Reply From DOE In Response To Questions Raised After Panorama Progam


Thank you for your emails of 19 January, addressed to the Secretary of State for Education and the Department of Health (DH), about parents accused of non-accidental injury and family court matters. I hope you will appreciate that the Secretary of State receives a large amount of correspondence and is unable to reply personally to each one. It is for this reason that on this occasion I have been asked to reply.

In your email you listed a number of questions covering various issues regarding family law, children in care and child safeguarding. I will address your questions below:

Q1: If a child has suffered significant harm, why don’t the police bring charges against the parents?

When making a child assessment order, the court may give directions for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO). An EPO enables the child to be kept or removed from where the child is, if this is necessary to provide immediate short-term protection. Any person may apply for an EPO, although in practice the vast majority of applications are likely to be made by local authorities (LAs). The police have specific powers to protect children under part 5 of the Children Act 1989. These should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an EPO, or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child. Where a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, an officer may remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him/her there. However, no child may be kept in police protection for more than 72 hours. Alternatively, a police officer may take such steps that are reasonable to ensure that the child’s removal from hospital, or other place in which he/she is being accommodated, is prevented. Further guidance on disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/mccvquv.

 Q2: If the police feel there is no evidence to pursue a criminal charge, why are parents pursued through the family courts?

Some of the most difficult cases which the justice system has to deal with contain allegations which span both the criminal and family courts, with proceedings often being conducted at the same time. However, it is important to say that both courts serve different purposes and aims. Whilst the criminal courts are there to determine if a party is guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, the family court system conducts a child focused investigation, more inquisitorial in nature, with orders only made if it is in the child’s best interests. The family court’s overriding duty is to treat the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration, and apportioning blame is not its primary concern.

 Q3: If there is significant harm, why are parents afforded the same rights as those in criminal proceedings?

Please see answer to question 2.

 Q4: Why would a parent seek medical attention if they have injured their child?

The department cannot comment on this question as it asks about a parent’s motivation for reporting injuries, nor is the department in a position to comment on a parent’s judgement.

 Q5: Why if a baby has a fracture that it is instantly assumed that the parents have injured the child?

Experts have a clear duty to provide evidence that conforms to the best practice of their profession, and their duty to the court overrides any obligation to any of the parties. Their role is to provide independent expert opinion on matters that are beyond the scope of the court’s knowledge and expertise. If the court is not satisfied with their evidence, the expert may be called to provide oral evidence and be cross-examined in court. The parties in a case have the option to seek legal advice about the route of appeal if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of a case.

 A doctor will use their clinical judgement to determine whether an injury could have been caused deliberately. It is then a matter for social services to decide who could have caused the injury and if the child is at risk.

 Judges involved in these very sensitive cases know the enormity of the consequences of their decisions to the parties and their children. They quite rightly only want to take such decisions when satisfied that all the information and advice that they need is available. The overriding duty of the court is to treat the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration at all times. Where an order is made by the court it will reflect the assessment of the court about how best to meet the welfare needs of the child, based on all the evidence presented to the court.

 Q6: Why don’t hospitals carry out exhaustive tests to rule out non accidental injury?

Please see answer to question 5.

Q7: Why are non-accidental injuries reported mostly in babies?

Any child presented with what appears to be a non-accidental injury should be reported as appropriate. DH does not hold statistics on the age of children reported. For health and social care statistics, you may wish to contact the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which is responsible for collecting data in the NHS. They can be contacted by telephone on: 0845 3006016, by email at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/contact-us or by writing to:

 Health and Social Care Information Centre, 1 Trevelyan Square, Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 6AE.

 Q8: Why are the same experts used time and time again, and nearly always report in favour of the social services?

The department would like to assure you that this is not the case. Section 13 of the Children Act 2004 requires each LA to establish a Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for their local area and specifies the organisations and individuals (other than the LA) that should be represented on LSCBs. An LSCB must be established for every LA area. The LSCB has a range of roles and statutory functions including developing local safeguarding policy and procedures and scrutinising local arrangements. The statutory objectives and functions of the LSCB are described in the paragraph below:

Section 14 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the objectives of LSCBs, which are:

 (a) to co-ordinate what is done by each person or body represented on the Board for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the area

(b) to ensure the effectiveness of what is done by each such person or body for those purposes

Q9: How can experts who asked for their opinion form the opinion of abuse, when they have never met or assessed the child’s injuries?

Please see answer to question 5.

 Q10: Babies, toddlers and children fall and bump into things every day, there are any number of explanations as to why they might have an injury. What are the diagnostic criteria for identifying non-accidental injury?

Please see answer to question 5.

 Q11: Do experts use up to date and best available evidence?

Please see answer to question 5.

 Q12: Why are parents with NO previous contact with social services and with no previous concerns about their parenting instantly become perpetrators?

This is not the case. The welfare of the child is of paramount importance. All avenues must be investigated when there are concerns for the child’s wellbeing.

Q13: Why do social services take healthy babies from loving caring parents, where there is no history of abuse, neglect?

I have provided below the outline of the processes of the child protection system in England. It also shows the thresholds which must be met for LAs to intervene in family life.

The Children Act 1989 provides the framework for the English child protection system. One of its key principles is that children are best looked after within their families, with their parents playing a full part in their lives, wherever possible. 

 Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 sets the threshold for statutory intervention in a child’s life. If a LA has reasonable cause to suspect that a child living in their area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, they are under a duty to investigate. This is to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

 The ultimate decision to remove a child from his/her family rests with the court. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration in any decision. The judiciary is independent and outside of government or LA influence. The court may only summon a care order if they are satisfied that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, and that the care order is deemed better for the child than not taking any action, or that the child is beyond parental control.

 Q14: Social workers and guardians are not medically trained, how can they give an opinion of the physical and emotional/mental health of parents and children?

LA children’s services and other agencies in the local area are responsible, in law, for ensuring that arrangements are in place to safeguard and protect children. Where a child is suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, the LA is required by section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries, to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.

Q15: Why are parents prevented from seeking their own medical opinion?

The department is unable to comment and DH is not aware of any evidence that this is the case.

 Q16: Why are parents prevented from seeking a differential diagnosis?

Please see answer to question 15.

 Q17: Why are parents deemed to be a risk if they don’t accept the judges findings?

Where an order is made by the court, it will reflect the assessment of the court about how best to meet the welfare needs of the child, based on all the evidence presented to the court. Parties in a case have the option to seek legal advice about the route of appeal, if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of a case.

 Q18: Why would parents accept the judge’s findings if they have not harmed their child?

Please see answer to question 17.

 Q19: Why are all avenues to keep parents and child together never explored?

The family courts play an important role in our society, in particular, in protecting vulnerable children from harm. The government believes that children should live with their parents wherever possible and when necessary, families should be given extra support to help keep them together. In situations where a child is identified as suffering (or at risk of suffering) significant harm, the LA has a statutory duty to intervene to undertake child protection enquiries and take action to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. In most cases, support from the LA enables any concerns to be addressed and children remain with their families.

 Q20: Why are the extended family made out to be unreliable and unsuitable when they attempt to question and challenge social workers?

Each family and each child’s circumstances are different. If an individual feels that a social worker has acted unprofessionally they have the right to make a formal complaint and can do so by contacting the Health & Care Professions Council.

Q21: Why are extended family kept out of proceedings, from contact visits and from putting themselves forward as carers?

The department would like to assure you that the decision to take a child into care is never an easy one, and it is a decision that is taken by the courts, and not by individual social workers. In every case where a child is taken into care on a care order, the courts will have considered all the evidence and taken the view that the child has been significantly harmed, or would be if they were not taken into care.

 In every case concerning the upbringing of a child, the Children Act 1989 requires the court to treat the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration. Judges are guided by a list of factors known as the ‘welfare checklist’ when making decisions. To assist the court, a children’s guardian (who is independent of the LA) is appointed to advise what is in the child’s best interests. Parents must also be legally represented, and are entitled to legal aid. Where the court makes an order placing a child in the care of a LA, the authority will continue to work with the family with a view to the child returning home.

 There is the opportunity for anyone dissatisfied with the outcome of a case to take legal advice and appeal to a superior court, if so advised. This is also the remedy for anyone who has reason to believe that the case was conducted improperly in some way.

 Q22: Why are children placed with complete strangers in foster care, why are they not placed with relatives who love them and who they know?

The government is committed to ensuring that children have the best start in life within a strong, supportive family. Growing up in a loving, nurturing and stimulating environment helps children to develop into happy, healthy and successful adults. Where the immediate family is unable to provide appropriate love and support, family and friends carers make a huge contribution in helping to give children the best possible chance to fulfil their potential. Where a child is looked after by the LA, whether voluntarily accommodated or a subject of a care order, the LA is required by the Children Act 1989 to seek to place the child with a relative or other person who is connected to the child if the child cannot live with a birth parent. Family group conferences offer a planning forum that LAs can use to bring the wider family around the table to discuss the plan for a child, so ensuring that all the resources of the family are appropriately tapped to support the child’s secure and safe upbringing. The department has funded national roll out of the ‘Family Group Conference Toolkit’ to equip LAs to develop and sustain a family group conference service.

Q23: Why is placing children into foster care with complete strangers not deemed to be emotional abuse?

Please see answer to question 22.

 Q24: Why is risk of future emotional harm used to remove children where there is no evidence of previous emotional harm?

Please see answer to question 21.

 Q25: Why are parent’s pasts used to justify removing children in the present day?

Please see answer to question 21.

 Q26: Why are the same methods used from one end of the country to another to remove children?

Please see answer to question 21.

 Q27: Who writes the policy on child protection, removal of children, etc?

Please see answer to question 21.

 Q28: Why when there is overwhelming evidence that the parents are loving and available parents, that this is completely overlooked, ignored and kept from court judges?

Please see answer to question 5.

 Q29: Why are local authorities allowed to use the tax payers money, have unlimited funds and resources whilst parents are not afforded equal parity?

For those who do not qualify for legal aid and need legal assistance, Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs) can give legal advice themselves. CABs and law centres can also refer clients to a pro bono organisation for representation. The local CAB can be found by accessing their website at: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

 Additionally, it may be helpful for individuals to contact Community Legal Advice by calling its helpline on: 0845 345 4345, or by visiting their website at:

http://www.Gov.uk/community-legal-advice.

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2 thoughts on “Reply From DOE In Response To Questions Raised After Panorama Progam

  1. I have gone through similar concerns.
    Any parent out there please keep away from Julia Lloyd Parkinson.
    She lies in every statement backs up her side kick social worker karen elizabeth shaw.
    Also stay clear from judge rachel hudson newcastle combined courts.
    I have gone through all the red tape reporting Cafcass corrupt worker massive cover up still destroying families and ripping vulnerable children’s lives apart.
    I have fought for three long years for bloody justice no success stood before Lord justice kitchin no joy there too nothing but corruption kangaroo courts.also stay clear from Nicolas stoner barrister for la lying cheating scrum bag Christine Anderson solicitor suppressing evidence at fact finding hearing Morton’s solicitors this is where she works Susan Dunn corrupt also workers for Peter Dunn solicitors instructed kester Armstrong barrister rip off corn merchant.this law needs to change for all those families out there who has fought to get there kids back keep fighting I fought three solid years no joy ran out off money please somebody help me

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  2. Q21. The court guardian is independent of the local authority and is their to assist the judge on the final out come of the . June Lewis court guardian, a woman from hell, destroyed so many families in the past. with her lies At the high court was found to have committed perjury while giving evidence against an innocent family, Later at a formal Cafcas inquiry into her lawless criminal actions against children and innocent families. The inquiry was set up to find why she knowingly put false evidence before the courts , She did not bother to turn up at the inquiry. Cafcas concluded against her that she was unfit to work with venerable people, and she should never work again as a social worker. ie children. Today 2014 she is still at it, destroying families at children’s courts in and around the London area she is still employed by Cafcas, and seems to use Merton council as her base as the Court children’s guardian. So if any parent/s have her on their case I’m sorry too say you have no chance of defence in court with her involved and say goodbye now to your child, or children, sorry to tell you this. If you want more info on the June Lewis inquiry and minutes taken on the day I have them. please get in touch.
    “Stealing the Nation’s children” how much longer can this go on. .

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