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 http://legalactionforwomen.net

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Family carers must get the financial support they deserve

Sun 10 December 2017


 Finally, a call for financial support for kinship carers. We’ve campaigned for years to end the discrimination that pays strangers for foster care but not grandparents who often have to fight to stop children being adopted. But what about supporting mothers so children can stay with them? Women, 80% of whom are mothers, suffer 86% of austerity cuts, including benefit sanctions which drive thousands to food banks; 56% of single parents (overwhelmingly mothers) with jobs live in poverty; single-mother families are 47% of the statutory homeless and nearly three-quarters of families affected by the benefit cap.

Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act instructs local authorities to “promote the upbringing of children by their families” by “providing accommodation and giving assistance in kind or in cash”. The Care Act 2014 entitles disabled mothers to extra help. Why are these entitlements rarely implemented? The 40% cut in “early intervention” highlighted by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is not the only reason. An ideology of blaming mothers even for the domestic violence they suffer, devaluing the child-mother relationship regardless of its impact on children, promoting forced adoptions and privatisation of children services, has resulted in nearly 90,000 children in care (England and Scotland). In some working-class areas, 50% of children are being referred to social services.

In 2016, ruling against a forced adoption, the European court of human rights said that article 8 (respect for private and family life) placed the state under a “positive obligation” to keep families together. It blamed “public and private services provided by ‘saviours’” for “child maltreatment and discrimination”. Mothers and kinship carers picket London’s family court every month demanding to be reunited with their children. They ask: when will they get the support they are legally entitled to?
Nina Lopez Support not Separation
Micheleine Kane Scottish Kinship Care Alliance
Kim Sparrow Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

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


See video & article in The Independent here

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

Dear Sir James Munby,

Valuing Mothers and Children

We write to respectfully request a meeting with you.

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

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Xmas Appeal(best.jpg


Dear Friends,

The festive season is upon us. We write now asking for your support for the annual appeal for women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), a self-help group of women asylum seekers, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.

AAWG has grown massively in the last year and now more than a hundred women regularly attend the fortnightly self-help meetings and daily work sessions. Many are mothers with children under the age of five. Over a third of members are destitute with no income at all. Others are forced to survive on asylum support payments of £36.95 a week. You may know that people seeking asylum are denied the right to work.

Women speak of not being able to eat regularly, afford clothes, toiletries, travel and other essentials and being dependent on others, sometimes strangers, for a roof over their head. Upsettingly some are exposed to abuse and exploitation. For mothers with children that depend on them, life is particularly terrifying.

Despite often living in desperate situations, women exhibit a great collective spirit which has won many victories. For example, rape survivors have overcome stigma to speak for the first time about what they have suffered; mothers have been reunited with their children after many years, women have won housing, got themselves out of detention and stopped removals.

We understand that these are difficult times for everyone and many people are struggling to be able to afford their living costs. We appeal to you to help cover the holiday period when women and children can’t come as regularly to the Women’s Centre for food, warmth and support.

Legal Action for Women works directly 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.  There are no administration costs. Every penny raised will go to women and children and even a little bit can make an enormous difference.

We are grateful for any amount you are able to give.

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” when prompted.  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 possible, please send an email tolaw@allwomencount.net 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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All you need is . . . never to give up. Victories winning safety and protection.

Some recent victories from the asylum team at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. This team is made up of women from four organisations: All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Legal Action for Women, Women Against Rape.

These victories were won in the last few months through the self-help activities of women seeking asylum. This includes training workshops, weekly work sessions and self-help meetings. In total at least 50 women a week access this kind of vital help. As far as we know, this is the only place where women get help with understanding their own case and where it fits in to the asylum process and access to specialist support from two prestigious anti-rape organisations . . . all done with the principle of collective self help. This work can make the difference between a woman being able to get safety and protection in the UK and being deported back to her country of origin where she may have faced rape and other torture. But it also means that once women’s cases can get back on track they have the possibility of getting financial support and can escape destitution and all of the dangers that come from having no income at all. This self-help work often precipitates campaigning such as Women’s Against Rape’s (WAR) Refuge from Rape and Destitution campaign.

Lorna from DRC won full refugee status.  She and her little girl suffered horrific gang rape by soldiers after the family were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night, despite the dangers, to get treatment for the child’s acute asthma attack.  Lorna’s husband was killed before her eyes when he tried to stop the soldiers from raping their little girl (who died of her injuries later that night).  Despite evidence from WAR the Home Office initially dismissed her claim. Lorna bravely spoke about what happened to her on the Victoria Derbyshire show as part of her campaign to win safety and protection here in the UK.

Gladys from Malawi won her appeal. She suffered rape and other violence because she is a lesbian.  Her account was initially disbelieved by the Home Office. Women from the All African Women’s Group attended her appeal and the group wrote a support letter, explaining how dependent Gladys was on the care and encouragement of women who had suffered similar experiences.

Ruth from Jamaica was granted Leave to Remain after 13 years in the UK. Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) helped her speak for first time about the domestic violence she suffered and the rape of her son by her husband. BWRAP found a lawyer and helped ensure she got psychiatric evidence. At her appeal hearing Judge Rodger acknowledged that Ruth was a “vulnerable witness” in accordance with the Joint Presidential Guidance Note 2 of 2010[1]. (Women Against Rape has been pioneering efforts to monitor and press judges to adhere to the vulnerable witness guidance. Throughout much of her time in the UK Ruth has been destitute. When asked about this she commented:

“I never know if I am going to eat that day, I only get clothes if I find something in the jumble here [at the women’s centre], I have nothing for myself.”

 Her victory is welcome though insufficient as she has been refused access to public funds so is still without an income. To expect a traumatised 62 year old woman to “get a job” is cruel and Ruth is trying to get this changed.

 Brenda from Democratic Republic of Congo was granted family reunion at appeal. She had been forced to leave her home country without her five children. Winning family reunion was particularly difficult because only one child was under 18, and two are not her biological children.  Once a child turns 18 the Home Office says they are no longer a “dependent” on their mother. WAR encouraged Ruth’s lawyer to press for legal aid under the Exceptional Case Funding scheme which meant she could get decisive psychiatric and other evidence.  The judge made reference to WAR’s expert evidence and to a support letter from the All African Women’s Group which detailed the impact on Brenda of continuing separation from her children.

Bibi from Cameroon’s deportation was stopped.  Over 200 people wrote in support after AAWG put out Action Alert. This visible support was crucial in encouraging her member of parliament to intervene and Bibi was able to put in a new asylum claim.  AAWG members attended her bail hearing and the judge let her go saying she should be released so she could go back to helping the group!

Erioth from Uganda stopped herself from being detained. AAWG spearheaded a successful campaign to get Erioth out of detention in February this year. A fresh claim was submitted in August but when she went to sign on in September officials tried to detain her. She refused to go with them and loudly protested that they were frightening and upsetting her, telling them she had suffered torture. The guards were scared off and let her go!

Flora from Cameroon got council housing. Getting housed as a traumatised victim of sexual violence shouldn’t be so worthy of note, but it is because local authorities around the country are systematically reneging on their responsibilities to house vulnerable people. In Flora’s case Women’s Aid Hull assisted, encouraged by WAR and WinVisible, a women with disabilities group, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.

WAR has asked Keir Starmer MP to intervene on behalf of three of his constituents to press Camden Council to house them.

Ifeoma from Nigeria won full refugee status at appeal.  AAWG wrote in support and she had attended training sessions, which she said really helped her understand what was needed for the hearing.

Natalyia from Ukraine persuaded a judge to accept additional evidence from her personally after her lawyers had submitted the grounds for her appeal. This was an important development as negligent or careless lawyers may put in weak submissions which women then want to add to.

Tribunal challenges using VW guidanceTwo unrepresented women used the vulnerable witness guidance self-help tool to challenge appeal rulings which failed to consider them as vulnerable witnesses. The Tribunal turned both of them down. BWRAP and WAR are helping them challenge this on the grounds that it is unreasonable for women who have no lawyer to be able to specify in detail how the guidance relates to their own case. Instead judges should consider whether on the face of it a woman is vulnerable and then look at what measures would be appropriate, for example ensuring that she has a lawyer.

AAWG women saves brother from detention and removal. Anna established (with the help of WAR) that the Home Office had lied and then done a cover up in correspondence with her brother’s MP. This meant that the MP intervened on an accurate and effective basis.  WAR has since found all the family new lawyers. 

 And a sad loss . . .

Ade from Nigeria was detained using a new policy whereby women are given a “window” for removal rather than a specific date. One of the other AAWG women helped Ade understand her own case and propose action but by then it was too late to do anything and she was removed. Of the women who have been removed to their country of origin who have managed to keep in touch, nearly all have suffered further rape and or abuse. The government has shown no interest in finding out what happens to women it so callously deports.

[1] The Practice and Guidance Notes which give guidance on the approach to be adopted by First Tier Tribunal judges when considering all the personal circumstances of an “incapacitated or vulnerable person when assessing their evidence”.

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Support not Separation: News bulletin 1
What we are winning, what we are doing, what’s in the news






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Landmark Supreme Court ruling: children who were abused in foster care can sue the local authority! Great is the movement for justice and we shall prevail. Make sure everyone in your network knows about this.

A grandmother who came to us for help has won: her grandchildren will be living with her and spending weekends with dad with weekly contact with mum – what they all wanted. And she’ll be getting Special Guardianship Allowances for the children!


Saturday 28 October 2-3pm Another Handmaid’s TaleWorkshop at the Anarchist Bookfair. All Welcome

Room LG6, Learning Centre, Park View School,
West Green Road London N15 3QR

Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Michael Coleman, Payday men’s network

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike,

Kim Sparrow, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence


Women in Brighton have formed a group and are picketing the family court there to coincide with our London court picket onthe first Wednesday of every month.

Our workshop Another Handmaid’s Tale was packed and the speakers were great. It was held at The World Transformed (events organised concurrently with the Labour Party conference in Brighton). Emma Lewell-Buck MP (shadow minister for children and families) spoke strongly on the need to support children staying with their families, giving weight and credibility to our demands. You can watch it here.

Another three stunning workshops (with organisations based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre) also raised the impoverishment of mothers and the taking of children by the state. You can watch them here: Radical demands from the grassrootsWhose job is it anyway? Radical childcare; andLiving on the edge: claimants, asylum seekers, pensioners, zero-hour workers, sex workers . . . refusing Dickensian destitution and other social murder.

Friends, Families and Travellers invited us to speak at their meeting in Parliament raising concerns about discrimination by children services.

We wrote an open letter to CAFCASS and NSPCC protesting their speaking at a Families Need Fathers conference. Children charities which receive public money should not give credence to domestic violence deniers. We’ve had no response from them so far. We picketed the conference and you can watch the lively exchanges we had.

We are objecting to a news programme The Adoption which is part of The World At One every day this week. It claims to be a thorough look at one adoption case but so far it is just promoting adoption as the ‘gold standard’. It uncritically reports on social workers who took two young children who, by their own admission, were ‘loved and wanted’ by their birth parents and extended family. Write in and object too!


The mass taking of children by the state is in the news like never before. Some recent examples:

·     Research by Lancaster University shows the very high number of mothers who have had more than one child taken away were themselves in care and got no support.

·     An exhibition by young mums (‘Taken: because love wasn’t enough’) whom we are hoping to be in touch with.

·     In the US, Disabled parents are suing New York City for discrimination in child removal.

·     A US for-profit foster contractor has been exposed after 86 children died while in their care. How many more have died at the hands of other foster contractors?


We continue to picket the court in Holborn and now also in Brighton the first Wednesday of every month. Join us or picket the court in your town or area!

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Another Handmaid’s Tale  2-3pm Saturday 28 October

Workshop at the Anarchist Bookfair  All Welcome

Room LG6, Learning Centre, Park View School, West Green Road London N15 3QR

In poor working class communities 45% of children are reported to social services. Poverty is used to allege ‘neglect’, mothers are treated as surrogates for fostering and adoption without consent, inflicting lifelong trauma on thousands of children. Single mothers are most at risk, especially if they report rape or domestic violence, are of colour, have a disability… A growing movement is breaking the silence and picketing secretive family courts, demanding support not separation.


Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Michael Coleman, Payday men’s network

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike,

Kim Sparrow, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

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Dear Friends,

Coverage of Protest against CAFCASS and NSPCC participation in Families Need Fathers (FNF) conference last Saturday.

Ten people took part in the protest called by Legal Action for Women and Women Against Rape.  Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg9qABVVtOY

FNF replied saying that they are a “reputable charity” but did not address domestic violence or any of the other issues raised.  A FNF man confronted the picket saying that ‘more children are killed by their mothers than by their fathers’.

on Saturday 14 October

We understand that you are speaking at this FNF conference on parental alienation. You must be aware that FNF have consistently attacked women.

Must we refresh your memory? As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’ Recently we helped a father re-introduce contact with his child. He had previously gone to FNF and was horrified when their facilitators described the whole system as stacked against men, and

They kept referring to ‘feminist Nazis’. He said they promote and perpetuate misogyny and refused to go back.

FNF deny domestic violence, dismissing it as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.

Such claims are totally outrageous. Surely you know that:

  • One in five women aged 16-59 have suffered sexual violence in England and Wales;[1] two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner; one in four women have been subjected to domestic violence in their lifetime; 81% of victims of domestic violence are women; domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime; 62% of children in households where domestic violence is happening are also directly harmed;[2] 50% of rapes are domestic. The level of false allegations of rape is less than 1% and less than 0.5% for domestic violence, both are much lower than false allegations for other crimes.[3]
  • Family courts have allowed violent fathers (even when they have a criminal record for violence) to terrify, threaten and intimidate those they had victimised and who managed to escape them. These legal standards would never be tolerated in an open court. Judges have insisted on contact and even residence, dismissing what women and children were telling them. Nineteen children and two mothers were killed between 2005 and 2015 following court orders to allow fathers unsupervised contact. (Women’s Aid)
  • FNF have the view that fathers who are estranged from their children have the same rights as mothers who do the daily work of caring and protecting them. That is the traditional patriarchal view by which children and their mothers are men’s property for them to do what they want with. No organisation or charity which gets public funds, especially ones that claim to speak for children, should give credence to such views.

We hope you will reconsider your participation in this conference.

Legal Action for Women and Women Against Rape

law@allwomencount.net       war@womenagainstrape.net

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