The Particular Dangers of Conspiracy Theories for Parents

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore.

‘Conspiracy theories/theorists’ is a phrase often used on this site by me. Sometimes I slip into rather coarser language and refer to ‘conspiraloons’, which reflects the degree of exasperation I often feel for those who promote narratives about the child protection system that I think bear very little resemblance to the reality but instead promote fear and distrust.

I accept that it isn’t helpful if I let these feelings take over and lead me into dismissive language – and dismissive thinking. I can’t possibly know the truth about everything. But I do have some pretty good ideas about the truth of many things – based on my own direct experiences as well as wider reading/thinking about issues. So if you want me to accept a different truth, it will help if you can demonstrate by something other than mere assertion that my ‘truth’ is wrong.

So that is my individual perspective. But why I worry about conspiracy theories, and get impatient and testy with those who promote them, goes much deeper than simply my own personal annoyances.

Conspiracy theories about the child protection system have a real and immediate danger for parents caught up in care proceedings. I have often stated this but not clearly articulated exactly why. I found some very useful exposition in ‘Rising Strong’ by Brene Brown who defines a ‘conspiracy theory’ in this way in Chapter Five of her book:

What do we call a story that is based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality? A conspiracy theory.

She refers to the research of Jonanthan Gottschall who examines our human need to tell a satisfying story in ‘The Storytelling Animal’ and that this need is not confined to those with intellectual limitations or posters of David Icke in their bedrooms; it is a need that drives us all.

So why is this so dangerous for parents in care proceedings? Brene Brown explains it in this way:

Conspiracy thinking is all about fear-based self protection and our intolerance for uncertainty. When we depend on self-protecting narratives often enough, they become our default stories. And we must not forgot that storytelling is a powerful integration tool. We start weaving these hidden, false stories into our lives and they eventually distort who we are and how we relate to others.

When unconscious storytelling becomes our default, we often keep tripping over the same issue, staying down when we fall, and having different versions of the same problem in our relationships – we’ve got the story on repeat.

A real example – the Latvian case.

I was prompted to write this post by some email correspondence with a journalist who was concerned that a mother could not obtain a transcript of their care proceedings in 2012. There was a new baby on the way and clearly the local authority were investigating because the mother’s two elder children were removed from her care. I was immediately concerned that the focus of this mother appeared to be wishing to challenge the veracity or integrity of the 2012 proceedings. This would mean her energies would be directed to an almost certainly futile aim of attempting to challenge a court decision now four years old. What she needed to do was engage with a lawyer or a social worker, not a journalist.

A further worrying and practical example of the dangers of such diverted energies, which was ultimately destructive of the mother’s wish to be reunited with her child is in the CB Latvian case, which I discuss in more detail here. It is worth reminding ourselves of the situation in which this child was found:

I then heard a whimpering sound from a door directly in front of me. Once I had opened the door, I saw a room. In the left-hand corner of the room was a wardrobe and there were toys all over the floor. In the right-hand corner of the room against the window was a double bed that looked very soiled. On the wall beside the bed was a large area of damp and the wallpaper was coming away. There was a very strong and overpowering smell of urine and faeces in the room. I saw the child curled in an almost foetal position on the bed lying on a pillow. She sat up when we came into the room and she was holding an empty pink bottle. I went towards the child and she stood up and came towards me. I saw that her clothes were wet and that she was wearing a nappy that was falling off between her legs. Once in a different room, I could see that the child’s clothes were wet and she was shivering. The strong smell was coming from her and it was clear that she had not been changed or cleaned all day. I removed the child’s nappy to find dried and fresh faeces. The nappy was so swollen with urine that the child was unable to walk properly. There were also dried faeces on the child’s body and her skin was soaked in urine that had leaked from her nappy and gone through her clothes.

However, this case was taken up by John Hemming as an example of the ‘conspiracy theory’ that  local authorities are driven to remove children to meet ‘targets’ for adoption and that there had never actually been anything wrong with this mother’s parenting. From his discussions on Twitter it was clear that he wished to minimise the harm caused to this child and refer to it as a case about ‘not changing a nappy’ or simply the mother leaving home before her babysitter.

It is unsurprising that mother found this version of events both coherent and satisfying. Rather than address the consequences of the choices she made, which lead to her child suffering significant harm, she could instead be a ‘victim’ of a corrupt state that wanted to steal her child.

But not being able to accept what had in reality happened to her child meant that she could never show that she understood what had gone wrong and what support she needed to make things better. Her fight was always doomed because it wasn’t based on what the majority of people in her case saw as the reality.

Even more worryingly, Hemming asserts that politicians are also seduced by this ‘coherent and satisfying’ narrative.

 

EDIT – Following Discussions with Readers

I am grateful to everyone who commented. It made me think, which is the whole point. I agree that it must be very frustrating for a parent who has actually been the victim of professionals who lied or did a very sloppy job to hear me say that their dissatisfaction with the system is down to their own false internal narrative.

Of course I accept that professionals (as fellow humans) can and do behave badly. I have commented about that on this site; a particularly horrible example is the social workers who were found to have lied to the court but who then went on to get promoted! The Rotherham scandal is a clear example of what happens when assumption and prejudice harden into ‘facts’  and families and children are dismissed.

However, this post was born out of frustration with what is my now frequent experiences in court and on-line – parents for whom their are demonstrable, tangible concerns: police reports, drug and alcohol tests, scene of crime photographs of their houses, children with injuries, worried schools, doctors and members of the public who make referrals. And very often, I will find these parents will not or cannot engage with me to represent them. I hear from these parents phrases which are worryingly familiar – ‘lambs to the slaughter’ ‘no punishment without crime’. It is quite obvious who they are talking to.  I have had several clients tell me that the social worker will be paid a cash bonus if she ‘gets’ their child.

And by refusing to engage, the system just rolls on over them. They lose their children and are reduced to on line petitions or Facebook raging, in a desperate and miserable fury. But an on line petition is meaningless against a court ruling. If parents don’t engage with their case WHEN IT IS HAPPENING then they will lose.

A clear example from my own practice: I had a client who had been an alcoholic for many years and when care proceedings started had been evicted for rent arrears. The child was removed. An adoption order was sought. The client resisted because – amazingly – they had managed to stop drinking and get a new tenancy. The court was interested. This was real and serious change. Then the client said they wanted to read from a pre-prepared statement in court. It was part of Ian Joseph’s manifesto and referred to the child being stolen by the State and of social workers who got bonuses. I saw the interest draining from the Judge’s eyes. The court could not now believe the client had any real insight into the previous problems and thus the sustainability of the changes made was in real doubt. The adoption order was made.

So I am not going to apologise for pointing out to parents the very real dangers of not being brutally honest about the ‘story’ you are telling – to yourself and to others. And of course, the stories we tell ourselves are the most difficult to challenge.

But I accept it must be hard for parents who know they have been the victims of really poor professional practice to feel that their concerns are dismissed. I hope they accept that I don’t – but it might be the subject for another post.

 

Further reading/watching

An excellent study of the whys and hows of conspiracy theories by Rob Brotherton ‘Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Consipracy Theories’

Academic study about how social media provides perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theories: Science vs Conspiracy: Collective Narratives in the Age of Misinformation [2015].

For those who doubt the malign reach and impact of conspiracy theories, see what Melanie Shaw has to say about it  and the problems they cause for investigations of real problems and abuse. 

123 thoughts on “The Particular Dangers of Conspiracy Theories for Parents

  1. TC

    It is well documented that I am no fan of Hemming and his twisting of the facts.

    However, you have selected an extreme example of child neglect and (in my personal opinion) abuse.

    I have read case files which shocked me. When I said to the parents ‘Is all of this true?’ and they answer ‘Yes’….. ‘Can you not understand the concerns?’ ‘No’….’Then I can’t help you.’

    I understand your point about conspiraloons. Yet you wrote:
    ‘Conspiracy theories about the child protection system have a real and immediate danger for parents caught up in care proceedings. I have often stated this but not clearly articulated exactly why. -‘

    I am still waiting for you to clearly articulate exactly why.

    You have failed to look at more ‘subtle’ situations. For example, I have listened to unedited recordings of social workers simply saying ‘I don’t like you so will find a way to get this into court.’ (Court told ‘parents are defensive and unco-operative’.)

    I have read reports of ‘the child’s room has a soiled carpet.’ What was omitted was that the family had only been in the property 4 days and it was left over from the previous owners. (Court told ‘Clear evidence of poor hygiene and neglect.’)

    There is an old joke but it has some ironic truth: ‘I am not paranoid- it’s just they are out to get me.’
    TC

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I feel awkward debating this with you as you have shared information with me about your case which shows clearly to me that you lack insight into just how serious the consequences could have been, following actions you took and choices you made. I just don’t, I am afraid, accept your narrative that you have been criticised for concerns that have no basis in reality.

      concerns can be exaggerated and/or misreported, that I completely accept. But I don’t accept this is what happened in the Latvian case; not unless you are telling me (and can convince me) that the person who found the child is simply lying.

      I articulate exactly why conspiracy theories are dangerous for parents by quoting and relying on the citation from Brene Brown. If you have a false narrative and it becomes woven into the very fabric of your being, and supports your view of who you are and why you do things…. then it is very difficult to do anything against that narrative, even if it is obviously and demonstrably hurting you.

      Reply
  2. TC

    Sarah
    I thought my post was crystal clear. The quotation you provided in the Latvian case is accurate and in my opinion, the courts decisions were right; disgusting situation.

    You have also assumed that all my examples had to do with myself; they weren’t!!!!

    As for my own situation….I did nothing wrong and I will stand by that to my dying breath. I am not hurting…my child is because of the abuse he has suffered in the system. I never did anything to promote or encourage the situation I found myself in. (Indeed as was said to me in the RCJ ‘You were literally an innocent bystander who information was hidden from….that lack of information meant you were not able to make informed decisions.’

    As a Lay Advisor, I challenge parents: ‘Can you see the LA position?’ ‘Do you understand it?’ ‘Do you think they could have a point?’ ‘What do you think you could do to change their perception?’ ‘What do you think you can do that will show the Judge that either Threshold has not been crossed or you have had change?’

    The difference for me is that when a Guardian and a social worker were asked ‘What does she have to change?’ the answer was ‘Nothing other than become more educated about the internet.’

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I have not assumed examples given had to do with you. I have said I felt awkward debating this with you as from our previous discussions, it is my view that your ‘narrative’ about your own circumstances is not a narrative I would support as entirely based on reality. You were not for e.g. an ‘innocent bystander’ when you made certain choices about situations you were putting your child in.

      Anyway. we are not going to agree about this over the internet! I am glad to hear that as lay advisor you are willing to challenge parents and those are helpful questions to put. The ‘truth’ may lay somewhere between the parent and LA position. But I have never had a case where there were no serious concerns at all. And that is not surprising. If there were no serious concerns the application would not be bought to court.

      I can’t comment about your particular case any further but to say that the internet can pose huge dangers for parents and children.

      Reply
  3. TC

    Thank you for that Sarah

    I more than most parents know the dangers of the internet – well NOW I do!!!!

    I agree that the ‘truth’ is generally in between the position of the parent(s) and the LA.

    Most of my cases are young, ‘vulnerable’ mums who are in really bad relationships. Alternatively, it has to do with basics like standards of cleanliness of the family and the home. Until someone ‘like me’ says ‘Look, they have a point. What can we do to change this?’ that they wake up!!! (My test is ‘Would I let them look after my cat?)*

    As I said, I am not afraid to tell a parent who approaches me, ‘Sorry if you can’t see the problem then I can’t help you.’ I had one a few weeks ago that was so bad that it made me and my Husband physically ill.

    Most of the parents I deal with are so ‘broken’ that at our first meeting they can’t look anyone in the eye. By the time I am done with them, they are confident and able to look a Judge in the eye and stand their ground and explain themselves and their changes.*

    I am a non fee charging Lay Advisor (which is a different debate!) because I was taught ‘If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.’

    Regards
    TC
    *Yes I know that comment might seem judgemental and arrogant. It might also seem like I think I am God’s gift to the World; trust me, I don’t think that and as insecure as the next person; I just know how to fake it till I make it. But I don’t drop my personal standards for anyone; ‘be an example to raise other people up and not put them down.’

    Reply
  4. Sarah

    I think your comment is further illustration about just how useful a network of trained parents’ advocates could be; sadly it seems more and more parents are not wating to engage with social workers, or social workers just don’t have the time to work with parents to construct a more helpful story.

    Hopefully we will discuss this more at #CPConf2016.

    Reply
    1. TC

      Now we are getting somewhere! Again, I can only use my cases to work from.

      These are parents that usually want to engage…indeed they beg. But what they find is ‘Nah, made up my mind about you and you are a waste of my time.’

      The one’s that are reluctant to ‘have a try’: I suggest well ‘Have a try and see what you get. At least you can show the judge you tried to ‘engage’.’ (I am growing to hate that word!)

      Now as you raised my own situation…. I have explained to death that in the culture I am from; ‘Rule One- Never give a gov’t official any information.’ I have raised 8 complaints of which 7 so far have been upheld. (I am also from a fairly legatus culture.) With every single one, in the box called ‘What do you want to happen?’ I say the same thing, ‘Cultural awareness training for staff and a written reprimand on their personnel file.’

      I have explained to death that I am not the ‘norm’; I am an INTJ, Plant/Shaper with a little bit of OCD throw in for fun. I have a rare congenital disease. I might look like a ‘pretty petite girl’ but I am a ‘hard’ person; I don’t do emotion greatly. (That was one of the best: ‘She doesn’t use enough ‘affectionate’ words.’)

      I have literally been assessed and tested more than any assessor has encountered. (I had an ISW ask ‘ Why the hell are they doing this to you; I have seen heroin addicts treated better than you.’)

      I encourage my clients to ‘engage’ as best they can. I ‘engage’ the best I can.

      As I constantly tell social workers ‘In this situation, YOU are the professional. This is just a person trying to survive and fight for their child(ren). It is YOUR job to ‘engage’ with the client at their level and with their communication style.’ (This is usually met with a blank stare.)

      Sarah, this is your site, so please feel free to delete this semi rant at your discretion.
      Regards
      TC
      *I am married to a complete emotional animal. But he understands that when I show my emotions, it is meaningful and sincere. My children jokingly call me ‘Sheldon’; ‘Mummy feels deeply and loves us- she just doesn’t do it like most people.’

      Reply
  5. Jonathan Ritchie

    And social workers who manipulate assessments and invent evidence to build a case against parents are not conspiring to pervert the course of justice? Why do you believe the case files? Not everything in an art gallery is art….

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sigh.
      I don’t ‘believe the case files’.
      I don’t ‘believe’ ANYTHING.
      My job as a lawyer is to TEST THE EVIDENCE.
      Something written in a case file is ‘evidence’. Something said by a teacher is ‘evidence’. What the parents say is ‘evidence’. What the doctors says is ‘evidence’ etc, etc, etc.
      Evidence in care cases comes from a multiplicity of sources. Some evidence is better than others. No evidence is simply accepted without testing. Some evidence won’t need very much testing – for e.g. very clear colour film of someone hitting a child, or eye witness accounts of the incident from a number of independent and reliable witnesses.
      Some evidence will need a lot of testing – unsupported hearsay accounts offered by someone with a grudge for eg.
      But nothing is simply ‘believed’.
      It is really depressing how stupid you think I must be.

      Reply
  6. Angelo Granda

    I must comment on the continuous preoccupation on the CPR with non-existent ‘conspiracy theories’.

    Stories based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality are often used by SW’s to rationalise their actions. The description given by the social worker in the Latvian case is one such story, in my opinion. Why can they not be trained to stick to the facts? All dirty nappies smell strongly and when a baby wets a nappy ,urine can easily leak through onto a child’s clothes and on to bedlinen.The baby should have been examined by a Doctor. Did the child show concrete symptoms of child-abuse such as nappy rash ? If not then it is likely that the child was well cared for.The Law says cases are to be decided on a fair investigation of available facts.

    In my opinion, the conspiracy theory ‘theory’ is one that is used to derail realistic human rights protests.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Sarah. I would like you to consider an opposing view: namely that your post is a danger to some parents; Angelo appears to be raising the issue that “conspiracy theorists” is a term used to control, degrade and dismiss opposition to social injustice. These conspiracy theorists, they’re all the same, right? Some of them haven’t got a point, so none of them have got a point.

      You begin by stating that when you are feeling particularly exasperated you slip into using the “coarser” term “conspiraloons,” as if the term “conspiracy theorists” was not dismissive enough. But you are a part of a large legal system that has a vested interest in things continuing pretty much the way they are.

      As you are a person of doubtless impeccable moral credentials, it amazes me that you are using a term like “loons” anyway. I thought dismissing people as mad when you didn’t agree with them went out with the Renaissance. A lot of the seemingly obvious moral and factual truths that ordinary people like us take for granted, were the discovery or opinions of these “conspiraloons”.

      I would agree with you that for parents to come up with conspiracy narratives is a danger. But my reasoning is if they even attempt to look at a bigger picture, they are diverting precious mental resources away from their own cases.

      Of course it’s true that negligent or criminal parents are quite likely to adopt an “its not my fault, it’s theirs” approach: prisons are full of people declaring their innocence and most of them aren’t innocent.

      I would have lost my children if you’d been my lawyer, because you would have been persuading me to agree with lies, by saying that the local authority had a point. Well I’m sorry to break this to you, but in my case they didn’t: even you would think they didn’t. You would see it now, in retrospect, but at the time it was ongoing you would not have had the imagination to challenge the injustice.

      I am not a conspiracy theorist, not to my knowledge. But then again, if “conspiracy theorist” is your definition, you can make me into one if you so please.

      I don’t think Elvis is on the moon, or that Jews run the world. I don’t think there are adoption “targets”.

      I do think that social workers can get kudos for the (sometimes) wrongful removal of children, and I do know that documents go missing, are destroyed and that sometimes this is by arrangement. So if two or more people get together to “disappear” a file, or to cook up a story, what do you call that?

      Sarah, I don’t know how many convincing cases you would have to know of before you stopped being so dismissive, but I challenge you to listen to mine. It is a challenge that I doubt you will take up: just like your conspiracy theorists, you have found yourself a mental niche that helps you feel most comfortable within the milieu in which you operate.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I welcome all opinions if not deliberately abusive, but welcoming opinions doesn’t mean I will agree with them or be polite about them if I think they are nonsense.

        I am clearly alert to the dangers of dismissing people and writing them off as nutters. That is why I explicitly address that very danger in this post. I have never claimed impeccable moral credentials and sometimes I use rude and coarse language. So long as I am not breaking any laws in so doing I am afraid you either put up with it or find another site where language is used more delicately and is more to your liking.

        I never ask my parent clients to agree to ‘lies’. But when they disagree with the LA case against them, I am entitled to ask them why they disagree and to provide something more than just ‘lying social workers lie all the time’. For example if it is reported that my client was seen drunk in charge of a young child and liver function tests reveal damage to liver caused by alcohol consumption, then my client needs to engage a little more with this issue than dismiss it as a ‘lie’.

        Angelo seems to wish to dismiss concerns about the Latvian child on the same basis as John Hemming. It was just a bit of a full nappy, no harm no foul. What absolute rubbish. Read again how that child was discovered. Anyone or any theory which operates to dissuade that mother from realising just what she did and just what misery she caused her child, is not safe and is not helpful.

        I am clearly NOT dismissive of bad practice and I am clearly aware of cases where social workers and other professionals have lied and tried to cover their tracks. I have written about examples of that behaviour on this site. I agree that when two or more people act together to do something illicit then you probably are justified in calling it conspiracy.

        What I don’t accept and will not accept without further proof is that the entire system operates to ‘targets’ to ‘snatch’ children. This is the major conspiracy theory promoted by Hemming, Josephs and Booker that they have been pushing for many years now – to the ultimate detriment of those parents who sign up to it and lose their children.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          Thank you for your reply, Sarah.

          With all due respect, you’re picking an example of something that doesn’t sound at all like a lie (about the liver function,) which is irrelevant. I mentioned that most people who have done things wrong accuse other people of lying. Maybe these people are bad parents.

          I was more interested in the times when it is the social workers, and NOT the parents who are lying.

          I think I know the answer to this, but how many times have you reported a social worker to the police for lying, for fabrication, defamation or false allegations? I’d be very surprised if ever. Not your job, right? And how many times have you seen a social worker get sent to prison for lying? Not very often surely?

          These people are untouchable and unaccountable. There is nothing to prevent them lying, and no one in the court system will do a thing about it. So maybe you’re not dismissive – just tolerant of malice and/or dishonesty. You may try to challenge dishonesty when it is going against your client, but you’ll face the same social workers again with another case and try to catch them out with your assessment of their “evidence”: this is not a game for you to win with your finely honed argumentative skills; these social worker who lie are criminals. It should not be normal for a social worker to lie, Sarah, it’s not all part of life’s rich tapestry – they should be struck off.

          I think your last point about Hemming, Josephs and Booker is problematic in various ways. You have made it so global, with your reference to the “entire system” and your putting those three men together as if they are interchangeable.

          Ian Josephs was very helpful to me. He is a good man who phoned me and gave me invaluable advice. I wish I had had a chance to hear what he had to say before I’d instructed a solicitor – she was not at all good. He was pretty clear that he doesn’t think there’s a conspiracy – just a set of organisations that see things in a similar way, a way that benefits them all. Ian Joseph gives people advice for free, whereas people like you, on the whole, don’t; this doesn’t make him right in itself but he is a kind man who, unlike you, has no interest in the current state of affairs continuing. And he was very clear that he didn’t think there were adoption targets. He knows there are a lot of far out conspiracy theorists, and he is not one of them. But he was also very clear that he is completely against forced adoption, and so am I. You work in an evil system, Sarah, and it will jade you to the goodness in others.

          I do accept that negligent parents who just trot out stuff about adoption targets (which you CLAIM is all Booker and Josephs and Hemming do) are onto a loser. If these three men are giving out indiscriminate advice to all parents, good and bad, then that would be problematic. I take your point that parents who didn’t accept that they had to make improvements but blamed a conspiracy, would lose their children.

          My experience of Ian Joseph is that he told me that I must never lie in court, even though the social workers clearly were. He gave me excellent advice – he told me that I must be “sweetness and light” when I was filled with rightful anger against these malicious, mendacious people. And it was Ian Joseph’s assessment of my case that was correct, not my solicitor’s.

          Once you’ve accepted a system that allows for removal of a child from its parents forever, even parents who have committed no crime, then a part of you dies. It is just amorality – you see what the system is, you want to work in it, you start to defend it.

          So could we possibly overlook your “entire system” thing because it is global and therefore dismissive: I can definitely see that the whole system is NOT operating to “snatch” children. But it is bad enough to me that part of it is. I wouldn’t exactly call it a conspiracy theory though – I think it’s far too blatant for that. Our government has made no bones about the fact that they want more children adopted.

          I don’t think there would be any “further proof” that would satisfy you that there is a bit of social cleansing going on here. The problem is that you and your colleagues are so conditioned by the brutalising cold system that you work in. It must take its toll, all that exposure to cases of abuse and neglect. In that sort of climate, who cares if a few good parents lose their children forever?

          Ian Joseph did tell me that he didn’t like social workers. I am open to the existence of a nice social worker, but I have not yet met one.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I am glad that you found Ian Josephs helpful. Many have not. Particularly when the advice he gives is to ‘never co-operate’.

            I can only ask that you have a look at the log in your own eye before referring to the mote in mine. You accuse me of being ‘tolerant’ of malice and dishonesty. Of ‘people like me’ who don’t on the whole give advice for free. Who has ‘an interest’ in the current state of affairs continuing. Who works in an evil system and wants to defend it.

            I just don’t know what to say in reply to this. You can only have written those things if a)you haven’t read anything else I have written on this site b) you have read it but you don’t understand it (unlikely as I try very hard to write clearly) or c) you have read it and you do understand it but it doesn’t fit your ‘narrative’ that I must be part of the evil Borg system – so you will just ignore it.

            What can I possibly do or say in the face of that? Perhaps you would like to read my response to the recent DofE paper ‘Adoption: a New Vision’

            I have never reported a social worker for lying as I have never experienced a social worker telling a deliberate lie in any case in which I have been involved in. I have however made serious criticisms before judges of social workers who got things wrong and who misrepresented situations due to carelessness etc. Sometimes I have won. A colleague of mine however has made such a complaint and I have made a formal complaint against a psychologist who was prepared to ‘assess’ my client after two years of not seeing him.

            I reckon that since 2014 I must have done about 500 hours for free in getting advice up on this site and answering people’s emails.

            So I don’t need a lecture from you, ta very much about trying to help and wanting things to change.

            But things will never change if your only response to me is to lump me in with an Evil System.

            Luckily however I am not doing this to try to impress you or I would throw in the towel right now.

      2. TC

        Jason
        In the mist of my own ‘rant and rave’ I did not see your post.

        May I say ‘I applaud you Sir!’.

        I never tell parents to accept ‘fact’ (or as you put it agree with lies) as presented by the LA. Instead I tell them to become their own forensics expert.

        Sarah means well and I do truly believe she wants a better system. But as you will note, she has seen some of my paperwork (all written by the LA) and thinks that just that ‘side’ of the story has to be the truth. (some of the topics are highly emotive)

        As hopefully, you have already read, if a parent admits all the LA evidence against them is damning and they admit it is true then I say ‘Put your hands up.’ But if they can show me different then I fight to the end for them.

        I have managed to get children at home with LA’s admitting NFA. I have had to sit in a court room holding one hand of a Mother who put her hand up and said ‘I messed up and I changed too late.’ and the Judge recommended 2 times a year letterbox and one 6 hour face to face; which the adopters agreed!

        I look at the ‘bigger picture’. (This is the downside of having a Masters in History and Economics.)

        Basically, there is a drive for a socio economic model that will fail everyone. (in my opinion)
        Regards
        TC

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I really don’t want to debate your case with you in this way TC but I just can’t let that comment slide.
          ‘she has seen some of my paperwork… and thinks just that ‘side’ of the story to be the truth’

          I am very sorry you think that. It is not the ‘truth’. I was very clear with you which element of your circumstances caused me considerable concern. If you wish me to expand further I can do so via email. But I am annoyed and alarmed that you now seek to paint a picture of me as someone who just naively swollowed a whole load of rubbish from the LA. That certainly is not what I did.

          I am very glad to hear that you are helping parents get a good outcome. But I will not permit you to push such a false narrative about my own understanding of your case on this site.

          I think any further such comments I will simply delete. The problem is of course that you cannot publish here the documents that you and I have seen to let others make up their own mind as without permission from the court we would both be in a lot of trouble. this is another reason why I am very much in favour of greater transparency in proceedings and greater access to court documents. Without such transparency, parents can simply argue that the case against them was a lie, and I can’t prove otherwise as I can’t publish the source documents.

          Reply
          1. TC

            Fine email me….yes, you have only seen the LA side. Have you read the over 120 page email trail? No because you refused.
            I do not recall being offered a 120 page email trail. If I did and I refused to read it that was much more likely to be because I have not got the time to read 120 pages of emails without getting paid.

            Now you see why parents have ‘issues’; I have been trying to be fair and balanced.
            Indeed. I can see in these comments a perfect illustration of what this post discusses. TC is wedded to her narrative. I don’t think I am ‘wedded’ to mine but I stand by it. I read what I read and it raised real concern for me.

            I stand by my comments.
            I shall delete any further posts about this as arguing about TC’s particular case is not appropriate here.
            TC

        2. Jason

          Thanks TC.

          Yes, “lie” is a word that we are not allowed to use. Only parents “lie”. I think we have to go all Clintonesque when talking about social workers and their “terminological inexactitudes”. If only we could impeach them eh?

          Reply
  7. Sarah

    The conspiracy theories are not non existent. I have given a clear example in this post of one that does enormous harm and is promoted as true to foreign governments. Another example is the satanic ritual abuse hoax in Hampstead which has done enormous harm to many people. To simply deny such conspiracies exist and that people promote them, is just silly.

    TC thanks for your comment. I hope I would never try to censor someone for expressing their opinion or disagreeing with me. Valuing and respecting other’s differences is very important. What we have to do is be better at managing people being ‘different’ in situations where people get worried about children.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Sarah,

      I’m sorry that I offended you: I didn’t mean to. I have no doubt that you’ve given a lot of free advice over the years – no doubt about it at all. But you make your income through the system, whereas someone like Ian Joseph does not. I think it’s a bit unfair of you to dismiss people like him, Christopher Booker and John Hemming. Can you really afford to be so scathing of their motives, and yet so sensitive about people questioning yours? You should acknowledge their intentions, but instead you get defensive.

      I am pleased that you encourage people to express their views – many don’t. I have read other things you’ve written – on something called Pink Yarn or Ribbon. I very much wanted to get on with what you were saying, but you struck me as being too tolerant of corruption. I haven’t read anything else you’ve written on here and I will do so.

      When it comes to your “a) you haven’t read anything else I have written on this site b) you have read it but you don’t understand it (unlikely as I try very hard to write clearly) or c) you have read it and you do understand it but it doesn’t fit your ‘narrative’ that I must be part of the evil Borg system – so you will just ignore it.” :

      I wouldn’t say responses to people who disagree with you can be restricted to those. If someone hasn’t read anything else that you’ve written then why react with such anger? You haven’t read anything else I’ve written either, have you? I challenged you to hear my story, although I didn’t think you would want to. I came to this site to read and respond to an article that I clicked on, written by you – I found the article a bit more dismissive than I was expecting, especially about a person I’ve experience of who tries to help others.

      I was worried by a response you wrote above that said something along the lines that a case would not reach court unless there were concerns. This is why there are so many injustices – the assumption that there must be a genuine problem in the first place for things to “get so far”. It is an assumption that is taken as self-evident in a court, and it does indeed cause problems. I had the horrific situation of having a child removed from me without my knowledge, ex parti and having to go to court to try to GET HER BACK. And all because a social worker lied about me in a meeting I didn’t even know was occurring. It is frustrating that you seem to assume that there have been a whole set of processes that have already happened before a child has been removed. There was real criminal behaviour involved against me in my case – the police thought so, two MPs thought so, but corrupt social workers can hang on in there, with the impressive array of barristers and solicitors they have to do their bidding.

      I have every right and reason to find the law amoral; it is all about winning. I got my child back after months, and by the skin of my teeth, and all because a social worker lied initially and then just would not give up. I sued and they paid out, but they’ve ruined my life.

      Regarding narratives: they are not just things that other people have; you have them too. We all have stories that we use to try to make sense of reality. What is yours?

      It’s an interesting quote that you’ve put in your article, “When we depend on self-protecting narratives often enough, they become our default stories”. Conspiracy theories certainly do have that function, for example racist conspiracy theories that blame particular groups for all social ills, or moronic theories about wealthy people in Hampstead engaging in ritual child sacrifice in Mcdonalds (I knew it was false when I read that – since when have posh people gone to Mcdonalds 😉 ) but what about narratives that do not have this function?

      My “narratives” give me nightmares – I wouldn’t say they are self-protective. I have PTSD because of the horrible things that happened to me. In some ways I would like to find a way to think myself to blame, just so I could have that power back, but there was nothing I could have done, it wasn’t my fault. It was shocking to see how far people could get with their lies, but what hurt the most was the cover up.

      Regarding motes and beams in eyes, I don’t see your point there. I’m not a barrister, and you know nothing about me. How do you know I’ve got a beam in my eye? If we were ever to interact regarding my specialism (which isn’t law, obviously!) then I’d be very happy to engage with you regarding your criticism of my viewpoints.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        O come on. Why do you think I reacted angrily? Read again what you wrote. that I ‘tolerate malice and dishonesty’, i am ‘amoral’ and seek to defend the ‘evil’ system I work in, I don’t seem to have noticed that the Gov is promoting adoption above all other options for children.

        I made reference to ‘remove the log from thine own eye’ as it is one of my favourite quotes about hyprocrites. You have a go at me for being lazy and lumping people like Booker and Hemming together but you read one post and think you can comment authoritatively on my general motives and understanding? Of course that is going to piss me off and I am going to react accordingly.

        If you are willing and able to read a little more on this site, you may also understand better exactly WHY I am so scathing of Hemming/Booker/Josephs etc. I am not demanding that you agree with me, but simply that you accept that my analysis has gone a little further than simply attempting to defend the system because I work in it.

        I am sorry to hear about your experiences. I do not seek to deny you your experiences, and I can only rely on mine. In 15 years, in many 100s of cases I have never had a case where there were NO concerns. I have had many cases where concerns were exaggerated or misreported and some ended up being not as serious as first thought… but never a case with no concerns. This does not mean of course that what you assert is untrue. Just that I have never encountered it. As I am neither stupid nor naive this leads me to the reasonable conclusion that the type of corruption that you describe is relatively rare.

        My ‘narrative’ is that the facts are always friendly. I admire the writings of Jason Altuchter and his advice ‘always tell the truth’. I hope I live up to that and I hope I have the humility to admit when I have got things wrong. My attitudes have certainly undergone a shift since starting this site.

        But I think it highly unlikely I will ever accept some of the utter tosh put about by Booker/Hemming. But I accept that my anger with what they do should not make me dismissive of the experiences that you describe. Although I think (I hope) that your experiences are not common place, that ‘the system’ should cause that much pain to even one individual is not acceptable and I would like to be part of making some changes to prevent future injustice.

        I think a national network of parent advocates would be a really important part of making changes. Too many parent clients I have get lost in a narrative that they are victims of social work incompetence and lies and it really isn’t true. But equally, those who are at the sharp end of bad practice – or even worse – need to be able to get their message across and to be believed and understood. At the moment there is often such a massive gulf between parents and professionals (most parents suffering a multiplicity of vulnerabilities) that I am sure injustices will become more commonplace as assumptions are made and harden at an early stage.

        Anyway. Thanks for coming back and commenting. This has been a very interesting post and comments for me. I can see why you thought it was a bit dismissive; I agree it is limited to one perspective only and may merit revision.

        Reply
  8. TC

    Sarah
    I was going to respond to Angelo but did not.

    Angelo- sorry but in the Latvian case, all evidence proved bad parenting. Even if you take into account culture, economics and other factors, there is no other conclusion but an unacceptable level of parenting.

    Sarah
    You did raise something specific…so I will as well.

    There are lots of loop to loop ‘conspiracies’ out there; the first that comes to mind is the Hampstead Hoax. I was going to use it as an example to Angelo. (It is so ridiculous to be frightening; in my mind, ‘How many children have been harmed by these nutjobs?’ Thinking of all the children at that school and beyond.)

    True story. I worked for 8 years with an individual who was to the best of my knowledge an honourable and ethical person. I went on holiday for 3 weeks. When I got back, this person got ‘sucked’ into a world of conspiracy theorists. (You and I both know who they are; if anyone wants to know, they can ask me direct- but some of them are the Hampstead propagandists. ) I warned this person that they were getting involved with a bunch of dangerous people who would undermine our years of hard work for ‘real child protection.’ They all turned on me and turned him against me.

    There is now a lot of abusive (and factually incorrect) information about me floating in cyber space. It is bordering on defamation of character.

    What I find interesting is my clients meet me and get to know me. Then I show them what is written about me on the internet. They all say ‘That is not the person I know and is working their ass off for me.’

    I don’t think in my own case there is some vast ‘right or left wing conspiracy’ against me.* I just think some people don’t like what I say or how I say it when it doesn’t fit their narrative. (Have we actually come full circle regarding your original post?)

    I do not believe in conspiracies; Kennedy was shot by a lone gunman, Man did land on the Moon and Elvis just returned to his home planet. (copyright Men in Black)

    *Apologies; my Husband due to ill health has become a Fox News addict and so we get more Billary than I can take. Regrettably there is no rehab programme for me to send him to. I have tried to hide the remote control but he is more techno savvy than me and just goes online.

    Just like there are parents who like a conspiracy theory to justify themselves, so do LA’s. (Think Rochdale and Orkney.)

    To go slightly off topic, it is my experience that social work training has a deeply entrenched ‘It takes a village’ slant with a particular ideology. If a parent’s responses don’t correspond with the dominant narrative of that ideology, everything goes pear shaped from there. I personally have many friends who raise their children different to how I did but they pass the ‘would I trust them to look after my cat ‘test”. (See previous post)

    Here endth the latest sermon from TC.

    *Again Sarah feel free to delete or amend as you feel appropriate.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Good point, TC. Orkney, Middlesbrough etc were social services conspiracy theories. Would they have been seen that way by barristers at the time?

      We all know there are nutters. It’s when they work for the local authority that it’s the biggest problem.

      Reply
  9. Sam

    There has to be something drastically wrong with the system when approximately 1400 children were sexually abused in Rotherham with youth workers and parents desperately seeking help from the police and children’s services. The main response appeared to have been for “someone” to steal records of exploited children from “Risky Business” the youth project that had tried to raise the issue over and again. Some of the children were of course taken into care , others were in care. Parents and families were threatened. It’s all available in the Jay report. There have been no criminal proceedings that I am aware of against the Local Authority staff though I understand there is an ongoing police investigation .
    Yes this is a localised issue but similar scandals have occurred on a less drastic scale elsewhere. I wonder if the parents were called conspiracy theorists?
    I think there could be a parallel with ATOS assessments which people invariably fail despite most of them having their treating doctor’s providing medical evidence to back them up. Thousands of them complain on line and decisions get overturned at Tribunal . Are they conspiracy theorists? Similarly thousands of parents tell the same story ie social workers lie in and out of court . Yet parents are conspiracy theorists? I suppose the difference is those turned down by ATOS can openly discuss their case.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      That is a very good post Sam and really made me think – and feel very uneasy.
      My post has come from a particular perspective of frustration from seeing parents misdirect energies in fighting legitimate concerns about their parenting because they get so wrapped up in the narrative that the system is corrupt. But of course, this does mean that both things cannot be true at the same time – they are deficient parents AND the system is corrupt.

      It is sobering for me to realise that I have not felt or expressed much outrage over Rotherham even though it is wholly outrageous.

      I am now even more certain that the only way forward is to allow open publication and discussion of care proceedings. I think I would be supported in my contention that the majority of cases proceed on the basis of real and evidenced concerns – BUT it is the minority that do not which really need the disinfectant of sunlight, before the infection spreads – as Rotherham shows it can.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Thank you Sarah I completely agree . The start you and the others have made at the Transparency Project especially the guidance for recording and the section 20 are a real step forward in my opinion anyway.

        Reply
  10. Angelo Granda

    Yes,and i think that conspiracy theories do not exist because the allegations of conspiracy are not theory but fact in very many cases.The self-defensive mind-sets which Brene discusses are only natural.Both SW’s and parents will contemplate issues and tend to be ‘self- catharctic’.

    Of course,some allegations are hoaxes and some are false.However,many are not and they would be so easy to prove in court were family court hearings fair ones or if the Police were to investigate fully and prosecute.

    Are meetings inquorate or not? Examine the list of invitees and how many actually attended.
    Have parents been invited to circulate agreements and disagreements before a planning meeting? Have they attended? Examine the minutes to see if they are included.
    Are there indeed any minutes at all and if there are,are they provided by an independent note-taker or scribbled down by the key social worker?
    Parents often see professionals walk,smilingly into meetings together and allege that they have discussed matters together beforehand and come to decisions beforehand.Thus the actual planning meeting is little more than a sham rubber-stamp exercise.Examine minutes(if they have been taken) and see whether any of the other professionals have contributed or have they been silent?
    It is also true that professionals are in close touch by telephone and e-mail. Parents and their advocates are not included,kept informed etc so they are hatching plans in secret which is the dictionary definition of a conspiracy.
    Has any consideration been given during the meeting to alternative,less invasive solutions and has evidence contra-indicative of any case for removal been discussed? Check the minutes and as before,if there aren’t any minutes, there is probably a conspiracy.
    I could go on but ,in my opinion,this discussion is a diversion.
    Jason ,read more of the forum and continue to comment if you please and you will get a fair hearing from Sarah (our esteemed and much maligned patron).
    TC, with regard to the Latvian case, I have only seen that evidence cited by Sarah which i see as non-forensic,emotive and lacking factual content.I must point out, though,that my views are those of a simple parent not a lawyer or lay advocate.
    I am quite willing to believe that you are right and that the level of parenting was proven to be unacceptable.
    However,as a parent,one of my main themes is that it does not matter about that! The children of culpable parents and the parents themselves have human rights too and the lawyers should see they are not abused.
    Someone commented that there are many prisoners who claim to be innocent when they aren’t. I fear that argument would not hold water if the Family Court had decided their fate!
    On Sarah’s and other lawyers behalf,i would comment that, yes,it may seem that they are not always impartial but that is merely because they have duties other than to their clients which are almost impossible to balance.It is a fault of the court protocol which demands a ‘no smoke without fire approach,i think.
    All comments welcome.

    Reply
  11. Angelo Granda

    May i also remark that i don’t think it conducive to fair hearings ( ECHR Article 6) that a barrister can be ‘engaging’ one day in a courtroom on the behalf of a Local Authority ( chief procurer of children) and the next day be acting for the opposite camp.
    One day he or she will be pressing and supporting LA arguments( inhumane or not) and shooting down respondent pleas and supporting evidence as irrelevant.
    The next day, bearing in mind precedent he or she supported the day before, it must be difficult to put opposing arguments on which a parent may be relying.
    It is almost impossible to fulfill both roles with absolute ,scrupulous fairness, i think.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I very strongly disagree. Your job as a lawyer is to take your client’s instructions and represent them to the best of your ability. BUT that does not allow you to mislead the court AND it does not allow you to ignore child protection issues. it is perfectly possible for a lawyer to represent a LA one day and a parent the next and do a good job for both. If they are a good lawyer of course. If they are instead motivated by prejudice then they may not do a good job but that has nothing to do with who is instructing them.

      Reply
  12. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your reply .In my opinion.neverthess,it remains my view that the two roles are not entirely compatible.
    I point out what you have already which is that some lawyers will not balance the two appropriately ( especially given the addition conflct that they may or may not have financial interests ).
    From my understanding of the law, it has been essential to good frontliine practises that each and every POSSIBILITY OF ABUSE be eliminated .So the court must change radically.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am paid by the State when I act for parents and by LA when I act for them. I don’t have to cosy up to LA as I know that I will be instructed by solicitors who act for parents. I get paid whether I win or lose. Some people might say that is part of the problem and we ‘legal aid losers’ thus just coast along. But I disagree with that – the vast majority of people who go into this area of law are NOT motivated by money. They can’t be, because there isn’t much around.

      By the time I have finished preparing for a case, factored in travel time, conferences before and after court etc I am lucky if my hourly rate compares to the minimum wage. I am not asking for sympathy or praise when I say that. It’s a fact. I enjoy my work because I think it is both interesting and important. But if I was motivated by money, I would be doing a different job.

      so I don’t understand your comment about ‘financial interests’ providing additional conflict. I don’t think there is any risk of that, not for the lawyers at least.

      Reply
  13. Sam

    As well as Sarah , my views have shifted after reading and contributing to this site. At one time I would have dismissed attachment theory as psychobabble , but I can see now that it does have some foundation. In my neighbourhood there is a family with childrens services involvement ( which actually proves that you can’t keep such cases private) and I can clearly see that the toddler is insecure around her main care giver. Incidentally she has been left at home which I believe may be wrong but my local authority are hardly going to listen to me.
    I can also see were misunderstandings would arise through differences in language used by a social worker and a parent.
    I think both sides act out of fear, Social workers are stressed and are frightened that they may be responsible for another baby P and parents are defensive , initially lack understanding of the system and are also very stressed. Both are likely to be lacking sleep and no one thinks straight when they are tired. I noticed mediation is part of one of the workshops for the conference, this seems to me to be a sensible step before a court application in a significant percentage of cases, alongside with someone such as a parent advocate to explain what is happening and what the concerns are to the parents. I can but hope!

    Reply
  14. ian josephs

    NO comment needed ! No conspiracies either,just cold indifference to children in care…………

    Care home girl abused by 25 men in 2 years | Mail Online

    By JO KNOWSLEY and EILEEN FAIRWEATHE

    A 14-year-old girl placed in a council children’s home was prostituted to a group of depraved middle-aged men because staff were powerless to stop her going out.

    The horrific story of ‘Becky’ is highlighted in a BBC programme presented by Fiona Bruce this week which reveals how she was sexually abused by 25 men over two years – despite being known to social services and having been placed on the Child Protection Register.

    Even when she was put in a children’s home – six months after her earliest allegations of abuse -staff allowed her to be used as a prostitute for fear their intervention might infringe her human rights.

    The investigation has been drawn from her case notes. The local authority cannot be named in case it identifies the child, now 16, and living with a foster family.

    Initially, Becky went to the police claiming she had been sexually abused by her stepfather – but they said there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

    She then sought solace at the home of one of her mother’s friends.

    But even when police and social services became aware the woman’s boyfriend was a registered sex offender, with a predilection for underage girls, they did nothing to remove Becky.

    Only after she complained she had been raped by the man and then turned to drink and drugs and began to self harm – slashing her wrists – did social services move her to a children’s home.

    There, however, Becky was allowed to run riot – even being picked up from outside by a man 22 years her senior who forced her to have sex with him and his friends.

    Becky absconded from the home 36 times and confided in a staff member what was happening to her – yet at no time was any recommendation made to place her in a secure unit, or restrain her from going out on the streets.

    One staff member at the children’s home was concerned, but the case notes reveal she was told by colleagues she was powerless to restrain the teenager. The staff worker, who has since resigned, took the notes to the BBC.
    My own view is as follows:-
    If the “SS” cannot prevent a young girl in their care from working as a prostitute [DELETED] [you have posted this before and I have edited before. I am not allowing you to use this site as a vehicle for you to push ‘advice’ which runs a very real risk of getting parents into serious trouble and which will certainly damage their chances of being reunited with their children].

    Reply
  15. Angelo Granda

    In my opinion attachment THEORY has got some truth.However here are two reasonable points:-

    1.Many sw’s don’t understand it.Some of them can’t decide anything themselves without referring to the manager.When i ask questions of them,they generally never commit themselves to an answer until they have seen the manager.
    2. The only interest at all the CS has in attachment is to use it as another argument to support their litigation.Why do i say this?If the paediatrician or child psychologist reports that the child has bonded well with family and is securely attached to both parents,they lose interest in it completely and leave it out of their own assessments.They won’t read anything positive in it and report it as a factor contra-indicative of the case for removal .Furthermore the Guardian,ALL the lawyers and the Judge appear to discount the significance of attachment when that happens!
    Even the parents own lawyers.
    Where are they?
    It is just the same with personality disorders,bipolar etc.They are only interested in it in so far as. It can be used to remove children.
    Talk about logs in their own eyes,that is SW’s all over.

    Sarah, i believe you are straight and would never suggest any impropriety on your part but still the potential for abuse of Article 6 is there; it should be eliminated as i believe is the situation in crown courts.There are either prosecuting barristers and defending ones,to the best of my knowledge.It is not regarded as kosher to cross over roles.Please correct me if I am wrong.
    I can also say with some authority that for solicitors to act contemporaneously for LA’s and for parents is UNETHICAL!
    A leading firm of solicitors which regularly acts for LA’s told a mother that in writing when she asked them to represent her.

    Radical reform of cp frontline practice is needed( see the Gov’s vision fot the future.Can we hashtag that sentence?
    Thanks for all your replies and the main post.

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      And behaviour that is ‘legal’ can quickly become ‘illegal’ depending on the surrounding context.

      You have your own website to peddle your ‘advice’ to parents about non cooperation and other types of foolish self sabotage.

      I won’t tolerate it here.

      Reply
  16. Angelo Granda

    I have visited two special needs children’s residential homes . I have seen children with real difficulties ( emotional,behavioural and relateded to self-harm etc) really struggling to survive. Often they are supervised and CONTROLLED by staff not much older than themselves who appear to be inexperienced ( despite official claims they are highly-trained).
    I can report that the children are often prescribed various doses of drugs which are successively reduced and increased depending on week-by-week behaviours. If their behaviour deteriorates,medication upped and so on.
    To an outsider,whilst the frontline staff appear to be genuine and altruistic in line with their job doing their very best, i can report that the children appear to be unhappy and extremely troubled mentally. They either look like walking zombies with dull eyes ,no shine or spirit or as spirited ,kicking out against carers and fighting controls . It often takes two or three hefty carers to pounce on them and force them to buckle down.I believe this is caused by the drugs they are given and the way they are altered periodically. When doseage is reduced and they begin to display withdrawal symptoms which become difficult for staff to handle, they are increased again. That is not the way to wean childrewn away from tablets. This is not the way to trat special needs children, in my opinion. They should be at home with natural family except as a very last resort.
    Often they have been removed from home unlawfully.Often, their emotional disturbance begins to develop AFTER removal.This is a medical fact which professionals try to explain away by a vague theory that children often begin to show the effects of long-term trauma after removal into care.Highly unlikely,in my view. That they can turn from a normal child,calm and controlled ,clean ,attending school daily and being happy to one which is dirty,rocking to and fro,striking out at other children and adults,developing secondary eneurensis ( bed-wetting), tantrums etc etc withjin a week of removal is TOTALLY ILLOGICAL!

    Lawyers do not see the children.They are not taken to court thus the judge does not see them.There real doctors do not see them to judge changes because the CS get them new doctors without the parents consent.The parents are prevented from contacting the new doctors.That is unlawful.
    Lawyers, look carefully at successive LAC review reports and take note. Look how similar they are! See how they all report how happy a child is in care,how they are thriving,showing significant progress etc .
    Then look carefully at medical reports( especially previous ones),carers reports,see the difference and ask questions.Visit the homes,see the truth for yourselves.Visit the child’s previous medics and schoolteachers. NEVER RELY ON SW reports.
    The general public are indifferent but it is your job not to be.

    This is a heartfelt plea on behalf of looked after children not guff.
    Sarah, in CPR plans,when mediation is ongoing,children must be taken to meetings and then the mediators can see for themselves.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      i have to add that many of the special needs children in these homes ( perhaps the majority,i would not know) have been abandoned by their real parents and/or suffered from unacceptable levels of malicious abuse.

      They have to be cared for by the authorities and in those cases the privately run homes are the best choice for them when they cannot be handled by foster-carers and no-one will adopt them. The homes do the best they can and the individual carers are often superb.

      However some frontline practices need radical change. That is not for me or any non medic to decide.

      If natural parents do love the children and are begging to have their child home, i believe that will always be best for the child and the LA should provide all the support necessary to facilitate rehabilitation.
      Children deserve a family life.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        In theory at least the Government has brought out Education,Care and Health Plans (ECHP) to provide support to families of SEN children. on paper it looks great As it caters for the needs of both child and carer. Whether the LA’s actually deliver I suppose will be found out when they are properly rolled out replacing statements of SEN. However if a parent disagrees there still appears to be legal aid to appeal to a tribunal normally after mediation.

        Reply
    2. Sam

      There is a conflict of interests in childrens homes, the manager has a duty of care both to the residents and the staff plus they have to minimise costs. Just as in CS there is a high turnover of staff and it costs money to recruit and train.. Thus the staff come first and children will be drugged and otherwise controlled by whether it is detrimental to their long term well-being or not. Also as in CS there is an excessive amount of bureaucracy and the staff spend as much if not more time everyday completing paperwork then actually caring for the children .

      Reply
  17. ian josephs

    Foster children go ‘missing’ from care 17,000 times (and no surprise after what Angel tells us !)
    • 10 December 2015
    • From the section England
    There was a 2% increase in the number of children in foster care in 2014-15
    Foster children went missing from care in England more than 17,000 times in a year according to new figures.
    Ofsted revealed 5,060 children were reported as having gone missing while living with foster carers in 2014-15, compared with 4,245 the year before.
    But the total number of instances of children going missing rose from 13,300 to 17,175.
    Ofsted said the numbers were “an issue of concern” but believed better recording may in part explain the rise.
    The South East and London reported the highest percentages of children going missing, 6% and 5% respectively, which “may be linked to the disappearance of children thought to be trafficked into the UK and removed from foster care”.

    Reply
  18. Angelo Granda

    In all honesty we parents who contribute to this forum have to accept the concerns of the post author ( Sarah). False allegations of conspiracies are made by some and sometimes parents who have followed the advice given on some websites undoubtedly come unstuck. Sometimes dangerous advice may be given online.Let us accept Sarah’s concerns about it; she puts them honestly and she is undoubtedly right about some of the advice given on some sites.
    However, i ,myself, was in contact with one mother who was accused of defensiveness and non-cooperation at a child-protection conference when she brought up issues as advised by the FRG. She was commanded to stay away from the internet.
    I don’t suppose Sarah would accuse the FRG of being conspiracy theorists.
    Therefore it might be a good idea if we agree to be more discriminating when using the term or ban the term altogether on the CPR.
    Why not replace it with ‘those who make false allegations of conspiracy’. Then those who make genuine allegations of conspiracy will not be lumped in with them. Before calling allegations false,Sarah would have to examine all the evidence first.
    I would remind Sarah that if in the event some nutter came on to the site expressing really wild allegations using inappropriate language ,she can simply use her powers as moderator and delete it (or edit it). We are all willing to accept her judgement.
    May i also say that i think parents only visit JFF, Fassit etc. and Ian’s website as a last resort AFTER they have already been badly failed by dangerous solicitors and other child-protection professionals. The sites do not go to them.
    Parents have a free choice .
    For all we know if a social worker or foster-carer attends CPR 2016, he or she might be marked down by the LA as a ‘conspiracy theorist’. That would be wrong!

    All comments welcome.

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      Thanks Angelo – I think that is fair comment.

      But I would add one point of clarification. I accept that many parents seek out the dodgy internet sites and are not forced to do so. But some of the more dangerous ‘false conspirators’ DO actively seek people out to be their next ’cause’ – which is why I linked to Melanie Shaw’s video as a very good example of the anger felt by a victim of abuse that she was being approached by certain members of the Conspiraloon fringe.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Yes,Sarah,but you have to remember that these people are aiming to create a stir.They have every right to go to the press,every right to choose cases and(with the parents agreement,use them to obtain justice.
        Who can say they are wrong to approach cases how they do? Cerainly not solicitors who win so few cases for parents. Usually the parents have already lost all trust in the court system ,believe they are or have not been treated fairly and have given up on cooperation with the CS as an option by the time they go to seek these sites out and self-litigate.
        The site operators have also lost any semblance of trust.There is a massive gulf between the system’s idea of Article 6,8 and 3 and that of many citizens.
        I suppose we can expect them to use extreme and sometimes questionable tactics to combat what appears to be an utter brickwall which the LA’s put up.They choose to fight fire with fire,to go all out and they will NEVER be popular with the establishment UNTIL the establishment accedes to radical change in line with the Government’s vision.
        Then the public will trust social services and the Courts again. I think you have to accept that, hard though it may be, and recognise that the sites are a symptom of the mistrust on the whole not the prime movers.
        The Parents are free to choose how they fight their cases and whom they go to for advice.
        If the advice is wrong,they can only blame themselves same as when a choice of solicitor is a poor one.
        I would also emphasise the point i made on another thread.If a parent calculates that the CS is conspiring against their family, he or she has every right to say so in court.IT SHOULD NOT BE HELD AGAINST THEM. It does not effect their parenting ability.
        I hope this is fair comment.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I can say pretty categorically that it is wrong to approach your alleged miscarriage of justice by continuing to publish videos of children on the internet when that has been specifically prohibited by the High Court.

          As was made clear in the Hampstead case, those videos have been seen by millions of people. The children are named and their faces shown. a good proportion of those adults watching are likely to be getting sexual gratification from seeing and hearing the children describe sexual abuse.

          No amount of parental anguish can ever justify that kind of response.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            I believe you are right but the historical reality is that Human Rights campaigners always push the boundaries of the Law in what they see as the pressing Public Interest.
            The CS do not hold the sole copyright on the term ‘in the best interests of children’. Both sides see theirselves as child rescuers, I guess.

            If campaigners ignore legal guidelines, court orders etc ,give false evidence to court or act contrary to the legitimate aims of the Children’s Act, then the Law should stamp down heavily upon them (as with the suffragettes and other groups). By the same token,the courts should not ‘turn a blind eye’ when the LA does so.
            I hope readers find this view a reasonable one.
            Meanwhile,as i said before,let us accept Sarah’s judgment in this matter and call upon the campaigners to think very carefully about advice they hawk around and to bear in mind the dynamics of each individual case before advocating a policy of non-cooperation.It may turn out disastrously for the family !

  19. Angelo Granda

    Sarah,if you think about it, the fact that some of your opinions have altered and that you are somewhat more crItical of CS practises and failures may be the very reason why the LA’s deter SW’s and foster parents from attending CPR conferences and( who knows) from commenting on the forum.
    Anyone who dares to criticise them or who provides an avenue for criticism will be counted as being against them.

    It might be best if you comment anonymously and keep the official face of the CPR more neutral.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I take your point but I think the benefits of transparency outweigh the negatives.
      I have to be open about who I am or why should anyone listen to me and believe what I say?
      I can speak authoritatively about my own experiences because it is possible to check I am who I say I am and I have done what I say I have done.
      I think there is already far too much anonymity and refusal to directly engage with serious issues. If people don’t want to engage with me because I criticise them – that is sad, but it does not mean I should row back from criticism that I think is justified. I hope that my criticism is usually reasonably constructive and that I try to focus on what we can do better, rather than just slagging people off for making mistakes or getting it wrong.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I agree we have to focus on what we can do better. I do admire the aims of the transparency project and aspirations for progress at CPR 2016.
        Unfortunately, i predict that the more progress which the CPR makes and the more professionals arrive at solutions, the more the CS and LA’s will retreat behind their brick wall of no comment and secrecy.
        It will be interesting to see the reaction of you and your colleagues when you realise that it is the LA who refuse to cooperate with lawful methods,not parents.
        I think you are beginning to see it.

        Reply
  20. *

    Andrew Pack’s rather more balanced take on the issue from one of his blog posts:
    “There is one paragraph that really struck a chord, and it is a theme that comes up over and over in our discussions here. Before I started writing the blog, it would have been really easy to dismiss all those who complained about family justice and social workers as conspiracy nuts or people who couldn’t face up to their own shortcomings and found it easier to blame a corrupt system than to accept their own part in the sad outcome. Having spent four years now listening to their stories, there’s more to it than that. There are people who have had genuinely dreadful experiences in the system, there are individual cases that have gone badly wrong. That doesn’t mean that one can assume blindly that the experience for everyone is the same and that nobody gets fair treatment, but equally we shouldn’t write off those experiences as bad luck or crackpots.”
    The paragraph referred to was in an article by Bridgit Featherstone – saying parents have become terrified of social workers.

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      That is exactly what I am saying. Not all who complain of conspiracies are mad or inadequate. But some are. And it gets very dangerous when they try to draw others into their world.

      Reply
  21. forced adoption

    I deal with a minimum 3 or 4 calls a day and frequently a dozen or more from distressed parents adding up to more than a thousand cases per year. None of them ever say there is a conspiracy against them ! The conspiracy theory is something dreamed up by apologists for a rotten and corrupt system to ridiculise anyone who complains about it !
    What really happens then? Well it is like when our wonderful MPs fiddled their expenses ! Nobody suggests that 650 of them got together in a conspiracy to work out how best to fiddle ! No they individually fiddled in their own ways just as the judges,social workers,experts,and guardians make a good living out of a shockingly unjust system individually leaving fostering and adoption agencies mostly founded and initially run by ex social workers to make millions of £s in profits as do the special schools offering “secure units” (quasi prisons) that charge the State 3 or 4 times the fees at Eton with even greater profits than the agencies !
    Why form conspiracies when it is so convenient for each participant to feather their own nests???

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      well I suppose this is movement of a sort. So it is clear that Josephs doesn’t support the conspiracy theories – which is excellent as it means therefore that he won’t be supporting quite a number of the conspiraloons who clearly DO.

      What is not so excellent is that he again falls back on his lazy cliche of ‘feathering own nest’ and saying that what is wrong with the system is that everyone in it is just out to make money.

      I am sure that he has a point about private fostering and adoption agencies not being a Good Thing. I don’t think anything about child protection should have any kind of profit motivation. things need to be run efficiently of course, but they should never be geared towards profit as I accept there is always a danger of profiteering.

      But how can anyone with a degree of intelligence who is prepared to stop and think for just a second, think that what is going wrong is all about corrupt individuals wanting to make money? So when he tells parents ‘never’ co-operate with social workers, never let them in your house, never participate in assessments etc, etc, he says this because EACH and EVERY SINGLE social worker is just out to make money? How? Are we back to cash bonuses again? Or are the majority of social workers doing their best with the limited services at their disposal and working hard for a salary that is pretty low in comparison with most MPs…

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Hi Sarah,

        I’ve been reading everything in detail and would like to comment at length, but I just wanted to make a point concerning what you are arguing with Ian Joseph. In your last paragraph you present polar opposite views, with the implication being either/or.

        I think we’ve all established that Ian Joseph is not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t know if it is Mr Joseph’s position that it is all about corrupt individuals wanting to make money. I do know that he has never said that social workers stand to make a lot of money out of it, but he has said that they do very nicely out of the system in that they can all tell themselves that they have done a good thing (whether they have or haven’t.)

        My eyes roll at the naivete of people who think that in cases when children are alleged to have been WRONGFUULY removed, (as opposed to for very clear reasons) it is done for social workers to “make money”. This is daft, as social workers don’t make that much money.

        Your last question: “Or are the majority of social workers doing their best with the limited services at their disposal and working hard for a salary that is pretty low in comparison with most MPs…” feels more like the sort of rhetorical question that barristers for the prosecution make when they are very sure of the answer.

        If that last rhetorical question is your genuine position on social workers then I’d be surprised. I have not got a huge amount of experience of social workers, but the ones I have “worked” with, have all been woefully inadequate, mendacious and incompetent. They were idle, and the female social workers were all overweight: all. They backed each other up and covered up mistakes for each other. They pretended they had done things that they had not done. Most of them could not spell, they appeared to have a low IQ and they struggled to follow a step-by-step argument. I have no idea if these people are indicative of social workers in other areas, but since they are all still there after what they did to me, I cannot but assume that my case is a type of norm.

        If these folk are “doing their best” then I wonder what their best is supposed to be. I certainly don’t think that they should be paid anything like MPs, and the ones who lie should simply not be paid anything at all. If a social worker is hard working then that should be appropriately rewarded: I have seen no evidence of hard working social workers in my area though.

        I do know one very nice, intelligent lady who has trained to be a social worker in middle age, and she does intend to work with children. She is nothing like the people I encountered who already are social workers. I have warned her what to expect.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          but the ones I have “worked” with, have all been woefully inadequate, mendacious and incompetent. They were idle, and the female social workers were all overweight: all. Most of them could not spell, they appeared to have a low IQ and they struggled to follow a step-by-step argument.

          I think you detract from the good points you make by this kind of language. I have worked with burly male social workers who looked like they should be in the SAS, tall glamourous females, short not so glamorous females. Some fat, some not. I confess that in some London boroughs I found some social workers that seemed to struggle with the English language but most were perfectly competent.

          I have probably had experience of many more social workers than you and in many more areas of the country. I simply don’t recognise the picture you paint.

          that doesn’t mean I am denying the truth of your experiences – simply that you have to accept that other people have different experiences and yours are not necessarily representative of an entire profession, or a majority of that profession.

          Reply
          1. Jason

            I accept that my points are not necessarily representative of an entire profession. In actual fact, I’d be surprised if they were; in some areas social services target obese families and have the children on CP plans. It just seems a bit ironic that the social workers down my way bear an uncanny resemblance to the type of people who would be targetted by social workers in other areas.

          2. Angelo Granda

            I agree it is not really fair to make personal remarks about SW’s. I will point out ,though, that they often do so about parents.
            Anyway, what about lawyers? They come in various shapes and sizes too! Going by your published photographs,Sarah, I can only describe you as ‘lovely’ but i am not sure you would count that relevant to a court case or to these forums.

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            That is very kind. Others have not been so kind. I believe words such as ‘smug’ and ‘leering’ have been bandied about.
            But of course, I remain above base insults of that kind.

    2. Angelo Granda

      Ian,are you suggesting that MP’s are or were engaging in ‘Parliamentary’ spanish practises which means it is or was regarded as acceptable to fiddle expenses thus not strictly illegal?
      Certain illicit practices are fairly commonplace thus become acceptable in this world amongst the ‘hoi polloi’. Many salesmen and tradesmen ,for example, make overstated expense claims and present distorted hotel and fuel receipts.(They will alter the totals).
      Obviously this is absolutely unacceptable in Public life or any situation in which the perpetrators are in a position of great Public Trust. This applies to Social Workers , lawyers and Court experts. To Councillors as well as Mp’s.

      Can you blow the whistle on Council ‘spanish practices ‘ from which councillors benefit? You were once on the Council.

      Social Workers ,be absolutely honest, have you any information for us? Don’t name any names.

      Sarah? whilst i would never suggest any impropriety on your part, is there anything which gives you cause for concern about some of your honourable friends?

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        If I have concerns I take appropriate action. I have made formal complaints on two occasions about what I thought was professional impropriety. I would not go so far as to say anyone was ‘corrupt’ or had ‘lied’ but things were done which I did not think were appropriate and I made my views known.

        Reply
  22. Angelo Granda

    The only real evidence to suggest that lawyers are guilty of conspiring together against parents but in favour of LA’s is circumstantial. That is if i understand the term ‘circumstantial evidence’ correctly,as a layman.

    1. When the LA conducts cases incorrectly ,a family lawyer has a clear duty to the court to point the fact out .When the LA’s flout legal guidelines ,it means misinformed appraisals and unfair hearings against the interests of children.
    Because all sets of lawyers ignore that duty ( respondent’s,LA’s and the Guardian’s) it is easy to imagine that all three sets have come to an agreement together pre-hearing not to do so. This would happen in the absence of parents and the children whose human rights are most affected.
    This is just one reason why parents might allege a conspiracy. This would not,however, be for profit. It would be because the lawyers agreed that the outcome will be the same anyway but that isn’t for them to decide.The Judge has to be told because it is for him or her to decide.The lawyers,in my opinion,have failed to balance their conflicting duties properly in such circumstances.
    2.Sam wrote of cases where the Judge calls pre-hearing pow-wows in camera ( private meetings between lawyers). Apparently that is unethical but still it goes on.This incorrect practice suggests a possible conspiracy which includes the Judge.I doubt it,but as before, it will be easy for parents to imagine the possibility when rules are broken .This is probably not for monetary gain but to save court time.
    3.As regards solicitors,i have described how it appears to be in their financial interests not to bring up issues at the early stages; they prefer to go to a full hearing in the County Court. Therefore they may conspire together to arrange for it.
    It is essential issues are raised early on before false information is sent to court expert witnesses(psychologists etc.).

    Conspiracy,i don’t know but parents are bound to be uncomfortable with this sort of thing and come to their own conclusions. To use a phrase, it cannot be said with any certainty there has not been a conspiracy.

    Reply
  23. Jason

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for your reply, and thank you also for your edit. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading everyone’s comments, and I read through the link you provided (the letter to Ian Josephs.)
    Firstly it’s such a massive topic and, as you say, your reason for posting was people who have swallowed a half-baked narrative that they then use as part of a self-destructive arsenal to prevent them from becoming effective parents; you want them to become the sort of people who can satisfy and reassure the court that they can change enough to be safe, effective parents. I get that, and I don’t want to sabotage what you are saying in that respect. I can see how important it is for inadequate parents to reform, and how heart-breaking it is for their children when they do not.

    You mention a case in which you were successful in that the children were returned, but that they were back with an EPO some time later, so you didn’t think it was much of a victory for the children. I can imagine your thinking that, and the problem is, of course, in your work you need to be very cautious. That is the first obstacle innocent parents face; you as a barrister are going to face many more problems if the child is returned on the basis of your argument and then something happens to the child at home. The child is more likely (although it is not guaranteed) to be safer in foster care, and that will be the case whether the parents are as bad as the social workers say or not.

    Foster carers have, on the whole, faced a barrage of tests and assessments in order to allow them the role; it seems a safer bet to put children in care, (or not return them from care) than to take the risk and stick your neck out for parents, who might let their children down. You therefore do have an interest in assuming that the parents are as represented, even if you think there might be something wrong with the evidence against them.

    When I told my solicitor that I was the victim of a malicious accusation from a social worker, and that I could prove it, she told me that unfortunately whatever I could prove did not matter, as she had known judges for over 20 years, and she knew that no judge would ever risk returning my child on the basis of what he (or she) had been told. I was flat out told that whatever I said would not matter, and the social worker was at the court, but the person who she claimed had made the allegation wasn’t there. I got my child back, but it took a long time.

    I was disturbed by something you said about how you had never known a social worker to deliberately lie. I want to frame this carefully so I don’t offend you, as I don’t want to do that, but I find it unbelievable that you have never known any social workers to lie, and know they were lying when they were doing it (which I’m guessing must be your criterion for “deliberately”.) I work with young people and adults, and I catch them out in lies quite frequently. They tell me something, and then I look it up on the system and say “That’s a bit different from what it says here” and they then blush, because they’ve been caught out. Every so often they say “OK I lied”.

    I think it is extraordinary that you have never noticed that social workers sometimes lie – it is human nature – I cannot believe that you think the vocation and the context of a court drives it out of them somehow. So although I would be sitting here nodding if you said you have never been able to demonstrably PROVE that social workers lied (which would be credible) my heart sinks to read that you sincerely believe that they never have: you would have believed everything that the social workers said about me. Bent coppers and bent social workers aren’t just a TV drama staple: they are out there. And you claim you haven’t recognised a single one of them, despite all of your hundreds of hours in court. Your comment also makes me realise what a terrible disadvantage it is that you as a barrister are separated from what goes on outside courts; by the time the stories come your way, even the FALSE ones are already watertight.

    You say that facts are friendly, but professionals who lie can give you false facts: it is quite clearly a lot easier than you think for them to do so. I got the impression from my solicitor that there was a tacit acceptance that professionals twist things and do fabricate sometimes but they do it in a “good cause”, so it is harmless; these are, generally speaking, not good parents, so who cares? Your assumption that cases must be serious to reach court is worrying, but I think it is a corollary of your belief that facts are friendly.

    The conflict between you and Ian Joseph is interesting, but ultimately it fills me with despair. Your narratives are completely different, and the midpoint between your two positions would not, to my way of thinking, represent a good compromise. You act upon the premise that the system is working, and Ian Joseph acts upon the premise that it isn’t: as a victim of a miscarriage of justice, I am trying to imagine which narrative makes the most sense. I don’t think Ian Joseph has ever said that all social workers or all other “professionals” lie. You yourself have said that you have NEVER known them to do so. Yet I have seen two social workers lie in court, and I have not been in a court 1/1000 times as much as you. You acknowledge that as well as parenting being inadequate, the system might be corrupt too, although a corollary of corruption is injustice, meaning that good parents as well as bad parents will get caught up in all this.

    I was worried by something you mentioned about your never knowing of a case against a parent where there were no concerns. This is because you are lacking a “control group” who have not gone through the family court but who have also been subjected to this same humiliating scrutiny. If you were to take a family at random from your street or mine, you would find concerns; I have witnessed the INCREDIBLE talent with which social workers were able to twist a case out of thin air based on mis-hearings, mis-recordings, misinformation, disinformation.

    All good parents have concerns about their parenting ability. I will never think I am good enough for my child. But I am much better than the moronic social workers who persecuted me, and I truly pity their children.

    Reply
    1. *

      I would like to pick you on a specific point Jason, a “blush” is not proof they lied, and by using it as being you are doing the children you work with a disservice. I suffer from anxiety, and consequently blush very easily, merely being accused of something is enough to make my face go red, not because I have done it, but because the accusation makes me anxious. In fact makes me particularly anxious because it is something I have not done and feel frightened I will not be believed. As you are someone who has suffered consequences from those who had power over you, could I request you have more caution in those you yourself have power over.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        It’s difficult knowing how to address a star or an asterisk but here goes: I don’t work with children.

        Is blushing a sign of lying? Of course not – I didn’t say it was. I just said they blushed.
        Anyhow I blushed when I read your post, because I couldn’t help finding it sanctimonious, and annoying. It was just a figure of speech for me.

        As someone who has access to a database I’ve noticed how easy it is for people to say “I couldn’t come because my Aunt died” and then the system says “I couldn’t come because I twisted my ankle.” People who give inconsistent excuses come undone when they can’t remember what they last said. I raised the point because I’ve noticed how often it happens. Do I do anything about it happening? No.

        Have I ever told a lie in court and ruined someone else’s life? No.
        Have you? Probably not, so I’m wondering if we can forgive each other’s infelicities of style and move on?

        Reply
      2. Jason

        Sorry I did comment on your post but it got held up as I entered my email incorrectly – maybe it will come up later. I’m sure you didn’t mean to be personal or annoying.

        Blushing is not a sign of lying. I blush all the time – I just said “they blush” – I most certainly did not say or mean “I can tell they’re lying because they blush.”

        I don’t work with minors. By young people I meant “over 18 but under 25” and adults to me are … older than that. I apologise for not being very precise.

        Reply
  24. Sarah Phillimore

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for taking the time to read more.

    I am not sure where you got from anything I have written that I think social workers NEVER lie. I have not said that and it would be a crazy thing to say. All human beings have an ability to lie and most of us will if under pressure and stressed out. All I can say is that I, personally, have never had a case where I thought a social worker was telling a deliberate black hearted lie on oath. A close colleague of mine however has, and there have been a number of reported cases where it is clear that this has happened.

    Maybe I am just lucky? Or maybe my definition of sloppy and careless misreporting is closer to your definition of a ‘lie’? I have certainly encountered a LOT of that and I challenge it every time I see it. This sometimes leads to ‘victories’ as in my sad EPO case. I caught the SW out in a very careless assessment which had ignored some key points. But I didn’t think she was a ‘liar’ in the way I understand and use the term.

    I also struggle to understand how you can conclude that I come from the perspective that the ‘system is working’. The system isn’t working. I have spent many hours and many hundreds of words on this site to highlight what I think is going wrong and why and what we need to do to make it better.

    I am one of the organisers of the second Transparency Project Child Protection Conference on 3rd June 2016. Last year we concluded that the child protection system wasn’t fit for purpose. This year we are trying to do something positive and make some enduring changes. Why don’t you come and add your voice?

    Details here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/child-protection-2016-where-do-we-go-from-here-tickets-19734701022

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Thank you Sarah I will try, although I doubt I could get the time off work.

      Yes, I think you have been lucky if you have never encountered a lie in court. As for your definition of “sloppy and careless misreporting” it’s a bit difficult for me to know what to make of that. It could cover a multitude of sins. I was sloppy and careless when I worked behind a bar – sometimes I gave too much change, sometimes too little: it was fairly random. I would think that the sloppy and careless misreporting from the Local Authorities that you have known is more likely to be sloppy in their favour – so maybe not so sloppy after all. But then I don’t know.

      All I DO know is that there was nothing sloppy about the malicious lie that the social worker told about me, and nothing sloppy about her refusal to answer a single email or phone call telling her she’d got it wrong. I also think it was not particularly sloppy the way she continued misquoting people in court, even after they had written to her and told her not to. It was also curious how she managed to get the case entirely withdrawn when someone said to her “you’re lying, and I’m going to court to tell the judge you’re lying.”

      I apologise for my statement that you think the system is working; you quite clearly don’t, so it must have been frustrating for you to read that. What I meant was that you work, by necessity really, on the premise that the system is not corrupt, but that there are a lot of problems. Ian Joseph says the system is “rotten and corrupt”. My experiences fit his view – not just the initial wrongful removal of my child, but what followed. And the lack of action over what followed; the system, in my case, was rotten to the core.

      I could adopt a medial position and say that Josephs overstates the case and that you are a bit naive, but where would that leave me? With the position that the system is SOMETIMES corrupt; sometimes might as well, for practical purposes, be always, as one cannot know where and when. So then as members of the public we are in the precarious position of trusting in an arbitrary system that has the power to deprive us of all we hold dear, with no repercussions for the LA, whatever they do; they can choose whether to be fair or not: it’s all up to them, really.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I chuckle a little at the accusation that I am ‘naive’ as it is always the charged levelled against me (after I am a corrupt shill in the pay of the system of course).
        I wish I was naive. I am sure life would be nicer that way. But no one can have my experiences, both professionally and personally, and remain ‘naive’ about the astonishing range and scope of human cruelty and stupidity.

        I appreciate it is difficult for people to find the time to come to the conference. I hope therefore people will join us on Twitter #CPConf2016 as we are hoping to get a ‘live tweeting board’ up so you can join in the conversations remotely.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          Well I didn’t mean to be funny, and I haven’t “accused” you of being naïve; I said I could say you were a bit naïve, because I was trying to imagine a position between you and Ian Josephs. The reality is that I was just struggling to see how you could think that no social workers had ever lied in a court when you were in attendance – anyone who thought that would have to be naïve, as would anyone who didn’t think there was anything suspicious about sloppy misreporting that always erred in the same direction. I am just trying to understand, that is all.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            It’s not a hard concept to grasp. I have not had a social worker tell a bald faced lie in any court I have been in. I am sorry that this does not chime with your very low opinion of the social work profession but it happens to be a fact.

            Have I had social workers refuse to acknowledge positives about my client in a massively irritating fashion? Get dates wrong in chronologies with sometimes disastrous results? Make assumptions that weren’t based on facts? Yes indeedy. But they haven’t told me an out right, blackhearted lie.

  25. forced adoption

    Oh dear ! I never said social workers are in it just to make money or that this is what is wrong with the system. When money is being made change is resisted by the profiteers but that is not the root cause of the misery inflicted on so many UK parents..Sarah delights in attributing absurd sayings to others so that she can ridicule them despite the fact they never said any such thing.Similarly she is always accusing myself and distressed parents I help of being conspiracy theorists when none of us are ! I By the way Jason I have personally never been a victim of this unjust system ;I just help those who have been !
    What is badly wrong is punishing parents who have not committed any crime by taking their children ! What are also wrong are gagging orders and orders restricting contact between non criminal parents and their children.
    How can those who continually persecute and punish law abiding citizens live with themselves?

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Forced adoption, I think it was your use of the term ‘feathering their own nests’ which led Sarah to believe you think SW’s are only in it to make money.Like you,i don’t think money is the main corruptive element except in the case of the actual profit-making care companies to which money is THE driving priority which tends to override everything else. Luckily , they play no part in the initial decision-making process although Sw’s do present carers reports which will tend to idealise the care the children are receiving.

      Knowing human-beings ( ordinary mortals) as i do and also because i know some foster-carers personally, I also think that money is the priority of many foster-carers. They regard fostering as a profit-making business just like one of the companies which supplies full board,emotional support,a comprehensive child-care service plus a limited amount of altruism thrown in. Not all of them but many will not deny it. We cannot generalise.There are some who foster entirely in the interests of other peoples children and money is no object at all. It is in all their interests to go along with the status quo and not to rock the LA boat.Their reports will also be used by SW’s.
      As far as the other professionals are concerned, i don’t believe they are following their vocations primarily for money.They are following a vocation. The primary incentive for the average NHS doctor , a priest, a lawyer or a Social Worker is one of vocation not personal profit.
      The exception to that rule of averages is solicitors who work for a profit-making company or partnership. They have to show a profit,barristers do not! Should they be part of the Public Law system of child-protection? I don’t think so.
      Sarah, i think it is blatantly obvious to readers that you are not the average joe lawyer .You are well above that and your aims are completely vocational.
      However the average professional prefers to remain within their COMFORT ZONE. They have set up their nest or niche and will seek to feather or maintain it.

      Readers,I hope this is not too hard to understand ( that it makes some sense).I am trying to be constructive and anything which might narrow the gulf between us is constructive,i hope.

      Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Because – as has been pointed out to you many times now – these are not criminal proceedings. The aim is not to punish wrongdoers but protect children.
      Equally – as I have pointed out to you many times now – I am in favour of greatly increasing openness and transparency in the family justice system.
      Therefore, it detracts from the force of your argument that I am the lazy one who delights in false attribution – as you do the same so well yourself.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Nevertheless ,Sarah,it cannot be said that it does not ‘punish’ a parent who has committed no crime when her children are removed permanently into care and their family is liquidated.Also that action ‘punishes’ the child who has not committed any crime. Especially if we think of punishment as harsh or rough treatment as might be inflicted on an animal.

        Not only does it contravene Article 3,(ECHR) in respect of mental torture and degradation, in my opinion, it also appears to contravene Article 8 (ECHR) in respect of proportionality.
        To liquidate a family permanently exceeds any sanction ( or punitive measure) which can be ordered by a normal Court( e.g. a Crown Court) which is prohibited unless there is a pressing social need in the Public interest. That professionals decide it is in the child’s best interests is not good enough.
        Just take a look at that Portugese case again .Take note of the shocking neglect to which those children were subjected to but also remember that there was nothing criminal in the mother’s actions( or she would have been imprisoned) and nothing approaching what might be described as deliberate malice.

        All comments welcome. We must sort out the problems of ‘proportionality’.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I am not sure I agree that we can confidently assert there was ‘nothing criminal’ in the Portuguese case. Often the police do not take action, NOT because matters do not cross the threshold of criminality but because they know that the matter is being dealt with by Children’s Services and the children are not left in a dangerous situation.

          I don’t deny there is a reasonable argument to say that the police could and should have more involvement in investigations of cases where criminal line could be crossed in terms of neglect/abuse. BUT we would need probably double/triple the current number of police officers than we currently do.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Sarah, children are not left in a dangerous situation that is hyperbole most of the time. They may be at significant risk or they may not. They are taken into a dangerous situation when the CS conduct cases incorrectly and shanghai them into care.
            Are you sure and can you say with complete conviction that the current Family Court system has the ability, the protocol and the POWER to make the decision to impose permanent liquidation plans (even with 4 times a year hourly contacts)? Are you sure the Human Rights Act is not contravened? I think those are the questions lawyers should be asking themselves at CP Conference 2016.
            I would say it has not and when it takes it upon itself to do so that it commits a SIN against defenseless children (and vulnerable parents).Perhaps it is the Original SIN. It inflicts shame upon this country. When it happens to families in this sceptred isle, both children and parents are taken aback .Ordinary citizens in the know are taken aback and other European Governments are taken aback too.
            Have you ever thought how astonishing it is and how outrageous it is that a Statute (instituted by Public Act of Parliament) which quite clearly and reasonably states the Public view that it is the duty of each Local Authority to look out for at risk children and to supply support to families enabling the children to be well-cared for and to remain united with natural family, can be interpreted by the LA’s and Family Courts as a license to impose such an enormous sanction as permanent separation? Are you sure it is humane?
            I would say it is too easy to permanently liquidate families. Such an action equates with some of the most terrible state acts in history. It is the sign of a mismanaged, misgoverned, oppressive, often abusive and corrupt system.
            Readers, I apologize for leaving the ‘grey area’ on this occasion. I never forget the words of one High Court Judge which I read on the Aires Centre website years ago. We should never underestimate the intensity of feeling and outrage felt by those who have had their human rights abused especially when they feel they have had no say in the proceedings. No words they use can be hyperbole to them.
            As I have said before this is not a job to them or a vocation; they are forced to come on forums like this; to them it is a matter of life or death; they are trying to do something for their children’s future and for those of their compatriots.
            Little boys and girls sleep unsettled night after night in foster homes with ersatz love or in care homes with none at all. Night after night they dream to be in the beds of their loving mothers. Mothers dream of holding their babies no matter how big they have grown. Flashbacks, inventing narratives, daydreams and misery remain theirs for life. On the spiritual, mystic, unknown plains such as ESP, true or not, they can visualize and feel themselves in one another’s arms. Children may go home in their imaginations! Parents would lay down their lives for their children but that would be meaningless; they are forced to go on and on, repeating their narratives again until they get too old or succumb to madness. Children too! Then, if approached in that state by a SW, they will raise both arms in utter contempt and cry pitifully “ F— OFF”. This,i hope,describes how it feels to these parents when they are hung out to dry.

            Until it happens to folk like Brene Brown and the writers of obscure attachment theories, they are only surmising. It is RUBBISH to suggest that the attachment disorders developed by children in care are caused by parental neglect. RUBBISH. Social Workers generate narratives of their own or extract them from computer files (apparently they spend 60% of their time at the keyboard) and they stick to the narratives come what may; repeating the same one incessantly; the truth will not waver them even when it is laid out in front of them!
            Are you sure all professionals understand truth, honour and Justice? These days I don’t think they know the meaning of the words.
            Readers, I apologize if this comment puts the fear of God into you and Sarah, sorry if you do not deem it constructive but I can express myself in any way I like using any words I like as you can. The words are no different than some used by High Court Judges to describe injustice.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Expressing genuine pain and anguish is not something I am going to criticise as not constructive.
            It is very important for those of us not directly experiencing that pain to be reminded of it.
            I do think it gets over looked or forgotten, too many times.

          3. Angelo Granda

            Sarah.Just a suggestion for the conference.
            I think one fundamental error regarding Police investigations is that SERIOUS investigations in domestic cases are conducted by junior officers.These officers,usually detective constables feel they are acting entirely correctly when liasing closely with the CS.In fact, the CS often mislead them and pervert justice.
            In other serious cases ,such as GBH or murder,serious fraud, a senior officer perhaps a chief inspector will supervise cases . I think they should be appointed to all cp cases and then they can carry out two functions.The first to protect children ,the second which is equally important is to protect families against the CS. They can ensure correct procedures are complied with and protect the integrity of evidence etc.
            I hope one of the professionals can bring this subject up.

  26. Angelo Granda

    QUOTE: When I told my solicitor that I was the victim of a malicious accusation from a social worker, and that I could prove it, she told me that unfortunately whatever I could prove did not matter, as she had known judges for over 20 years, and she knew that no judge would ever risk returning my child on the basis of what he (or she) had been told :UNQUOTE

    I can quite believe this is what happened to you,Jason. It does not matter to a Judge whether Social Workers make malicious accusations or not and it does not matter to them whether LA evidence is true or not.The fact that ‘someone thought it might be true’ is enough for them! That was explained by a senior SW to one parent who complained. One comes across this platitude many times in discussion.
    A judge tends to do what he or she considers is in the ‘best interests’ of a child and if there is any reason ( no matter how small ) which can be used to justify the raising of concerns about the child ,that is enough for Judges to exercise their discretion in any way they want . Well, that seems to be the general rule from what i have picked up.
    Your judge told you it did not matter what you could prove and i dare say ,she was saying that with her knowledge of precedent and that particular judge. I think that happens a lot in Family proceedings and that solicitors persuade parents that the best way to fight their case is not to argue or fight the evidence. Not to be OVER DEFENSIVE,UNCOOPERATIVE by accusing SW’s and other professionals of deliberately misleading the court ,making false statements of truth etc. Indeed if a parent writes protests about it into a court statement, the solicitor might cut it out saying it is not court protocol in some cases ( e.g. about a Guardian). Of course any use of the three-letter word LIE is seriously frowned upon.
    They will ask for contrary written evidence to be put before the Judge on parents behalf and they explain to parents that they must rely on the experienced Judge to read every page of it and spot all inconsistencies etc. then come to a fair decision. Cooperation with professionals is reckoned to be the best defence; that does not stop the SW’s ,however,from stating the parent will not cooperate,acknowledge concerns and show a willingness to change. I think that advice can be very dangerous to families and i believe something like 96% of cases go against parents when it is followed. Judges can be biased in the favour of LA’s and the court protocol instructs them to allow SW’s latitude for mistakes ( including false statements) on account of the difficult job they do day-by-day.
    So it would seem that the precedent allows SW’s and Guardians to make false statements and get away with it. Not surprisingly,therefore,they take full advantage! BTW, i don’t think the very experiencved Judges have time to read all the documentary evidence in full so they cannot always spot inconsistencies anyway.
    Having said all this,from what i can tell, when solicitors are acting for the LA, they will have no compunctions about openly accusing parents of lying , misleading the court etc. Neither do they insist that SW’s follow correct procedures and court protocol and make no attempt to persuade the CS to cooperate fully with parents( perhaps by agreeing to meet with them,talking to them and establishing their accounts).
    Is that fair?
    Of course, Judges always seem to spot and attach great significance to each and every trace of inconsistency in the respondent’s evidence. Their discretion is one-directional,it would appear.
    Jason, itn my opinion ,it is quite wrong to assume that children are safer in foster-care.They suffer great emotional disturbance and physiological harm( attachment,neurological etc.) when parted from natural parents. However ,one of the points a Court must consider when making or not making an order is the effects of any change in the current situation ,placement and so on. If a child is claimed by a SW and Guardian to be settled in a foster placement and making progress, a Judge may be loth to change the placement with good excuse whether it is true or not.
    I think that explains why the CS breaks with proper guidelines, menaces parents and will do anything to gain the advantage of an S20 ,an EPO ,ICO or even will give false info to Police to get them to issue a P.P.O. It is so they can present the Judge with a fait accomplis !

    Sarah, can you give any examples of the impropriety for which you have reported colleagues and i might be able to identify examples of it occurring in other cases?

    Reply
  27. Angelo Granda

    Jason,I meant to write it was your solicitor told you it did not matter what you could prove.It wasn’t the Judge.Slip of the keyboard.
    Many p[arents read these comments and most will be very interested to know how you managed to get your child back. Any advice you can give will be invaluable not only to them but also to lawyers.
    What was your winning approach?

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Angelo,

      First of all, thank you for your comments, and thank you for your support; I’m not necessarily expecting sympathy from others, but even still I’ve been a tad surprised at a couple of replies to me. I had a star or an asterisk responding to me, just telling me off (because they got the wrong end of the stick about something I was saying) and then not a word of support or even engagement with what I’d said, just using my experience to moralise against me.

      You have provided a detailed exploration of how the system can work (or not as the case may be 😉

      How did I manage to get my child back? Well after a witness told the social worker that she was going to come to court to tell the judge that the social worker was lying, the LA were forced to give me my child back. They claimed, of course, “misunderstanding”. They agreed that my case did not meet the threshold for child protection at all, but the court case remained “open”. I was told by my solicitor that it would “fizzle out” but when I saw the social worker’s updating statement I refused to vacate the original hearing: this was the hearing arranged for when the LA were refusing to give me my child back. So then the LA applied to withdraw the case entirely, and the case closed.

      I accept that Sarah has never known a case where there were no concerns, but mine was such a case. The case was closed and that was that. My solicitor said she would make a complaint against the council with me, but then she chickened out. Hardly anyone, when push comes to shove, will make a complaint about the council: except some parents of course. So I made a complaint, got it upheld, and then sued.

      My advice to parents would be not to wait for their solicitors to make complaints about misconduct on their behalf – most solicitors don’t like to make complaints against the LA.

      So Angelo, I think parents do have an interest in pursuing justice, but do you really think lawyers would be interested in anything I had to say? I think not.

      Reply
  28. forced adoption

    Oh Sarah tell the mother whose baby has been snatched at birth for “risk of emotional abuse” that “you are not being punished we are just doing this for your own good and that of the baby who will no longer have you as a mother after adoption”; In fact that mother will have suffered the worst punishment that now exists following the abolition of hanging in the UK .Sir James Munby said as much himself in one case.
    In fact these mothers receive a life sentence without the benefit of a jury and are found guilty on mere probability of offences not yet committed !
    As a well known journalist often comments “you couln’t make it up !”

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I appreciate that for the mother it can feel like a ‘punishment’. But that is not what the proceedings are intended or designed to do. They are intended and designed to protect children.

      There may well be a legitimate argument for looking at changing the standard of proof given how serious the consequences are.
      But as you seem to want to spend your time simply dancing about and spouting same old tired cliches, then the argument cannot progress can it?

      Reply
      1. Jason

        It is not so much punishment as a physical, mental and emotional torture, without end (or at least not until death.) For those loving parents who have lost children to forced adoption, death can be a happy release.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I am sure it must be a terrible thing to lose a child in any circumstances; by illness, by accident or by compulsion from the State. I am quite aware that I can’t possibly begin to understand what that must feel like for a parent. Any attempt by me to pretend I do is simply patronising and false.

          So all I can say is that if you are a loving parent and you feel very strongly you are the victim of some kind of corrupt chicanery from a state agency, please, please, please DO NOT TAKE IAN JOSEPHS ADVICE about not co-operating. Get yourself a good lawyer, someone you can trust and ENGAGE IN THE CASE AGAINST YOU.

          If people are lying, take them down. If your lawyer says ‘I don’t want to upset the judge’, sack him/her. Challenge the case against you in court.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Sarah,if one sacks a solicitor, can the legal funding solicitor be transferred to a direct-access barrister or will it have to be another solicitor? I have asked this before but i think you missed it.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            You can transfer your certificate to another solicitor but from what I have heard it can be difficult and time-consuming. So if you are going to sack your lawyer, please don’t do it in the week leading up the final hearing!
            You ought to be able to tell pretty early on if you can work with your lawyer and respect him/her. You don’t have to like him/her. But you do have to have confidence in their ability to do the job.
            If someone is dismissive, doesn’t listen, doesn’t keep you informed, doesn’t seem to understand what you are trying to get across and doesn’t care to try – sack them. But do it early.

  29. forced adoption

    If you impose suffering on someone you are punishing them .That is an obvious statement of fact not a cliché .Taking a baby at birth for risk of emotional abuse and then giving it away for adoption can never ever be justified and it should therefore be repeated again and again until the law is changed.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You are using ‘punishment’ in its specific sense of ‘punishment relating to a crime’ as your constant catch phrase is ‘no punishment without crime!’
      I accept that ‘punishment’ covers a wide spectrum of behaviours. I ‘punish’ my dog by telling her off. The state ‘punishes’ a rapist by locking him up for many years.
      A mother in care proceedings I am sure feels ‘punished’. BUT the state is NOT linking that to a ‘crime’ she has committed. You are.
      We are all ‘punished’ for things we do that are not necessarily crimes.

      I guess the point I am trying to make in no doubt a muddled way (I am quite tired after a day in court failing to pick up on evidential gaps and just counting my bonus money at the back) is that your rhetoric and catchphrases are getting in the way of any proper debate and any chance, therefore, of change.

      Reply
  30. Jason

    I am grateful to you, Sarah, for hosting this and other discussions. I know you want change in the form of greater transparency, and I can see that you are fair and consistent within your own value system.

    Ian Joseph has actually said things that are quite similar to you at times – namely that parents should sack solicitors who say they don’t want to upset the judge etc. I personally came pretty close to sacking my solicitor, but ultimately I did not have the bottle. I certainly raised the possibility with her, though.

    I don’t really agree with the usage of the term “no punishment without crime” to describe forced adoption; it suggests, to me, that any sort of person who has committed a crime DOES deserve to lose their child, regardless of what the crime is.

    I do, however, consider most types of “non-consensual adoption” to be a crime against humanity; obviously I am using “crime” in the moral and not the legal sense, as I am sure anyone in the legal establishment would be very swift to point out that crime is a word connoting illegality, whereas there is nothing illegal about what the courts are doing: insensate, callous, brutal and brutalising, but all legally above board.

    I would find it almost impossible to sit in a room with someone who supports the permanent removal of children from their parents, with no chance of the parents and children seeing each other again until the child is an adult. I oppose the sinister practice of re-writing history that can be apparent in closed adoptions.

    There are people out there who have lost their children forever, because they are mentally ill. In cases like that the parents are “mad not bad”, but even if they are the nicest people in the world it makes no difference to the heartless system. I accept there are people who are too mentally incompetent to look after their children, but they are not even allowed to visit.

    I saw a woman with learning difficulties outside the council – her young baby had been forcibly adopted because she was deemed incapable of looking after it: she probably WAS incapable. She said she was going to try to find the people and get down on her knees and beg for them to let her see her child, but from what she was telling me it was fairly plain that this couple wanted to edit mad mum out of the picture. Good enough to breed, but not good enough to have human rights. Forced adoption, or what I prefer to call “irreversible wrenching” is wicked.

    OK – I don’t know what it’s like – my child was not adopted. But that was what the local authority were pushing for in my case, and while she was away I believed I would never get her back. It was hell, and it nearly killed me.

    Sarah you do not strike me as a remotely timid woman, but looking at what you have to say about what I guess you’d call non-consensual adoption (“There may well be a legitimate argument for looking at changing the standard of proof given how serious the consequences are”) I am puzzled by how timid this sounds. “May well be a case”? Talk about non-committal! You’ve been working in the courts for years, haven’t you? Do you think “may well be a case” represents much of a breakthrough for all those poor broken people out there? Is that really as far as you will ever go?

    As you say it must be terrible to lose a child, whether to illness or to a local authority. Some of these poor people don’t even know whether their children are alive or dead.

    People like the Websters, who are innocent but will not get their children back, must feel about as cheerful as any surviving members of Timothy Evan’s family might have felt back in the sixties.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry you find me timid. I agree I am not timid.
      I am trying to be circumspect in my language. There *may* be a case. Lots of distinguished judges and academics say there isn’t. Currently politicians don’t support a change.
      But there *may* be a case.
      I am not expressing timidity. I am saying that there is an argument that needs to be made.
      And it won’t be made on rhetoric, polemic or conspiracy theories.

      Reply
  31. Angelo Granda

    In a way, Sarah,all barristers are also politicians.Many do enter politics.In order to bring about substantive change , you will have to adress the fundamental principles and arguments for change using political rhetoric and polemic. This is how significant progress will be made. Once the principles have been established and the need for change accepted by all, then the nitty-gritty and spadework will not be controversial and those undertaking the work ( the professionals) can revert to mundane,legal and circumspect language.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I fundamentally disagree. For many years now people have expressed both disgust and impatience with the blathering rhetoric of politicans as they slither out of actually saying anything of any substance.

      I think it is high time for people to start saying what they mean and meaning what they say, in simple, direct language.
      We need to identify what is going wrong and start trying to fix it.

      Or we can just spend the next few years swapping cliches about ‘conspiracies’ and ‘birds of a feather’ and ‘no punishment without crime’ which are becoming increasingly empty and sterile jargon. They don’t engage, inspire or convince.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        What DOES engage, inspire and convince, Sarah? And do you have a position on adoption against the consent of parents? Rhetoric, polemic and conspiracy theories are all out – so what is in? Why do you rule out rhetoric? It’s persuasive language – are you suggesting that people try to change the system without trying to persuade others that there is something wrong with it?

        I think you overestimate the disgust people feel for politicians – it is at least possible for people to not vote for them. Social services and the judiciary – you cannot vote the bad ones out.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Direct simple language is in.
          Rhetoric has a place – but not when it is used to obscure and fudge, which I am afraid is how politicians seem to use it.
          I am all for a lovely flourish when it is supporting a real argument.

          For eg Ian Josephs often says something like this – ‘birds of a feather flocking together! Pigs at the trough! Crimes against humanity! Wicked evil social workers are scum’.

          My response is ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzzz’.

          Why not say ‘I am worried that the system is failing because there is a lack of openness about what is going on and the professionals in it are getting lazy. It is a really serious thing to do to take a child away from his family and as a society we must be worried about how this is done and on what grounds’.

          Reply
      2. Angelo Granda

        Politicians show dishonesty and ingenuineness in some cases . So do some solicitors,barristers and Judges..
        When in a corner and faced with the truth by a parent, they will say:-

        ” Mmmm—– yes, you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ! ”

        Then they lower their eyes to the floor,turn their backs,walk away,ignore the truth ,continue as before and they are going to do what they want anyway. Watch out for it in your daily work !

        Reply
  32. forced adoption

    Sarah you say “I think it is high time for people to start saying what they mean and meaning what they say, in simple, direct language. We need to identify what is going wrong and start trying to fix it .
    Ok I will do my best!
    One thing that is wrong is taking babies at birth for risk of emotional abuse and giving them away to be adopted.
    No other country in the world takes babies at birth from mothers for such a reason . The follow up by forced adoption is wicked and compounds the cruelty involved.
    This practice will one day be recognised as a crime against humanity so it should be outlawed and abolished as soon as possible.
    Simple direct language Sarah just as you request and yes I do mean what I say !

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Not bad Ian. Just dial back a bit on the ‘wicked’ and ‘crime against humanity’ and we might be getting somewhere.

      I would prefer to restrict use of the phrase ‘crimes against humanity’ to actual crimes against humanity otherwise, what phrase are you going to use to describe the Holocaust, the Rwandan massacres, the Syrian crisis, etc, etc, etc.

      I am NOT trying to downplay the real and serious concern that the State exercises enormous powers without sufficient check BUT a social worker making a mistake because they have a case load way, way in excess of what is manageable is not the same as genocide.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Hi Sarah,

        Firstly I was thinking you were sounding fair when you said “I am NOT trying to downplay the real and serious concern that the State exercises enormous powers without sufficient check” but when you said “BUT a social worker making a mistake because they have a case load way, way in excess of what is manageable is not the same as genocide” that was a bit odd.

        Everybody makes mistakes: I make them all the time. I don’t think many of us would blame a social worker for making mistakes, whether they had a massive caseload or not.

        Children are not forcibly adopted from their parents because an overworked social worker makes a “mistake”. Whether you support forced adoption or not (and I still don’t really know your position on that one) you would have to agree that the policy is deliberate. How on earth can forced adoption be down to a “mistake” – the whole ideology behind it is a mistake in my opinion, but I don’t mean a mistake as in an error; I mean a mistake as in faulty, unenlightened thinking.

        It’s not as if an overworked social worker makes a mistake, just a slip of the pen or a misunderstanding, and whoops! Parents never get to see their children again. Come on! A mistake’s not any sort of crime, let alone a crime against humanity. Why are you acting as if anyone thinks that tired social workers who makes mistakes are criminals?

        I do think forced adoption is a crime, as I’ve said, in the sense that it is an enormous piece of moral wrongdoing. When the evidence put out about parents is fabricated or distorted then it is more of a crime, but even when it isn’t it remains morally reprehensible in almost all cases. The default position should be that ALL children and parents should get to see each other, have access to each other, even if they can’t live together. I think there are more children separated from their parents than is necessary, but then as I think you have acknowledged, it is a risk averse culture in which people can’t always agree about the best way to protect children.

        I know some children can’t stay in their homes – their parents can’t kick drug habits, or they have very serious learning difficulties etc. But in those cases there should be the opportunity for children and parents to see each other. Cases where parents should not have access to the child should be the exception that the local authority should have to fight for. I can’t imagine anyone getting overly worked up about that woman who offered her baby to that paedophile in the Lost Prophets, for example. That is the rare type of case where the LA would have a point.

        But that is what mystifies most of us: Baby P’s mother, apparently, saw her children when she was in prison. Vanessa George’s children see her I think. These women’s crimes are mind-boggling. Why is it perceived as in a child’s best interests to see these people?

        And it is a crying shame that there are loving people out there who, because of mental incompetence or illness, cannot even find out if their children are alive. These children do not have a right to know how much they are loved? A woman I met while all this cr*p was happening to me told me that the judge had said that he could see how much she loved her child. Then the same judge went on to permanently sever mother and child, going so far as to say that he was changing the baby’s first name (as well as, obviously, her surname) so that the mother wouldn’t be able to find her. This is a good person. She cannot help being mentally ill – I say that judge was a bully.

        This can never be trivialised by saying that social workers are overworked and make mistakes- it might be a bit annoying when people make mistakes, but it really is not the issue. And forced adoption may not be a “crime against humanity,” but it certainly resembles social engineering.

        Have you read Charlotte Proudman’s piece (from a couple of years back) on the subject.
        “However, it is a particular class of parents
        and children who are punished. The
        statistical correlation between parents
        subject to care proceedings and poverty
        reflects how society punishes the most
        vulnerable and impoverished.”

        She uses the “P” word there (punishment) 😉

        “Meanwhile, their children are
        removed by people in positions of power
        and placed with middle class foster carers
        and adopters; all those involved in the
        removal process believe that their rescuing
        fantasy is fulfilled. With no financial or
        social power and a reduced family size,
        working class parents remain powerless
        and pushed further to the bottom of society
        by the judgments of middle class judges
        and magistrates.”

        And the “Lambs to the slaughter” quote comes from Michelle Freedman: another barrister. These barristers are clearly formidable in their focus on human rights.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore

          Yes I have read Charlotte Proudman and I have commented in similar terms myself. I have said many, many times that the Government’s ‘push’ for adoption is potentially unlawful and certainly unwise.

          I am sorry if you find my turns of phrase irritating or unhelpful. I am sometimes weary of treading over the same ground again and again and I make remarks that are sarcastic and unhelpful

          Ian Josephs repeatedly refers to social workers as ‘scum’. To the extent that I had to simply delete those comments at source. He does not seem to distinguish between the deliberate liar or the overworked, overstressed social worker who is doing their best.

          And it makes me very fed up. Because I have a very different definition of what constitutes ‘scum’.

          I think the problem is this. I don’t have an emotional horse in this race. So I will make comments that I accept some may find glib or upsetting or dismissive. Because I am not subject to the same overweening emotions and pain.

          I think this is why the debate between the different perspectives on the system stalls. Because we react according to our narratives and belief structures, as I believe was the very point of this post initially.

          Of course children don’t get adopted by force by ‘one mistake’ They get adopted by a series of incremental issues that build up, step by step until the course is set and it is very difficult to take another course.

          The incremental steps are many and varied. Parental deficiencies, lack of support, institutionalised racism/classism, social engineering, jaded or overworked professionals, parents who won’t co-operate because they have been listening to Ian Josephs, lazy or lying professionals, lazy or lying parents.

          By the time the case gets to the final hearing it is often very, very difficult to unpick all these different strands and make an argument that THIS is what wrong rather than THAT.

          This is why I struggle against simplistic demands that I recognise a ‘crime against humanity’. It is – as ever – much more complicated than that.

          Reply
          1. Jason

            Thank you for your comments. I understand much better where you are coming from now.

            I do like Ian Josephs – he has compassion. That means a lot to people who have been in my situation. We all code switch to a certain degree, and when Ian Josephs calls social workers “scum” he is speaking a language that people understand. Incidentally Ian Joseph did tell me to cooperate with social workers and to be polite to them. He told me how I should behave in court. It was me who was going on about what evil **** they were – he didn’t join in, just told me how to get my kid back.

            Do you know what my solicitor called social services? “The Bastards.”
            Do you know what my GP called them? “A bunch of Nazis.”
            These were professional people who were showing solidarity and support.
            Seriously. When I was getting help from Victim Support because of the way I’d been treated by social services, the bloke on the phone kept asking me if I wanted to pelt the false witness with fruit etc etc. I said no: I just wanted a “sorry” And that is where some people will start to say things like “scum”: because these people don’t apologise, even when they can see they’ve ruined your life. There is no humility there.

            I don’t know if Ian Joseph differentiates between the deliberate liar and the overworked social worker – but I do.

      2. Angelo Granda

        Simple .If the Human Rights Act is contravened ,it is or should be a ‘crime’ against humanity.
        If a victim believes the Act is contravened,it is an alleged ‘crime’ against humanity.
        Just one point,Sarah. Without thinking about expense,for one moment,do you think it is a good idea that a specialist Human Rights lawyer be appointed very early on to track each case critically and to go over the final care-plan before the final hearing? Preferably a barrister.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          It would be a fab idea – but who is paying for it?
          There are many things which I think would have an excellent impact on how cases are managed and progressed – but there’s no money.
          One suggestion of mine is that LA which are finding they are getting into difficulties hire barristers to go over their case files and determine which cases are going horribly off track or which are being ignored. But again – no money.
          Another thing that exasperates me is the constant vitriol poured over social workers and lawyers as if it is all our fault everything is so crap.
          So who is voting for all these politicians who continually cut legal aid and support services?
          I didn’t. but some of you must have.

          Reply
  33. Jason

    I agree Ian. Even if this isn’t the only country in the world that does that though – to be honest I don’t know if is. It would to my mind still be a grotesque human rights abuse if every country in the world was doing it.

    I’m beginning to think the legals don’t see it though. It could end up being yet another case of do now, apologise in thirty years time. It is a wicked practice, yes. I wonder what those people do at parties or interviews when they get asked if they have children. Are they supposed to say they did have but they are dead? It’s sick and I can’t believe it’s going on in the UK right now.

    Angelo I must concur with what you say about personal comments about social workers. I did realize after I posted it that it sounded mean. My point was supposed to be that they were so flipping unhealthy and yet they go around assessing others on the basis of alleged incapabilities – that remains my view, but I did not put it well, or rather I put it in a way that looked like I was assessing their physical charms or something. What you said about the agony and anguish parents undergo was eloquent. I could never have put it as well as that.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Yes,.we have to be balanced .Fat or thin,some Sw’s are fragrant but some are better described as flagrant. Not all of the men respond kindly to a wolf-whistle but many of them do. We should not discriminate against anyone for their personal preferences.
      Social Workers do discriminate in some cases. I was astounded when one criticised a Mum for wearing some article of clothing or other and asked her straight out ” Are you a prostitute?” She was absolutely flabbergasted.How could she ‘engage’ with that except to simply deny it. In her assessment to Court , the SW described her pretty average clothing scathingly and implied that she did not acknowledge concerns and would be unlikely to change. No mention that she had categorically denied ever being a prostitute. Was that malicious or was it bad training?

      Reply
  34. Angelo Granda

    As usual Sarah has a point with which i agree ( and she agrees with some of ours).
    As regards our choice of language, i have to say that is the reason why I choose not to contribute to the transparency project discussions. I feel it is a forum for professionals and i recognise that they will communicate together using prudent, calculated l;egal and circumspect terms and they will use professional jargon too. I don’t understand it very well but i understand how hard it would be for them to conduct a sensible argument were they to approach all issues like Rumpole of the Bailey. However, the Public hold barristers in particular in very high esteem, they are our representatives,we have trained them and they are our children. We expect them to be part-politician and we expect them to argue for our human rights !
    Sometimes a Rumpole is needed to establish fundamental principles and expose hypocrisy.
    Sarah should be prepared to adapt when she contributes to the CPR as opposed to the Transparency project. This is not strictly a professional forum,parents and other laypersons are welcome too. We are not fully conversant with professional termminology etc and it is only natural we will use common parlance including rhetoric and what Sarah sees as hyperbole.
    She has to bear this in mind and ,of course, she does.She shows great patience. We have to moderate comments,indeed we do,don’t we?
    The problem is that SW’s appear to be intimidated by parents. When they come on they face too much hyperbole and over-zealous criticism. Ask Helen Sparkles. To encourage them to contribute and persuade them,we have to use moderate,more persuasive terms and not be hypercritical.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      The whople idea of a ‘maieutic’ process is that we have to ‘give birth ‘ to change!
      Unfortunately ,if SW’s are youngsters and misunderstand fundamentals sometimes ,we have to adapt to their level and approach problems by asking questions and they have to answer them honestly. They won’t do so if they will not take part and we cannot force them to. I hope some of them attend the conference.

      Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I don’t want to stifle debate by strutting around wearing my ‘professional’ hat and I hope I don’t. But I can’t escape my training or my temperament so I may at times use language and phrases that irritate others as excessively lawyerly.
      Please feel free to point this out when it occurs. I hope I am always open to (constructive) criticism.
      Hopefully we can all show some mutual patience and tolerance for all the different motivations that are behind our comments.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sarah,Thanks for all your comments and i hope we have all taken one constructive lesson at least from Jason’s comments.
        When representing parents , remember that you may get the CS to withdraw the case completely if you help them obtain a WITNESS who will go to Court and testify on oath that a SW has made a false statement under oath (lied).
        Do not rely on documentary evidence,medical reports and so on.The CS may hold relevant pages back but even when they do not,the Judge may not read them.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          If the CS attempt to hold relevant pages back your lawyer must object. If you want the judge to read something direct his/her attention specifically to that.
          Parents are not simply spectators at some horrible play which is drawing to the inexorable Final Act where they lose their children.
          Parents get lawyers paid for by the State to represent them.
          And most of these lawyers – despite what Hemming, Josephs etc will say – do a reasonable to excellent job for parents.
          Most Judges, most of the time are also conscientious and will read everything that is put before them then stay up until 1am to write a judgement.
          Today I represented the child in an adoption hearing. The Judge has heard three days of evidence. She will deliver a judgment in a few days time because she wants to think very carefully about this. She will re-read all her notes of evidence, of our submissions, of the legal cases cited to her.
          this is normal – at least in my experience.

          Reply
    3. helensparkles

      “The problem is that SW’s appear to be intimidated by parents. When they come on they face too much hyperbole and over-zealous criticism. Ask Helen Sparkles. To encourage them to contribute and persuade them,we have to use moderate,more persuasive terms and not be hypercritical.” Why are you asking me, I am not intimidated by parents either here or IRL, but I do feel a bit patronised by the way you suggest I should be reeled in!

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sorry if you feel patronised ,Helen. I am probably mistaken but i thought you were the SW who expressed a feeling that there was too much extreme criticism directed solely at SW’s at the CPR conf 2015.
        Which is why i said’ask Helen Sparkles’. Sorry.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          I said there was a lot of anti SW feeling from all, I wasn’t intimidated, I felt silenced. Although the word hostile was used, it wasn’t my word – probably should have commented on that thread before.

          Reply
  35. Angelo Granda

    1. Can one sack a solicitor and transfer the funding certificate to a direct-access barrister? I bear in mind the letter from the bar to secretary of state about the inadequacies of solicitors.
    2. QUOTE: If the CS attempt to hold relevant pages back your lawyer must object. If you want the judge to read something direct his/her attention specifically to that.Parents are not simply spectators at some horrible play which is drawing to the inexorable Final Act where they lose their children : UNQUOTE
    a) It is not possible for a respondent to ask a lawyer to object about missing pages . Why not? It is impossible for one to know exactly the date, particular source and whereabouts of every page. One cannot specify a document one has not actually seen oneself. The concealed information often comes to light after proceedings are over ( which is the reason for many successful appeals).
    b)Likewise it is impossible for a respondent to direct a Judge’s attention to a specific document or page of a document. Also at a civil Family Court, a laxadaisical attitude towards procedural correctness exists ( as compared with a higher court) . For example, bundles are often unpaginated and often requested documents are provided late. Often even when one tells ones solicitor to request specific documents,there existence is denied, the CS claim they are lost or the request is simply ignored. Many parents DO engage with their solicitor to no avail because procedures and guidelines are flouted by professionals and they ARE helpless spectators because if they jump up to protest , they are disregarded or held in contempt of court. This is the reality of Family Court hearings which passes by you ,apparently. Too much latitude is allowed for procedural lapses due to time schedules,i guess.
    3. a) Instead of paying large fees to superfluous medical experts unnecessarily ,the system should use the money to pay for the human-rights barrister.
    b) Sometimes respondents go to human rights solicitors who refuse to get involved.It seems respondents have no choice but to get a member of the Children’s Legal Panel.Despite what you believe,Sarah,the reality is they do not do a reasonable job, many miscarriages of justice occur.If they were up to speed on human rights things would be different.
    c) the cost of one week in residential care probably exceeds the cost of a barrister .

    I suggest when lawyers are arguing for reforms ,they discount financial considerations ( not their concern) and concentrate on the administration of justice ( which is ).

    Reply
  36. Angelo Granda

    In reality also, many Judges do not have the time or inclination to read through all documents ( particularly relevant medical files which can be too complex for non-medics and often contain hundreds of pages). In fact,when refusing leave to appeal,some admit they haven’t read everything and claim they have relied on the SW evidence.Often no witnesses other than SW’s ,Guardians and the Court appointed so-called independent are called.
    Why not try and obtain a witness as Jason did?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes medical documents are complicated and difficult for the lay person, which is why that cases which rely on difficult and complex medical evidence will require a medical expert to offer conclusions about that evidence which can be tested in cross examination.
      Nothing should be in the bundle that isn’t relevant so a judge should have read it all. Sometimes however bundle preparation is sloppy and the Judge can end up with lots of irrelevant stuff; there can be no criticism of a Judge who doesn’t go through that with fine tooth comb.
      It is the duty of all lawyers present to help the Judge. If parents think such and such a part of the bundle is hugely important then they tell their lawyer to make that very clear to the Judge.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sarah,please consider the following.
        Many parents allege that they try to engage with their solicitors to give various directions and to make various complaints,provide evidence to support their claims etc. etc. that the solicitors make themselves unavailable . They will not communicate with their clients usefully as cases proceed.
        Out of the office. In court.In conference.On the other line.On sick leave.On annual leave.On a rest day.
        They put barriers up against their own clients which is just one more reason why some parents might be dissatisfied.I am sure you have experience of i yourself .Indeed ,it is common knowledge,in other fields of the law such as accident claims,financial fraud,inheritance cases and so on that ‘shutting up shop’ and delaying tactics are adopted by solicitors ,a good proportion of whom are shysters.This is the common experience and i don’t think we can depend on family law solicitors on being any better than these others. They may be in it for themselves just MAY.
        Slightly iffy,i know but in one case i know of, after a few days of being fobbed off, i suggested to a parent jokingly that he should telephone claiming to be the Guardian.He did so and was put through immediately.
        Test it for yourself.It amounts to poor representation !
        Please can you clarify my query. Can one sack one’s solicitor and transfer the legal funding certificate directly to a direct-access barrister ?

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Can you sack a solicitor and transfer the legal funding certificate directly to a direct access barrister?
          Short answer: I don’t know but I don’t think so.

          Longer answer: I suspect that you will find that it is not possible to ‘transfer’ a legal aid certificate to a barrister. As I understand it (and my understanding may be wrong as this isn’t my area) firms of solicitors only get paid by the government for doing legal aid work if they have a ‘legal aid franchise’ for which they had to apply. So the Government has certified them as fit and proper to get public money. Solicitors then choose to pay me out of their legal aid budget. This is why more and more solicitors are doing court work themselves as to pay a barrister means they have to say goodbye to a large chunk of a fixed fee legal aid budget.

          I don’t think a barrister could ever be ‘given’ a legal aid certificate – we are sole traders, we do not have the same kind of organisational structures as a firm of solicitors. I would imagine that applying for a legal aid franchise and then running it will take up an enormous amount of time and require a lot of support staff – which barristers don’t have.

          Whenever I take a direct access instruction, I do it either for free or I am paid directly by the client. During my direct access training we were told specifically to watch out for cases that might qualify for legal aid and tell the client they would probably be better off going via a firm of solicitors if they qualified. The bigger, more complicated cases are always better run by a firm of solicitors because they have the support/admin staff to sort out the practicalities – circulating documents, making applications, keeping on top of correspondence, etc, etc, etc.

          If your solicitor won’t communicate with you then you MUST a)sack your solicitor and b)make a formal complaint. I appreciate that is a lot to ask of a parent going through stressful care proceedings but if no one complains about the shysters then they stay in business and take public money to do so. It is in all our interests to stop that.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Just one final point in this respect ,Sarah. When parents come/came up against the barriers, they are/were forced to write to their solicitors.The solicitors have to reply. They will then tell parents that solicitor’s letters cost £50 each which eats into legal funding.
            Happily, i can report that,with the advent of e-mails, the communication problem has improved greatly.I don’t know how much the solicitors charge for professional e-mails but i hope it isn’t £50.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *