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MISSION STATEMENT

There is urgent requirement across the UK, for a movement to work in unison to draw to the nations attention the practices of Children’s Services and the Social Workers who run these departments, in Local Authorities throughout the UK. However, the problems and corruption are far reaching and what begins with Social Services extends to the Family Court System, CAFCASS and the Expert Witnesses they rely upon to support their corruption.

  • It needs to be recognised that families are being separated unnecessarily, parents and children are routinely mistreated in the care of Local Authorities. The states Child Protection system is broken and must be reformed.
  • There are many individuals, groups and organisations, who protesting against these injustices. which are sadly occurring on a daily basis. Injustices which are engineered by Social Services and played out in Family Court. There are marches, petitions and groups etc. I support them all.
  • I believe that the only way to have our concerns acknowledged, debated and eventually reformed by the Government is to document them, in a
    academic style, written report/document/expose.
  • This document must be well written with a strong voice. It has to clearly illustrate how the system is failing, using examples and first hand experiences.
  • It must contain verifiable evidence and research, including but not limited to; recent statistics, detailed information illustrating particular points, stories of peoples experiences with the system and the opinions of those involved from different sides of the system, such as parents, foster carers, social workers, professionals from other authorities and children.
  • It’s release must make an impact, drawing media attention which rallies the general public to support the cause. This can be done by building interest over a period of time using pre-release PR. The expose should then be released to the media and government simultaneously, to bring it to the attention of the general public nationwide. If the people are behind the movement the Government will be forced to act! This is a democracy (supposedly) so the people must legally have their collective voice heard and respected.

Forced Adoption UK – It’s a real thing!!

“FORCED. ADOPTION?? Is that a real thing?” I asked incredulously when I first heard the term. I had just begun my reasearch into the Child Protection System and Family Court. With each day that passed, I was learning new things. Things which I wouldn’t have EVER believed could be going on in 21st century Britain. A world leading democracy, a leader in human rights and freedom of speech.

So….Forced Adoption.

I certainly hadn’t ever expected to hear the words “Forced” followed by the word “Adoption”. It immediately brought to mind horrific images of the Victorian workhouses and the cruel separation of poverty stricken families , or the Magdelene Laundries of the 20th century, where young umarried mothers were sent to prevent shame being brought the family.  

“Yup – it’s real, even though we are in the 21st century it’s real” I was told.

“Unbelievable” was all I could manage to utter!

“So, please, explain this to me, how does this happen?” I eventually said.

“Simply put, Forced Adoption is where The Child Protection System (Social Services, The Family Court and CAFCASS) are legally able to remove newborn babies, toddlers and children up to the age of 7 and have them adopted without the consent of their birth parents. The UK are the only country to in Europe to maintain such a draconian practice.

“There are Government set annual targets to meet. It was Tony Blair’s New Labour government who are responsible for increasing prevalence of Forced Adoption?” Blimey, I realised I must be making myself sound stupid as I was repeating what was being said to me!

“Uh Huh and worse still, adoption is sometimes, in these times of Austerity and Local Authority budget cuts, financially motivated. With their annual Central Government budgets being slashed year on year, it costs less to implement care proceedings than offer families their time, and energy and pay for education ad other help through early intervention support services. Additionally, it has become increasingly difficult for social workers to find, assess and approve new adoptive parents as they are short staffed and don’t have the resources to recruit potential adoptive parents. This leads to them relying on private sector agencies, where adoption is a for-profit, big money business.

Furthermore, the LA’s are also financially motivated. When an LA use external Adoption Agencies to successfully place a child or children in an adoptive family, the Government reimburses them”.

These are statements I’ve read on numerous occasions. On blogs, the websites of action groups and the many Facebook groups dedicated to ending forced adoption and the general level of corruption that exists in the UK’s child protection agencies and The Family Court.

In order to fulfill the need for newborn babies, required by couples that can’t have children of their own, Social Workers are targeting expectant mothers. These pregnant ladies are being assessed during pregnancy and using the crystal ball method of foreseeing the future, deemed to be incapable of parenting their unborn child. The court reviews the flimsy evidence the social workers have presented and make the judgement based on the parents or just mother, being unable to parent their child as they are deemed to be unable to parent and this leave their children at ‘future risk of serious harm’.

Cut to the maternity ward. A mother labours for hours and then, both mother and child being exhausted, they rest, snuggling together and building bonds.

Yet within a few hours of her child being born, Social Services storm the maternity ward waving court orders or Section 20’s. They take the baby from mother’s arms and soon have her/him adopted!

I have been researching Forced Adoptions and have learnt that “They are targeting educated mothers who don’t pose any kind of risk”. A few years ago, before I had any serious involvement with Social Services, I would have taken these claims with a pinch of salt.

However, as I dig deeper, research further and speak to more and more people across the UK and further afield. I learn that nothing is impossible in the dark realms of Child Protection. I believe it to be true, that during the 9 months of a woman’s pregnancy, Social Services plan carefully, crafting reasons, using stock phrases and hearsay evidence to make the parents situation meet the “Threshold”.

The “Threshold” is an ambiguous term which appears in The Children’s Act 1989, the legislation that governs the child protection system across the UK. The “Threshold” is used as yard stick against which the tnts level of care is measured. It is often described as “Threshold Criteria”, which would suggest a number of criteria or a list of attributes that cover good parenting. A breach of the threshold is used to justify the initiation of Care Proceedings.

I recently heard the story of a pregnant woman who was being brought to a Child Protection Conference, over a clerical error. During her first appointment with the midwives, early in her pregnancy, she was asked the standard questions. These include questions about your medical history, previous pregnancies and lifestyle. One of these questions is “Do you use any illicit substances?”. The woman truthfully told the midwife ‘no’ she doesn’t and hasn’t ever used drugs. However, the midwife accidentally ticked the box “IV drug user” which automatically triggered a referral to Social Services.

One would assume, that once such a mistake was identified, all parties involved would have acknowledge it was an error and that there would be no further action. Think again!! In this particular case, a pregnant woman of 31, an educated, qualified accountant who has never taken drugs or been involved with the police or social Services was treated as though she genuinely posed a “significant risk of harm” to her unborn child.

It was just one tick placed accidentally in the wrong box, a mistake which the midwife who made it has owned up to immediately that led to an unimaginable chain of events. Instead of enjoying the nine months of pregnancy, taking the time to mentally adjust to the impending change in her life and preparing her nest. This mother was hounded by Social Services, investigated, questioned, dragged into unnecessary meetings and had her good name dragged through the mud. The constant stress and worry, on top of the discomforts that are part and parcel of pregnancy, led to her having to give up work earlier than planned, due to a decline in her mental and physical health.

The social worker really went to town in her attempts to make this mother appear incompetent and justify removing her child at birth. In her reports she claimed that the woman spent £300 to £400 a day on crack cocaine and heroin. That she has confessed to injecting up to £400 a day in heroin alone! Such a preposterous lie, anyone who injected £400 of heroin a day would most certainly be dead! But that wasn’t all. The report also claimed that she was a former sex-worker – yet were unable to provide any solid proof. Upon doing a little digging, it appears that the claims of sex-work were garnered from the fact that the woman had previously been sexually abused and the case had been to court, the perpetrator prosecuted, convicted and served a custodial sentence. The court proceedings had been recorded and that recording included the woman testifying against her abuser – a horrifying ordeal during which she had to recall in detail the sexual abuse she had suffered. This is classed as sex-work – really?!?!?

Despite having these ludicrous accusations made against her, the lady was very reasonable, she went along with Social Services, did as they requested and was sure that this nonsense would eventually be seen for what it was…nonsense. She was referred to the local Drugs and Alcohol service, against her wishes. If she attended an appointment at the Drugs and Alcohol service, a file would be opened and it would be permanently placed on her medial records. Which would follow her around for life. As she had done nothing wrong she refused to engage. However, in order to prove that she wasn’t using drugs, she offered to organise and pay for an independent drugs test,with a reputable drugs testing laboratory. But this was rejected as a solution by the social worker, who told her that independent testing wasn’t reliable enough.

Eventually, the Social Worker visited the lady and advised her that she had completed her investigations and was organising a Child Protection Conference to take place in a few weeks time, as serious concerns about the ‘level of risk’ to her newborn remained.

Understandably, the woman was distraught, she had done her research and knew the steps involved in Child Protection and Care Proceedings. She knew that if after discussion at a CPC, the vote went in favour of the Social Worker, as per usual, a PLO meeting would ensue. After which, she would be taken to Family Court, where the solicitor or barrister representing the Local Authority would convince the Lay Bench* to issue a Court Order for her baby to be removed at birth.

Since speaking to this lady and hearing her story, I have been thinking about her situation quite a lot and hoping that someone involved in this case would eventually see sense.

And thankfully…

Someone has.

I learnt last week, that the CPC was cancelled upon instruction of the Chair of the CPC, who has some sense about her and could clearly see that there was no case of ‘harm to an unborn child’. Not only did she call off the CPC, she formally chastised the Social Worker who had instigated the CPC and gave her until the middle of the month to make a legitimate case or leave the woman alone. She also insisted that the lady be drug tested. The lady once again offered to pay for an independent drug test, but was advised by the Chair to attend the local drug and alcohol service as they are given more weight and deemed to be more trustworthy by the Local Authority and the Family Court.

The lady did as instructed and today attended the local drug and alcohol service for testing. The worker who carried out the testing was flabbergasted by the whole situation, so much so that she got on the phone to the social worker and lambasted her for putting this woman through so much unnecessary stress and suffering. She stated that is was clear as day that this woman was not and had never been a drug addict or a even a drug user. Plus she was angry that a heavily pregnant woman had been sent to a place which could be dangerous to her health and well-being.

Thankfully, this investigation was brought to the attention of someone with some common sense and the case is to be dropped. The woman in question can now enjoy the last few weeks of her pregnancy and look forward to welcoming her child into the world, without the fear of social services wrecking her happiness.

 

References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/inter-agency-adoption-fee-grant-for-local-authorities?fbclid=IwAR1XB8JsboC2IgrthlqGvwYkGq3gN5gQqiBH5DwLy6TwGL50nSSnZB6AR3E#how-to-spend-the-grant
  2. *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magistrate_(England_and_Wales)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the system acting lawfully, or have they circumvented the law to their own ends?

The UN Convention of Human Rights (UCHR) is an immensely detailed document which plays an important part in international law. It has been ratified by the UK Government and therefore is part of the UK’s Law.

United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

16. Marriage and Family. Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.

17. The Right to Your Own Things. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.

18. Freedom of Thought. We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.

19. Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.

20. The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.

21. The Right to Democracy. We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.

22. Social Security. We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.

23. Workers’ Rights. Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.

24. The Right to Play. We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.

25. Food and Shelter for All. We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.

26. The Right to Education. Education is a right. Primary school should be free. We should learn about the United Nations and how to get on with others. Our parents can choose what we learn.

27. Copyright. Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.

28. A Fair and Free World. There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.

29. Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.

30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.

United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

16. Marriage and Family. Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.

17. The Right to Your Own Things. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.

18. Freedom of Thought. We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.

19. Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.

20. The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.

21. The Right to Democracy. We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.

22. Social Security. We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.

23. Workers’ Rights. Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.

24. The Right to Play. We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.

25. Food and Shelter for All. We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.

26. The Right to Education. Education is a right. Primary school should be free. We should learn about the United Nations and how to get on with others. Our parents can choose what we learn.

27. Copyright. Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.

28. A Fair and Free World. There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.

29. Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.

30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.

Within the UCHR

Right to respect for private and family life

Article 8

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

DWP Staff Admit Inflicting Psychological Harm On Claimants

A shocking new testimony has shown that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff and managers intentionally inflicted psychological harm on benefit claimants, engaged in unofficial sanctioning targets, and pushed disabled people into work, despite the risk to their well-being. The evidence comes from new interviews with 10 civil servants who worked for the […]

DWP Staff Admit Inflicting Psychological Harm On Claimants

Poverty, deprivation and inequality in Tory Britain

I wrote this article which was published on 31st December 2020 on East Midlands Bylines Times

Dear Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 

Mr Johnson, the time has come for you to step out of the cosy bubble of denial in which you exist. It is the citizens of this nation who gave you power based on your election manifesto. We expect you to make decisions that are beneficial to all, not just one section of society.

In the last general election just over a year ago, you schmoozed the people of traditionally Labour-voting constituencies in the old industrial heartlands of the Midlands and the North of England. To the amazement of many, possibly yourselves included, the Tories secured their vote. Then you promptly did as you always do, turned your back and betrayed them. You have not delivered on your manifesto promises, especially for the people in the constituencies you turned from red to blue. They are now suffering worsening levels of deprivation and hardship and the number of families who fall into the category of absolute poverty is increasing exponentially. But this is not confined to just the North of England, it’s the same across the UK, where we are seeing deepening levels of poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and reliance on charities to cover the most basic, fundamental requirements for an acceptable standard of existence. Things are so bad that UN aid organisation, Unicef, is to provide food aid to the UK for the first time since its inception 70 years ago.

You may deny it, but we can all see that Conservatives have spent the last decade destroying our societies and hopes for a better future. You’ve removed the security nets, by reducing budgets for local authorities, decreasing funding for essential services, reforming the benefits system and placing the country into austerity measures. Vital services are now chronically underfunded and under resourced. All of which have serious and irreparable consequences. 

Sure Start Centres

Let’s take a look at just one example: Sure Start Children’s Centres. This Labour introduced initiative provided a raft of much needed services to families in their own communities. Usually, these centres were built beside primary schools and catered to the families living within walking distance. They took on many functions, including prenatal midwifery, post-natal baby clinics, family health care, parental educational courses and stay-and-play for babies and toddlers. The latter providing social interaction for new parents at what is often a very challenging time. The centres also brought in services from the local authority, offering benefits help, general advice and information. Those families, mine included, who used Sure Start Family Centres, found them to be most beneficial. They were especially successful in socially deprived areas and where there were many families new to the UK. Overall, it brought communities together. Neighbourhoods which had lost their sense of unity began to become communities once again as parents met one another when visiting the centres, formed friendships which extended to their children and fostered a sense of belonging.  In 2009 there were 3,600 centres with an annual budget of £1.8 bn.  It’s now estimated that since 2010 two thirds of all Sure Start Centres have been forced to close. Those that remain have suffered from huge cuts to their local authority annual budgets, reducing the amount and quality of the services they offer.

This decimation of local children’s services is in direct correlation to the year on year increases in the number of children who become ‘looked after’ by the state. On 31 March 2010 there were 64,400 children in the care system. In 2020, this figure had increased to 80,080. Many of these children have been removed from the care of their birth parents because of financial struggles and the myriad of issues that essentially stem from poverty. If your government were to increase the financial support provided to families, I’m sure that the number of children taken into care annually would fall.

Welfare Reform and Austerity policies

As soon as the Conservatives came to power in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, their government began to seek ways in which to reduce the national deficit, caused by the ‘credit crunch’ and subsequent recession of the late noughties. Ten years on, we can all see how the brunt of the savings were made and how they have been severely detrimental to those citizens and their families with the lowest incomes.             

The Tory government introduced a series of new legislation under the banner of welfare reform and austerity policies. Well aware of the devastation these changes to state benefits would cause, they tried to hide as much of this as possible. Where they couldn’t hide the truth, they instead tried to soften the blow of these policies. How? With a propaganda drive that demonised benefit claimants, labelling them as ‘cheats’ and ‘scroungers’. The media was encouraged to run stories on families who claimed benefits. They were portrayed as living a comfortable and luxurious life funded by the taxpayer which angered the nation and justified reducing the rate of standard benefits for working-age adults to 60 per cent below the basic standard of living.

Tories have introduced and passed legislation which has caused the poor to become poorer and the rich to become richer, the results of which have caused poverty and deprivation to become more commonplace and widespread across the UK. The worst affected are those who were already socially and financially deprived, with families worst hit. A recent article in the Big Issue estimates:

 “There were 4.2 million UK children living in poverty in 2019, according to Government figures. That is estimated to be 30 percent of kids in the country, or nine for every class of 30 pupils, and it is double the poverty rate of pensioners”.

In 2018 The UN sent Philip Alston, a special rapporteur on poverty, to the UK to carry out an investigation into the rising numbers of people living in absolute poverty. When the report was released, what did the government do? They did their best to hide his damning findings. It would have been a disaster had this information made it to the evening news at 6pm and the front pages of the tabloids.

The year 2020

You can find the article here; East Midlands Bylines Times – Article

2020 has been a year none could have predicted. It has been a year where some might say you, Prime Minister, have come undone. You see, despite your best efforts to hide the true scale of poverty and deprivation, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought it to the fore. No longer can you hide from the truth. Our once prosperous and secure nation is on its knees and crumbling.  Where parents could once confidently raise their children in the knowledge that they would do better than they had, they now genuinely fear for the future. The divide between the haves and have-nots is widening year by year, unpicking the social improvements made in the UK since the introduction of the Welfare State in 1948. We are beset on all fronts by poverty, deprivation and inequality. Much of this is your doing. Over recent months the media has been full of reports and articles providing a wealth of alarming figures and statistics. Although the chancellor introduced and extended the furlough scheme for those forced to stop work until the threat of infection has lessened, the pandemic has seen many small businesses fold, leading to massive job losses. New claims for Universal Credit rose by 1.7 million between February and May this year. This equates to there being approximately 4.2 million households in receipt of Universal Credit in May. Universal Credit claims are made per household, regardless of whether that consists of a single adult, a couple, a single parent or a family with children. Essentially, this means that far more than 1.7 million people have been plunged into poverty. Did you, Mr Prime Minister, admit that your government’s policies had been flawed? No, you exhibited the most outrageous and frankly disrespectful behaviour yet. During PM’s Questions on 16 June, when asked about the increasing poverty levels in the UK, you did not tell the truth when informing the speaker and the house that, “absolute poverty and relative poverty have both declined under this government and there are hundreds of thousands – I think 400,000 – fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010.”

In the days and weeks to come, you faced the full fury of the country. The leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, instantly refuted your statement and demanded a retraction, as did many charities and organisations who work so hard across the UK to help those families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. In particular, the End Child Poverty coalition promptly made a complaint about your ‘selective, inaccurate and misleading’ quotes on child poverty, which was upheld by the Statistics Authority.  Yet rather than being apologetic and admitting the information you offered was incorrect and not reflective of the true depth of the poverty issues, you remained recalcitrant. In response to Starmer’s demand, you replied, “I’m happy to point out to my learned friend that actually there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty, 500,000 children falling below thresholds of low income and material deprivation.” This was blatantly untrue and you were caught out. Donald Hirsch, a Loughborough University professor of social policy said, in relation to child poverty, that since the “start of Tory-led administrations in 2010-11, the figure has actually risen by around 100,000.”

This year saw us all living under restrictions. I doubt there is an individual in the country who hasn’t felt the effect of the changes to our lifestyles and freedoms. On 20 March, at the start of the first lockdown, schools in the UK closed and they remained closed until the beginning of the new academic year in September. This meant that all children, except those of key workers and those who had an allocated social worker, were at home all day every day. This increased the levels of food insecurity as families found they couldn’t afford to feed themselves and their children three square meals a day. Parents were forced to forgo one or more meals a day to ensure that their children had enough to eat and were not going to bed hungry. Rishi Sunak agreed to place a £20 a week temporary uplift onto all Universal Credit claims from April, theoretically providing an extra £1000 per year in benefits. Yet what he didn’t take into account was that this increase would push many above the benefit cap limit and that they could possibly end up losing more than they gained.  This just isn’t good enough when the United Kingdom is one of the world’s six wealthiest nations. 

Marcus Rashford

It has taken Manchester United player, Marcus Rashford, to stand up and make enough noise for the government to finally take some action to help those citizens you have impoverished. In under a year, he has achieved more to combat child poverty than any politician has in the last 25 years. In collaboration with the charity Fareshare, his own team of dedicated campaigners and his mum, Rashford has succeeded in securing £15 per week in food vouchers for every child who receives free school meals during the school holidays, throughout 2020 and into 2021. 

Mr Prime Minister, as a mother of two children, I was disgusted by your failure to support the most needy young people in our society. At the crucial House of Commons vote on the issue, you and your party whips worked to ensure the naysayers would win. The news left many families scared and anxious. However, to the surprise of many: restaurants, cafes, catering businesses and charity organisations picked up where you had failed. Over the autumn half-term break, thousands dedicated their stock, time and effort to ensuring no child in their area would go hungry.        

It took a petition and a huge amount of news coverage and media pressure for you to finally U-turn, back down and grant this lifeline to the 4.2 million children living in poverty. Marcus Rashford succinctly summed up the situation: “This is not politics, this is humanity.” He added, “These children matter. These children are the future of this country. They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”

A new year

2020 is over, it’s the first day of the new year. 2020 saw the world unexpectedly thrown into the chaos of a global pandemic.  Our lives in the UK changed and things will never be quite the same again. It is in times such as these, that a country needs a strong, unified, competent and inclusive leadership. One that takes decisions based on the good of the whole nation. Sadly, we all know that this cannot be provided by you.


Long Covid shouldn’t be a surprise.

As a woman who has fought for six long years to be diagnosed with M.E/CFS, I am not in the least surprised that long covid is affecting so many. But I’m angered by my personal experiences of becoming chronically ill after a virus and not being taken seriously for six years.

The consequences of the medical professionals failing to believe, investigate or treat my symptoms caused my life and my families life to enter into freefall!

Eventually, it fell apart. Yet I wasn’t offered help any support by social services or the GP. Instead, because there was still no formal medical diagnosis I was found to be a neglectful, emotionally abusive mother and my children removed. I was taken to family court and was powerless to contest the reports filled with false accusations, un-evidenced assertions and soul destroying character assassinations.

Now, two years after I lost my children and my home, my GP has finally agreed that I have M.E/CFS and is making a referral to the M.E/CFS clinic.

The attitude towards sufferers of chronic illness is appalling. It certainly adds to the anxiety and stress of sufferers, which in turn exacerbates the symptoms further.

I hope that the emergence of Long Covid sheds light on those who have been been suffering for decades without adequate state support.

Through Vikki's Eyes...

Long covid should not be a surprise to the medical profession. Or anyone.

We have had ME/CFS* as a diagnosis for many many years and it is (I believe more often than not) an illness that happens post virally.

We have all this knowledge about ME/CFS as a post viral illness, so why oh why is there surprise that this could be happening now with long covid.

The FND** community have also been expecting an influx of new diagnoses. From the support groups, we are seeing people joining who report their symptoms have started post covid.

If the patients with these illnesses can see this coming, why do the medics and government not anticipate this? Is it an inherent ableism that people just get better from being sick?

I am really pleased that the NHS are starting up multidisciplinary medical teams to help with recovery and treatment for long covid…

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Poverty UK 2020

CONTACT DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

Today I spoke to Natasha Phillps of Researching Reform about the problems parents and children in care are having with contact during this extraordinary time. You can hear The Voice of the Child Podcase here;

You can also read the Part 1 of the report I am writing on the same subject. Part 2 will follow shortly, detailing the results of the survey I recently carried out.

An Examination into the way the suspension of face-to-face contact between birth parents and Looked-After-Children has been handled by the state.

As a mother of two children for whom I was deemed unfit to care, I have had first-hand experience of the Child Protection System and The Family Court in the UK.  I was unaware, as are most who have never had involvement with this sector of public servants, how poorly the system is operating and the major issues which prevent it functioning in the manner it was designed to. My experience led me to begin independently researching the system and inspired me to join with other parents and likeminded people, to raise awareness of the problems that plague the system. I’m currently working on an expose which highlights, in detail, my findings and by using the experiences of other parents and families as case studies, illustrates its failings, its corruption and its lack of accountability.

In Mid-March, what had until now been an International problem, became a UK problem. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson took to the podium for daily press conferences, it became clear that life in our country was about to change dramatically.  As the week progressed, the nation went into panic- mode, there was an apocalyptic-movie inspired week of fear, where many people went to the supermarkets and the shelves were left bare. It was crazy how folk were frantically bulk-buying. This led to a shortage of toilet paper! Really? Yes, really and no I couldn’t understand it either! The following week we went into full lockdown, fearing for our lives and watching as the daily infection and death figures increased.  The Government went into overdrive trying to ensure the nation followed their instructions to “Stay Home- Protect the NHS” and the Chancellor rolled out survival packages for businesses.  Worker’s across the county, especially those on zero hour contracts in the gig economy and the self-employed knew that they were in for a rough ride financially. By the beginning of March only keyworkers were working, the NHS, the supermarket staff and the emergency services were rushed off their feet. Sales of surgical masks and latex gloves soared exponentially.

Whilst all this was happening, was anyone thinking about the children who are not living with their parents? The children the state had removed from their parents care due to concerns of the being” a significant rise of harm”. These children, who normally have only limited, scheduled and often supervised contact with their parents.

The week beginning 16th March Social Services departments nationwide began to cancel face-to-face contact session between Looked-After-Children (LAC) and their birth parents and families. However, with a lack of guidance from above, they were not sure what to do next. Some social workers liaised with carers and organised alternative ways to maintain contact – by utilising digital media. Many others, however, made no attempt to help in any way, leaving parents and children in the dark.  Many concerned parents tried contacting their children’s SW for solutions, yet for many, their attempts were futile. The majority of Social Workers appeared to have no idea what to do, gave little assurance to parents and families half-heartedly agreed to look into alternative arrangements and call back. Very few did as they promised. Some then went into isolation and despite being able to work from home, didn’t take parents calls or answer anxious emails.

Schools closed for usual schooling on Friday 20th March. BUT, the Government kept them open to cater for those children deemed ‘vulnerable’. That included those from families currently registered under Social Services.

That weekend, Michael Gove, Cabinet Minister made a statement to clarify how the movement restrictions and social distancing policy related to the movement of the children whose parents are separated and shared parenting. He confirmed that providing social distancing measures were taken during handover, children could move between two homes as per usual.

Yet, there was no mention of how contact should take place between parents and LAC! As time went on, the MOJ issued formal guidance on a range of issues including shared parenting and the manner in which The Family Court was to continue operating via tele-conferencing.

The Govt even managed to write, pass in the Lords and Commons twice and issue a 300+ page emergency Coronavirus legislation. But not one agency involved in child protection matters bothered to care about the children in care and the impact having no contact with their parents may have on their already fragile emotional state.

Does it not occur to them that those children in care old enough to understand the current situation may be worried for their parents and family. As we know, unless given full information, children are liable to make up the holes in a story using their knowledge and their imagination. Many will be scared that their parents, grandparents or extended family could be ill, or even worse still, dead!!

There have been questions from worried parents and angry rants, all over the many Facebook groups who deal with child protection issues. This led to me taking the decision to write and issue a survey to find out what is really happening in the UK.

And I’m not alone in my curiosity!

The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory has commissioned a project, which hopes to develop guidance to support families and professionals in managing virtual contact when face-to-face contact is restricted, and to use the findings to innovate “long-term solutions”.

The research will be conducted by Professor Elsbeth Neil and Ruth Copson from the Centre for Research on Children and Families at the University of East Anglia.

The press release says:

“The research team is looking for families and practitioners to share their experiences of maintaining contact between children and their birth relatives during the crisis. This could be social workers, guardians, contact supervisors, foster carers, adoptive parents, birth relatives or others involved in managing contact.”

They go on to clarify the Governments position and the Local Authorities obligations;

The Coronavirus Act 2020 does not amend either Section 34 or Para 15 Schedule 2 Children Act 1989. These duties therefore remain.

What does the government say?

Guidance published by the Department for Education on 3 April 2020 says:

“What about court orders related to contact for children in care?

We expect that contact between children in care and their birth relatives will continue. It is essential for children and families to remain in touch at this difficult time, and for some children, the consequences of not seeing relatives would be traumatising.

Contact arrangements should therefore be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account a range of factors including the government’s social distancing guidance and the needs of the child. It may not be possible, or appropriate, for the usual face-to-face contact to happen at this time and keeping in touch will, for the most part, need to take place virtually. We expect the spirit of any contact orders made in relation to children in care to be maintained and will look to social workers to determine how best to support those valuable family interactions based on the circumstances of each case.”

TO BE CONTINUED………….

The 20 minute ultimatum that changed everything!

So, at the Final Hearing at the end of January last year the Family Court issued my mother with a Special Guardianship Order. This is a step below adoption and a step up from a simple Care Order.

It’s viewed as a permanent solution.

The children are placed with the Special Guardian until they reach majority – adulthood – 18 years of age. The children are placed in the care of another, responsible, more suitable primary care giver as their birth parent(s) has failed as a parent.

So a replacement, a new primary carer has been found. An adult who has been rigorously assessed, an adult who has had their lives scrutinised at every level. They’ve been asked about their childhood, their relationships, their political views. They pry into their financial position. They ask about their sexual preferences and probably go so far as to enquire when they lost their virginity!

Why have they made such a drastic decision?

Why?

Because of the lies, twisted truths, exaggerations, un-evidenced allegations and a whole 30 odd pages of repetition. All of which was derogatory, demeaning, disparaging and wholly devastating. My character wasn’t just assassinated, it was then brought back to life to be hung, drawn and quartered. A social worker who spent, I would roughly estimate, at the most, 5 hours in my company had been able to analyse me, assess my abilites, diagnose any mental of physical illness and conclude that I am,

“A Neglectful and Emotionally Abusive Parent. Who poses a serious risk of harm to her children and therefore meets the criteria for immediate removal of said children”

When the Social Worker learnt of my drug dependency problems, she immediately called upon the stereotype she held in her mind and applied it to me. She had won, I could see it in her eyes. As she tried to look and sound dissapointed in me, inside she was gloating and doing a victory dance. She’d finally broken me.

Yes – I know I’d been hiding and lying! I was petrified – understandably. I knew that once the cat was out the bag my life would change irreparably. Nothing would ever be the same again.

When the fateful call came in, I had been sat at the laptop, working on my plans for the future, after my partner had recently been incarcerated.

So as she laid out my limited options I had frantically started Googling ‘section 20’ and ‘what to do when they say they are taking your kids’. In the brief skim read I’d managed, I knew that I needed to think carefully now. This wasn’t a game, this was the most serious, life changing, world shattering, unexpected ultimatum I’d ever received. It was the moment I had know, deep down in my heart, would one day come. I’d lived in a state of denial for so long – it had to come to an end. And I’d always known it’d be messy, painful and would break my mothers heart

“NO, NO, NO! WAIT. Give me a chance to think please. Please, you can’t just railroad me like this. I need to speak to a solicitor first. I’m gong to call you back?”

As I sat, phone to ear, listening to the SW tell me I COULDN’T pick my kids up from school. I was so DANGEROUS! I listened to her issue her ultimatum, it occured to me that I took the kids to school this morning but they’d never be coming home again! That was it it, I wouldn’t be doing the school run again! I shut my eyes and wished it wasn’t true, it was just a bad dream. But when I opened them, she was still there at the other then of the phone – talking.

“You have two options and 20 minutes to decide what you’re going to do. ok, you understand?”

“Yes” I replied “And my options are?”

“We’ve already got a foster family lined up to take the kids directly from school. I can come round in half and hour and you can sign a Section 20 and we can pack their stuff”

Then she went silent!

“OR” I must have yelled, impatiently.

“Or you find someone who can move in with you, be with you at all times when the children are home, who can supervise your care of the children and ensure you don’t cause them any harm. Or move into someone elses house where the same applies. How about your parents? You should ask them” she said

“My parents – I can’t ask my mum right now. My dad is dying, they are at St.Lukes hospice, he’s being booked in as we speak. I can hardly ring my mum and confess to having a drug problem and ask her if the kids and I can move in, can I?” I explained.

But, I really didn’t have any other choice! Mum and dads house, my family home, was the only option. I had to confess to my mother. Who was at that moment booking my dying father into the hospice!!

“You’ll have to sign the section 20 then. I’ll jump on my motorbike and be round soon” the hateful, cold, uncaring bitch replied.

“Wait, I’ll talk to my mum”. She gave me 20 minutes!

I called, she said she could not talk at that moment. I was under pressure, I could hear from my mum’s tone that she was also experiencing a life altering moment. But, I’d been given a twenty minute window in which to find a viable solution! I had no time to wait. So I made my confession by text message!

The social worker rang back while I was waiting for mum’s response. She told me that whatever the outcome, I should start packing the kids essentials into bags. She was collecting the children from school and taking them to foster care or to my mum’s.

Is it all in my head? Or am I really unwell?

So I have a crack and heroin dependency this we all know! But I’m struggling to get my act together and I feel like the more I complain about the way I feel the less I’m believed! My world started to collapse over two years ago and I have lost so much, mother-in-law, partner, my father, my kids and our family home! Yet the system has been less than helpful. Rather it’s been punitive and judgemental. As have my so-called friends and family!

I have taken online tests (yes I know its the internet and don’t rely on anything being the truth). They all give me the same results; Borderline Personality Disorder!

Six years, the amount of time I’ve been “unwell”, been dismissed by the doctors, social workers and sent on my way. Any mental health problems I describe are attributed to substance dependency.

I’ve tried to get some counselling, I’ve taken stock of my life and identified issues for which I don’t feel able to gain closure on my own. I have been repeatedly assured that I have been put on the waiting list for counselling, with drug and alcohol services. But that turned out to be a lie. I’ve self-referred to IAPT, but they say they aren’t trained to deal with substance misuse, claiming drug and alcohol services are responsible for my mental health. My GP said he can’t refer me to second line mental health services. I don’t present with symptoms severe enough to warrant that level of care!! Charities can’t help. Even the bereavement support charities – despite suffering a double loss in just months!!

I have been made to feel undeserving, unworthy, a lousy incapable mother and a stereotypical junkie! I can’t move on, not on my own. Not without some kind of help!

I learned as a child how to hide my true emotions, because I was living with a secret alcoholic and I was told that I had to keep it a secret! So I learnt to live with it and pretend that everything was hunkydory at home. So I was seen as the “strong” one amongst my friends. The dependable one, the person to go-to for sound advice.

Only now do I understand, sadly, that for years I have been building a ball of emotions internally. I’d become so accustomed to burying my true feelings, ignoring them, denying their existence to myself. All to my detriment. One thing I did know for certain, was that one day it would all blow up and bring me down!

HOW CAN I GET SOME HELP??