing health professionals becoming health police, not only examining the health of pregnant women but making a judgment on their suitability to be mothers.

MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who worked with LAW and others to successfully stop the further privatisation of child protection, got a big round of applause. Speaking as a former child protection officer, she said:

‘I was really proud that my party listened to me and others and made the manifesto pledge to bring focus for social work to work with families in local communities to prevent children being at risk of going into care in the first place. ‘We’ll also give a commitment to support all forms of care, not just adoption because for far too long there’s been an assumption from government that adoption is the gold standard. There have been over twenty policy changes alone in this area since 2010. But importantly, this has been against a backdrop of cuts to family support, cuts to local authority projects, cuts to early intervention and a complete diminishing of access to legal support.’

She pointed to recent research showing that children in the poorer Northeast of England are 70% more likely to end up in the care system than their Southern counterparts. She called on the government which has said they want to ‘empower social workers’, to also ‘empower children and families’, and said that working together we can achieve that.

 

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MP Sarah Champion, Rotherham and shadow minister for women and equalities, was so affected by what she heard that she felt ‘compelled to speak’.

‘There are a number of young women in my constituency who have been grossly abused, trafficked and exploited by perpetrators…We are starting to get convictions. I’m incredibly proud and I don’t understand how they have the strength to go through that process, but I am eternally grateful that they are…

‘Those girls as a consequence of the repeated rapes that they endured had children, and the immediate assumption was that those babies would be taken off these young mums. Lactating young mums are still coming to my surgeries, who have had their children taken from them…In many cases, I believe, there [should] be steps put in place so that [these young mums] can be reunited with their children, rather than an automatic process of “these women are not going to be good enough” – because they’ve had that for years.’

SnS offered to be in touch with the young women and do what we can in their defence.

MP Mohammad Yasin, newly elected to represent Bedford, blamed austerity for what was happening to children. While people agreed that austerity has deprived local authorities of resources, the question of how money is being used remains. Taking children into care is expensive (costing up to £50,000 a year per child) yet the money always seems to be available for that; but mothers and kinship carers who need help are denied.  Doc3-page-001

A cheer went up when Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP walked in. He spoke from direct experience.  Doc4-page-001

‘At the age of about 24, I was the house father of a children’s home looking after about 10 kids. It was a revelation… Most of them had been in at least six, if not more, individual placements, usually by the age of about six or seven.

‘[With my then partner] we took a very conscious decision that we would not allow a child to be moved on to another placement…

‘It was to try and re-establish connection with their parents and their families, and to build into the system sufficient support and flexibility to enable that to happen…

‘What came as shocking in the recent years is almost the reversal of all that…We deal with cases in my constituency, or Helen [Lowder] who runs my constituency office deals with them, where there is an undue haste to have children taken into care and then to be adopted within a time scale that’s set almost like a production target…That is related to austerity, to the cutbacks in support services, particularly from local government…and health agencies as well…

‘What we’ve got to do now is exactly as the campaign is seeking to do, is expose what’s going on and then get back to what the root causes of this are, which is the nature of austerity and the nature of withdrawal of care and support within our society. It’s almost like going back in time.’

Comments from the floor were wide-ranging. They included: victims of child rape, a teacher who reported a disabled child’s injuries and was told nothing would be done because the family is middle class, men supporting women facing separation, immigrant mothers threatened with deportation without their children, a refugee mother whose children were taken into care after false accusations by racist neighbours, a community organiser who pointed to homelessness being used to take children from their families…Social workers, including a whistle-blower, lawyers, psychotherapists, councillors who sit on adoption panels and other professionals were in the audience and want to work with SnS.

Support not Separation has been launched with a bang. There was strong support at the meeting for all it proposes to do:

·         Monthly self-help meetings at the Crossroads Women’s Centre with mothers and other primary carers facing the removal of their children.

·         Appealing to professionals for help. Some have come forward but the need is huge.

·         Continuing and spreading the monthly protests outside family courts.

·         Publicising the injustice of rulings based not on actual harm but on biased assumptions.

·         Challenging rulings that disregard the bond between the child and the primary carer, usually the mother, and the trauma of separation when considering the welfare of the child.

·         Demanding that mothers and families get the resources they are entitled to so they can keep their children in safety. Mothers’ poverty is not neglect; government austerity is.

Working with similar sister organisations in the US and elsewhere. , US National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, spoke at the launch of the Dossier, reminding us that the UK has followed the punitive US model in both social work and welfare ‘reform’, leading to increased child removals, benefit sanctions and food banks.

 image001 Suffer the little Children & their Mothers: A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers is available from LAW http://legalactionforwomen.net 

1. There were 143,440 children in care, adopted from care or in special guardianship in 2016. Research by Dr Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Care and Community, University of Central Lancashire, quoted in Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers (see footnote 2 below)

2. Bilson, A., Featherstone, B., Martin, K., (2017) How child protection’s ‘investigative turn’ impacts on poor and deprived communities. Family Law 47: 316-319 http://bilson.org.uk/Family_Law_prepub.pdf

3. Liz Hilton is from Empower, a sex workers’ collective in Thailand.

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JOIN FAMILY COURT PROTESTS IN LONDON 2 AUG & 5 SEP

FAMILY COURT ON TRIAL Aug Sept file-page1

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Protest outside Central Family Court: Value the world’s mothers and children – part of International Women’s Strike events on International Women’s Day 8 March 2017

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See video & article in The Independent here

 At the protest we handed in an Open Letter to Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England & Wales asking to meet with him to convey our concerns about the discrimination mothers face in the family court.  See our letter below:

Dear Sir James Munby,

Valuing Mothers and Children

We write to respectfully request a meeting with you.

We are mothers and organisations struggling against the unjust separation of children from their mothers, and today, International Women’s Day, we are protesting outside the Family Court. We are deeply concerned about the rise in the number of children being taken into care, forced to have contact or live with neglectful, vindictive and violent fathers, or adopted against the wishes of their mothers and of the children themselves. Continue reading

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SUPPORT  NOT  SEPARATION

A coalition to end the unwarranted and damaging separation

of children from their mother or other primary carer

LAUNCH:

Tuesday 11 July 6-8pm

Wilson Room in Portcullis House, Westminster,  SW1A 2JR

Westminster tube   Wheelchair accessible

(Please allow time to go through security.)

All welcome

SPEAKERS:

Organisations and individuals directly affected.

Hosted by Emma Lewell-Buck MP

For information contact: Legal Action for Women

law@allwomencount.net  020 7482 2496

The unwarranted removal of children is not an aberration of the past or The Handmaid’s Tale of the future. Thousands of mothers are being labelled ‘unfit’ and treated as mere surrogates right now.

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Parliament, 18 Jan 2017

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MP Emma Lewell-Buck speaking, Jan 2017

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Protest outside family court

Successive governments promoting adoption, financial and other pressures on social services, family court secrecy, and cuts in legal aid have led to a 65% rise in children taken into care – 143,440 in 2016! Since the publication of our dossier Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers in January and monthly protests outside the family court, more primary carers are speaking out.

The welfare of the child is central to the Children Act 1989. But the lifelong trauma suffered by children separated from their primary carer is often ignored by decision makers. Vague charges of ‘neglect’ and ‘future emotional harm’ are used to remove children, especially from low income families. Mothers who are single, young, of colour, immigrant, disabled, have suffered domestic violence and/or need help with depression or isolation are targeted. With nearly four million UK children (28%) living in poverty, the potential for social engineering is huge.

We are determined to change this. Labour’s manifesto commitments to keep child protection services out of private hands, “refocus social care to work with families … to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care,” and increase support for kinship carers are important steps in the right direction.

Support Not Separation is co-ordinated by
Legal Action for Women.

Members so far include:
Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services

Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Global Women’s Strike

Milk of Human Kindness

Movement for an Adoption Apology

Scottish Kinship Care Alliance

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)

Women Against Rape

Mothers, grandmothers, children who suffered historic separation, former social workers, the founder of a support service for the children of prisoners, teachers and other professionals.

 

legalactionforwomen.net

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VOTE TO END THE DELIBERATE POLICY OF DESTITUTION ON 8 JUNE

 Hundreds of people around the UK have written to prospective parliamentary candidates about ending the deliberate policy of destitution faced by people seeking asylum in Britain.  The responses show a big difference in the approach of the main political parties.

The Conservatives stood by their policy of deliberate destitution. One typical response justified the current weekly income of £36 per person for someone seeking asylum by saying

 “. . . research was undertaken into the actual cost of particular essential items including food stuff, clothing, toiletries, household cleaning stuff, non-prescription medication as well as travel and communication.  They even went on to claim that “ . . . asylum support payments provided to larger household groups comfortably exceeded what is necessary to meet essential living needs.”

Minimum income standards research shows that a single person needs £328 a week to cover material needs and allow participation in society.[i] Benefits for UK nationals of ​ £73.10 a week for a single person are “incapable of providing a healthy diet as well as​ other necessities.”[ii] People seeking asylum are living on half that amount. The assessment of “essential living expenses” referred to has been widely criticised as it did not allow for toys for children, assigned only £3 a week for travel and claimed that no money was needed to maintain a social life of any kind. Before the election was called, the Conservative government were to cut all support to “failed” asylum seekers including families.

 

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FAMILY COURT ON TRIAL FOR UNJUSTLY-page-002

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APPEAL from LEGAL ACTION FOR WOMEN
– a grassroots legal service

Are you a lawyer, a former social worker or legally trained? Can you help us to stop the unjust separation of children from their mothers?

Legal Action for Women’s new Dossier Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers, documenting women’s struggle for justice in the family courts in England, was launched in January at a packed meeting in the House of Commons.  Publicity about it in the Guardian sparked a correspondence over two days: CoramBAAF challenged Prof. Andy Bilson’sresearch quoted in the Dossier and this was followed by several responses supporting our findings.

We are now receiving calls and emails from all over the country from mums and couples who are fighting to stop adoptions, get children back from care and stop violent fathers having contact or residence of their children.

We are a grassroots legal service with a well-established track record. We are based on collective self-help, providing information and support so people can decide how they want to fight their case. As cases often involve more than one issue, we work with other organisations based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, such as Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Women Against Rape, Single Mothers’ Self Defence and WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities). Our insistence that no case is “hopeless” and that something can always be done has won LAW recognition from lawyers, as well as civil rights and community organisations.

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Refuge from Rape: Erioth Mwesigwa

Fighting to win asylum from rape: the case of Erioth Mwesigwa
SIAN EVANS 20 February 2017


When Erioth Mwesigwa came to the self-help group we help coordinate, she said nothing. She said nothing at the second meeting either but she looked a little less wary and withdrawn. But then she started chatting to other women in the All African Women’s Group in North London. By the time Erioth came to her fourth meeting she was standing up to report on the help she had given a woman who was under threat of losing her child. Within six months she was speaking about asylum seekers being denied health care at a meeting to save the NHS in Camden Council’s Chambers — such is the power of collective action.

Erioth’s story
Erioth was imprisoned and raped by soldiers in Uganda over 30 years ago because her husband was suspected of opposing the president. He escaped and was given asylum in the UK. Erioth didn’t. After she escaped from prison she hid with her godfather until she was recognised. She fled from his home, but her godfather was killed by soldiers who came to find her. She was hidden in an orphanage by a priest where, until she was recognised and had to flee again, she never left the compound. More discoveries and more escapes followed until in 2002 she ran out of places to hide. Erioth was being ordered to trap her husband into returning to Uganda. Friends warned her she would be killed and organised for her to come to England.
After nearly 14 years living in the UK, Erioth was detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

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 Children & Social Work Bill – Victory against the government’s “opt out” clauses

When the Children & Social Work Bill went back to parliament for Report Stage, the government backed down on the clauses it had wanted which would have allowed local authorities to opt out of statutory child protection responsibilities!  As we said when we started campaigning against the Children & Social Work Bill last July, these measures had nothing to do with “innovation” as the government claimed, but would have been a huge incentive for greater privatisation of children’s services, leaving the most vulnerable and traumatised children even more unprotected from market forces.  At a time when more children are in care than any time in the past 30 years, and given how many inquiries are now going on into rape and other violent abuse of children in “care” (including forced removal to Australia and hidden graveyards in Ireland) this “opt out” had to be stopped.

 Determined opposition, including from mothers, grandmothers and families who kept up the pressure which won the victory when the House of Lords threw these clauses out and then tried to stop the government putting them back in, made all the difference.  Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children, did a great job in opposing the government in parliament.  We need more of it, including from those established children’s charities and voluntary sector, as well as professionals and academics, who were not prepared to speak out against privatisation.   Those of us determined to stop so many children being taken into care will not be silenced!

Important follow up to LAW’s Dossier

Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers

See news coverage and join rally
outside the family court on 8 March

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Launch of LAW’s Dossier, House of Commons, 18 January 2017

Since the successful launch in Parliament of Legal Action for Women’s (LAW) dossier Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers, there has been a breakthrough exchange in the Guardian and new developments on the Children and Social Work Bill.

Sandra Laville reporting on the Dossier, Rising adoptions penalise poor families but don’t cut numbers in care, says report, said that “The push to increase adoption in England is punishing low-income women, who are increasingly losing their children due to poverty . . .”

John Simmonds, Director of policy, research and development at the adoption agency CoramBAAF, wrote on the letters page, disputing “the data and data analysis at the heart of this set of findings”.

There were a number of responses to this, titled How poverty, care and adoption are related. They included Dr Andy Bilson, emeritus professor of social work quoted in the Dossier, who stated: “research shows that children living in the 10% of most deprived communities are almost 11 times more likely to be in care than in the least deprived communities.”

And Anne Neale and Nina Lopez, authors of the Dossier, who referenced the Children and Social Work Bill which “would extend . . . lucrative privatisation by removing statutory protection for children in care. The lifelong trauma of separation on children and their birth families is not considered. How is this cruelty in the best interest of children?”

See also the October 2016 letter from five women’s organisations, including LAW, which opposed not only the Bill’s ‘opt out’ clauses removing statutory protections, but the drive for adoption and privatisation: Family support at risk from children’s bill. And an interview with Anne Neale on London Live

Following widespread opposition, Prof Eileen Munro, the prominent adviser the government quoted to justify their clauses, has now come out against them, Government adviser walks away from child protection plans.

MP Emma Lewell-Buck, shadow minister for children and families, continues to lead opposition to the clauses and to the drive for adoption in the Commons. She spoke at the launch of our Dossier drawing on her own experience as a former social worker.

This will be followed by a Speak Out outside Parliament, 12-2pm, called by the Global Women’s Strike.

Please join us. These clauses must be defeated! Children must be protected from the profiteering of the private sector. Brutal, unjust separations must end!


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SUFFER the little CHILDREN & their MOTHERS A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers

By Anne Neale & Nina Lopez for Legal Action for Women

Download the dossier here.

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Interview with Anne Neale on London Live here.

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