Guardian article: Children unnecessarily removed from parents, report claims

Dossier indicates drive to increase adoptions is punitive for low-income families and alternatives exist

The research found a 65% rise in the number of children that are separated from their parents since 2001.

The research found a 65% rise in the number of children that are separated from their parents since 2001. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The push to increase adoption in England is punishing low-income women, who are increasingly losing their children due to poverty, according to research by Legal Action for Women.

A report to be presented at the House of Commons on Wednesday contains new research from the legal service and campaign group, which suggests the policy of increasing adoption has not reduced the number of children in care – as it was intended to – but has increased the number of those separated from their parents.

Dr Andy Bilson, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Lancashire, has been analysing the data gathered between 31 March 2001 and 2016. He found the number of children from care living with adopted parents or special guardians, has increased from 87,090 to 143,440 – a rise of 65%.

His research found adoptions have risen by 40% over the past five years, compared with the five previous years, but over the same period the number of children in care rose by 7.5% to 70,440.

“This is very unlikely to be due to an increase in abuse,” said Bilson. “The vast majority of this is about neglect or emotional abuse, often through witnessing domestic violence.

“Both of these can be better dealt with through family support and responses to poverty and deprivation. We are more willing to spend money on someone else looking after these children than in making sure the parents make a good job of it.”

Bilson’s research is part of the dossier of evidence collected by Legal Action for Women to be presented at the House of Commons on Wednesday. The report, Suffer the Little Children, examines what the group calls “the unjust separation of children from their mothers.”

It finds the number of looked-after children in England is the highest it has been since 1985; one in five children under five are referred to childrens’ services, one in 19 are investigated and adoptions are higher than in any other European country, and now stand at the highest level since data was first collected. More than 90% of adoptions are done without the consent of the family, the report states.

The report examined the cases of 56 women, all of whom came for help to fight for their children. Between them the women had 101 children; 71% of the women had suffered rape and/or domestic violence, 47% did not have a lawyer and 39% had mental health problems.

Anne Neale, one of the report’s authors, said: “Charges of neglect are used to punish, especially single-mother families, for their unbearably low incomes.

“The fundamental relationship between mother and child is dismissed as irrelevant to a child’s wellbeing and development, and the trauma of separation, and its lifelong consequences, are ignored.

“Mothers who are victims of domestic violence are refused help, blamed for ‘failing to protect’ their children, and punished with their removal.”

The report highlights the secrecy of family courts, where adoption decisions are made in private hearings, in which mothers are prevented by law from talking about the loss of their children.

Donna Clarke, whose granddaughter was taken from her teenage mother and handed to adoptive parents, will speak on Wednesday at the launch. She said families were being punished for living in poverty. “It is a form of social cleansing,” she said. “Vulnerable people are having their children taken away. It is all about them judging the risk of significant harm but if they spent the money on putting in the support that was needed many of these families would be able to keep their children.”

Clarke’s granddaughter was adopted when she was 13-months-old after spending the first five months with her biological mother, a teenager with learning difficulties. The baby was sent to a foster parent at five months while adoption proceedings got underway. The baby’s grandparents asked to be considered but none were deemed suitable and the child was given to new adoptive parents.

Clarke is able to write and receive two letters a year from the adoptive parents to keep in touch with her granddaughter. Her son – the baby’s father – and the baby’s mother, have gone on to have other children whom they are successfully caring for.

The drive to increase adoptions began under Tony Blair’s government in an attempt to reduce the numbers of children in long-term care. It was continued under David Cameron, who said that the children and social work bill – currently in parliament – was designed to “tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption where that is the right thing for the child – even when that means overriding family ties.”

In a 2013 high court ruling, Sir James Munby, the president of the high court family division, said the political drive to hasten and increase adoption should not override due process and break up families unnecessarily.

 

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UPDATE on CHILDREN & SOCIAL WORK BILL

Dec: Labour MPs oppose push for adoption.

Jan: Opposing privatisation – write & call MPs.

Launch of our evidence – Wed 18 Jan

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings for the holiday and the New Year!  SOME GOOD NEWS in these troubled times:

At the CSW Bill Committee meeting last Thursday, Labour MP for South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, put forward our proposed amendment to DELETE CLAUSE 9from the Children & Social Work Bill. Drawing on our briefing, she made an excellent speech, opposing this clause on the grounds that it prioritises prospective adopters over relatives or other carers and could lead to children being prematurely placed with prospective adopters which could pre-judge the outcome of legal proceedings, causing unnecessary pain and distress to all concerned.

For the first time during the passage of this Bill, the devastating consequences of the push for adoption was highlighted. She attacked austerity and pointed to the latest research by Dr Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, which shows that prioritising adoption results in MORE, NOT FEWER, children taken into care, so that there are now more children in care than in the past 30 years, with shocking implications for their health and well-being.

The government minister defended Clause 9, saying that “Where the making of an adoption order is being considered, in most cases the child will already have been living with their prospective adopters for between six to 12 months.”   This confirms the inherent bias in favour of adoption and against a child being returned to their parents or other relatives.  We must continue to oppose it.  The Committee voted 8 to 5 against Mrs Lewell-Buck’s amendment (the government has a majority on the committee).  But the push for adoption, which has been policy for decades, was challenged for the first time and this is a significant victory for all of us.  See her speech below as reported in Hansard.

In JANUARY (Tues 10, Thur 12 and Tues 17), the Committee will discuss the government’s plan to allow local authorities to “OPT OUT” of their statutory duties, opening the way for PRIVATISING CHILD PROTECTION – profiteering from taking our children away from us.

It is urgent to make your voices heard against this.  Many mums and other carers have already written in to members of the Committee – one member told us privately she had been “bombarded” – but MORE IS NEEDED.  We need MPs to get many more letters from concerned mothers and other carers, social workers, and anyone who objects to this profiteering from our children’s pain and trauma.

We are continuing to press for a new clause demanding that SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN SHOULD INCLUDE SUPPORT FOR MOTHERS AND FAMILIES.

As we said to the MPs, 80% of women in the UK have children.  We do our best to support and protect them, often in difficult circumstances and with little or no help.  Many of us are struggling with benefit cuts and sanctions, zero hour contracts, cuts in wages and services, escalating rents . . .  The cost of looking after a child in care is estimated at £35,000 a year. Yet, children who have been in care are four times more likely to attempt suicide and experience mental health difficulties.  If that money was made available to impoverished mothers and families, many fewer children would be taken into care.  The Bill should include provisions to support loving mothers and families who are struggling so children can be spared the tragedy and trauma of separation.

Please see our evidence from five women’s organisations to the Committee with our objections.  Women Against Rape have also submitted evidence about victims of domestic violence and their children.

If you haven’t already, please write your own letters to MPs and make a submission to the Committee – see here for how to do it or phone the MPs offices if you are short of time.

Please do this early in the New Year, and NO LATER than Monday 9 January so the Committee hears your evidence when it starts meeting again.

Here is a list of the MPs on the Committee to email and/or call.  We suggest starting with Labour, the SNP and the MPs on the Committee.  Let us know what responses you get.  See our Model letter here.

STOP PRESS: 18 January 2017, 6pm, Committee Room 11, House of Commons –LAUNCH of Legal Action for Women’s Suffer the Little Children Dossier documenting cases of children unjustifiably separated from their mother or kinship carer, adopted by strangers, put into care or in the hands of violent fathers.

For more information contact: Anne Neale or Kim Sparrow

LAW@allwomencount.netSMSD@allwomencount.net

Tel: 0207 482 2496

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Children and Social Work Bill, Hansard (part) 15 December 2016

  • Clause 9: Adoption: duty to have regard to relationship with adopters

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck
We believe that clause 9 should be deleted from the Bill, because under its provisions prospective adopters could be prioritised over relatives or other carers. That completely contradicts the Children Act 1989. It could lead to children being prematurely placed with prospective adopters even before the conclusion of court proceedings, in order to build a relationship with prospective adopters that is then used to undermine the child’s prospect of going back to his or her birth family, extended family members or friends, who love the child and have been trying to do their best to keep them in their care.

A premature placement with prospective adopters could prejudge the outcome of legal proceedings, causing unnecessary pain and distress to all concerned. It diminishes a child’s right to a family life, risks the early separation ​of siblings, and inflicts trauma and grief on children and their primary carer, who more often than not is their mother, as well as on other loving family members, especially grandparents.

The clause is a prime example of the Government’s obsession with adoption to the detriment of all other forms of care. The time and money that the Department has spent on adoption is staggering, with more than 20 policy changes since 2010. Back in 2012, the former Education Secretary, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), said:

“I firmly believe more children should be taken into care more quickly…I want social workers to be more assertive with dysfunctional parents, courts to be less indulgent of poor parents, and the care system to expand to deal with the consequences.”

And Lord Nash said in the other place, in the proceedings on this Bill, that

“the Government are strongly pro-adoption.”— [Official Report, House of Lords, 14 June 2016; Vol. 773, c. 1114.]

What the Government should be doing is strongly advocating whatever care is right for each and every individual child, and not what they believe is right.

·        Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)

Does the hon. Lady acknowledge that the evidence shows that long-term stability is obviously important, and that part of that includes the option of adopting? It is not just adoption that is being promoted; that is but one string to the bow for the Government’s weaponry, if you like, although “weaponry” is the wrong word. Can she not see that adoption is just one part of the Government’s approach—albeit an important part—and that evidence also supports this approach?

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. However, the clause singles out adoption for special attention; the issue needs to be looked at in the wider context of overall Government policy relating to children in care and plans for permanence.

·        Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)

The Government probably have the right intention in trying to put the emphasis on the permanence of arrangements for children, but the point my hon. Friend is making about the singling out of adoption is that adoption has a history, which is also negative.

Anyone who has read the book about Philomena Lee’s experience or seen the recent film of it will know how adoption can be misused, and there is a history to adoption in this country that is not always positive. When we consider the issue of adoption, we should always think about the best interests of the child and not risking lapsing back into bad old habits and bad old days, when adoption was misused and abused in this country.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

My hon. Friend is right—adoption should not be the only option for a child. It is lazy to think that. That approach does not take into account all the other options that are there and that are in the best interests of the child.

·        Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con)

To the best of my memory, “Philomena” is a film set in the 1950s in the Republic of Ireland, so it has nothing to do with the ​Government of the United Kingdom. If the hon. Lady is really suggesting that her opposition to the clause should be based on the adoption policies of the Republic in the 1950s, parents interested in adoption may look rather askance at that.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

I think I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. However, I will not dwell on the point, because I think he has missed the context of what we are trying to describe here.

·        Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend agree that our concerns are based not on the history of adoption in the 1950s but on the discriminatory application of adoption proceedings, which often means that children from poorer families and certain ethnic groups and cultures are more likely to go through the adoption process more speedily? If the clause is not removed, it will make that even more likely.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

If the Department had spent this much energy on social worker recruitment and retention and invested in family support and early-years help, we might not be where we are now, with the highest number of children in care since 1985.

The Professional Association for Children’s Guardians, Family Court Advisers and Independent Social Workers commented on the Department for Education’s adoption policy paper this year. It said:

“We note the Policy Paper does not address how to prevent children entering the care and adoption systems in the first place…We are concerned that despite the intention to ‘strengthen families’, no more is said on this point and that there is no discussion of support for disadvantaged families despite the worrying increase in the numbers of children subject to care proceedings.”

·        Edward Timpson

Will the hon. Lady accept that the adoption paper is about adoption, and that there is another Government paper—we have referred to it previously in Committee—called “Putting children first”, which deals with all children who are going through the care system? It is not unusual for a Government to put forward different policy papers that cover different policy areas.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

I completely agree, but if the Minister lets me continue with my point, he will see where I am going with this.

The professional association continues:

“The scale of reduced spending on early intervention in children’s services and the way this leads to greater costs elsewhere is well analysed”

in a number of reports.

“The key point…is that by significantly reducing early preventive work, more public money has to be spent on costly proceedings, foster care, mental health provision, adoption agencies and so forth, which potentially could be avoided by better focused spending at an earlier stage…We strongly warn against an ‘evangelical approach’ to adoption, whereby it is perceived as a good in itself. This perception is contrary to the majority view of European and western thought and jurisprudence, and it fails to appreciate it represents a serious and draconian step and a measure to be considered only ‘when nothing else will do’…We strongly advise against performance indicators that positively promote an increase in adoptions as these inevitably lead to a distortion of professional activity in favour of adoption at the expense of other choices”.

·        Steve McCabe

The Minister pointed out that there has in the past been a misuse of special guardianship orders—they were used in a way that was never intended, and the Government acted to address that. Does my hon. Friend feel that it would further the Government’s intentions for the clause if the Minister assured us that he planned to give clear guidance to local authorities stating that the evidence presented to the court on the relationship with the prospective adoptive parents and all other options must be absolutely balanced? In that way, we would not be in danger of thinking that one measure was being inadvertently promoted above another.

  • The Chair

Order. Before I call the hon. Lady to respond to that remark, may I draw her attention to the fact that this is a very narrowly worded clause about the duty to have regard to the relationship with adopters during the adoption process? I encourage her not to range too freely about why adoption is not necessarily a good thing.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

Thank you for that advice, Mrs Main. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. If the Minister can allay my hon. Friend’s concerns in his comments, we may not have to press the amendment to a vote.

The professional association states that “further tinkering with” the Children Act 1989

“could be unwise and the thin end of the wedge of social engineering.”

More children are adopted in the UK than in any other European country, and 90% of adoptions are without parental consent. One of the major arguments put forward for speeding up adoptions is that it would reduce the number of children in care, but the opposite has been the case. Dr Bilson, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Central Lancashire, has found that adoption policies, rather than reducing the number of children in care, have led to a 65% increase in the number of children being separated from their parents. He feels that that is unlikely to be due to an increase in abuse, because child protection findings of physical and sexual abuse have fallen since 2001, yet child protection plans have increased since 2010.

The majority of such plans are about neglect or emotional abuse, both of which could be better dealt with through family support and responses to poverty and deprivation, which lead to children being over 10 times more likely to be in care or on a child protection plan. Dr Bilson’s research shows that over the past five years, the local authorities with the highest adoption rates also have the largest increases in the number of children in care. In those local authorities with the lowest rates of adoption, the number of children in care had fallen. In other words, prioritising adoption results in more children, not fewer, being taken into care.

11.45 am

For some children adoption is the best outcome, but the policy of adoption above all else works on the premise that children will be better off with wealthier parents, rather than on the premise of making all efforts to let them remain with their birth families. Putting the work in to keep children at home is hard social work. It costs time and energy, but in the long run it is worth it if it benefits the child.

Women Against Rape has highlighted that children are increasingly being removed from mothers who are victims of violence. Rather than providing them with the protection, resources and support they need to enable them to rebuild their lives safely, they are accused of failing to protect their children and often end up losing them as a result. Domestic violence is now a more common reason for the state removing children than mental illness or drug and alcohol misuse. Professor June Thoburn said:

“In many other EU countries, it is much easier for families to access support if they need help. Great emphasis is placed on helping families to care for children safely at home and maintaining family links if in care. But in “austerity” England, family support services are closing, thresholds are high, and social work is being defined as a narrow child protection service.”

In January, the Council of Europe highlighted the impact of austerity cuts on social services. In particular, it criticised England for its child protection focus and the removal of children who have been subject to domestic abuse, particularly in the context of policies promoting non-consensual adoption.

  • The Chair

Order. The hon. Lady is ranging widely off clause 9, which is titled “Adoption: duty to have regard to relationship with adopters”. I ask her to bring her comments back to that. I have allowed quite a lot of latitude.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

Thank you, Mrs Main. I will of course sum up very quickly.

The damage caused by the adoption targets is not being considered in the Bill, but it must be. Evidence reported just this week by The Guardian shows that local authorities are using targets, sometimes combined with financial incentives. It is worth remembering that adoption is far cheaper for councils than foster placements, because once a child is adopted, they are off the council’s books for good. Adoption is also cheaper than providing services that might ensure that vulnerable parents can care for their children, but what of the money being saved? What about the lives of those destroyed by the separation?

The Bill is concerned in part with improving the situation of care leavers, which is important, but we make a mistake if we focus on their needs without considering why so many children are being taken into care and what we can do to reduce that. It cannot be right that we are talking about resources for corporate parents while saying nothing about resources for children and families who have been impoverished by austerity policies. The Government need to take a serious look at the patterns and trends in child protection, adoption and fostering, but instead they have continued on this damaging path of pro-adoption, and they are using a small clause in the Bill to strengthen that further. I hope the Minister will explain in his response why, despite evidence to the contrary, they are continuing on that path.

·        Edward Timpson

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her contribution to the consideration of the clause. Mindful of the narrow nature of the clause, I say from the outset that the Government have always been clear that the right permanence option— whether that is adoption, special guardianship, kinship care, residential ​care or even long-term fostering—will always depend on a child’s individual needs and circumstances. As the law clearly states, the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration, and that is as it should be. That is why I have to say to her that it is a little depressing to see the same arguments and rhetoric on the Government’s plans for children in care, saying that we only have eyes for adoption. That is simply not borne out by the facts.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

Will the Minister give way?

·        Edward Timpson

Perhaps the hon. Lady will let me explain. This Government introduced the first ever legal definition of long-term fostering; none existed previously. We brought in quality standards on residential care a number of years ago, and 79% of children’s care homes are now rated good or outstanding. The hon. Lady has already alluded to the work that we do with care leavers to make sure that during the period when they leave care they have much better support.

What we are trying to do with adoption, however, is tackle two issues, which Tony Blair tried to tackle in the late 1990s and early 2000s—not in the way he did it, which was by setting national targets, but by ensuring that when adoption is right for children they can be adopted and by making sure that when that happens it is without unnecessary delay. I do not think that anyone would argue it is acceptable for children to have to wait an average of 26 months from the time of entering care to move to an adoptive placement.

Those are the issues we have been tackling. What we are doing is not based on an ideological fantasy. We know from the research of Professor Julie Selwyn that adoption has a huge number of benefits for the children it is right for. It has the lowest breakdown rate of any permanent placement—about 3%, with special guardianship orders at about 6%. I have seen from my family the huge benefits that adoption can bring, but I have also seen from my family the huge benefits that long-term fostering can bring. I know from personal experience that each child will need to follow a different path.

What we are doing is not a mission to try to ensure that every child who comes into the care system ends up being adopted; we are trying to stay clearly focused on making sure that, where it is right for a child, that is exactly what happens. In the past couple of years, on the back of the Re B-S judgment, there has been a fall in the number of adoptions, not a rise. That is because we have to face up to the fact that there are still people who believe that adoption is not the right course of action for children. I am saying that we should not stand in the way in cases where it is right for them.

·        Mrs Lewell-Buck

Would the Minister share something with the Committee, to support his argument? His Department has made 20-plus changes to adoption since 2010; how many changes has he made to other areas of care, and what is the comparative cost? If adoption is not seen as the gold standard, surely other areas of care will have the same number of policy changes and the same spending.

·        Edward Timpson

I am afraid I disagree with the hon. Lady’s premise. It is not the number of things that are done, but whether the things that are done have a discernible impact of the kind that we want, and achieve ​the outcomes that we want to be able to celebrate. I do not accept that the amount of activity created is directly comparable to commitment or achievement of objectives.

I want to make it clear that local authorities’ decisions on the most appropriate permanency option are based on the child’s needs. That is what the law says. That is what the Bill does in making sure that those needs are given full and thorough attention when courts consider not just adoption but all permanent options. Clause 9 will ensure that courts and adoption agencies consider the relationship between a child and their prospective adopters when deciding about the adoption of a child in cases where the child is already placed with the prospective adopters.

That is an important point. It is not a matter of children who have no relationship with the prospective adopters, and have not met them or had time to get to know them. It is about those who are already placed, where there is already a relationship. The relationship between a prospective adopter and a child placed with them will clearly be a fundamentally important and relevant consideration when a court considers whether an adoption should be granted, because, ultimately, it is a court’s decision, based on the best interest of the child, and with their welfare as the paramount consideration.

In the past two years there have been a small number of cases in which decisions have been taken to remove children from settled adoptive placements in favour of alternative arrangements with relatives who have come forward at a late stage. That may have potentially serious implications for the child, given the disruption to the attachments the child is likely to have already formed with their carers. That needs to be taken into account when making that final decision.

Where the making of an adoption order is being considered, in most cases the child will already have been living with their prospective adopters for between six to 12 months. During that time, the prospective adopters and the child will have established a relationship, and the child may have built a significant attachment to their carers. I have met adopters who have told me just that. The Government believe it is important that that attachment should be considered in the balance when final decisions are made about a child’s adoption.

That is not to say that prospective adopters are prioritised over birth parents or other family members in those considerations. The existing legislation already makes it clear that the court is also required to consider the relationship that the child has with their relatives, including their mother and father, and the relationship they have with any other person the court considers relevant, such as close friends or wider family. That express and mandatory requirement is not changing, so there is no hierarchy here—just a fair, balanced consideration of each of the significant relationships a child has, based on their own needs.

I also point out that the court is required to consider the wishes and feelings of family members when making an adoption decision. In addition, the court must consider the value to the child of the continuing relationship with their relatives. That is already clearly set out in the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which was introduced by the last Labour Government, so relationships with the birth family and the child’s relatives are therefore central to the court’s considerations.

·        Steve McCabe

The Minister was talking earlier about the drop in the number of adoptions. One of the factors for that may have been that local authority departments misinterpreted the court rulings as advice to slow down the number of adoptions. They are easily influenced by such things. Is it the Minister’s intention to offer some guidance to local authorities in the terms he has just stated, so that it is absolutely clear to them what their responsibilities are and what the intentions of clause 9 are, and how that has to be weighed against all of the other considerations he has just referred to?

·        Edward Timpson

I am happy to look again at what the guidance might say and what might be appropriate to reflect the change in the law in this small area. The primary legislation that is relevant to these cases is clear. I am on the record, not only in this Committee but on previous occasions, making it clear that it has to be a decision based on that child’s needs, taking into account all of the usual factors set out in the welfare checklist and so on. I am happy to look at that. On that basis, I hope hon. Members feel reassured, and that the clause can stand part of the Bill.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Division 8

15 December 2016

The Committee divided:

Ayes: 8

Noes: 5

Question accordingly agreed to.

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MODEL LETTER to MPs re Children & Social Work Bill, Jan 2017.

Use your own experience and the points below to make your case.

Dear …MP,

I am (a mother/grandmother/dad/teacher/carer…) writing to raise my grave concerns about the Children and Social Work Bill with you as you are sitting on this Committee.

I am deeply worried about this Bill which aims to privatise child protection – a huge financial incentive for more working class children to be taken into care.  Under the Children Act, children and families have the fundamental right to have their feelings and wishes taken into account in decisions that affect them.  This is increasingly being ignored in favour of speedy adoptions.

The law says that: “No court should deprive a child of contact unless wholly satisfied that it is in the interests of the child that contact should cease and that is a conclusion at which a court should be extremely slow to arrive.”But instead the number of children in care continues to rise – over 70,000 children are being raised away from their families and communities.  This is shocking and not in children’s interest.

Families need urgent help and support so that children can remain with those who love them, not private companies profiteering from breaking up families causing lifelong trauma to both children and their mothers.

The cost of looking after a child in care is estimated at £35,000 a year so we know there is plenty of money for children.  Despite recent exposure of multi-national companies like Serco and G4S having to withdraw from providing children’s services because of dangerous and violent practices under their watch, the government is pushing hard for this legislation to be passed. They also know that children who have been in care are four times more likely to attempt suicide and experience mental health problems.  If money was made available to support impoverished mothers and families, many fewer children would be taken into care.

This Bill is being debated as the government lowers the benefit cap threatening the survival of tens of thousands of families; 500,000 children may be facing homelessness. Many families are struggling with benefit cuts and sanctions, zero hour contracts, cuts in wages and services, escalating rents and debt. The children in any family experiencing financial and other difficulties are vulnerable to being taken into care and put up for adoption as parents are accused of “neglect” if they are unable to keep a roof over their heads!

We ask MPs to defeat government attempts to privatise children’s services and to demand financial support to keep families together rather than spending millions tearing them apart. We ask MPs to defend children, the mothers and families who love them. There is condemnation of the ongoing trauma inflicted on children who were taken from their mothers in the 50s, 60s and 70s. But the same is happening now and will get much worse with this Bill. We hope that you will represent our concerns by opposing this Bill.

Your name, address etc

 

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STOP PRIVATISATION in CHILDREN & SOCIAL WORK BILL – CALL MPs now.

This bill is being discussed right now. It aims to privatise child protection services and speed up forced adoptions. Please write to the MPs on the Committee in the table below urgently with your objections.  See our briefing below.

There are already more than 70,000 children in care, the highest number for 30 years. We must stop more children from poor families being unjustly taken into care away from their mothers and communities. Labour is opposing the privatisation and we hope others will too.

This is a list of the MPs on the Committee to email and/or call. We suggest starting with Labour and the SNP.  Let us know what your responses you get.

Please share this on your facebook.

 

MP   Email Party Parliament office Constituency
Thangam Debbonaire thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk Lab  020 7219 0974 Bristol West0117 3790980
Kate Green kate.green.mp@parliament.uk Lab  020 7219 7162 Stretford and Urmston0161 749 9120
Emma Lewell-Buck emma.lewell-buck.mp@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 4468 South Sheilds0191 427 1240
Steve McCabe mccabes@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 3509 Selly Oak Bhm0121 443 3878
Tulip Siddiq tulip.siddiq.mp@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 6276 Kilburn
Phil Wilson phil.wilson.mp@parliament.uk  Lab 020 7219 4966 Sedgefield01325 321603
Stella Creasy stella.creasy.mp@parliament.uk Lab (co-op) 020 7219 6980 Walthamstow020 8521 1223
Marion Fellows marion.fellows.mp@parliament.uk SNP Wip  020 7219 5784  Motherwell and Wishaw01698 337191
Maria Caulfield maria.caulfield.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 5946 Lewes 
Suella Fernandes suella.fernandes.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 6504 Fareham 
Simon Hoare simon.hoare.mp@parliament.uk Con  020 7219 5697 N Dorset
Seema Kennedy seema.kennedy.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 4412 S Ribble
Anne Main maina@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8270 St Albans01727 825100
Huw Merriman huw.merriman.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8712 Bexhill on Sea & Battle01424 736861
Amanda Milling amanda.milling.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8356 Cannock Chase
Robert Syms symsmp.office@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 4601 Poole01202 739922
Edward Timpson timpsone@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8027 Crew01270 501725
Michael Tomlinson michael.tomlinson.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 5844 Mid Dorset 7 N Poole
Helen Whately helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 6472 Faversham & mid Kent 

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UPDATE 14 DEC: CHILDREN & SOCIAL WORK BILL

Dear Friends,

GOOD NEWS: Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck is putting forward our proposed amendment to DELETE Clause 9 from the Children & Social Work Bill!  She will be speaking on this at the Committee meeting TOMORROW THURSDAY 15 DEC at 11.30 am.  If you are in London and want to join us, please come to Committee Room 12 in the House of Commons by 11.30 prompt (allow 30 mins to go through security).  We want to be there to support Mrs Lewell-Buck when she speaks and to let MPs know how strongly opposed mothers and other carers are to the brutal and traumatic separation of children from their loving families.

We are delighted that we’ve finally got the issue of adoption to be discussed as part of this dangerous Bill, which not only aims to privatise child protection services but to speed up forced adoptions.   We are continuing to press for our proposal for a new clause for resources to try to stop so many children being taken into care.

Please see evidence from five women’s organisations to the Committee with our objections.  Women Against Rape have also submitted evidence about the situation faced by victims of domestic violence and their children.

If you haven’t already, please write your own letters to MPs and make a submission to the Committee – see here for how to do it or phone the MPs offices if you are short of time.  Please do this as soon as possible, ideally this week but before MPs break for Christmas (20 Dec) so they hear from you and get your evidence while the Committee is still meeting.

The Committee will meet again on Tuesday 10 January, Thursday 12 January and Tuesday 17 January.  We will be attending when we can so if you’d like to join us, let us know.

Here is a list of the MPs on the Committee to email and/or call. We suggest starting with Labour and the SNP.  Let us know what responses you get.  See our Model letter below.

Please share this on your facebook.

See MODEL LETTER in previous post.

 

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Submission to the Public Bill Committee on the Children and Social Work Bill

By Legal Action for Women (LAW) on behalf of LAW; Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP); Global Women’s Strike (GWS); Single Mothers’ Self-Defence (SMSD); Women Against Rape (WAR)                                                                                                       

12 December 2016

The following submission is being submitted on behalf of the five women’s organisations listed above based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, which for years now have been working with mothers whose children have been taken from their care, are under threat of being taken, or are fighting in the family courts to ensure they are protected from domestic or other violence. We focus on self-help and hold monthly meetings attended by mothers and other primary carers from different backgrounds and situations. Many have been victims of rape and/or domestic violence.

Summary

  1. We are opposed to New Clauses 2 and 3 (NC2, NC3) proposed by Edward Timpson, which re-introduce the Clauses removed by the House of Lords and allow local authorities to “opt out” of statutory child protection measures so that they could be outsourced and eventually “run for profit”.
  2. We propose a New Clause 8 which would ensure that resources were given to loving mothers whose impoverishment, age or inexperience has made them vulnerable to claims of ‘neglect’, thus enabling children to stay with their families and reducing the very high numbers currently being taken into care.
  3. We propose that Clause 9 is deleted, on the grounds that there should be no prioritising of adoption over resources to enable children to stay within or return to their families.
  4. We support amendments (18-25, 30) proposed by Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck.
  5. We support amendments 16 and 17 proposed by Stella Creasy, Caroline Lucas and Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck regarding unaccompanied refugee children.

1.1 We oppose: NC2/3 Power to test different ways of working.

1.2 We are extremely concerned that there must be no provision for local authorities to “opt out” of statutory child protection measures so that they could be outsourced and eventually run for profit. The clauses to privatise child protection services were thrown out in the Lords and we are outraged that they are being re-presented. They are opposed by families and social workers alike but our views have not been sought (there has been no consultation on this) and we have been ignored when we spoke out.

1.3 As we said in a letter to the Guardian (25 October), children in difficulty will be put on the market:

The national child abuse inquiry was set up in response to a massive survivors’ movement to examine how and why local authorities and others failed to protect children.
Even before it started, the government wanted to exempt these institutions from public scrutiny… removing statutory protections from the most vulnerable – children in custody and in care. Given the history, this amounts to a rapists’ charter.

1.4 While the government has denied that it aims to privatise child protection, the Children’s Social Care: increased capacity and diversity report published after a two-year delay by the Department for Education (DfE), provides clear evidence that the Bill’s opt out has nothing to do with ‘innovation’ as the government claims, but with lowering corporate liability: “The large, broadbased outsourcing companies we spoke with said they were highly averse to reputational risk and would be unlikely to be early entrants to this market. In order to address this, government would need to be clear about the levels of responsibility, liability and accountability they would require from companies taking on the delivery of children’s services.”

1.5 Private companies are behind this Bill. Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for children and families is among its chief promoters. She co-founded Morning Lane, a private company working with 25 local authorities. KPMG, which partners Morning Lane, has been awarded a £2m government contract. When questioned, Trowler dismissed it as ‘peanuts’. But the children’s social work budget is estimated at £6.5bn, and Credit Suisse and others are behind private companies like Frontline, which are already training social workers. The DfE has admitted that there were ‘errors’ in handling Trowler’s conflict of interest.

2.1 We propose New Clause 8 (insert after Clause 7)  

2.2 NC8: Local authorities must provide resources for preventive measures for children in need so taking children into care is not prioritised over meeting the child’s needs within the family. Central government must allocate sufficient resources to local authorities so that the measures provided in Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 result in practical support, including financial help, to children and their families. There must be regular monitoring of the process by which local authorities implement the full range of their responsibilities which aim to support families so that children can remain safely in their care, as outlined in Section 17. 

2.3 80% of women in the UK have children. We do our best to support and protect them, often in difficult circumstances and with little or no help. Many of us are struggling with benefit cuts and sanctions, zero hour contracts, cuts in wages and services, escalating rents . . .

2.4 The cost of looking after a child in care is estimated at £35,000 a year. If some of that money was made available to support impoverished mothers and families, many fewer children would be taken into care.

2.5 This should be a priority given that many children suffer greatly from having been in care. They are four times more likely to attempt suicide and experience mental health difficulties. They are also much more likely to have their children taken away when they become mothers, perpetuating a cycle of trauma and discrimination. Baroness Armstrong: Six out of 10 mothers who had children sequentially removed were teenagers when they had the first child. Of these, 40% were in care, or had been looked after in the care system, during their own childhood.

2.6 The law says that: No court should deprive a child of contact unless wholly satisfied that it is in the interests of the child that contact should cease and that is a conclusion at which a court should be extremely slow to arrive.” But instead the number of children in care continues to rise – over 70,000 children are being raised away from their families and communities. This is shocking and not in children’s interest. We find also that children’s wishes and feelings are often not taken into account, except in the most tokenistic way.

2.7  It is also assumed that care is safe for children but that is not necessarily the case. There are between 450 and 550 cases of proven abuse every year in foster care and between 250 and 300 cases of confirmed abuse a year in residential care with an average of two and three proven cases per 100 children. ‘More than two out of five foster carers in proven abuse cases had been subject to previous allegations – yet they were still caring for children.’ These are ‘proven’ cases, so the number of children abused in care is far greater given that most wouldn’t have reported or may have been disbelieved as recent scandals into child abuse have shown. In our experience many children are removed from their parents without just cause. There are many reasons for this: the lifelong consequences of separating children from their biological primary carer (usually the mother, often a single mother) and their family environment (other parent, siblings, grandparents) are not given the weight they deserve; the importance of bonding is disregarded despite overwhelming evidence; mothers are judged harshly and denied financial and other support which would enable the family to stay together; domestic violence victims are blamed for ‘failing to protect their children’ rather than given help; and the risk of children suffering abuse in care is not considered despite the many scandals showing that it is widespread. Increasingly children are taken not because they suffer ‘harm’ but because their birth family – usually a low income and/or teenage mother, or a mother with learning difficulties – is accused of ‘neglect’, a term open to interpretation and prejudice. In our experience, many are families of colour, immigrant and/or disabled, who are discriminated against on that basis too. In fact, figures show that children of colour are disproportionately taken into care.

2.8 There is another major reason: politicians continue to recommend that children should be taken away from mothers and families whose only ‘crime’ is to be young, poor, inexperienced and/or who have a disability or learning difficulty.

 

2.9 In 2012, then Education Minister Michael Gove said: I firmly believe more children should be taken into care more quickly . . . I want social workers to be more assertive with dysfunctional parents, courts to be less indulgent of poor parents, and the care system to expand to deal with the consequences.

 

2.10 While Gove is no longer in government, this Bill indicates that other ministers share these views. Despite the recent condemnation of religious institutions during the 40s, 50s and 60s forcing many thousands of teenage and single mothers to give up their children, politicians continue to recommend that children should be taken away from mothers and families whose only ‘crime’ is to be young and poor.

2.11 This Bill is being debated as the benefit cap is lowered. 116,000 families are threatened who may no longer be able to pay their rent, and 500,000 children could be affected. No one knows how many will then be taken into care or adopted as parents are accused of ‘neglect’ for no longer being able to keep a roof over their heads!

 

3.1 We oppose and want deleted: Clause 9 Adoption: duty to have regard to relationship with adopters.

3.2 Clause 9 could be used to prioritise PROSPECTIVE adopters over relatives or other carers. This contradicts the Children Act 1989. It could lead to children being prematurely placed with prospective adopters (even before the conclusion of court proceedings), in order to build a relationship with prospective adopters which is then used to undermine the child’s prospect of going back to her/his birth family and the prospect of mothers, grandmothers or other relative or friend who may have had difficulties but love the child and are struggling to keep the child in their care.

3.3 The government’s promotion of adoption as the ‘gold standard’ has led to more and more children being taken from their biological families often unjustly and at great cost to their safety and welfare. There are currently over 70,000 children in care, the highest figure since 1985.

3.4 In 2000 the British Association of Social Workers (BASWA) warned that having targets for adoption would result in children not returning to their birth families. Evidence shows this is happening. There has been a 34% increase in care applications in the last year. An analysis of government statistics by Professor Andy Bilson, University of Central Lancashire, shows that over the last five years (2011-12 to 2015-16) 22,580 children were adopted, a 40% increase over the previous five-year period. Despite the extra children adopted, the number of children in care went up by 5% to 70,440. The rate of children leaving care to adoption varies across the country from 30.5% in Bolton to under 3% in Kensington and Chelsea. Professor Bilson’s analysis shows that the third of local authorities with the highest adoption rates over the last five years had the largest increases in children in care whilst in the third with the lowest rate of adoption the number of children in care actually fell. In other words, prioritising adoption results in more, not fewer, children taken into care.

4.1 We support amendments 18-25 proposed by Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck which would strengthen the obligation on local authorities to take into account children’s wishes and feelings when making decisions about their lives.

4.2 We support amendment 30 proposed by Mrs Emma Lewell Buck which acknowledges that care leavers may have needs as young parents.

5.1 We support amendments 16 and 17 proposed by Stella Creasy, Caroline Lucas and Emma Lewell-Buck. It is urgent that unaccompanied refugee children receive the same statutory protections as all other children and that all legislative measures must accord with the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

ANNEXE 1

GRANDMOTHER AND TWO MOTHERS SPEAK OUT AGAINST FORCED ADOPTIONS

Danielle: My grand-daughter was forcibly adopted from her loving and supportive, vulnerable and poor family in the name of child protection, using the spurious charge of her being ‘at risk of significant harm’. They wanted my grand-daughter adopted at birth and took her mum to court just days after giving birth by caesarean.  The judge didn’t agree and said she could go to a Mother & Baby unit. But it was a horrible place where she was totally isolated: she was not allowed to see her family or me or my son; she wasn’t allowed to go out with the baby, and everything she did was monitored. But even so the baby was doing fine and developing normally and was a happy contented child.

She suffered serious trauma by being removed at five months from her birth mother to whom she was securely attached and in whose care she was thriving. Amazingly she managed to form a secure attachment to the foster mother who asked to be her special guardian and to bring her up maintaining direct contact with her birth family. But if the foster mum had adopted she would have had to stop fostering for a year which she couldn’t afford and social services wouldn’t put out any money to help her. So once again my grand-daughter suffered enormous trauma by being removed at 18 months and given to adoptive parents. She was not protected and instead suffered emotional harm at the hands of the social services.

Over 90% of children forcibly adopted come from families that are below the poverty line who are then placed in middle class families despite counter arguments that child abuse and neglect is not a class issue. But taking our children is a form of social cleansing.

Both my son and the baby’s mum have gone on to have other children who they are caring for successfully, after social services could find no reason to intervene. But it’s my grand-daughter who is growing up not knowing what a loving and caring family she was taken from – we are not allowed any contact with her.

Suzanne: I have two young children. Their father was violent, prone to drinking and angry outbursts. Once when he was attempting to rape me, I stabbed him with a pen in self-defence. Another time I ran out of the house to call 999 and left the children inside. The final straw came when he raped me and I reported it to the police. I took out a non-molestation order which he contested. The family court directed me to remain on good terms with the father in relation to his contact with the children, despite the seriousness of the situation. I tried to do as the court directed.

During the rape investigation, I took the children abroad to keep them safe but returned with them after social services pursued me via the high court. The children were then taken into care, and I was allowed supervised visits observed by social services. The rape investigation continued during this time and social services began proceedings to take the children away permanently, claiming that I was aggressive (because I had stabbed him with a pen), that I shouldn’t have left the children in the house with him while I called the police, and that I was ‘emotionally unstable’ (at the same time I was going through a rape investigation and trial). I was accused of being ‘un co-operative’ when I disagreed with social work reports.

My ex-partner was tried and convicted of rape and serious sexual assault in 2013 and sentenced to five years. My parents trained to be the children’s long-term foster carers and passed with flying colours, but a family court judge ruled in favour of adoption by strangers because the grandparents ‘wouldn’t be strong enough to cope with [my] demands’. The grounds for removing the children from me permanently included: ‘failing to protect’ my children from witnessing violence; anger issues, mostly based on my behaviour as a teenager many years before, and a personality disorder (which had been misdiagnosed 17 years previously, again, when I was a teenager); lies by social workers observing my visits.

I was recently diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, but I couldn’t find a lawyer to put this to the family court as new evidence, along with evidence about how much my circumstances have changed as a result of being free from the violent relationship. … Being on the autistic spectrum has left me at a disadvantage in navigating my way through social services and the family court system where my character and capabilities were completely misjudged and misunderstood. As a result, two much loved children are growing up with no contact with their mother or their grandparents, who had always been a big part of their lives.

Emily: I am a Black British woman. When I got pregnant, social services already knew about me because I had been a victim of rape when I was younger. I was diagnosed as having learning difficulties but I was given no support; I had no help from my family and the rapist was not pursued. The day after the baby was born, social services applied for a Care Order claiming the ‘child [was] not receiving care that would be reasonably expected from a parent, citing my ‘unidentified mental health’ and ‘minor learning difficulties’.

I had three independent reports contradicting the diagnosis of ‘global learning difficulties’ which social services used to put my baby up for adoption. The woman judge dismissed these and all the evidence I had showing I had successfully finished two parenting courses . . .I was really determined to do everything social services asked me to do, but they had already decided that I was an ‘unfit’ mother . . .

I eventually contacted Black Women’s Rape Action Project and they found me a new solicitor.  But social services had built an overwhelming case against me . . . I have never had the opportunity of looking after my baby and I am not allowed any contact with her.  All this has made me severely depressed.

Persons responsible for the submission:

Cristel Amiss (BWRAP bwrap@rapeaction.net)

Nicola Mann (WAR war@womenagainstrape.net)

Nina Lopez (GWS gws@globalwomenstrike.net)

Anne Neale (LAW law@allwomencount.net)

Kim Sparrow (SMSD smsd@allwomencount.net)

All can be contacted by phone on 020 7482 2496 and are based at the
Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

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CHILDREN & SOCIAL WORK BILL, MPs Committee meeting Tuesday 13 December

Dear Friends,

This bill is being discussed right now. It aims to privatise child protection services and speed up forced adoptions.  Please write to the MPs on the Committee urgently with your objections (list below).  See our Model letter below and briefing here.

There are already more than 70,000 children in care, the highest number for 30 years. We must stop more children from poor families being unjustly taken into care away from their mothers and communities. Labour is opposing the privatisation and we hope others will too.

This is a list of the MPs on the Committee to email and/or call. We suggest starting with Labour and the SNP.  Let us know what responses you get.

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MP   Email Party Parliament office Constituency
Thangam Debbonaire thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 0974 Bristol West

0117 3790980

Kate Green kate.green.mp@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 7162 Stretford & Urmston

0161 749 9120

Emma Lewell-Buck emma.lewell-buck.mp@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 4468 South Shields

0191 4271240

Steve McCabe mccabes@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 3509 Selly Oak Birmingham

0121 4433878

Tulip Siddiq tulip.siddiq.mp@parliament.uk Lab 020 7219 6276 Hampstead & Kilburn
Phil Wilson phil.wilson.mp@parliament.uk

 

Lab 020 7219 4966 Sedgefield

01325 321603

Stella Creasy stella.creasy.mp@parliament.uk Lab (Co-op) 020 7219 6980 Walthamstow

020 85211223

Marion Fellows marion.fellows.mp@parliament.uk SNP 020 7219 5784

 

Motherwell & Wishaw

01698 337191

Maria Caulfield maria.caulfield.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 5946 Lewes

 

Suella Fernandes suella.fernandes.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 6504 Fareham

 

Simon Hoare simon.hoare.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 5697 North Dorset
Seema Kennedy seema.kennedy.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 4412 S Ribble
Anne Main maina@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8270 St Albans

01727 825100

Huw Merriman huw.merriman.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8712 Bexhill on Sea & Battle

01424 736861

Amanda Milling amanda.milling.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8356 Cannock Chase
Robert Syms symsmp.office@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 4601 Poole

01202 739922

Edward Timpson timpsone@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 8027 Crew

01270 501725

Michael Tomlinson michael.tomlinson.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 5844 Mid Dorset 7 N Poole
Helen Whately helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk Con 020 7219 6472 Faversham & mid Kent

MODEL LETTER

use your own experience and the points below to make your case

Dear …MP,

MODEL LETTER for Children & Social Work Bill in Parliament on Tues 13 Dec

I am (a mother/grandmother/dad/teacher/carer…) writing to raise my grave concerns about the Children and Social Work Bill with you as you are sitting on this Committee.

I am deeply worried about this Bill which aims to privatise child protection – a huge financial incentive for more working class children to be taken into care.  Under the Children Act, children and families have the fundamental right to have their feelings and wishes taken into account in decisions that affect them.  This is increasingly being ignored in favour of speedy adoptions.

The law says that: No court should deprive a child of contact unless wholly satisfied that it is in the interests of the child that contact should cease and that is a conclusion at which a court should be extremely slow to arrive.” But instead the number of children in care continues to rise – over 70,000 children are being raised away from their families and communities.  This is shocking and not in children’s interest.

Families need urgent help and support so that children can remain with those who love them, not private companies profiteering from breaking up families causing lifelong trauma to both children and their mothers.

The cost of looking after a child in care is estimated at £35,000 a year so we know there is plenty of money for children.  Despite recent exposure of multi-national companies like Serco and G4S having to withdraw from providing children’s services because of dangerous and violent practices under their watch, the government is pushing hard for this legislation to be passed. They also know that children who have been in care are four times more likely to attempt suicide and experience mental health problems.  If money was made available to support impoverished mothers and families, many fewer children would be taken into care.

This Bill is being debated as the government lowers the benefit cap threatening the survival of tens of thousands of families; 500,000 children may be facing homelessness. Many families are struggling with benefit cuts and sanctions, zero hour contracts, cuts in wages and services, escalating rents and debt. The children in any family experiencing financial and other difficulties are vulnerable to being taken into care and put up for adoption as parents are accused of “neglect” if they are unable to keep a roof over their heads!

We ask MPs to defeat government attempts to privatise children’s services and to demand financial support to keep families together rather than spending millions tearing them apart. We ask MPs to defend children, the mothers and families who love them. There is condemnation of the ongoing trauma inflicted on children who were taken from their mothers in the 50s, 60s and 70s. But the same is happening now and will get much worse with this Bill. We hope that you will represent our concerns by opposing this Bill.

Your name, address etc

 

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Urgent Christmas appeal for women and children

 Xmas Appeal 2016

Dear Friends,

As Christmas and the school holidays are almost here, places for people, especially mothers and children, to get shelter, food and be safe and warm are becoming scarcer.

As many of you will know, each year Legal Action for Women organises a Christmas Appeal to help women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), the self-help group of women asylum seekers based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.  This year women and their children need our support more than ever.

AAWG fortnightly meetings have grown to over almost 80 women. Around a third are destitute without any income at all. Others are surviving on National Asylum Support System which amounts to half of the poverty-line benefits that others get. For example, a single woman gets just £36 a week (compared to £73.10 Job Seekerrs Allowance) and a mother and child get £73 a week (compared to £157.74). Money for the children of asylum seekers was cut by 30% in 2015.

Hearing what people are having to do to survive is heart-rending. Many women are living with other people and helping out in exchange for a roof over their head and food. One woman described how she has to be out in the cold all day and has no key so has to wait outside until the people she lives with come home. A few women have described being dependent on men who then expect sex in exchange. One woman was in tears as she described how she got no money for travel including to take her child to school. Any independent money women can get is a relief from this dependency which is why our Christmas appeal is so important.

You may know that food banks that are now used by 1,109,309 people a year (thousands of them children) only allow people to get food on six times within a year for themselves and their children. Some other drop-ins only pay £5 fare so if the actual fare is more than that, women can’t get there.  (Fares for the last AAWG fortnightly meeting came to over £800 and we raise money for that separately).

We appreciate that we are asking you to donate when many of you will be struggling with higher rents, food costs and energy bills, among other things. But the money we raise makes such a massive difference largely because we ensure that every penny goes directly to women in need. None of it is deducted for admin costs. Last year people were extremely generous and we were able to give 50 women a one-off payment which brought them up to the amount they would get in one week if they were on benefit. We always work together to distribute the money raised.  We are delighted to say that the private benefactor who matched what was raised last year, will do so again this year, doubling any donation you make.

We are soon launching an End Destitution, End Detention campaign which among other things will highlight how the government policy of destitution which started with people seeking asylum has now been extended to others, in the form of benefit sanctions. This searing injustice has been brought to public attention by the film I, Daniel Blake. We’ll be in touch about this soon.

Some women, despite living with trauma and surviving extreme poverty, have joined volunteer sessions to fight their own cases and help others. Women take calls from women in detention and provide support using LAW’s Self-Help Asylum Guide and other self-help tools developed with Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape.

This work, along with other campaigning, has resulted in some lovely victories — 23 women have won the right to stay including two victims of trafficking, 16 women have got out of detention and many have found lawyers to represent them – a scarce resource in these times of legal aid cuts.

We very much hope that you will be able to help and wish you the best for the holiday season,

Niki Adams

How to donate:

1.    Go to Crossroadswomen.net and click the donate button. Please add “Christmas Appeal” when asked for reference. The asylum appeal is administered on our behalf by the charity Crossroads Women.  All donations are gift-aided.

2.     Money transfer to our account: Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number 50728361, sort code 086001.  If donating online or direct into our account, we would appreciate an email to let us know.

3.     By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the Christmas Appeal.

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 17 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town (25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX).

Legal Action for Women   law@allwomencount.net
Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX Tel: 020 7482 2496

 

 

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New Law ‘Hands Poor Kids Over To Privateers’

Morning Star, Tuesday 6th December 2016

posted by Lamiat Sabin in Britain

Mothers warn that ministers are pushing to weaken protection for vulnerable children and allow security firms to take over care

MINISTERS are trying to scrap protections for vulnerable kids to allow private security firms to make a quick buck out of social care, concerned mums warned yesterday.

MPs were debating the Children and Social Work Bill last night, with the government pushing to reintroduce sections weakening English councils’ legal obligations.

Ahead of the vote on the second reading, due after the Star went to press, Crossroads Women’s Centre’s Kim Sparrow warned that reinstating the “innovation” clause could push social care into the hands of privateers.

Single mums from the north London community centre warned that the Bill reflects the government’s determination to privatise child protection and will result in more children being taken from their biological families at great cost to their safety and welfare.

Clause 29, which was chucked out by peers, would have allowed councils to apply for exemptions from children’s social care law to “test new ways of working” by opting out of their statutory duties.

Opponents, including Labour, claimed the Bill’s measures threatened legal protections for vulnerable children.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said during the debate: “The marketisation and outsourcing of children’s services is not acceptable.”

Ms Sparrow said private firms like Serco and G4S would be given incentive to take children away from their parents instead of the government assisting them with housing and financial support.

She told the Star: “This Bill is about privatisation and the incentive to make profits. These companies want the regulations — hard-won over decades — to be gone while the government wants to punish us for being working class and poor.

“Then they want to make money again by taking our kids away. It costs £35,000 a year to keep a child in care — so the money is there. We want more support for families to be kept together.

“From the 1950s to the 1970s, many single poor mothers had their children taken away for adoption. A lot of these children do not know why they were adopted — and this is still happening now.”

Social care union Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that the proposal to remove responsibility of councils is “disappointing” as it shows the government is “hell-bent on undermining social services in England.”

He said: “It’s bad enough that there are not enough social workers, or resources to deal with increasing demand due to disastrous cuts to council budgets.

“Now ministers are attacking the very legal framework that keeps children safe and secure.

“The proposals mean there would be no national system for looking after children at risk. Whether children get the care they deserve could depend on their postcode, rather than the legal protections hammered out over decades,” said Mr Prentis (pictured).

“The safety of our children is one of the most important responsibilities of government. But these plans show painful lessons from the past have been forgotten by ministers who are now prepared to withdraw essential protection from those least able to help themselves.”

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e8e0-New-law-hands-poor-kids-over-to-privateers#.WEbDqfmLSUk

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