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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CHILDREN & SOCIAL WORK BILL, 2nd reading 5 December 2016

CHILDREN & SOCIAL WORK BILL, 2nd reading

Briefing by: Black Women’s Rape Action Project,
Global Women’s Strike, Legal Action for Women,
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Women Against Rape

For more information contact: Anne Neale or Kim Sparrow
LAW@allwomencount.net; SMSD@allwomencount.net
Tel: 0207 482 2496

We are five women’s organisations based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre founded on self-help. For years now we have been working with mothers whose children have been taken from their care or are under threat of being taken on varying grounds.

We are extremely concerned that the Children and Social Work Bill, which promotes adoption as the ‘gold standard’ and reflects the government’s determination to privatise child protection, will result in more children being unjustly taken from their biological families at great cost to their safety and welfare.

STATUTORY PROTECTIONS MUST REMAIN

Following objections from the Together for Children Coalition (which some of us are part of), ourselves and concerned individuals, a number of peers spoke out against the Bill in the House of Lords. They opposed the government arrogating to itself ‘draconian powers’ through regulations outside parliamentary scrutiny; removing ‘hard-won safeguards for very vulnerable children’; and allowing local authorities to ‘opt out’ of statutory child protection measures so that it could be outsourced and eventually ‘run for profit’. Led by Lord Ramsbotham, they voted to delete Clause 29 – the main provision which would have enabled this.

The Children’s social care: increasing 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.

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

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.

We urge you to oppose any attempt by the government to bring back the ‘opt out’ provisions.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

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.

THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS THAT PRIVATISATION PUTS CHILDREN AT RISK

Companies like G4S, Serco and others can take on contracts to undertake child protection assessments and investigations, manage child protection plans, decide whether to initiate care proceedings, and determine where and with whom children should live. All these companies need to do is set up a not-for-profit subsidiary. Then the parent company can charge its subsidiary whatever it likes for the services it provides to the subsidiary, which is how a profit is made.

Earlier this year, G4S withdrew from the provision of children’s services. This followed the cancellation of its contract for managing Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Northamptonshire in 2015, and an undercover BBC investigation into its management of Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester which exposed the mistreatment and abuse of children.

We have documented sexual and racist violence by guards against vulnerable women at Yarl’s Wood Detention and Removal Centre which is run by Serco.

Privatisation must be not only stopped but reversed.

UNWARRANTED FAMILY SEPARATION WILL RISE WITH THIS BILL

During the Lords debate, Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top raised that:

As of 31 March 2016, there were over 70,000 looked after children in England, which is the highest figure since 1985. If this does not tell us that we have to think again about what we are doing, I don’t know what will.

In our experience many children are removed 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.

There is another major reason: pressure on social workers to remove children rather than help those families which could stay safely together. Further privatisation will increase that pressure as profits become the main motive to take children in care and have them adopted.

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.

Many children who have been in care continue to be victimised as adults. 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.

END THIS POLICY OF DESTITUTION AND REMOVING CHILDREN

 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!

Baroness Armstrong pointed out:

Children who are removed and placed in care are overwhelmingly from economically and socially deprived backgrounds . . . the role of family members – of grandparents, siblings and friendship networks in supporting children – is too often neither recognised nor supported effectively.”

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. ”

 Gove is no longer in government, but this Bill indicates that other ministers have similar views and interests.

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 what has happened. The government has set performance targets for local authorities to increase the number of children adopted with the justification that adoption reduces the number of children drifting in long term care. However, 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 less, children taken into care.

We are not the only ones concerned with the lack of support for birth families and its effect on all involved in the adoption process. Amanda Boorman, who adopted a child and founded The Open Nest says:

Millions have been spent over the last few years on recruiting adopters . . . Every adoption is a result of loss. Even whipping them out when they are young does not make that fact go away . . . adopted people are often left with an uncomfortable legacy that nobody wants to hear about . . . Adopters have . . . been afforded a loud public voice . . . Adopted people and families who lose children have not been afforded the same privileges.

SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN MUST INCLUDE SUPPORT FOR MOTHERS AND FAMILIES

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 support 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.

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Children & Social Work Bill in Commons Monday 5 December, please write to your MP

Dear Friends,

We’re writing to let you know that the Children & Social Work Bill has now finished going through the House of Lords.  It will have its 2nd reading in the House of Commons on 5 December, and then go to Committee stage in January.

We are starting to lobby MPs now to put pressure on them to take seriously the concerns of mothers, grandmothers and other carers who are fighting for resources so that we can stop the shocking increase of children being taken into care.

We are concerned that the Bill could result in more children being unjustly taken away from their biological families, causing lifelong trauma to both children and their mothers.  We must oppose any push for adoption as the “gold standard” which disregards the wishes and feelings of children about the people they love and who love them, and who they want to be with. Children must be asked and listened to about their “wishes and feelings” when they are not being pressured

There is a lot of opposition to this government’s attempt to privatise child protection, and we won an important victory when the Lords voted against the Clause in the Bill which would have allowed local councils to “opt out” of their statutory child protection duties, opening the way for privatisation. But we must make sure that the government does not try to reinstate this clause now the Bill is in the Commons, so please ask your MP to be on the lookout for this.

And ask them to amend the bill so it prioritises getting financial and other support to mothers and kinship carers so children are not removed from loving families just because they are poor.

Please see below a model letter for writing to your MP to make your voice heard against the Bill.
You can find your MP via this link.

 

Please also ask them to sign EDM 626 “Children’s Social Care” if they are not on the list of signatures.

 

MODEL LETTER

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

Dear …MP,

Re Children & Social Work Bill, 2nd reading in House of Commons 5 December

I am extremely concerned that the Children and Social Work Bill could result in more children being unjustly taken away from their biological families, causing lifelong trauma to both children and their mothers.

As a mother / grandmother / dad / teacher / concerned person … I have experienced / have seen … ADD YOUR EXPERIENCE

I was glad that the Lords voted against allowing local councils to “opt out” of their statutory child protection duties, and I urge you to oppose any attempt by the government to reinstate this clause.

The push for adoption as the “gold standard” must also be opposed – it disregards what children have to say the people they love and who love them, and who they want to be with. Children must be asked and listened to about their “wishes and feelings” when they are not under pressure.

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, poor, inexperienced and/or who have a disability or learning difficulty.

 

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. 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!

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.”  While Gove is no longer in government, this Bill indicates that other ministers share these views.

 

While mothers are judged harshly and refused support, institutions which have been shown to be negligent or complicit in the widespread sexual and other abuse of children continue to be promoted as preferable.

 

We ask MPs to demand financial support to keep families together rather than spending millions tearing them apart. We ask MPs to defend children and the mothers who love them. We hope that you will represent our concerns by opposing this Bill.

 

Other points you may want to add:

  • The government push for adoption is cruel and traumatic to children and families, especially mothers and grandmothers.
  • There is no support for mothers and kinship carers (family and friends) only for adoptive and foster parents.
  • It discriminates against low income families, who are most likely to have their children taken into care, especially with the benefit cap and other cuts. Some are also families of colour and/or disabled, discriminated on that basis too.
  • Children in care are four times more likely to experience mental health difficulties.
  • Removing statutory protections and privatising children’s services is a charter for rape and social cleansing.

Your name, address etc…

 

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Crossroads Women invite you to the photo/slide exhibition of

For Those Who Died Trying

Commemorating 37 human rights defenders murdered or disappeared in Thailand in the past 20 years

It highlights the community struggles they represent in defence of
the environment, land rights and human rights,
and the quest for justice by their bereaved loved ones.

With Ms Pranom Somwong
from Protection International

Friday 11 November 2016, 6-8.30pm

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

Followed by refreshments

This project by Protection International remembers those who died by placing a portrait of the human rights defender at the place she or he was murdered or disappeared. The striking photographs are by Luke Duggleby.

unnamed

Ms Montha CHUKAEW and Ms Pranee BOONRAT
shot dead and mutilated, 19 November 2012

unnamed (1)

Mr Chai Bunthonglek,

shot dead, 11 February 2015

 

We are delighted to have Ms Pranom Somwong with us to describe the human rights struggle she is part of, update us on the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand(SPFT) which is represented in the exhibition, and answer questions.

Four of the SPFT members, two of them women, were murdered defending the community from attempts by a palm oil company to evict them and take the land they are collectively and sustainably farming. SPFT won a recent court case against eviction, but the threat of eviction remains. Legal Action for Women and Global Women’s Strike based at the Women’s Centre have been gathering international support and presented letters to the Thai Embassy in London signed by many organisations and individuals in UK and elsewhere.

For Those Who Died Trying was first displayed in front of the United Nations building in Geneva in May 2016, as part of the evidence from human rights defenders to the Human Rights Council for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand’s human rights record. This was the first review since the military coup in 2014. 

The exhibition was warmly welcomed by those attending the UPR as well as local residents and tourists who were deeply concerned and shocked. Several government delegates, including from the UK, called for human rights defenders to be protected from reprisals and an end to impunity for those who murdered, disappeared, detained and tortured them.

The exhibition is touring – it was recently at the European Parliament in Brussels and in Spain, and will shortly be at universities in Thailand. It has been covered by BBC World News and Guardian (World Environment Day).

Thailand is a popular tourist destination for people in the UK. But most do not know that farmers and other human rights defenders are being murdered and threatened with eviction. They should know about these injustices and how they can help.


To interview Ms Pranom Somwong and for more information:
029 7482 2496  
contact@crossroadswomen.net

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Children & Social Work Bill – back in the Lords on Tues 8 Nov This is a charter for rape and social cleansing. We must stop it.

The Bill we have been opposing since the summer is back in the House of Lords for report stage on Tuesday 8 November at 3pm. We need as many people as possible to email or call expressing their strong opposition to the Bill – not only to privatisation but to all its measures, particularly the push for adoption.

Community Care reported that the government has admitted “errors in its handling of [Isabelle Trowler] the chief social worker’s ‘conflict of interest’.

This bill is being debated just as the benefit cap comes in: 88,000 families may be left with not enough money for rent and food; 500,000 children impoverished. No one knows how many will then be taken into care or adopted as their parents are accused of “neglect” for no longer being able to keep a roof over their heads!

The Bill can be defeated but we need to mobilise now as it comes back to the Lords and when it goes to the Commons.
A model letter you can use to make your case is below. A number of mothers have written in from their own experience and are getting good responses!  The emails and numbers of Peers to contact are also below. 

You can also sign a petition against the Bill Protect the rights of vulnerable children and care leavers.

If you have any questions email us back or call us on: 020 7482 2496.

MODEL LETTER

Dear Lord/Lady…

I am totally opposed to the Children and Social Work Bill. As a mother/grandmother/dad/teacher/concerned person… use your own experience and the points below to make your case.

  •  The government push for adoption is cruel and traumatic to children and families, especially mothers and grandmothers.
  •  It disregards children’s views, wishes and feelings about the people they love and want to live and/or have contact with.
  •  There is no support for mothers and kinship carers (family and friends) only for adoptive and foster parents.
  •  It discriminates against low income families, who are most likely to have their children taken into care, especially with the benefit cap and other cuts. Some are also families of colour and/or disabled, discriminated on that basis too.
  •  Children in care are four times more likely to experience mental health difficulties.
  •  Removing statutory protections and privatising children’s services is a charter for rape and social cleansing.

I urge you to support the following amendments to the Children & Social Work Bill, but also to speak out for children and their birth families and demand that financial support be available to keep families together rather than to tear us apart.

Your name, etc…

Children and Social Work Bill amendments

CLAUSE 9
After CL 9, AMDT 33, New Clause: Profit-making and children’s social services functions

After CL 9 AMDT 35, New Clause: Duty to report on outcomes

CLAUSE 28
After CL 28, AMDT 52, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to looked after children and children at risk

After CL 28, AMDT 53, New Clause: Public interest disclosure in relation to looked after children and children at risk

CLAUSE 29
AMDT 57, leave out CL 29

CLAUSE 30
AMDT 58, leave out CL 30

CLAUSE 31
AMDT 64, leave out CL 31

CLAUSE 32
AMDT 66, leave out CL 32

CLAUSE 33
AMDT 68, leave out CL 33

After CL 33: AMDT 69, New Clause: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

After CL 33: AMDT 70, New Clause: Safeguarding Unaccompanied Refugee Children

CLAUSE 40
After CL 40: AMDT 72, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to social workers

After CL 40: AMDT 73, New Clause: Public interest disclosure by social workers

Lords names and emails

Leading on amendments are Lords Watson (Lab), Lord Hunt (Lab), Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench) and Baroness Pinnock (Lib Dem).

TITLE NAME PARTY PHONE EMAIL
Lord Watson Labour 020 7219 5353 watsonm@parliament.uk
Lord Hunt Labour 020 7219 2030 huntp@parliament.uk
Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 020 7219 8752 ramsbothamd@parliament.uk
Baroness Pinnock Lib Dem 020 7219 5353 pinnockk@parliament.uk
Baroness Hodgson Conservative 020 7219 5353 hodgsonf@parliament.uk
Baroness Benjamin Lib Dem 020 7219 8901 benjaminf@parliament.uk
Lord Bichard Crossbench 020 7219 5353 m.bichard@btinternet.com
Baroness Dean Labour 020 7219 5353 deanb@parliament.uk
Lord Farmer Conservative 020 7219 6565 callans@parliament.uk
Lord Brown sdbrown@blueyonder.co.uk
Baroness Cavendish Conservative contactholmember@parliament.uk
Baroness Howarth Crossbench 020 7219 5353 howarthv@parliament.uk
Baroness Howe Crossbench 020 7219 5353 howee@parliament.uk
Baroness Bakewell Labour 020 7219 2921 joanbakewell@googlemail.com
Baroness Boothroyd Crossbench boothroyd@parliament.uk
Baroness Lister Labour 020 7219 8984 listerr@parliament.uk
Lord Listowel Crossbench 020 7219 5353 listowelf@parliament.uk
Lord Mackay Conservative 020 7219 6041 mackayjp@parliament.uk
Baroness Massey Labour 020 7219 8653 masseyd@parliament.uk
Baroness Meacher Crossbench 020 7219 4081 meachermc@parliament.uk
Lord O’Shaugh-

nessy

Conservative 020 7219 5353 contactholmember@parliament.uk
Lord Bishop of Durham 013 8860 2576 Bishop.of.durham@durham.
anglican.org
Baroness Shephard Conservative 020 7219 5353 westm@parliament.uk
Baroness Tonge Lib Dem 020 7219 4827 tongej@parliament.uk
Baroness Tyler Lib Dem 020 7219 3606 tylerc@parliament.uk
Baroness Walmsley Lib Dem 020 7219 6047 walmsleyj@parliament.uk
Lord Warner None 020 7219 4540 warnern@parliament.uk
Lord Wills Labour 020 7219 5353 willisg@parliament.uk

 

 

 

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Briefing on the Children & Social Work Bill, House of Lords Report Stage 8 November

Children and Social Work Bill – Report Stage 8 NOV 2016
This bill is a charter for rape and social cleansing and must be stopped

We write to draw your attention to our letter signed by five women’s organisations about this Bill, published in the Guardian. It appeared at the same time as Community Care reported that the government has admitted “errors in its handling of [Isabelle Trowler] the chief social worker’s ‘conflict of interest’, mentioned in our letter.  

“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. The Children and Social Work Bill would enable local authorities to remove statutory protections from the most vulnerable – children in custody and in care (Social workers row over children’s bill, 19 October). Given the history, this amounts to a rapists’ charter”.

Privatisation passes for innovation. Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for children and families and chief promoter of the bill, 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.

We share the horror of whistleblowers and Together for Children that child protection services may be privatised. But we seem to be alone in objecting to the bill promoting adoption as the “gold standard” and to resources going to “corporate parenting” while impoverished families get nothing.

There isn’t even a duty to consult children and their mothers about their feelings and wishes. The life-long trauma of separation, however hidden, to children and biological families, is hardly mentioned. Britain already has the highest adoption rate in Europe – 90% without the consent of the birth families.

We hold monthly self-help meetings with mothers struggling to keep their children from social workers instructed to prioritise adoption and foster care. Some mothers lose their children after reporting domestic violence – penalised for “failing to protect” them.

Others are young, scared and inexperienced – penalised for “failing to convince” that they could be “capable” parents while a wealthier family waits to take their child. All are low-income families, many with precarious housing, learning difficulties or a disability, many black or immigrant. The incentives to discriminate will vastly increase with privatisation.

Cristel Amiss Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Anne Neale Legal Action for Women; Lisa Longstaff Women Against Rape; Nina Lopez Global Women’s Strike; Kim Sparrow Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

This bill is being debated just as the benefit cap comes in: 88,000 families may no longer be able to pay their rent and 500,000 children may be impoverished. No one knows how many will then be taken into care or adopted as their parents are accused of “neglect” for no longer being able to keep a roof over their heads!

We hope that given some of the deep corruption this Bill promotes and the poverty that is being imposed on hundreds of thousands of children and their families you will vote against it. We hope that you will support the amendments below and speak up for children, whose enforced separation from their biological families is being treated as a business opportunity for the private sector.

 

Please support the following amendments to the Children & Social Work Bill

CLAUSE 9
After CL 9, AMDT 33, New Clause: Profit-making and children’s social services functions

After CL 9 AMDT 35, New Clause: Duty to report on outcomes

CLAUSE 28
After CL 28, AMDT 52, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to looked after children and children at risk

After CL 28, AMDT 53, New Clause: Public interest disclosure in relation to looked after children and children at risk

CLAUSE 29
AMDT 57, leave out CL 29

CLAUSE 30
AMDT 58, leave out CL 30

CLAUSE 31
AMDT 64, leave out CL 31

CLAUSE 32
AMDT 66, leave out CL 32

CLAUSE 33
AMDT 68, leave out CL 33

After CL 33: AMDT 69, New Clause: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

After CL 33: AMDT 70, New Clause: Safeguarding Unaccompanied Refugee Children

CLAUSE 40
After CL 40: AMDT 72, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to social workers

After CL 40: AMDT 73, New Clause: Public interest disclosure by social workers

 

Cristel Amiss, Black Women-s Rape Action Project  bwrap@rapeaction.net

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape  war@womenagainstrape.net

Nina Lopez, Global Women’s Strike  gws@globalwomenstrike.net

Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women  law@allwomencount.net

Kim Sparrow, Single Mothers’ Self Defence  smsd@allwomencount.net

 

Tel: 020 7482 2496

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Guardian Letters: Family support at risk from children’s bill

 

 

Child protection

Family support at risk from children’s bill

‘We seem to be alone in objecting to the bill promoting adoption as the “gold standard”, and to resources going to “corporate parenting” while impoverished families get nothing,’ write a group of women activists.
Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Letters, Tuesday 25 October 2016

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. The children and social work bill would enable local authorities to remove statutory protections from the most vulnerable – children in custody and in care (Social workers row over children’s bill, 19 October). Given the history, this amounts to a rapists’ charter.

Privatisation passes for innovation. Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for children and families and chief promoter of the bill, 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.

We share the horror of whistleblowers and Together for Children that child protection services may be privatised. But we seem to be alone in objecting to the bill promoting adoption as the “gold standard” and to resources going to “corporate parenting” while impoverished families get nothing.

There isn’t even a duty to consult children and their mothers about their feelings and wishes. The life-long trauma of separation, however hidden, to children and biological families, is hardly mentioned. Britain already has the highest adoption rate in Europe – 90% without the consent of the birth families.

We hold monthly self-help meetings with mothers struggling to keep their children from social workers instructed to prioritise adoption and foster care. Some mothers lose their children after reporting domestic violence – penalised for “failing to protect” them.

Others are young, scared and inexperienced – penalised for “failing to convince” that they could be “capable” parents while a wealthier family waits to take their child. All are low-income families, many with precarious housing, learning difficulties or a disability, many black or immigrant. The incentives to discriminate will vastly increase with privatisation.

Cristel Amiss Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Anne Neale Legal Action for Women
Lisa Longstaff Women Against Rape
Nina Lopez Global Women’s Strike
Kim Sparrow Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

 

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Children & Social Work Bill Report Stage

Dear Friends,

Please see below our briefing sent to members of the House of Lords who are discussing the Children & Social Work Bill today.

You might like to sign this petition objecting to the parts of the Bill which would allow children’s services to be privatised:

Protect the rights of vulnerable children and care leavers

* * * * **

CHILDREN AND SOCIAL WORK BILL – REPORT STAGE 18 OCTOBER 2016
Briefing from
Legal Action for Women (LAW) and Single Mothers’ Self-Defence (SMSD)

As you may know, we have written previously to express our strong opposition to this Bill. We are glad that serious concerns were raised during Second Reading and Committee Stage, which are reflected in some of the amendments coming up today. We hope you will particularly support the amendments overleaf:

Our primary concerns are:

·         The government push for adoption as the “gold standard” puts pressure on social workers to prioritise it over enabling children to stay with mothers and birth families, especially grandparents. (See attached testimony from mothers and grandmothers.) Social workers who disagree that this is in the interest of the child face dismissal.

·         Disregard for children’s views, wishes and feelings about the people they love and want to live and/or have contact with, including parents, grandparents and siblings.

·         Lack of support for mothers and kinship carers (family and friends) while prospective adoptive and foster parents are given help.

·         Discrimination against low income families whose children are more likely to be taken into care given the lack of financial support and increased levels of poverty.

·         Children in care are four times more likely to experience mental health difficulties.

·         Privatisation of children’s services. Many oppose as dangerous the dropping of local authorities’ statutory duties and the shifting of power from parliament to the executive.

The Bill comes at a time when:

·         Adoptions are higher than in any other European country, with 96% of adoptions in England taking place without parental consent.

·         More and more children taken into care – the number of “looked after” children in England is the highest since 1985. 1 in 5 children under five are referred to children’s services; 1 in 19 investigated – even higher if over 5s are included.

·         In 78% of cases we have been dealing with, children were removed or were under threat of being removed after the mother suffered domestic violence.

·         40% of mothers who come to us are women of colour and/or immigrant women, suggesting racism and other discrimination by social services and courts.

Our Suffer the little children Dossier of 40 cases documents the life-long traumatic impact of separation on children and their mothers (invariably their primary carer), whether through adoption, being taken into care or given to violent fathers. We are calling for financial and other resources to enable children to stay with loving parents and grandparents. As distinguished campaigning journalist Richard Wexler from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in the US, warned: “There is no understanding of the harm of removal. For a young child, it can be an experience akin to kidnapping.” 

We would welcome the opportunity of discussing this further with you at your convenience.


Anne Neale

Legal Action for Women

law@allwomencount.net    0207 482 2496

Kim Sparrow

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

SMSD@allwomencount.net


Please support the following amendments to the Children & Social Work Bill

CLAUSE 1
AMDT 2
Page 2, line 6, at end insert— “() to nurture, protect and maintain relationships with families and carers with whom they have lived previously and with whom they wish to remain in contact.”

AMDT 3 * Page 2, line 6, at end insert— “() to promote access to legal advice and representation for children and young people, including independent advice and representation where appropriate.”

After Clause 1, AMDT 8, New Clause: Duty to promote physical and mental health and emotional well-being

CLAUSE 8
AMDT 29*
Page 8,line 35, after“orders”, insert“— (a) after subsection (2)(b)(ii) insert— “(iii) there being no person who has parental responsibility for the child.” (b) ”

AMDT 30 Page 8, line 42, leave out from “child’s” to end of line 2 on page 9 and insert “or a person with parental responsibility for the child; (ii) long-term foster care, with a connected person, existing foster carer or other person; (iii) adoption, with an existing foster carer, foster to adopt carer or other person; (iv) long-term care not within sub-paragraph (i), (ii) or(iii);”

AMDT 31 Page 9, line 9,at end insert— “(iv) the child’s wishes and feelings.”

CLAUSE 9
After CL 9, AMDT 33, New Clause: Profit-making and children’s social services functions

After CL 9 AMDT 35, New Clause: Duty to report on outcomes

CLAUSE 28
After CL 28, AMDT 52, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to looked after children and children at risk

After CL 28, AMDT 53, New Clause: Public interest disclosure in relation to looked after children and children at risk

CLAUSE 29
AMDT 57, leave out CL 29

CLAUSE 30
AMDT 58, leave out CL 30

CLAUSE 31
AMDT 64, leave out CL 31

CLAUSE 32
AMDT 66, leave out CL 32

CLAUSE 33
AMDT 68, leave out CL 33

After CL 33: AMDT 69, New Clause: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

After CL 33: AMDT 70, New Clause: Safeguarding Unaccompanied Refugee Children

CLAUSE 40
After CL 40: AMDT 72, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to social workers

After CL 40: AMDT 73, New Clause: Public interest disclosure by social workers


Mothers and grandmothers – the reality of adoption

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 as 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 mis-diagnosed 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.  I feel that being on the autistic spectrum has left me at a significant 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 of African descent.  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 were using 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 and was about to attend another two, including one on child protection awareness.  I showed I was really determined to do everything social services asked me to do, but they had already decided that I was an “unfit” mother even though I never had the chance of looking after my baby on my own.

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 with hostile psychiatric reports and the child’s Guardian was also against me.  The judge said I had “poor parenting skills,” which I would not be able to overcome so my baby should be adopted.  I was allowed an appeal, but it was unsuccessful.  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 and I can’t carry on fighting.  I lost my flat and now live with my family.


Legal Action for Women law@allwomencount.net

Single Mothers Self Defence smsd@allwomencount.net

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