I am grateful for this guest post from a parent.


Meaning -” lack of success, the neglect or omission of expected or required action.”

It is essential and right that the Care system exists. It represents a failure on very many fronts that it has to.

In most cases if a child enters care there will have been a catastrophic failure in one or more spheres – in a parent’s capacity to safely support their child at home for whatever reason, in services ability to support parents in their parenting role, in the State’s failure to invest in an environment where families (one of the key building blocks of society?) are supported. In most cases the care system is the safety net for children and young people when one or more of these failures have occurred.

In my case, by the time my son entered care I was at my wit’s end. I had tried everything I could to get help for him and the effort brought me closer to my breaking point that anything I’d experienced before or since. I felt as though I was fighting for his life largely unsupported. I’m sure there were those who believe I was too interventionist because of my own fears and those who believe if only I’d been a better mother that there would not have been these problems. What I would say to the people who feel I was too interventionist is “I did not make the decisions by and large. My son and the various professionals who became involved because of my interventions to try and make things better for him, did.”

I do not see my son now nor do I know how he lives, what he lives on, if his hayfever is affecting him at the moment, whether he eats, whether his clothes or shoes fit him, whether he has a dentist or a doctor and who he turns to when he needs help. I’m also aware that his former corporate parent is in the same position. Even if they did, as I was told again and again, they would feel their duties around confidentiality to him would mean that I could not be told anything about his wellbeing. In my dealings with professionals I only met one doctor who unambiguously crossed that ever present red line about sharing. I am very grateful to him for this because it often seemed to me that ‘not sharing’ with me was damaging for my son and needlessly turned into an exercise in inhumanity and cruelty to me.

Is that the price of failure? If so whose?

The thing that gives me comfort when I try to make sense of it all is knowing that I tried to do the right thing at the right time with the resources available to me in each and every situation. I do not have regrets on that front although I know I probably made some wrong moves along the way. I am hopeful that some of these may yet come right. No one knows what the future holds and life is nothing if not unpredictable. It is a better strategy to hope than worry when you cannot affect outcomes.

With my very mixed experiences, I always feel nervous when I hear the case being made, generally by people involved within it in one capacity or another, that the Care system is inherently good. Do we want anyone’s child to have to experience what my son did, what our family did and then call it a good outcome because the Care system was there for him? Do we want any child or young person to face such an uncertain future, essentially alone and unsupported, as he does now that he is a Care Leaver?

I want the best Care system possible for children like my son who enter it because whoever has failed or wherever failures have occurred, children affected pay the highest price and the failures are never theirs. They must never be failed further by a broken safety net nor a cut-price Care system.

It is essential and right that the Care system exists. It represents a failure on very many fronts that it has to.

21 thoughts on “Failure

    1. looked_after_child

      and also
      SEND 2018: More children with SEND, but it’s worse if you’re poor

      Poverty, SEND and Exclusion
      For me, the most worrying trend is nothing new, but does not seem to be getting any better. Pupils on Free School Meals – in other words, pupils from low-income families – represent a disproportionate percentage of children with SEND.
      Why is it that although children receiving FSM (free school meals) make up only 13.6% of the school population, and yet they make up 24.5% of children on SEN support and 30.9% of children with statutory plans? That is a HUGE percentage differential.
      On top of this, it should come as no surprise that pupils claiming free school meals were more likely than other children with SEND to have Social, Emotional and Mental Health as their primary type of need with 31.3% of pupils with SEN support and 41.2% of pupils with a statement or EHC plan. Put together than that’s a pretty shocking statistic.
      Why is this happening? Is it because children in low-income families are more likely to have parents with SEND themselves? Is it because their families can’t afford proper nourishment or have difficult home lives (though the latter is far from restricted to low-income) Are we just content to let them continue to be part of some kind of “underclass” left on the scrap-heap before they’re 18, destined for menial work and to repeat the same patterns into the next generation?

      You know what? I think, as a society, we are. Not out of callousness, but because in these days when even families with two working parents can’t afford a mortgage, childcare or a few luxuries, fewer than ever have the energy to care. And with cuts or closure to Children’s Centres, even those people working to provide support are becoming fewer.

      1. looked_after_child

        The SNJ blogpost above got me thinking about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) – not the headline stuff promoted by organisations as the ‘next big thing for children’ now that the shine is coming off the last big things – ‘Attachment Theory’ and ‘Trauma Informed’ but the reality of living with tough problems without support if you are a parent or child (Adverse Life Events?)

        This report is well worth reading I think

        Dr Wendy Thorley has done a rather brilliant job, extracting and expanding out something that adoptive parents (Both she and Al Coates, the second author are members of CEL&T, a Private Limited Company providing information for anyone wanting to know about loss and trauma and the impact upon children.) have drawn attention to as being a particular difficulty for them. She moves well beyond this making the link with families (blended or otherwise) coping with high levels of disfunction/explosive violence from children with SEND. This is a huge step forward because it is not coming from the SEND community but the blended families/Adoptive Parenting community and the messages moves well beyond the obvious or easy.

        These are a number of recommendations including:-

        All professionals that work within the sphere of children to be trained in relation to challenging and violent behaviour (if not already knowledgeable in this area specifically) in order to develop awareness of causes and impacts

        All challenging, aggressive and violent behaviour should not be responded to as recommended under current guidance for Child on Parent Violence/Adolescent to Parent Violence. Each situation should be considered individually, with correct identification preferred that includes consideration to child and family history, pre-existing health diagnosis and indicators for intent,

        Prior to any intervention being offered a clear emphasis should be made regarding

        , if parent/ carers indicate they themselves do not believe the child is behaving with intent then world Health Indicators ICD-10/ ICD-11 should be investigates with particular regard for F91-0- Conduct Disorder confined to family context

        • Consideration should be paid to DSM-V indicators that outline Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

        •Recognition and acknowledgement of CPVA as a form of domestic violence.

        • Recognise all children who display challenging, violent or aggressive behaviours including those with SEND, without prejudice.

        • Recognise and develop research informed understanding of the impact of living with CPVA for siblings, in the short and long term, as an Adverse Childhood Experience

        • Recognise Childhood Challenging, Violent and Aggressive Behaviour as an umbrella term replacing the current used CPVA or any other acronym to describe children’s violent or aggressive behaviours,

        • Incorporate all studies to date, from all fields of research, that discuss children’s violent or aggressive behaviours, in order to provide a comprehensive, informed platform for future research in this area

        and so on…

          1. Angelo Granda

            Looked after Child, I have had a look through the landmark ruling.
            At first sight, it seems to me that the exclusion of autistic children from school for what is in fact a physiological disablement and its symptoms had been adjudged wrong in law,the same legal principle may also apply to the exclusion of autistic youngsters from a home life with natural family .
            I realise you are not a lawyer but I would appreciate your view on it.Also a legal view from Sarah.
            I think the COP should not rely on the opinions of SW’s and other professionals not qualified in the special needs which these youngsters have.
            Just because they lack the capacity to communicate with the autistic does not mean the experts cannot do so.
            It seems fundamentally wrong for a judge to ordain the autistic lack capacity ( Mental Incapacity legislation) when they are not diagnosed mentally subnormal.

  1. Angelo Granda

    A parent’s view

    We have to face reality and anyone who has read extensively on this resource cannot fail to see what it is that leads the child a protection towards FAILURE.
    To put it politely,the system is not fit for purpose and less politely,it is corrupt.
    We know that LA’s act unlawfully on a regular basis,we have discussed several reasons why their aims are illegitimate and we know they give untrue evidence to court based on unchecked data entered into ‘files’ including unconfirmed Police intelligence.
    We know that CS assessments constantly appears to ignore he nuine,e pert opinion such as that about opinion above.Sarah has put a number of reasons forward to excuse why SW’s act unlawfully and we all accept her opinion that it is not necessarily done with malice.We have common empathy with them,they are only human after all and ordinary SW’s cannot be held responsible for a corrupt system.Only the chiefs can!

    The main point I am making once again is that the LA’s do not order permanent liquidation of families or anything else.The civil family court does and they take away our children’s human rights claiming it is in their best interests.First and foremost,such far-reaching ,drastic,draconian actions are out of proportion to our civil courts( article8)
    and,secondly,the judicial system is broken anyway and hearings aren’t fair ones ( article6).
    We have to focus more on the court system and improvements to it.Those who act u lawfully only gain from it because they are allowed to get away with it.

    1. HelenSparkles

      Angelo, your comments hear are groundhog day. Please can you look at where progress could be made WITHIN the framework of the law.

  2. Angelo Granda

    In my humble opinion, Helen, no real progress can be made within the framework of the Law UNTIL the judicial system makes an honest resolve to change its modus operandae radically doing away with all laxadaisical practices and laissez-faire attitudes displayed towards LA evidence and distortion of fair process.
    The broken system must be replaced; this will mean citizens being given access to justice under article 6 and, of course, proportionality under article 8 as mentioned above and,with apologies to your good self personally,I shall continue to plug the same on the behalf of victims I know until it sinks in.
    I doubt the ability of LA’s to clean practices up whatever the frameworks of the Law; they will continue as they have through the generations. The Courts are the only ones to stop them.
    Thanks for your interest.

  3. looked_after_child
    Page 24

    Here are some recommendations about reducing deaths in custody by giving teeth to independent visitors (bear with me – it is relevant because in the same way as police control the custody blocks, social workers and other professionals control access to children in care and provision for their families if any)


    What can be done?

    The current system could be rebuilt to provide effective regulation, but radical changes would be necessary.

    The success of reform would depend on a fundamental reconsideration of policy issues:
    -how to deal with the power of the police;
    -making the purpose of the scheme be safeguarding detainees rather than promoting confidence in the police;
    – the independence of the scheme from the state;
    -recruitment and training of visitors;
    -access to the custody blocks and detainees;
    – clear channels for reporting and publicity
    -effectiveness as a regulator.

    These proposals tackle the status quo and redistribute power from the powerful to the less powerful.

    The same sort of issues apply in relation to children in Care or so I believe. This one – -making the purpose of the scheme be safeguarding detainees rather than promoting confidence in the police – I see as key…
    Please no more public relation exercises we all need substantive change.

    1. Angelo Granda

      Anyone who looks for system reform and justice for children because of so much failure and culture which has the stamp ‘unfit for purpose’ so deeply etched across its practices really have to learn almost superhuman patience,don’t they?
      It could take a generation as with Hillsborough.
      Talking of Public Relations exercises,Lord Munby is pictured on the twitter link above in full regalia and plaudits rained upon on his retirement.
      I genuinely think,whilst not disrespecting his calls for transparency and so on,that many members of the judiciary inhabit a kind of fairyland perhaps dreamland ( of nod).
      I don’t actually know how long he occupied the president’s chair but from what I can see he leaves us with a broken system with sticky-tape hanging off it!
      As always,they talk a good game,holding out reform as an aim but it is further away than ever.
      Let us hope MacFarlane improves on things and is a bit more radical.He has a much more famous name,I think.

  4. looked_after_child

    Also from this report

    See Parent/Carer suggestions: Section 7
    • Professionals to engage in active listening rather than ‘listening but not hearing’ when parent/ carers raise CPVA as an issue within the home.

    • Professional to work effectively with families and understand this has to be felt to be effective by the families they engage with.

    (D’ont come with your preconceptions when we are vulnerable and we invite you into our lives and if you only measure success on your terms you are getting it wrong.)

    really, really basic stuff that should not have to be stated and yet there it is.

  5. Angelo Granda

    Looked after child, True it is really basic stuff which should be stated but it is not, in fact it is often avoided. In your comments you appear to get more and more frustrated as time goes by and no-one can blame you but i call readers attention to one of your previous comments where you said we must really get to grips with human rights with which i agreed .We cannot continue to conflate good and bad social work practice and/or politics with the main problem which is human rights abuse.
    We really must address the real problem and ,as Sarah commented, we won’t get anywhere unless we can agree on the core realities.Thus ,seeing as CPR Conf 2018 approaches ,i hope some readers will pay some attention and agree with the below views.

    Yes, the human rights of thousands of citizens are abused in several ways. Firstly, in my opinion, they are abused when families are separated needlessly in the U.K. without any pressing social need. Please note that even when the LA’s and SW’s behave with meticulous correctness and take into account all the evidence and opinion you refer too and when they tell the truth ,are open and candid and so on, it is still in contravention of human rights to separate families against their will simply because a Court deems it in the best interests of the children involved.There are always less intrusive,more proportionate alternatives to start with,always,whatever the risk and,of course, it is never in their best interests to take them from family into the care-system where the risk of neglect and abuse is far,far higher, where it is known they suffer emotional trauma and actual bodily harm as a matter of course immediately and where ongoing mental torture for life plus degradation is unavoidable.

    Although the assessors often don’t look into the alternatives properly,some times they do and in all cases,it is the norm to include some sort of alternative in the care-plan just in case the Court does consider removal uncalled for.It is for the Court to decide ultimately not the LA’s; the Court could choose the alternative, so it is the judiciary which contravenes our human rights ultimately.

    All over the world ,even in the 21st century, families are cruelly separated by the Authorities not in their best interests as claimed but in the interests of the Authorities themselves.When human rights are contravened ,it is usually because of arrogance ,false ideology and dogma on the part of the perpetrators.Malice may not be evident because in many cases the perpetrators think they are doing the right thing. They see a social need which does not actually exist. It happens worldwide and particularly in places like Syria,the Yemen and Iraq in the present decade. It is inhuman but the Authorities separate them for ideological reasons and in all those countries the families involved are not afforded justice.The Courts are ineffective for political reasons and usually dictatorships are involved .Some countries are not dictatorships but families are still separated for ideological reasons not because there is a pressing social need and Britain is one of them.
    For example, right now families are being inhumanely separated on the Mexican/U.S. border and human lives destroyed. It is known it is not in their best interests and it is known it contravenes human rights.They are subject to discrimination and persecution. As always,the families are vulnerable and unable to gain access to justice.
    Why does it contravene human rights? Here is the core-reality. The U.S. Government and it’s bureaucracy believe wrongly they are acting in the Public interest and there is a pressing social need. They may well be right there is a need to keep illegal,foreign aliens out and there is a pressing social need to do so. They act inhumanely because they separate the families not because they won’t let them in the country. There is no need at all to part children from parents, they can be sent to camps TOGETHER.
    The same principle applies to our CP system. Families can be helped and supported together even if it costs money and even if they are to be sent to institutions together pending reform.
    Let us consider Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s. They were ruled by false ideology and dogma just the same. Yet even the Courts there did not separate families as a norm. They were sent to camps and ghettos TOGETHER. It was considered inhumane to part families. In the event, they were only parted after arrival at the camps by CRIMINALS acting in SECRET when they were sorted either for slavery or immediate gassing.
    Although we are fortunate in Britain that this sort of thing is not happening, usually the children are exploited in other ways but not murdered, much can go wrong. As McFarlane said, it is impossible to keep tabs on the outcomes for children taken into care here. It is known that some were trafficked to the colonies and that some residential care homes buried children in unmarked graves within the grounds etc. not so long ago , and even though we know that power over children breeds contempt for them as human beings ,sex abuse etc., much is covered-up and the outcomes are hidden from the general public for obvious reasons.
    It has to be said that children are murdered in other countries even in this day and age for discriminatory reasons so please excuse me drawing comparisons with 20th century Germany. I know it will not go down well with professionals but it would not be worth writing comments if i did not annoy them occasionally. Just imagine how ‘annoyed’ families are when treated with such cruelty.

    I don’t want to go on for too long but these are massive issues. I hope i put them sensitively.

    To prevent it happening ,the Courts must be reformed and made effective. The law must be upheld. I think it is repugnant ,ridiculous and an affront to our intelligence to claim that public law cases can be heard in closed courts under the auspices of a ‘broken CIVIL judicial system’ and that article 6 and 8 rights are met.
    All comments welcome.

    1. Angelo Granda

      Also article 3 and 14 rights contravened regularly.Plus others whose numbers I don’t recall offhand such as freedom of thought and expression,loss of liberty and forced imprisonment of children and young people including the autistic regularly etc.

  6. Angelo Granda

    We should not make assumptions and generalise.All cases are different and examined in individual detail by the ECtHR.
    No summary hearings and I hope its judicial system has not been subverted by the politicians as ours has.I have to agree with the rebel barristers on that score.
    Plus I believe the cases are heard by an international panel of Judges with no loyalties to a particular state’s political.If you ever get there your client will have a better chance than here.
    If he or she is still alive ,of course,and if legal aid isn’t a factor because it isn’t available and it can take years to get a hearing.
    Plus you are meant to exhaust all domestic remedies first and that takes time IF you can get permission to appeal.
    Sarah,I understand an applicant to the ECtHR can get a hearing if it can be shown a case is incompatible with the domestic system.
    How would one demonstrate incompatibility?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Following the Human Rights Act 1998, the ECHR now has direct applicability in domestic law; before that you had to apply to court in Strasbourg. Therefore you can apply for a declaration of incompatibility with the ECHR in domestic courts. If the court makes this declaration then the Gov would have to give serious consideration to changing the law.

  7. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, please will you help by thinking of one or two examples of circumstances where an applicant might claim incompatibility?
    If you can reply in simple language,it will help.I have my own ideas but need to know more before discussing it further.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Wrongful removal/rentention under section 20 is a good example – its an unnecessary and unlawful breach of Article 8. I have made that argument in a number of cases and the LA have agreed to pay compensation. If you look at the post on the CPR site about the Human Rights Act I have listed at the end the cases where the court ordered that the LA pay damages for breach of Article 8.

  8. ?Angelo Granda

    Sarah, I would appreciate your advice please,if you have the time.
    You have mentioned before that in Public Law cases ,that the respondent’s statements comprise their evidence-in-chief. Which documents comprise the L.A’s evidence-in-chief?
    I assume it might be the application,core-assessment,chronology and background information,threshold criteria documents and initial statement of evidence by an S.W. but i am not a solicitor just a layperson.
    I know that intelligence reports and hearsay evidence hold much less value than the statements.
    Second question therefore is how much value is put on subsequent medical assessments,parenting assessments etc. which have been made on the strength of the evidence-in-chief?
    At appeal,if the evidence-in-chief were proved wrong and incomplete that should be enough,i think.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The LA evidence in chief is the statement of their social worker which is provided in a SWET – an unappealing acronym for Social Work Evidence Template. The parents then respond to this statement and the threshold criteria and the Guardian responds last to everyone else. The statement will be informed by reference to other documents, often as you say historical assessments and other background information.

      Further assessments are not ‘made on the strength of the social work statement’ – they are ordered because the court thinks they will provide necessary evidence to enable the court to make the best decision for the child.

      Parents must challenge at the hearing or before the evidence of the LA that they think is wrong and incomplete – this is the whole point of the adversarial process.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Forgive me but why in heavens name would solicitors tell parents it is not an adversarial process? They say it is a child-protection process which parents should go along with without argument, that fair and impartial assessments are to be made by professionals with which they should co-operate and that decisions will be taken by a Court in the best interests of the children.Most families are not averse to support; care-orders are supposed to be helpful not destructive. Parents aren’t told the Court has the power to liquidate the family completely until too late in the process.
        If parents knew it was an adversarial process ,they would act adversarially and engage accordingly! Not go along like lambs to the slaughter.

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