The purpose of this update is to correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, to explain and comment on published Judgments of family cases and to highlight other transparency news.
Media Reports of Family Courts Case and Family Justice Issues
- The Mirror with Girl aged 11 set to become Britain’s youngest mother: The report says the local authority is seeking strict reporting restrictions in the family division of the High Court. Technically a decision in the High Court on reporting restrictions falls for publication under the Transparency Guidance (Schedule1.6 of paragraph 17) which specifies that any application for an order involving a restraint on publication of information relating to the proceedings should normally be published (subject to a written judgment or order for a transcript). We will comment further if we see a published judgment.
- The Guardian with I want my late husband’s children’: the fight for posthumous conception. The report raises some interesting transparency points. Blog to follow.#
- More reports on the ombudsman ruling against Essex County Council for removing a teenage girl without notice from her Aunt and Uncle foster carers
We featured the Daily Mail report in our last Round Up. Last week the teenager’s family were on the Victoria Derbyshire show providing an interesting case study in how families struggle to access legal rights in situations like this. (Their niece was removed suddenly from school with a few hours notice, by Essex council who had a care order for her and kept away from them for several months). They found their MP and Fosterline helpful and the local authority complaints procedure ineffective. The Ombudsman eventually assisted but only long after the child was back at home. They don’t seem to have received advice on an emergency application to the family court to prevent or overturn the removal under the Human Rights Act. This is hardly surprising given they had to respond in a crisis with a few hours notice, were unlikely to qualify for means tested free legal advice nor afford the costs of consulting solicitors to find out whether there was anything they could do. On the face of it there wasn’t. They had no legal decision making rights (parental responsibility) for their niece who was subject to a care order and the local authority had the statutory legal authority to remove the child. They needed specialist legal advice quickly to have known that the local authority were nevertheless acting unlawfully,(in the way they removed her and because the risks didn’t warrant immediate removal rather than proper assessment and a review) and what they could do about it.
The guidance social workers should follow is buried deep in case law. Effective systems of legal training, supervision and communication with Independent Reviewing Officers would in reality be required to be in place for social workers to implement such guidance confidently on the ground.
See also Community Care with Council criticised after social worker removed girl without telling carers
- The BBC with Three-person baby licence granted. Blog to follow
- The Telegraph with Judge rules boy must be taught in Islamic school despite complaints from ‘Anglo-Saxon’ father. This is a report of a Father’s unsuccessful appeal to the High Court to prevent the mother’s choice of school. No published judgment is available. The source is likely to have been press attendance in open court. We aim to comment further if a judgment is published.
- The local Teeside Gazette reported an ex social workers conviction for child sex offences with Sickening sex attacks of charity boss and ex-social worker left victim ‘absolutely broken’
The only other report we have seen is that at Social Work Tutor blog which notes that he remains a registered social worker on the register maintained by the social worker regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council. At the time of writing that seems to remain the case and may raise questions about the efficacy of systems to ensure timely notification to the HCPC and deregistration in urgent cases. In this particular case risk is otherwise managed by the remand in custody for sentence (with imprisonment indicated).
- Reports on poverty and resources, and their relationship with child protection: The All Party Parliamentary Inquiry report on children services “No Good Options”
- The Guardian with MP’s slam funding crisis and ‘postcode lottery’ of children’s services
- BBC News with Funds crisis pushes more children into care
- The National Children’s Bureau with Failure to invest in children’s social care services ignores rising demand
- More reports of the Inequality study:
- Community Care on 15th March with Is tackling poverty no longer core business for social workers?
- See also BBC News on the link between deprivation and going into care on Monday 27th February featuring the Inequalities Study, Surviving Safeguarding, Safe Families and early intervention
- And the local Hampshire Echo reporting Hampshire councils need for hundreds of volunteers for Safe Families with Volunteers sought to help struggling families in the face of austerity
- Reports on new child poverty data from the Office for National Statistics (The Households Below Average Income Figures 2015/2016):
- BBC News with Record levels of poverty in working families
- The Guardian with Child poverty in UK at highest level since 2010, official figures show
- Child Poverty Action Group with 4 millions children now living in poverty in the UK
- CYP Now with Child poverty level passes 4 million mark
- Reporting of McFarlane J’s comments about neglect and poverty in the Bridget Lindley OBE memorial lecture 2017. Community Care with social workers passing decision making to judges due to lack of resources
- Reports on profit in fostering and the government review
- CYP Now last week with incoming ADCS president calls for action on profit-making in fostering
- See also the Guardian with Foster care: you can’t put a price on a happy, secure childhood: Outdated ideas and a focus on cheap solutions is distracting us from the heart of the issue – what is best for the child
And in case you missed this….
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) March 18, 2017
In response to
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) March 11, 2017
New Published Cases for Explanation and Comment
ⓝⓔⓦ Ilott v The Blue Cross & Ors  UKSC 17 (15 March 2017) https://t.co/zvhuvjWeuJ
— Support BAILII (@BAILII) March 15, 2017
ⓝⓔⓦ Cheshire East Borough Council v PN & Ors (Flawed Local Authority Assessments)  EWFC 20 (03 March 2017) https://t.co/pW3LKtDfRS
— Support BAILII (@BAILII) March 8, 2017
In which a fostering social worker is named and criticized for the standard of her Special Guardianship assessment. See reports at:
Jack Russell and lackadaisical assessments https://t.co/9k6VP6lQ4U
— suesspicious minds (@suesspiciousmin) March 10, 2017
Judge slams council over poor quality social work assessmentshttps://t.co/7NUaxzOIoF
— Community Care (@CommunityCare) March 18, 2017
And in case you missed this
'The truly pitiful plight of a mother caught up in drug addiction': https://t.co/qKJgVym6ML
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) March 17, 2017
In other Transparency News
- Paul Rogerson wrote on the collapse of our local press and open justice in the Law Society Gazette with Dead in a decade?
Blog by me on why the collapse of the local press is disastrous for the rule of law https://t.co/N0O1X1vAgT
— PaulRogerson (@PaulRogerson3) March 17, 2017
- Social Work Regulation: Community Care reported another HCPC sanction that gives rise to questions about holding individual social workers to account for wider systemic difficulties.
Social worker falsely logged visits due to fear of manager’s criticism.https://t.co/g9P2I2KDDQ
— Community Care (@CommunityCare) March 16, 2017
Reporting of A&B (Children); and why we don't agree that HCPC decisions naming SW's shouldn't be published: https://t.co/9ez9YC0VVR
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) March 13, 2017
There is more information on Dr Leigh’s work generally on organisational culture, professional identity and blame in child protection social work and a link to her book: Blame, Culture and Child Protection here. We hope to hear more from Dr Leigh at Child Protection Conference 2017:
— transparency project (@seethrujustice) March 3, 2017
- Harry Ferguson in Guardian social care ahead of world social work day
— Guardian Social Care (@GdnSocialCare) March 20, 2017
- Legal Aid and Access to Justice: The litigants in person network launched
— Bath Publishing (@bathpublishing) March 14, 2017
- The Bar Standards Board published a review of the Direct Access Scheme called Public and Licensed Access Review Report. See the Solicitors Journal report:
- Cross examination of victims in the family courts: See Lucy Reed (Chair of the Transparency Project) at Pink Tape on the Prison & Courts Bill – banning cross examination of victims?
Prison & Courts Bill – banning cross examination of victims? https://t.co/oYzkN247KA
— Lucy Reed (@Familoo) March 17, 2017
(See also reports on government plans to roll out provisions to protect alleged victims of rape giving evidence in criminal trials, building on successful pilots in respect of child victims of sexual abuse. Including at the Daily Mail, Guardian and The Brief, ahead of the second reading of the Prison and Courts Bill in the Commons)
- Where are the UK Adoptees on the absence of voices of those who have been adopted in conversations about adoption
See also Hang on a minute, don’t we need to hear from adults adopted as children, if we really want child-centred adoption policy and practice? at the Transparency Project in 2015 reporting the Adopted Voices Conference at the Open Nest
(Two other blogs inspired challenging and thought provoking debate about adoption in their comments sections last week):
McFarlane LJ Bridget Lindley Memorial Lecture – some difficult questions asked about the child protection system https://t.co/vXmj0gwPJG
— CPResource (@C_P_Resource) March 9, 2017
And Beware Ye the comments section highlighting comments on Adoption. I’m sorry it’s not like the moves at Misadventures of an adoptive dad
— 𝗔𝗹 𝗖𝗼𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀 (@Mr_Al_Coates) March 18, 2017
Feature image courtesy of Flickr with thanks to Lauri Heikkinen
This post originally appeared on the Transparency Project blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks.