Dear Friends,

Each year, as Christmas approaches, we ask our friends and supporters to kindly donate to an appeal for destitute women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), one of the organisations based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. We write now again to ask for your help.  

This year our struggle to make visible the extent and devastating impact of poverty on women and children has been helped by a UN Rapporteur whose scathing condemnation of the government’s “‘punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous’ austerity policies” was headline news. He reported that women had been targeted by the cuts and that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”. It was as if the welfare cuts had been designed by a “group of misogynists”, he said. 

AAWG members gave evidence including Trinity who was quoted in the press telling the Rapporteur that: “A lot of women are forced into poverty and into prostitution. I have been destitute and homeless from one place to another.” She added that she had survived an attempted rape from the husband of a friend she was staying with and “had boiling water poured on her when she resisted.” She and her child eat from food banks and “everything I’m wearing, apart from my hair, is from jumble sales“.

As we prepared this appeal, another member asked for her experience to be included:

I live on £32 [asylum support payments] which I get from the Post Office each week. My asylum claim was refused but I can’t go back because I will be killed. I now live with a woman who gave me some kind words when she saw me upset at a bus stop. Her children love me and I take care of them. My room in her house is so small it only fits a bed and my bag. I only eat the most basic cornmeal; I haven’t bought clothes for myself for nearly 10 years.”

At the last AAWG meeting women commended Trinity and other women for their bravery in speaking publicly about deeply humiliating experiences and commented that the strength of AAWG was one reason that despite all she recounted Trinity was able to describe herself and others like her as “survivors”.

Each AAWG meeting reveals victories – both large and small. Women also attend work sessions and learn, firstly from each other, how to summarise their case and the injustices they have suffered. They then use that summary to find a lawyer, ask their doctor for assistance or find backing from others to pursue their claim or get it back on track. This is anti-poverty, anti-destitution work.

The loudest cheer is always when women, finally, win their status and can go on to work and/or receive welfare benefits, and/or be reunited with their children. But getting there usually takes years, and during that time many women are denied all support. They are left destitute, dependent on the compassion and indignation of others to survive and pursue their rights.

We understand that the people we are asking for money, are also struggling financially and may also be living in poverty.  We ask you to give whatever you can manage to help women get through the holiday period when they can’t come as regularly to the Women’s Centre for food, warmth and support.

Legal Action for Women works closely with the All African Women’s Group to distribute the money. We aim to ensure that women get the equivalent of one week’s mainstream benefits, including the amounts for children where applicable.  There are no administration costs. Every penny raised will go to women and children and even a little bit can make an enormous difference.

How to donate:

1.    Click here to donate to the Asylum Appeal administered on our behalf by the charity Crossroads Women – please specify “Asylum Appeal” in the message box.  All donations can be gift-aided.

2.    Money transfer to our account: Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number 50728361, sort code 086001. If possible, please send an email to to let us know.

3.    By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the “Asylum Appeal” and send to Crossroads Women’s Centre 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated.  They can be delivered any weekday before 16 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town. 

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Seminar: DO NO HARM

6-8pm Tues 11 September House of Commons, Westminster, Committee Room 14   All welcome


A seminar to gather evidence of the significant harm caused to children by separating them from their mothers and families, and which families are targeted for child removal and forced adoption.

Hosted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP

Organised by Legal Action for Women

Speakers so far:

Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire – new research into rising levels of investigation of families by social services and of children taken ‘into care’

Victoria Childs, Psychotherapy and Counsellors Union – the (lifelong) impact of separation from birth families

Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children & Families

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape – separation can be worse than witnessing domestic violence: a New York court ruling

Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women, Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers – updated findings from the past year’s self-help case work

SHODA RACKAL, Breastfeeding Peer Supporter – protecting the bond between mother and child

Jean Robinson, Association for Improvement in the Maternity Services – the threat of having children taken stops mothers accessing services

A mother who kept her child, a mother who got her child back, and a grandmother whose grandchild was forcibly adopted.

Contact:   020 7482 2496

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If you are contacting LAW about a family matter:

Thank you for contacting us.

Over the summer holiday we are not available as usual, so we hope the information here will be helpful.

We will get back to you at the beginning of September.

For our Self-help Guide to the family court please see here.

If your case is urgent, please contact your nearest Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau and see if they can help. There is general information about the family court process here.

If you are involved with Social Services in a public law case please contact theFamily Rights Group – they have a phone help-line and information online.

If you are in London, the Personal Support Unit at the Central Family Court can help you with understanding the court process and filling in forms, but NOT legal advice.   You can call 0207421 8534/3 to make an appointment to see an advisor.   There is also an advice service at the Royal Courts of Justice.   You can apply to the Bar Pro Bono Unit for a barrister to represent you (they need at least 3 weeks notice of a hearing).

Our next self-help meeting for mothers/primary carers will be in September – please send an email and we’ll get back to you.   If you haven’t been before, in preparation for the meeting, please answer the questions on our website and send them back to us so we will have a better idea of what help you need.

Our next picket of the Central Family Court is on Wednesday 5 September from 12.30 – 1.30pm.  Everyone is welcome.

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If you are contacting LAW about a family matter:

Thank you for contacting us.

Our next picket of the Central Family Court is on Wednesday 5 September 2018, 12.30 – 1.30pm.

If you want to attend our next self help meeting for mothers/primary carers please send an email and we’ll get back to you.  If you haven’t been before please answer the questions here Link, and email them back to us.

Please see our Self-Help guide here.

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Statement against the Family Returns Process. 

We are the All African Women’s Group. Many of us have been in detention. We know the terrible impact it has. Women are on hunger strike right now against the torture of detention. We want an end to detention, but we do not want a worse alternative. We object particularly to the Family Returns Process.

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Women for Refugee Women (WfRW) are saying that the Family Returns Process (FRP) should be extended to all asylum seekers. Their report The Way Ahead(2017) describes FRP as an “Area of Success to Build on in the UK”. Interviewed on Woman’s Hour last week their spokeswoman said: “We now have this process called the Family Return Process which supports families with children under 18 to stay in the community up to the point they actually leave the UK, so yes there needs to be a system but that system doesn’t need to include detention.”

WfRW are having a lobby of parliament on 8 March and we are worried that the Family Returns Process will be put forward to members of parliament as what women asylum seekers want.

We are against the Family Returns Process because its main focus is to deport us. It coins the words “support” and “engagement” as a cover for enforced removals. We do not accept that people should have to go back.

A report of the FRP says: “While some organisations believe families who want to stay here should never be returned home, they are few in number.” We are not few in number and our voices should be heard because we know best what horrors we face on return. We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK.

What we need are committed reliable lawyers to help us with our cases to overcome the terrible injustice we face. Most of the time when we make an application to the Home Office we are disbelieved, no matter what we say and what evidence we have. We want help enforcing our rights to be treated fairly as victims of rape and other torture and as vulnerable people. The Home Office has absolutely no interest in justice.

The FRP has four stages:

1.    ‘Family return conference’ to discuss any barriers to return.

2.    ‘Family departure meeting’ to discuss the family’s views about their options.

3.    ‘Required return’ where the family make their own way to the airport.

4.    ‘Ensured return’ reviewed by an “Independent Family Returns Panel”.

THIS PANEL IS NOT INDEPENDENT – it is funded by the Home Office. As a last resort detention for up to a week and enforced return is used.

The FRP says children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention”. Guidelines for restraining children are based on those used in secure units which include “the deliberate infliction of pain”.

The FRP report slanders mothers and accuses them of child abuse for not agreeing to enforced return: “Children have been subjected to unacceptable pressure from parents not to co-operate with Home Office officials and where such cases occur it is a form of child abuse.” How many children have been and will be taken from their parents with this excuse?

The FRP also slanders lawyers saying that “legal representatives lodge legal objections to removal at the last minute in order, it seems, to frustrate the process.” How dare they say that. We are women who have suffered rape and other torture and the Home Office makes it as difficult as possible for our case to be heard. Legal aid cuts have made it almost impossible to find reliable lawyers to help us. When we have the good fortune to find a lawyer to intervene they accuse us of abusing the system – not that the system abuses us.


·        An end to detention and the immediate release of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people. Meet the hunger strikers demands.

·        Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure people get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.

·        No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.

Signed: All African Women’s Group (80 members)

Supported byBlack Women’s Rape Action Project; Brighton Anti-Raids Network; Brighton Migrant Solidarity; Brighton Plan C; Demilitarise King’s, Detained Voices; End Deportations; Jollof Café (Brighton); KCL Action Palestine, Legal Action for Women; RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research); Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group; Women Against Rape;Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike;  North East London Migrant Action (NELMA); SOAS Detainee Support (SDS); Lesbian and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM);London Catholic Worker; Leeds No Borders; Boabab Women’s Project  Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London

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Support not Separation aims

SnS aims 2017 Final

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Dear All,

We hope you will join us outside Parliament on 8 March to put the Family Courts on Trial – all are welcome.

Please note this means that on Wednesday 7 March we will NOT be outside the central family court in Holborn for our monthly picket.

(Next picket outside the central family court will be Wednesday 5 September 2018.)

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Evidence by Legal Action for Women to the Care Crisis Review being conducted by the Family Rights Group.  For full evidence see here


Our evidence is based on collective self-help and campaigning.  We run monthly self-help meetings where mothers share their experiences and a number of organisations contribute their expertise. They are: All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, English Collective of Prostitutes, Global Women’s Strike and Women of Colour GWS, Single Mothers Self Defence, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Women Against Rape and Payday men’s network.

Legal Action for Women co-ordinates the Support not Separation Coalition whose members so far are: Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services; Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Centre for Social Work Practice; Global Women’s Strike; Lactation Consultants of Great Britain; Milk of Human Kindness; Movement for an Adoption Apology; Psychotherapy and Counselling Union; Scottish Kinship Care Alliance; Single Mothers’ Self-Defence; WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities); Women Against Rape; former social workers, teachers and other professionals.

 In our experience, the main reasons for the increase of children being taken into care are:

– Devaluing of the bond between mother and child.

 – Increased poverty as a result of “austerity” cuts particularly affecting single mothers, leading to wrongful accusations of “neglect”.

 – Victims of rape and domestic violence being held responsible for causing their children “emotional harm.

– Men’s “right” to their children being prioritised over women and children’s right to protection from violence.

– Bias against mothers/families who are poor, working class, of colour, have disabilities and/or mental health problems . . . resulting in sexist, racist and anti-working class assumptions/judgements/prejudices by social workers, children’s guardians and psychologists as well as family court judges.

– Refusal by local authorities and professionals to prioritise support for vulnerable families (e.g. not using powers under S17 of the 1989 Children Act and the Care Act to provide financial or other support to enable families to stay together).

– Promotion of adoption as the “gold standard”.

– Privatisation of children’s services so that taking children into care has become a highly profitable business.

– Secrecy of the family courts so that local authorities, professionals and judges are not held publicly accountable for decisions they make and mothers/families are prevented from going public with what has happened to them and seeking support.

– Denial of legal aid as well as poor legal advice.


The FRG is now circulating two surveys, one for parents whose children have been taken awayand one for those working in this field, whether as professionals or voluntary groups like ours.  The surveys have to be done online, and the deadline for responding is midnight on Sunday 11 February.

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Evidence to Family Rights Group Care Crisis Review Submitted by Legal Action for Women, January 2018 here:     FRGevidenceLegalActionforWomen (2)

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Protest outside family court first Wednesday of every month.


London court  First Avenue Hse, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1V 6NP

Brighton court  1 Edward St, BN2 0JD


Mothers and other carers protest outside Holborn and Brighton family court against the increasing numbers of children taken into care, court secrecy, cuts to legal aid for family cases, forced adoptions, mothers’ and children’s poverty and destitution, sexism, racism and other bias. Join us.


Contact: Legal Action for Women

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence


  • An end to sexist judgements which deny the bond between mother and child, and downgrade the crimes of violent fathers.
  • Fathers who are violent should not have unsupervised contact.
  • An end to the secrecy of the family courts; there must be public scrutiny.
  • Legal aid for all family court matters; no mother should have to represent herself.
  • An end to institutional discrimination on grounds of income, race, nationality, disability, religious affiliation and/or occupation.
  • An end to forced adoptions.
  • Courts and social services must prioritise keeping children with their mother or other primary carer wherever possible. The state must support mothers doing their best for their children.


  • 80% of UK women are mothers. Women are primary carers in 90% of households.
  • 28% of children live in poverty
  • There are more children “in care” now than at any time since 1985
  • Children from poor areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care than those in rich areas
  • Domestic abuse features in 70-90% of cases in the family courts yet less than 1% of child contact applications are refused – violent fathers who request contact nearly always get it.
  • One in five children are now referred to children’s services yet the proportion of identified cases of abuse by parents has dropped from 24% to under 8%.
  • Adoptions are at their highest point since complete data collection started: 90% of adoptions are without parental consent.
 image005 Suffer the little Children & their Mothers: A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers is available at

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