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FAMILY COURT ON TRIAL FOR UNJUSTLY 1-page-001

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WED 5 APRIL – PROTEST OUTSIDE FAMILY COURT

STOP TAKING CHILDREN FROM THEIR MOTHERS!

12.30-1.30pm – See you there!
42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP

On 8 March 2017 we held our first protest outside the central family court in London. About 100 people, mostly women, took part and a number of mothers spoke about their struggle to keep or get back their children. See this very good short video of our protest.

We will be holding monthly protests on the first Wednesday of the month from now on.

JOIN US TO DEMAND:

·        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.

FACTS

·        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.

 

Legal Action for Women

LAW@allwomencount.net

http://legalactionforwomen.net

Single Mothers’ Self Defence

SMSD@allwomencount.net

Suffer the little Children & their Mothers:
A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers is available from LAW

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APPEAL from LEGAL ACTION FOR WOMEN
– a grassroots legal service

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

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

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

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

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

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See video & article in The Independent here

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

Dear Sir James Munby,

Valuing Mothers and Children

We write to respectfully request a meeting with you.

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

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

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

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

Important follow up to LAW’s Dossier

Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Anne Neale & Nina Lopez for Legal Action for Women

Download the dossier here.

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Interview with Anne Neale on London Live here.

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Suffer the Little Children

Stopping the forced separation of children from their mothers
& the privatisation of child protection

 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 6-8pm

Committee Room 11, House of Commons, SW1A OAA

  Westminster    All welcome.
(please allow time to go through security)

Kindly sponsored by Emma Lewell-Buck MP for South Shields
Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)

 

Speakers:

Cristel Amiss  Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Dr Andy Bilson  Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire

Donna Clarke  fought not to have her grandchild adopted

Dr Anna Gupta  Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Royal Holloway University of London

Nicola Mann  Women Against Rape

Anne Neale  Legal Action for Women

Kim Sparrow  Single Mothers’ Self Defence

 

Suffer the Little Children – a Dossier by Legal Action for Women documenting mothers’ struggle in the family courts in England – will be launched at the meeting. The Dossier could not be more timely as the Children and Social Work Bill is now in the Commons and a public outcry has exposed the treatment of mothers who have suffered domestic violence by the family courts.

Children demo Photo

There are now more children in state “care” than at any time in the past 30 years. New research shows that local authorities with the highest adoption rates also have the highest increase in children in care. Prioritising adoption over support for families has led to a 65% increase in the number of children separated from their parents. Mothers on low incomes, single mothers, of colour, immigrant, with learning difficulties, teenage mums … are particularly vulnerable. Women who suffer rape and/or domestic violence are most likely to have their children removed.

 

Following the recent public outcry, the government is looking to stop violent men question the mother in family courts. This would be a welcome change but much more is needed to stop the horrendous sexism mothers increasingly face.

 

The Children & Social Work (CSW) Bill is now going through the House of Commons. The government is determined to re-impose measures overwhelmingly rejected by the House of Lords, which would allow local authorities to “opt out” of statutory child protection, opening the way for privatisation. This coincides with the lowering of the benefit cap, with its devastating impact on as many as 500,000 children whose families are being further impoverished. No-one knows how many more children will then be taken into care as parents are accused of “neglect” for no longer being able to keep a roof over their heads, especially if private companies can profit from such separations! Given the abuse of children in care that continue to be exposed in Lambeth, Rochdale, Rotherham . . . and in juvenile detention centres run by G4S and others, this is a frightening prospect. Together for Children, a consortium of over 40 children’s charities, women’s groups, social work organisations and others, are also opposing the opt out clauses.

 

A child protection social worker has warned about the government’s latest plans:

 

The ‘undeserving poor’ have lost their council homes; lost their benefits and lost their community services; why not make it easier to lose their children too?

 The Public Bill Committee on the CSW Bill will be discussing the opt-out during its public sessions on Tuesday 10, Thursday 12 and Tuesday 17 January. Please join us if you can – updated information here

We must act together to oppose this social cleansing precipitated by austerity policies and insist that MPs vote against the “opt out” measures. Mothers, grandmothers and other carers working with Legal Action for Women and other self-help groups are fighting back.

Called by: Legal Action for Women
law@allwomencount.net  020 7482 2496  http://legalactionforwomen.net

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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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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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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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